A Guide to Luye & the Taitung Hot Air Balloon Festival 2021

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Luye is a gorgeous, rural town in Taitung county, in the southeast corner of Taiwan. It is famous for the International Taitung Hot Air Balloon Festival, one of the most visually impressive festivals in Taiwan. The festival takes place there every summer in Taiwan, but I think it’s a fabulously scenic and laid-back place to stay any time of year, especially if you are looking to get a taste of rural Taiwan.

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.

In summer of 2018, I took my kids to the incredible Taitung Hot Air Balloon Festival during our father-daughter-son round-Taiwan trip. I was so impressed by the area and festival that I’ve written this whole post to introduce Luye and the Taiwan Hot Air Balloon Festival. Luye is now one of my favorite places in Taiwan and makes it onto my list of Top 50 Taiwan experiences.

The next Taitung Hot Air Balloon Festival is slated for July 3 to August 16, 2021.

Creative balloons at the Taiwan Hot Air Balloon in Luye, Taitung
The Taitung International Hot Air Balloon Festival

You’ll need to book well in advance if you want to ride a hot air balloon during the Taiwan Hot Air Balloon Festival in Luye. However, you can use the above link to book a hot air balloon ride any time of the year! See more information on the weather by season in Taiwan in my guide to when to visit Taiwan.

It takes about four hours to get from Taipei to Luye on the regular train. You can also take this flight from Taipei to Taitung and then grab a taxi (around NT500) or charter a private car from Taitung to visit Luye and the Luye Highland.

If you’re coming from Taipei, also check out my my Taipei 4 day itinerary and list of 50 things to do in Taipei.

Luye is also included on this Eastern Taiwan 4-Day Tour, this full-day tour, and this half-day tour from Taitung. Besides these tours, you can find lots of great deals and travel discounts on Klook. Sign up with my referral link and an NTD100 credit will be applied to your first booking!

Why We Loved Luye, Taitung

Riding a scooter in Luye, Taiwan
Shot right in Luye “town”, a few minutes from the train station. Such gorgeous scenery!

Luye is a rural township north of Taitung City. The town center around Luye train station, a 20-30 minute drive from Taitung City, is a small collection of shops along the highway.

Before arriving, I had studied the grid of streets to the southwest of the train station on Google Maps (called “Longtian Village”), thinking this was the “town”. But when we arrived, I found that these streets were actually gorgeous, leafy countryside lanes between tea fields and pineapple farms.

The whole Luye area is exceptionally beautiful. If you’ve come to Taitung to enjoy what the region is famous for—rural scenery, fresh air, relaxed countryside life—then Luye is an ideal place to enjoy it, especially from the seat of a bicycle or scooter.

If you want to experience Taitung, then I would strongly suggest you stay in Luye rather than uninspiring Taitung City (nearby Chishang or Guanshan are other good options, or Dulan Beach town  if you want a beach getaway).

Gorgeous rural scenery in Luye, Taitung
Luye viewed from the Luye Highland. This is what the views are like if you take a hot air balloon ride!

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.

Real iced tea in Luye, Taitung
Real iced tea from Yong An Tea Garden (see below)
Luye tea field, Taitung
Me in front of a tea field in Luye

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).

Shinto Shrine, Luye, Taitung county, Taiwan
Shinto Shrine, Luye

If you’re interested in tea, you can drop into the tea farms and processing facilities at Linwang Tea Garden (林旺製茶廠) or Xinfeng Garden (新峰茶園) to have a look around and purchase or taste teas produced on site.

The Luye Highland is also a great place to explore for tea lovers. There are 3-4 shops selling local teas right beside the Luye Visitor Information Center near the Highland. Among these shops, Yong An Tea Garden (永安茶園) is a great choice. You can try anything before you buy, and they have single bottles of iced Luye teas to go. The local specialties are jinxuan (milk oolong), red oolong (first developed in in Luye), and honey scented red (black) tea.

If you purchase the above or any other teas from Eco-Cha Taiwan, which supports sustainable tea farming in Taiwan, use this discount link, or use the code NKTEA at checkout, and you will get 10% off!

If you are looking to buy tea in Taipei, head to historic Dihua Street and Dadaocheng, where you can find some of the city’s oldest and best tea shops.

