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Explore Taitung
Legend has it that the fairy land of Penglai was the meditation place of Fairy Lu Dong-bing. Whoever wrote the legend was probably talking about Taitung. Indeed, the mountains in the west reach the sky. The majestic cliffs guard the valley. Clear coastline extends out towards the horizon. Rock formations in different majestic postures stand in grandeur. The sky in Taitung stares into the ocean and the mists here create a mystic aura.

Taitung has a wide variety of geological features. From mountains to valleys, from plains to coastline, Taitung has it all. The hills slope gradually to the west eventually merging with the Central Mountain Range. This area hosts a series of valleys. Rushing waters pierce through the area and slice the cliffs. Guanshan, Beinan Mountain, Zhiben Mountain, Dawu Mountain are some examples. Mountains of 2900 to 3600 meters high create a shield for Taitung. Temples, waterfalls, and farm villages blend with the natural beauty into picturesque tranquility. The coastline of Taitung is long and full of surprises. Rocks protrude to meet the rumbling surf. The blue sky ferments an attitude of simple living. The coastal highway showcases a special amour amongst the breeze.

Taitung County covers an area of 3,515 square kilometers which is approximately 9.78% of the total area of Taiwan. It is one of the largest counties in the country, ranking next to Hualien and Nantou. The farthest-east point is the east of Orchid Island (121°37’04’’ E). The farthest-west point is south of Dawu Mountain (Jinfeng Township, 21°56’24’’ N). The farthest-south point is the southern tip of Orchid Island (21°56’24’ N), and the farthest-north point is Zhiluo Mountain (Changbing Township, 23°26’32’’ S). The total distance north to south is 166km, making Taitung the longest county in the country.

Mountains guarding the west of Taitung County are majestic and mystical. Clouds and mists circle on top of the cliffs, rivers cut through the steep hills, and valleys and plains interweave in between the mountains and the coasts. It is an ingenious design of nature.

The east coast hosts an array of coastal geology, including pebble beaches, sandy beaches, rocky shores, and coral reefs. The coastlines of Sanxiantai and Xiaoyeliu are very unique and interesting. Platforms eroded from the ocean, caves, and trenches are seen everywhere in these areas. The rare sea eroded caves and trenches make a visit to Taitung well worth your while.

Treasured Resources
A Shining Pearl-The Birdwing ButterflyOrchid Island is a beautiful small island southeast of Taiwan. It is endowed with unique natural and cultural resources, especially birdwing butterflies. The birdwing butterfly is the largest butterfly in Taiwan and has a unique charm. Its golden rear-wings reflect sunlight into a shining pearl luster. That’s why it's nicknamed “The Shining Pearl.”
[Special thanks to Taitung County Orchid Island Ecology and Culture Preservation Association]
A Rare Treasure-The Coconut CrabThe world’s largest hermit crab is the coconut crab. They were originally abundant on Green Island. However, because of its gigantic size, slow movement, and tasty meat, they are often caught and sold, even on Taiwan proper. Therefore, it is now an endangered species under protection.
In Need of Protection- The Orchid Island YewThe Orchid Island Yew is mainly found on the coastline coral reefs of Orchid Island. Its native clusters are almost extinct. The Orchid Island Yew is a plant not found on Taiwan proper. Since its discovery, this plant began to be chopped down and sold outside of Orchid Island. It is almost extinct now and needs protection urgently.

Geological landscapes are one of the most important resources of Taitung County in terms of tourism. The whole county is divided into four sections: the Central Mountain Range, the coastal mountains, the East Rift Valley, and the outlying volcanic islands.

The Central Mountain Range has a very solid rock structure, which was due to violent geological compression. Therefore, the rock layers are almost vertical. The areas along the Southern Cross-Island Highway have rich contemporary composites. This is especially true around the contemporary river shore steps in Lidao and Wulu.

The coastal mountains were an area of volcanic activity and underwater landslides. The coastal highway cuts through a series of pleads, faults, sand hills, and protruding coral reefs. Such geological features created the mud volcanoes at the southern section of the coastal mountains. The long stretch of mud rock from Liji to Fuli are known as the badlands.

The East Rift Valley is mainly made up of piled fallen rocks from the Central Mountain Range and the coastal mountains. Over millennia, land collapsed, the ocean receded, and ancient riverbeds were raised by composites. These geographical activity created the varied steps and composite delta.

The outlying volcanic islands were originally underwater volcanoes located on Orchid Island. The rising movement pushed the volcanoes to the surface and sea water erosions shaped the volcanoes into cliffs and interesting rock formations.

Taitung County is rich in botanical diversity, which can be divided into two categories, native clusters and man-made forests. The native clusters can be further divided into the Coastal Cluster, Coastal Mountain Cluster, and the Central Mountain Range cluster.

The Coastal Cluster has carbonated soil with high sodium and high pH. The coast line is constantly hit by strong wind. Therefore, it is very dry. Plants in this area are mostly evergreens that are drought and wind resistant. These include Pemphis, cauliflower, Scaevola, Beach Morning Glory, and Myoporum. These plants are mainly located in Sanxiantai and Xiaoyeliu.

