Guishan Island, one of very few active volcanoes in Taiwan is also the largest uninhabited island in Yilan County.

The island’s name derives from the resemblance of the topography of the island to a turtle.

Open from March to November, Guishan Island has fixed open days with a limited number of tourists – 1800 – permitted entry to help protect the local environment.

The areas visitors can access is also limited – so be sure to register beforehand If you want to hike to the highest point on the island as just 100 people can make that hike on a given day!

The recorded history of the island in modern times can be dated back to the 19th century in what was the late Qing Dynasty.

Economic hardships at the time as a result of a great depression made times difficult for people living in what is now China.

As such, when two fishing boats from Fujian Province looking for a better life initially planned to land in Keelung, winds and unfamiliar wave patterns eventually saw them washed ashore on Guishan Island – back in 1853.

They found lakes, fresh water, flat fertile land – and seas offshore rich in fisheries so soon thereafter made the decision to bring their entire families here.

These families were named Tsai, Chen, and Lin.

After a few generations, because of their conservative nature, and consanguineous background, marriage problems arose.

Work was an issue too as only male children were valued as they were needed to work on the fishing boats.

Education too became a problem. Due to the island’s location, they lacked resources and good teachers meaning that students would typically drop out of school in their early teens.

Then, in the 1970’s, the government of Taiwan helped the residents to relocate to the main island, and took Guishan Island for military needs while they established a new village in Daxi in Yilan to help resettle the islanders.

In 2000, Guishan Island was officially opened for sightseeing and over the years has become a famous tourist spot.

As a result, people landing on Guishan Island today are mainly visiting to see its history and nature.

Scenic boat tours from Yilan’s Wushi Harbor to Guishan Island also offer whale watching tours at certain times of the year.

And the ocean color around the island  – turquoise in colour because of an undersea hot spring – is always popular.

After landing on the island’s pier, a sand bar that looks like a turtle’s tail on the embankment beside the pier becomes evident.

Those booking the hiking tour to the very top of the island will need to climb a grand total of 1,706 concrete steps to reach the peak, but if you opt for this – you MUST – prepare enough water and food to help avoid heatstroke.

There is a small pavilion to rest in when tourists reach the 1000 step point meaning the peak is not that far off.

Take a rest here and prepare for the remaining 700+ steps.

Those who do finally reach the peak can look out over the head of the turtle and off to the mountains on the main island of Taiwan, but after a short rest, the return journey beckons – no less taxing your knees will tell you!

All photos supplied by the author
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