A hub of culture and heritage, Taiwan is also a paradise for nature lovers thanks to its alluring seaside, mountainous hinterland and inviting islands

Known for centuries as Formosa, this island nation is now simply “Taiwan” or the “Republic of China” though its 15th-century colonial masters were clearly onto something when they named it after the Portuguese word for “beautiful”. With its majestic peaks, picturesque plains, rugged coastline and ample wildlife, Taiwan was seemingly custom-made for back-to-nature types and the nation’s eight national parks, 13 national scenic areas and famed natural monuments like Taroko Gorge, Yu Mountain, Sun Moon Lake, and the islands of Kinmen and Penghu testify to its otherworldly allure. In the course of its history, Taiwan has been ruled not just by indigenous groups but also by colonialists ranging from the Dutch and Spanish to the Japanese and Han Chinese, making it a place of widely varying customs and traditions, not to mention stunning heritage landmarks like 300-year-old Mengjia Longshan Temple and the mammoth National Heritage Museum with its 700,000 ancient artifacts and artworks.