The islands of Matsu offer a tranquil cultural getaway

By Cheryl Robbins Translated by Wendy Tzeng

      If your daydreams consist of escape to a remote island, you only have to go as far as Taiwan's offshore islands of Matsu to make them come true. In addition to traditional stone and wood houses, military historical sites, beaches and temples devoted to the Buddhist goddess of sailors and fishermen, the four sparsely populated islands of Matsu offer the ultimate in tranquility.


      Nangan is the hub and largest of the four islands. Its attractions include Fuhsing Village, made up of traditional stone and wood dwellings. This village is home to the Matsu Winery, which produces Matsu Old Wine, a strong clear liquor. The process for making this liquor was brought over from China over 200 years ago. This liquor is aged in Tunnel 88, a tunnel that was once used for military purposes. One of the things you will notice in Nangan is the abundance of soldiers. In recent years the military presence has been reduced from its former numbers, but it is still a common site to see soldiers in combat fatigues. Nangan maintains many traces of its military history, such as the Beihai Tunnel. This tunnel was built in the 1960s to hide small boats, and measures 700 meters in length. It is now open to the public.


      Beigan is the second largest island. Its most popular attractions are its uncrowded beaches and Chinbe Village—a traditional fishing village. Chinbe is the perfect place to relax and take in the ocean scenery. Dongyin

      Dongyin is Taiwan's northernmost territory and is rich in natural beauty, such as spectacular coastal rock formations and cliffs. Dongyin also has a Beihai Tunnel that was built for the same purpose as the one on Nangan. The bright white Dongyung Lighthouse is one of Dongyin's major landmarks and is a Class 3 historical monument, with a history of nearly 100 years. Guguang

      Guguang also features spectacular rock formations caused by wave and water erosion. There are two historical monuments—Dongchuan Lighthouse and Dapu Stone Carving. The Dongchuan Lighthouse is a Class 2 historical monument, built during the Ching Dynasty, using blocks of granite. The interesting thing about this lighthouse is that it is still operating, although it is no longer needed for navigational purposes. Dapu Stone Carving is a Class 3 historical monument, consisting of Chinese characters carved into rock most likely by pirates three hundred years ago. Fucheng and Dapu Villages are good places to see traditional homes—some of which are undergoing government-sponsored restoration.

      Getting Around

      The main form of travel between the islands is by boat. Boats between Nangan and Beigan run every hour from 6:50 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Fare is NT$140 one way. Schedule and other information: (0836) 25151, 23999, 22193

      Between Nangan and Dongyin, the fare is NT$285 one way. The schedule often changes, so it is best to check the latest information. Tel: (0836) 25312, 22448

      There are two boats per day between Nangan and Guguang. Fare is NT$140 one way and the trip takes about 50 minutes. For schedule and other information call (0836)25312, 22448.

      Once on land, the main forms of transportation are buses and taxis. Buses do not run very frequently, so if you want to get anywhere fast it will have to be by taxi. Taxi fare is easy to calculate. It's always NT$100, no matter the length of the trip or number of passengers (up to maximum capacity of the car). If you plan to do a lot of traveling it might be more cost effective to rent a scooter for the day (about NT$500).

      Getting There

      By air:

      UNI Air operates several daily flights from Taipei's Songshan Airport to Beigan and Nangan airports.

      When you are on Matsu, your schedule has to be very flexible. It is very likely that your flight will be cancelled due to fog, especially between the months of March and May.

      By ship:

      From Keelung boats for Matsu depart at 9:30 p.m. and arrive in Matsu early the next morning. Prices range from NT$600 to NT$2,000. Information: (02) 24228267 or 24292117