Taiwan is a small island nation where the East and South China Seas meet. Officially known as the Republic of China, it has a fraught political history with the mainland People’s Republic of China.
A modern and safe country, it has a long history of commercial aviation and once had one of the most dense domestic flight networks in the world.
The development of a high speed rail network put paid to this, but nevertheless its airports are still busy with flights across the sea to other Asian nations, so it’s worth a visit.
Here are the best airports to visit in Taiwan:
Songshan is Taipei’s original airport, and located closest to the downtown area. It was once a very busy domestic airport, but this aspect has quietened since domestic air travel was largely replaced by rail.
The airport has a single runway, and the facilities are shared with Songshan Air Base. This, and the passenger terminals, are on the southern side of the airport.
An observation deck between the domestic and international terminals is signposted clearly. This has great views over the terminal gates and runway. Photography is through tinted glass unfortunately. There are toilet and refreshment facilities next to the deck. Free to enter.
Air Force One Coffee on the north side of the airport is close to the runway. It has an elevated, outdoor viewing area which is good for photography.
Taoyuan is Taiwan’s main international hub airport and the home base of China Airlines. It handles most of the international traffic serving Taipei, alongside Songshan.
The airport has a pair of parallel runways, with the terminals situated in-between. A third terminal is expected to open soon.
Taoyuan is also one of the world’s busiest cargo hubs, with areas to the north and south of the terminals used by freighters. There are also maintenance bases and hangars for based and visiting airlines.
On the north side of the airfield you’ll find the “Miracle” Café, named due to it narrowly escaping damage when an Airbus A300 crashed alongside. It has views over the northern side of the airfield, and from its rooftop you can take photographs. The cafe is situated on highway 15 road running along the northern perimeter.
A busy airport in the south of Taiwan. All of Taiwan’s domestic airlines have a heavy presence here.
Kaohsiung has a single runway and two terminals – domestic and international – both in the southwestern corner of the airport.
The best place to watch the action is in the covered walkway between the domestic and international terminals, were seating and large windows have views over many of the gates and ramp areas. This area is actually signposted the View Deck, so is easy to find (on the departures level).
Nearby is the Republic of China Air Force Museum.
One of Taiwan’s newest airports, Taichung was opened in 2004 on a former air base in the west of the island. It has a north-south runway and two passenger terminals way off to the west of it. To its east are the still operational Ching Chuan Kang Air Force Base facilities.
The airport sees cross-straits flights to China by Air China, China Airlines, China Eastern, Mandarin Airlines, Tianjin Airlines and Uni Air, with others including EVA Air, HK Express, Tigerair Taiwan, T’way and Vietjet.
There are good views of the ramp within the terminal. Those with a car could use the car park of the Chingchuankang Golf Course near the threshold of runway 18 if aircraft are arriving from that direction, for good approach shots.
Novotel Taipei Taoyuan Airport
1-1 Terminal South Road, Taoyuan County, Dayuan Township, 337 Taipei | +886 3398 0888 | www.novotel.com
The closest hotel to the airport, and situated between the two runways alongside the roads which lead to the terminals.
Even numbered rooms on floors 7, 8 and 9 face towards the runway 05L/R thresholds, and as such you can get views of many (but not all) movements depending on the direction in use. The new taxiway is in front of the hotel, so movements are now even closer, and windows at the end of the corridors offer alternative views of aircraft.
Republic of China Air Force Museum
Jieshou West Road, Gangshan District, Kaohsiung City, Taiwan 820 | +886 7 625 8111
A smart military museum at the Gangshan Air Base north of Kaohsiung telling the story of Taiwan’s air force. Also includes a Boeing 720, Douglas DC-3 and DC-6 and Curtiss C-46 among the 45 or so aircraft exhibits.
Lost Airline Colours of Asia
Discover the history of Taiwan’s airlines in our photographic book Lost Airline Colours of Asia, out now. With hundreds of photos of Asia’s lost airlines and airline liveries, it’s a wonderful trip down memory land for the aviation enthusiast.