These Photos of Taiwan Will Take Your Breath Away

Take a visual tour of Taiwan from golden beaches to misty mountains to glittering statues

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smithsonian.com

Everywhere you turn, Taiwan’s landscapes beckon the eye. In the space of a few hours drive, golden beaches transform into misty mountains and lush evergreen forests. One day, you could be watching the sun rise above a sea of pink clouds from the top of Mount Alishan; the next, wandering through the Martian sandstone formations of the northeast coast or diving with sea turtles in azure seas at Taiwan’s southernmost tip. An impressive network of trails, cycling paths and roadways make sampling these diverse landscapes surprisingly accessible. Hike in the footsteps of Qing Dynasty merchants along the coastal Caoling Historical Trail or through the streets of cosmopolitan Taipei, where ancient temples mix with skyscrapers and the neon signs of night markets.

Taiwan's visual banquet draws photographers from around the world. Feast your eyes on the images below, including selections from the annual Smithsonian.com photo contest, and discover why Taiwan is known as "Ilha Formosa" or "beautiful island."

Photographer Yingting Shih's daughters run around a giant Buddha at the Karma Kagyu Monastery in Tainan. (Yingting Shih)
A woman browses a selection of bags and hats at the Wufenpu wholesale market in Taipei. (Yingting Shih)
Water reflects dead lotus stalks. (Yingting Shih)
The eight-arch footbridge connecting Taitung to Three Saints Islands mimics the color of the water below. (Łukasz Wypiór / Smithsonian.com Photo Contest)
A woman lays persimmons out to dry in Hsinchu. (Wan Shun Luk / Smithsonian.com Photo Contest)
Hiking Mt. Jade (Hanhsing Tu / Smithsonian.com Photo Contest)
Honeycomb-shaped rock formations dot the seashore at Yeliu Geopark. (Jeffrey Salvador / Smithsonian.com Photo Contest)
Clouds settle over Sun Moon Lake, Taiwan's largest alpine lake. (Alissa Everett / Smithsonian.com Photo Contest)
Taipei's Longshan Temple lit up at night (Jeremy Aerts / Smithsonian.com Photo Contest)
Taiwan is a haven for endemic and migratory birds. Head to Qigu Lagoon in the winter to catch a glimpse of endangered black-spaced spoonbills. (Yingting Shih / Smithsonian.com Photo Contest)
Sun shines on Wuzhi Mountain in Hsinchu. (Yingting Shih)
A man loads watermelon onto a cart. (Yingting Shih / Smithsonian.com Photo Contest)
Formosan rock macaques, native to Taiwan, can be found in its mountainous regions. (Yingting Shih / Smithsonian.com Photo Contest)
Birds land on the statue of a god. (Yingting Shih / Smithsonian.com Photo Contest)
Sunset silhouettes an amusement park. (Yingting Shih / Smithsonian.com Photo Contest)
Religious volunteers serve faithful at a Confucius temple in Taiwan. (Łukasz Wypiór / Smithsonian.com Photo Contest)
Palm trees are a common sight in the tropical south. (Yingting Shih / Smithsonian.com Photo Contest)
Sculptures light up Taipei as part of the Taiwan Lantern Festival, celebrated on the first full moon of the Chinese New Year and hosted by different cities each year. (Yingting Shih / Smithsonian.com Photo Contest)
Sunshine silhouettes temple details. (Yingting Shih / Smithsonian.com Photo Contest)
The inside of a colorful, modern building (Yingting Shih / Smithsonian.com Photo Contest)
Street performers participate in the annual Tamsui Culture Festival. (Yingting Shih / Smithsonian.com Photo Contest)
Red lanterns line a temple pavilion. (Megan Richardson / Smithsonian.com Photo Contest)
A woman sells food at Lehua Night Market in New Taipei City. (Brian Skerratt / Smithsonian.com Photo Contest)
A woman prays at a temple in Taipei. (Daniela Bocco / Smithsonian.com Photo Contest)
A detail from one several temples that stretch out over Kaohsiung's Lotus Pond via boardwalk (Kaye Vander / Smithsonian.com Photo Contest)
A view of Taipei from the surrounding hills (Taiwan Tourism Bureau)
Built in 1949, Lingdong Temple attracts devotees from Miaoli and beyond. (Taiwan Tourism Bureau)
Caoling Historic Trail traces the remains a coastal Qing Dynasty route built 130 years ago. (Taiwan Tourism Bureau)
Looking skyward on Jialishan, or "Taiwan's Fuji Mountain" (Taiwan Tourism Bureau)
Nicknamed as the "Great Wall of Taichung," the Dakang No. 4 Walking Trail offers sweeping views of the countryside. (Taiwan Tourism Bureau)
Sunset Trail weaves through the tea plantations of Alishan. (Taiwan Tourism Bureau)
Daylight illuminates Water Curtain Cave in Hualien's Taroko Gorge. (Taiwan Tourism Bureau)
Jiaming Lake in Taitung is known as the "Angel's Tear." (Taiwan Tourism Bureau)
Some 100 feet tall, with routes of varying levels of difficulty, the cliffs are perfect for those wishing to hone their skills.
Turquoise water flows through Wannian Canyon in Yunlin. (Taiwan Tourism Bureau)
Scuba divers ecnounter a green sea turtle in the tropical waters off Kenting National Park. (Taiwan Tourism Bureau)
Butterflies can be found throughout Taiwan. Several areas, such as the Purple Butterfly Valley in Maolin National Scenic Area, attract visitors for their high concentration of the winged beauties. (Taiwan Tourism Bureau)
The rocky shores of Guishan Island (Taiwan Tourism Bureau)
Surfers in Toucheng are rewarded by views of Guishan Island in the distance. (Taiwan Tourism Bureau)
Sunrise lights up Dongqing Bay on Lanyu Island. (Taiwan Tourism Bureau)
Overlooking Mt. Zhongyangjian from Mt. Nanhu (Taiwan Tourism Bureau)
Sunrise from Jialishan (Taiwan Tourism Bureau)

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