Asia is once again on everyone’s travel radar now that it has fully reopened for tourism.
All across the continent, several countries have seen a record rise in tourism as Americans flock back into its pagoda-filled old towns and tropical beaches for a sunny break.
Amid the new Asia travel frenzy, one destination in particular has been making headlines lately, as it boasts one of the most diverse tourist offers.
It is incredibly safe compared to its counterparts, and additionally, it has far more relaxed visa rules.
This year, U.S. travelers are feeling more inspired to take Transpacific flights to this lesser-known yet incredible East Asian destination:
Taiwan Is Making A Powerful Comeback
Taiwan is expected to surpass the 6 millionth-visitor mark this year, still far lower than the record year of 2019, when over 11 million foreigners took trips there, but a significant increase over the pandemic period, when hundreds of thousands, if not less, attempted a visit.
This has been due to Taiwan’s former restrictive measures put into place to curb the spread of the disease, yet now that the dark era of sanitary controls is way behind us, it is flourishing yet again as one of the most promising East Asian territories.
Note we didn’t call it a country.
That is because, in spite of having full sovereignty over the island which it claims, with an elected, democratic government and its own military, and issuing its own passports, Taiwan is not officially considered a country by the vast majority of UN states.
It was formed upon the communist takeover of China when the then-incumbent Government was forced to flee and set up base on the island as revolutionaries took power across the Chinese mainland. Officially, Taiwan is still called the Republic of China.
As a result of the complex situation, most foreign governments have adhered to the so-called ‘One China’ principle, which means they will recognize there is only one China, and this includes Taiwan, while not disputing Taiwanese rule of the island.
Yes, it is complicated, but you should know that for all effects and purposes, Taiwan (or the Republic of China) essentially functions as a separate country – and this is where things start to get truly fascinating.
One Of The Most Underrated Island Destinations In Asia
Taiwan is a beautiful tropical island known for its year-round warmer climate and dense forestation.
Unlike parts of mainland China, which sits only 110 miles across the Taiwan Strait, it has not been overtaken by mass industrialization, with 70% of the land still being forested and encompassing unspoiled reserves, mountainous scenery, and a pristine, clean coast.
Compared to some of its much larger neighbor’s industrial provinces, Taiwan has ensured its rapid development did not take place to the detriment of the environment, and it can feel a lot less oppressive and far greener than China’s megalopolized-Eastern coast.
When visiting Taiwan, nature seekers will often be drawn to the following:
Taroko, where they will find a deep, clear-water gorge and hiking trails; Sun Moon, a bucolic lake district bordered by tall peaks and within driving distance of cute, traditional Taiwanese villages; and Yangmingshan, a protected reserve traversed by tourist-friendly footpaths and dotted with hot springs.
Taiwan is also famous for its white sands bounded by the warm China Sea, particularly the Hengchun Peninsula, at the southernmost tip of the island.
The Kenting Town resort, in the heart of the Kenting National Park, provides the perfect base for exploring Southern Taiwan and its paradisaical spots, with its numerous restaurants, bars, and lively nightlife.
There is still more to Taiwan than its majestic nature.
Vibrant City Breaks
It is home to a few of Asia’s most exciting city breaks, most notably Taipei, the capital of the island, where quaint Japanese lanes dating back to the colonial period run parallel far more modern shopping streets and clusters of skyscrapers, creating a fascinating contrast.
The Taipei landmarks not to be missed include Taipei 101, once the tallest building in the world, the Dalongdong Baoan Temple, the National Palace Museum, and the Daan Forest Park, where the hustle and bustle of the big city is muffled by the thick vegetation.
As exciting as Taipei is already by day, it truly comes alive after sundown, when its numerous night markets and quirky bar districts transform the cityscape.
The best-frequented of them, Shilin Market is an expansive fort court with over 500 stalls serving Taiwanese and pan-Asian specialties.
Home to over 23 million inhabitants, the island has no shortage of cosmopolitan cities, and it may well be the capital, but Taipei is not Taiwan’s only conurbation.
Tainan, on the Southwest coast, is the cultural capital of Tainan, having served as its actual capital between the late 17th and 19th centuries and housing several of the island’s centuries-old and most historically significant fortresses and temples.
A major port in Southern Taiwan, Kaohsiung is a vibrant coastal city easily recognized for its 248-meter tall Tuntex Sky Tower and landmark, cafe-lined Love River.
The variety is truly immense, and you will certainly need between one to two full weeks to explore Taiwan comprehensively.
Taiwan Is Easier To Visit Than Mainland China
As the territory is part of the cross-border Chinese World, it also partakes in Chinese culture, offering visitors a taste of what it’s like to travel in the legendary, ancient land without having to deal with issues that commonly affect tourists in the mainland.
These may be realizing their credit cards are not valid payment methods in some locations, particularly outside Beijing and Shanghai, and being logged out of Instagram, WhatsApp, and any ‘Western’ application that is blocked by the Government.
Taiwan is an open, democratic state, and one could argue, a ‘soft China’ for beginners.
Additionally, Americans do not need visas to travel to Taiwan, unlike in the mainland, where they must apply for an entry permit at a Chinese Consulate ahead of their trip unless transiting the country for no longer than 72 or 144 hours, depending on the point of entry.
In the Republic of China (Taiwan), none of those strict rules apply. Your valid passport with enough blank pages suffices.
Recently, luxury carrier STARLUX relaunched flights from the United States to Taipei in Taiwan, enabling customers to travel in style and experience Taiwanese hospitality and world-famous cuisine ahead of landing.
With access to lie-flat seats and a Michelin-starred chef-curated menu, the route is now open with tickets starting from around $1,200 one-way this winter from Los Angeles (LAX).
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com