It’s only two-and-a-half years since my first visit to the little island of Xiao Liuqiu, fifteen kilometers off the west coast of Taiwan in the far southern county of Pingdong, but what a difference that short time has made! Our first trip there in April 2009 (with my pet Golden Retriever, Gem, in tow) revealed a quiet and enchanted landscape of uplifted coral formations, almost unique in Taiwan (only the interior of Kenting National Park and a few places in nearby Kaohsiung County have anything like this).
Despite the crowds that descend on the island’s beaches at the weekends, Xiao Liuqiu is a so-so beach destination (head to Penghu, or perhaps Green island and Beigan (in Matsu) for much better ones). The finest is probably the one just to the east of the main ferry port on the north of the island, but you’ll be disappointed if you come here just to lay on the sand! That said, if you can avoid the crowds and the huge coaches that – astonishingly – have been allowed on the island’s narrow roads , Xiao Liuqiu has an amazingly relaxing vibe, and a couple of campsites on the west coast look rather idyllic.
On the evidence or our visit, it’s best to try to schedule a trip to Xiao Liuqiu on a weekday, to avoid the incredible crowds. It’s also worth severely limiting your time in the interior of the island, most of which (apart from two interesting and exuberantly colorful temples) looks just like any other rather chaotic, unsightly small village in Taiwan. Instead stick to the beautiful west coast, and Xiao Liuqiu offers a surprising range of exploration opportunities for such a tiny island, and some quite unique landscapes. Get off the main paths in Beauty Cave Scenic Area, especially, into the labyrinth of clefts through the jagged coral, and it’s almost otherworldly.
For more photos, taken in better weather on my first trip to Xiao Liuqiu, see: http://www.flickr.com/photos/29712358@N04/sets/72157619027574632/