Turtle Island

Island in Toucheng

This captivating volcanic islet, 10km off the coast of Yilan, is less than 3km long yet rises up to 398m. Once supporting a population of 750 people, the island was taken over by the military in 1977 then returned to civilian rule in 2000. These days Turtle Island is a protected marine environment and access is very limited.

In addition to fantastic views from the highest point, the island also has numerous quirky geological features. These include underwater hot springs that turn the offshore water into a bubbling cauldron, volcanic fumaroles that spout steam, and a 'turtle head' that faces right or left depending on where you stand on shore.

If you just want to circle the island or whale- and dolphin-watch you don't need permits but you should still make a reservation. Call the Wushih Harbour reservation centre (03-950 8199; Chinese-language only, so try going to a visitor centre in Taipei or elsewhere and asking for help). Boats leave from Wushih Harbour. It costs NT$1200 for a three-hour tour cruise on the sea. Combination tours involving stops on the island and dolphin- and whale-watching (March to September) are also available (NT$1600, four hours). To get here, take a train from Taipei to Toucheng (every half-hour; fast train NT$184, 1½ hours; slow train NT$119, two hours), or take a train to Wai'ao.The harbour is a short taxi ride from Toucheng or a 15-minute walk south along the boardwalk from Wai'ao.

If you wish to land on the island you must apply in advance for a special permit (it's a hassle but worth it). Download a copy of the application form from the Northeast & Yilan Coast Scenic Administration website and fax it, along with your passport information, three to 20 days before you wish to sail. Once you get your permit, ask for a list of boat operators and make a reservation (none speak English so ask the Scenic office for help).

Call the English Tourist Hotline or Northeast & Yilan Coast Scenic Administration for more information. If you are staying at Rising Sun Surf Inn in nearby Wai'ao, staff can help arrange fast permits for the island.