Sand in the Sand Beach Cluster area retains water poorly. This stretch of land is exposed to strong wind. Plants that can withstand high sodium and drought can grow on the sandy soil near the tidal line. These plants include Zoysia Grass, Myoporum, seashore saltgrass, and the saltgrass scorpion.

Shrub Clusters are mainly found behind the sand beach plants, including screw pine, Common Lantana, and more.

The River Shore Cluster is located on the sandy ground of the East Rift Valley. Plants in this category include Coriaria intermedia Matsum, Pyracantha coccinea, Sageretia theezans, Stachyurus himalaicus, silvergrass, Miscanthus, Narenga porphyrocoma, and Horse Chestnut.

The riverbanks of Taitung have thicker soil and include plants such as Bishopwood, Papermulberry, Radermachia, Ficus nervosa, Ficus, Fagara nitida, yello wild lily, Asian toddalia, Zanthoxylum ovalifolium, India-charcoal Trema, Mallotus japonicus, Macaranga tanarius, Mallotus paniculatus, Rolfe's Raspberry, China Sumac, and E.chinensis.

Taitung’s Eastern Mountain Range has plants that are similar to the East Rift Valley. However, there are no Coriaria intermedia Matsum, Pyracantha coccinea, Stachyurus himalaicus, and Radermachia.

The Central Mountain Range Cluster includes the alpine zone forests. Plants include Subalpine fir, spruce, Tsuga chinensis, Huashan Fir, formosana Rehder, Cedar, Taiwania crvptomerioides, Cedrus, Pand inus taiwanensis Hayata. Warm climate broad-leaf and needle forests include, – red cedar, cypress, Taiwania crvptomerioides, wilsoniana, Calocedrus formosana, Pinus morrisonicola, Pinus taiwanensis, and Cephalotaxus wilsoniana, as well as Tsuga chinensis, Picea morrisonicola, formosana Rehder, Cedar, and Common Juniper.

Man-made farms have different crops, one of which is rice. Rice paddies are mostly located in the river plains, shores, and a small portion of the coastal steps. Dry farmland covers the terraces of the riverbanks and low elevation hills. There are also manmade forests. These include beach sheoak, White Popinac, Acacia confuse, China Berry, almond, Giant-leaved marking-nut, Taiwan guayule, camphor, and velvet apple. Additionally, there are Road Trees. These include, beach sheoak, Madagascar almond, White Popinac, coconut, beetle nut, Hibiscus, and Autumn maple tree. Also, there are dry crops such as corn, yam, soybean, red bean, peanut, and chestnut. Others crops include vegetables and fruits such as pineapples, papaya, longan, lychee, star fruit, wax apple, sugar apple, grape, orange, and mango. Special crops are also grown such as lemongrass, beetle nut leaves, ginger, cocoa, sugar cane, flax, castor, bamboo, and herbs.

Soil is essential for agriculture. The soil in Taitung is divided into four categories that are found mainly in four areas: the Central Mountain Range, the coastal mountains, the East Rift Valley, and the outlying volcanic islands.
The hills of the Central Mountain Range below 700 meters are more suitable for agriculture. This area has red-brown soil 30-50cm thick and is neutral to mildly acidic. It is very suitable for long-term growth. At the foot of the mountains, soil in the riverbeds of Luye is 70-90cm deep and is neutral to mildly acidic clay, which drains well and is quite suitable for plants of all types.

The coastal mountains have mainly neutral to mildly acidic clay, with a thicker soil layer, which is around 80-100cm. The low hills at the east side of the mountain range are made up of carbonate mud rocks or shale. The thickness of the soil layers varies. Some lower hills may have soil as thick as one meter, and other steeper hills may only have 30cm of soil.
The East Rift Valley includes the Taitung Delta Plain. Luye and Chishang are farther from the river bank. Therefore, the soil there is as deep as 60cm. This area is the main farming area in Taitung County since other places have relatively shallow layers of rock soil that are prone to drought.

The volcanic outlying islands and have red-brown clay. It is mildly acidic, but contains very low organic matter. The central hills of Orchid Island have black clay ranging from mild to strong acidity in nature. The coastline has yellow-brown shallow rock and soil. It is neutral and suitable for sweet potato, calla lilies, and millet.

Climate is essential for tourism and agriculture. Taitung County is south of the Tropic of Cancer within the range of seasonal wind. Therefore, it has mostly tropical and semi-tropical weather.

Affected by the Kuroshio Current and Taiwan’s mountain ranges, the average temperature is higher than western Taiwan by 0.5°C. The East Rift Valley is hotter than the mountainous area. Taitung has an average temperature of 24.5°C, and Orchid Island has an average temperature of 22.6°C since it's surrounded by the ocean. If the monthly average temperature above 22°C is classified as summer, besides Orchid Island, Taitung has eight to nine months of summer.

Affected by seasonal winds and typhoons, Taitung has abundant rainfall with an annual average of 1890.6mm. The rainy season starts in May and ends in October. The dry season starts in November and ends in April. The rainy season has four times more rainfall than the dry season.

Taitung has less daylight than the West Coast. The coastline area has 1530hrs to 1950hrs of daylight, which is longer in July and August by approximately 215hrs and increases going south. Orchid Island has an average monthly daylight of 120hrs and the mountainsides have varied daylight hours between 65hrs and 250hrs. This depends on elevation, exposure, and the location.