Located at the juncture of the South China Sea, the East China Sea, and the Pacific Ocean, Taiwan is a cultural powerhouse that punches far above its weight on the world stage. This island nation is known for its highly developed technology sector, delicious street foods drawing from diverse Chinese traditions, and stunning mountains that split the main island in two. A highly urbanised state, Taiwan’s biggest urban area centres around the capital Taipei with nearby New Taipei City and Keelung following in importance. Taiwan is home to more than 24 million people, most of whom descend from successive waves of immigration from mainland China since the 17th century.In official contexts, Taiwan is called the Republic of China (not to be confused with the People’s Republic of China on the mainland). This nomenclature reflects the region’s complex history, where various governments have claimed sovereignty over constantly-changing borders. In official publications, the name is written as "Republic of China (Taiwan)", "Republic of China/Taiwan", or sometimes "Taiwan (ROC)." Taiwan is today one of the wealthiest and most democratic places in Asia.History of TaiwanTaiwan’s history is intimately connected with the larger Chinese cultural sphere, and the island has served as a strategic launching point for various empires in the region. Until about 10,000 years ago, Taiwan wasn’t even an island, but it became separated from the Asian mainland as sea levels rose. The first permanent settlers arrived about 6,000 years ago, and these are the ancestors of the indigenous people groups that still live there today.By the late 16th century, Taiwan had consistent contact with both China and Japan, but the island was divided among local chiefs. The first Europeans to arrive were the Dutch, who established a trading post in the south (today Tainan). The Dutch began encouraging migration from mainland China in the 1660s in order to boost the island’s labour force, and the Han Chinese population began to grow exponentially. Spanish and Portuguese traders also visited the island, and until recently, the Portuguese name for the island (Formosa) was used in most Western languages. In 1683, the Qing Empire took control of Taiwan and expelled the Europeans. Through the 18th and 19th centuries, Qing efforts to colonise Taiwan intensified and millions of Han Chinese migrated to farm the land.Following the first Sino-Japanese War in 1895, Taiwan became a Japanese territory until the end of World War II. The Japanese quickly industrialized the island, making it a crucial part of their war machine and imposing elements of Japanese culture on the people. During the Japanese occupation, a governmental entity known as the Republic of China was founded on the mainland in 1912. Constant civil war and warlordism led to shifting centres of power in China, with multiple groups claiming to be the legitimate government. When the ROC led by Chiang Kai-Shek was defeated by the communists in 1949, the People’s Republic of China was established, while Chiang and his followers fled to Taiwan.In essence, the Chinese Civil War has remained in a stalemate ever since. While Taiwan is fully self-governing, the “One China Policy” (nominally accepted by both sides) asserts that the Taiwanese islands are an integral part of China. Because of this, countries are only able to have official diplomatic relations with one or the other. While the ROC held Western support at first, the economic rise of the PRC led to a massive shift in recognition towards the communist government in the 20th century. Today, the issue remains politically sensitive with no clear resolution in sight. Taiwan is commonly accepted to be a unique entity, with limited recognition and no membership or observer status in the United Nations.Nature in TaiwanLying on the Tropic of Cancer, Taiwan is composed of 168 islands lying directly across the Taiwan Strait from Mainland China. The extremely mountainous main island has more than 200 peaks measuring over 3,000 metres including the famous Yushan, Xueshan, and Xiuguluanshan, all of which are popular spots for hiking with stunning views. At lower elevations, Taiwan hosts a tropical climate and the summer months are especially hot and humid, while winter months tend to bring heavy rains.The Taroko National Park is another highlight in northern Taiwan, with a variety of different hiking paths and walking trails. Being an island, Taiwan is also home to stunning bays like Longdong, which is known for cliff diving and snorkelling. The Qingshui Cliff offers views of three distinct bands of blue over the open Pacific Ocean. Taiwan is not known for its peaceful swimming beaches, but surfing is popular in Wai Ao and Dulan. Culture of TaiwanTaiwan’s diverse culture has been shaped by influences ranging from indigenous Austronesian tribes, Chinese from various regions on the mainland, Europeans, Japanese, and also more recent immigrants from neighbouring countries like the Philippines and Indonesia. Taiwan has no official language, but several dialects of Chinese (Mandarin, Hokkein, and Hakka) dominate according to the region. Unlike the mainland, which uses simplified Chinese characters, Taiwan continues to use the more complex traditional characters. Today, a majority of Taiwanese are waishengren, a term that refers to the descendants of the Nationalists who fled to Taiwan in 1949.Confucianism is very influential in Taiwan, and is thought to influence the reputation Taiwanese people have for politeness and friendliness. Even if they are practising Buddhists, Taoists, or Christians, most Taiwanese continue to practise Confucian traditions. There is no official state religion in Taiwan and the law officially recognizes freedom of religion. Taiwan is known as a haven for LGBTQ+ rights in Asia, and became the first country on the continent to legalize same-sex marriage in 2019.National and cultural identity is complex in Taiwan, as a distinct “Taiwanese” identity begins to diverge from pan-Chinese hegemony.
Taiwan tourist attractions
More information about Taiwan
Passport with a minimum of six months validity.
No visa is required for citizens of the US, UK, EU, or Canada.
UTC + 08:00.
New Taiwan Dollar.
Tourist Office website
110 V adapter required.
Other useful information
People drive on the right-hand side of the road.
There are no mandatory vaccinations for travellers from EU countries.