Dear reader: This article contains links to products and services that I may be compensated for, at no extra cost to you.
In my East Coast Taiwan article I recommend Luye as one of the best places to stay in Taitung if you traveling or doing a road trip down Highway 11 from Hualien County to Taitung County through Taiwan’s beautiful East Rift Valley. You can also see my recommended Taiwan itinerary to see how to fit Luye into your Taiwan travels.
The last Taitung Hot Air Balloon Festival was from July 2 to August 15, 2022. The 2023 event should be at a similar time. A convenient way to visit is on this tour from Taitung. If you sign up with my referral link, a TWD 100 credit will be applied to your first booking!
If you want to ride a hot air balloon during the festival, you can book it here (Mandarin only).
See more information on the weather by season in Taiwan in my guide to when to visit Taiwan.
Why We Loved Luye
The Luye Highland is also incredibly beautiful and worth the drive up, even if you aren’t in town for the Taitung International Balloon Festival which takes place there in summer. We absolutely loved staying up on the highland; I’ll mention the guesthouse we stayed in and other accommodation options at the end of the article.
Another thing I loved is that Luye is one of the best places to experience Taiwan’s tea culture, something I happen to be in love with, with tea farms everywhere and several farms and shops where you can taste and purchase fine local teas.
Things to Do in Luye (Besides the Hot Air Balloon Festival)
In Luye town, spend time cruising the lovely lanes on a bicycle or scooter. There is a Shinto Shrine (鹿野神社) worth checking out. There’s also a small museum in a Japanese colonial era building called Luye District Office (鹿野區役場).
If you are interested in Japanese-era architecture in Taiwan, also check out my article on Beitou Hot Spring, developed by the Japanese, and the best temples in Taipei (which includes a couple wooden Japanese era ones).
At the south end of the Luye Highland, on the ring road around the highland and just south of where the balloons take off, there’s the Luye Plateau Tourist Tea Plantation Visitor Center (逸品茶園) in a two-story brick building, with tea tasting sessions on the second floor. A little north of the highland, you can visit Li Pin Organic Tea Farm (立品有機茶園).
You can also explore Luye tea country on this day tour from Taitung.
While staying up on Luye Highland, we only found one restaurant, called Ai Jiao Yi Tea Meals (愛嬌姨茶餐, located here), specializing in tea infused Taiwanese foods. It’s a good idea to reserve in advance during the Taitung Hot Air Balloon Festival because many groups stop here.
Our set meal included red tea braised pork, deep fried tofu with green tea dipping sauce, mountain greens fried in tea oil, tea oil chicken soup, and red oolong steamed rice (note: I don’t eat meat, but there weren’t any options besides the set meal).
Luye is also one of the best places to go paragliding in Taiwan (similar to hang gliding). We noticed people both landing on the Luye Highland while we were there, and taking off from it to land further below near Luye town.
For bookings, try Soaring Paragliding. Expect to pay around NT2500 for a 10-minute glide, and an extra NT400 to rent a GoPro. Paragliding in Taitung is a great option if you want to get the views, with added adrenaline, and for cheaper than riding in a hot air balloon.
Further out of town, you can drive 15 minutes north along Highway 9 to the Wuling Green Tunnel (武陵綠色隧道), a 4.5km stretch of road where eucalyptus trees form a “tunnel” above the road. (For another interesting green tunnel in Taiwan, see my post on Sicao Green Tunnel in Tainan).
If you’ve made it this far, you may want to continue to Guanshan, famous for the Guanshan town-circuit bicycle path, or Chishang, also gaining popularity for its cycling paths and countryside scenery selfie opportunities at Brown Boulevard.
South of town, Chulu Ranch (初鹿牧場) is a popular leisure farm among local families. West of town, technically in Yanping township not Luye, is the Bunun Leisure Farm, a 100% aboriginal-operated cultural & leisure farm that I once visited and wrote about for Travel in Taiwan magazine.
The Taitung Hot Air Balloon Festival
Most visitors come to Luye for the Taiwan Hot Air Balloon Festival, officially the “Taitung Taiwan International Balloon Festival” (the name seems to change every year).
The festival, which is celebrating its 13th year in 2023, usually runs for around two months starting at the end of June or beginning of July. The 2023 dates are June 30 to August 28.
Taiwan has another smaller hot air balloon festival closer to Taipei, called the Shihmen Reservoir Hot Air Balloon Fiesta, in Taoyuan County. It is usually held in mid-June.
Here’s the government’s official balloon site, and note that certain days, including the opening celebration, may not have balloon rides. In past years, the government site was this event was a hot mess…
There were actually multiple sites from different years, and even the main one which seems to get updated didn’t each year didn’t have any English information posted about the event until weeks after it had begun! So much for being an “international” festival.
One cool thing about the website, though, is that you can see a whole catalogue of the hot air balloon designs.
What to Expect at the Taiwan Hot Air Balloon Festival
You don’t have to actually ride a balloon to enjoy the festival. Many people, including us, just go to sit on the hill and marvel at the incredible display. The best time to arrive is 5am or 5pm, when they just start blowing all the balloons up.
When we visited, we found that most of the balloons never actually went up to the sky, they just blow up a bunch of them, give viewers lots of time to get up close for selfies, with the tethered rides taking place in the background, and then they deflate them.
I wonder if maybe you have to arrive even earlier to see the ones taking off, or maybe there just weren’t so many actual flights taking place when we visited on a weekday. On weekends, you can expect much larger crowds and more balloons.
Some of the balloons are really cute! One thing the official site does well is that it usually shows a complete list of all the balloons and which days you can see them.
How to Get to the Luye Highland
After taking the regular train to Luye Station, you’ll need to rent a scooter for getting to Luye Highland. Note that Luye is tiny (I would barely even call it a village). There is sometimes a taxi waiting around at the train station, but sometimes not.
If you want to visit Luye Highland but can’t ride a scooter, it’s better to take a tour there.
During the hot air balloon festival, there is usually a shuttle bus running from Luye to Luye Highland. Check the event’s official site for details.
It is a 20-30 minute drive up nearby Gaotai (Highland) Road, and it was a gorgeous rural road with no traffic at all. It seemed like all the cars and buses took Longma Rd. from town, so avoid that road up. Scooter parking at the event is free, but if you come by car, parking is NT100 (weekdays) or NT200 (weekends). Weekends are much more crowded, so try to come on a weekday.
When you arrive, you can park your scooter right beside the hill where most people sit. The road does a full circuit around the plateau before heading back down to Luye. There were a few drink and ice cream stands near the hill, as well as a café with outdoor seating.
Where to Stay in Luye Town
For budget travelers, the best place in town is Jamie’s guesthouse (see on Booking / Agoda / Klook / TripAdvisor), at the southeast corner of town. Friendly hosts Jamie and her mother can pick you up from the train station and they prepare breakfasts with mostly organic fruits and veggies. There are free bicycles to use, and electric scooters (no license required) can be rented. Highly recommended!
For families or groups, there are several homestays in the area where you can rent a room or even a whole house, such as Han Yuan Homestay (see on Booking / TripAdvisor), Yuan Gong Yuan (see on Booking / Agoda / TripAdvisor), and Yong Qing (see on Booking / TripAdvisor).
These kinds of homestays are good for families or groups, but it is possible that the owners won’t speak much (or any) English. At the western end of town, Zijin Homestay (Agoda / TripAdvisor ) is another that looks more like a medieval temple than a house.
Luminous Hot Spring Resort & Spa (see on Booking / Agoda / TripAdvisor) is a larger hotel option at the western end of town. There’s an outdoor pool, indoor hot spring Japanese and Western-style rooms, and room balconies on the upper floors have excellent views, including the chance to see hot air balloons going by or ride in one with this deal. The hotel has seen better days, though. It’s getting a little old, and some guests have reported that service has slipped.
Where to Stay on the Luye Highland
We LOVED staying up on the highland. The scenery is gorgeous up there, and it’s so quiet.
If you want to stay right on the highland where the balloon festival takes places, there are two options: Bell Cottages (see on Booking / Agoda / TripAdvisor) and Lutai Winery (see on Booking / Agoda / TripAdvisor).
Both are up on the hill overlooking the balloon area. Lutai winery makes Chinese-style liquors, including fruit wines. Don’t expect grape fields or Western style wine! You need to book far, far in advance to get a room at either during the Taitung Hot Air Balloon Festival.
Where we stayed:
In the end, I think this was a better choice! If you stay right in the balloon area, there will always be a ton of people around. But from the balcony of our super quiet guesthouse, we could see nothing but pineapple farms and an incredible view down on the valley below! It’s also close to the tea shops and restaurant serving tea-infused foods that I mentioned above.
We would definitely stay here again!