Buying tea in Luye at Yong An Tea Garden (永安茶園)
Tasting teas brewed by an expert at Yong An Tea Garden

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 go walking in Luye tea country on this day tour from Taitung, or this shorter half-day version, with NT100 of your if you sign up here first!

We only found one restaurant around the highland where we could eat in the evening, called Ai Jiao Yi Tea Meals (愛嬌姨茶餐), 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).

Tea-infused dishes at Ai Jiao Yi Tea Meals (愛嬌姨茶餐) at Luye Highland, Taitung, Taiwan
Tea-infused dishes at Ai Jiao Yi Tea Meals (愛嬌姨茶餐)

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.

Paragliding in Luye, Taitung, Taiwan
Paragliding over Luye

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.

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.

Wuling Green Tunnel, Taitung, Taiwan
Riding a scooter through the Wuling Green Tunnel

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.

Learning more about experiencing Taiwan’s unique aboriginal culture in my articles on Orchid Island and Sun Moon Lake.

Bunun Leisure Farm, Luye, Taitung
Organic crops at the Bunun Leisure Farm near Luye in Taitung County

The Taitung Hot Air Balloon Festival

Tethered balloons at the Taiwan International Balloon Festival in Luye, Taitung
Welcome to Taitung!

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 celebrated its 10th year in 2020, usually runs for 38 days starting at the end of June or beginning of July, but in 2020 it was delayed to July and August.

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.

Taitung International Balloon Fiesta in Luye, Taiwan
Watching balloons taking off

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

Watching balloons taking off at the Taiwan International Balloon Fiesta in Luye, Taitung
My kids admiring the balloons

If you want to actually ride a hot air balloon at the Taiwan Hot Air Balloon Festival, you should buy your ticket many months in advance. The 30-min to 1-hour ride takes place around sunrise and you need to be there at 4:30 am. Note that you can actually buy tickets and ride balloons at the Luye Highland at other times of the year, but riding during the festival is the most impressive because you can see all the other balloons taking off and flying around you.

A second and much cheaper option is the tethered balloon ride, in which you just go up in a balloon that is roped to the ground for 5-7 minutes for NT500 per person. You can do this from 5:30-7am or 5-7pm, with tickets going on sale on site 30 minutes before opening (expect long lines). Note that children under 10 are not allowed on the regular or tethered rides.

Learn how to ride a hot air balloon in Taiwan
Take a ride in a tethered hot air balloon for NT500

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.

Blowing up hot air balloons in Luye, Taiwan
Blowing up the balloons

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, and one thing the official site does well is that is shows a complete list of all the balloons and which days you can see them.

My kids watching the awesome display of hot air balloons, Luye highland, Taitung
Super close-up view

How to Get to the Luye Highland

We rented a scooter from this shop in town. It was a little ways from the train station but they came to pick us up. Note that you will need a local or international license.

Getting to Luye Highland
Riding a scooter up the Luye Highland

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.

There is also a shuttle bus from Taitung or Luye stations.

Where to Stay in Luye Town

For budget travelers, the best place in town is Jamie’s guesthouse (see on Booking / Agoda / 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 a stay in a typical modern Taiwanese countryside home, try South 215 Homestay (see on Booking / Agoda / TripAdvisor), Han Yuan Homestay (see on Booking / TripAdvisor), Yuan Gong Yuan (see on Booking / Agoda / TripAdvisor), or 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 (see on Booking/ Agoda / TripAdvisor ) looks more like a medieval temple than a house.  

For a modern B&B, try or Ninth Great Uncle (see on Booking / Agoda).

Luminous Hot Spring Resort & Spa (see on Booking / Agoda / TripAdvisor) is a resort option at the western end of town. There’s a great outdoor pool, and balconies on the upper floors have excellent views, including the chance to see hot air balloons going by.

Where to Stay on the Luye Highland

Kai Tai B&B, a great place to stay in Luye, Taiwan on the Luye Plateau
Our guesthouse overlooked a pineapple farm!

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:

Since the above two were fully booked, we stayed at Kai Tai B&B (see on Booking / Agoda), a five-minute drive from the balloon area.

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!

Thanks for reading. If you are planning an east coast Taiwan trip, make sure to check out my articles on Yilan to Hualien, Hualien to Taitung and Kenting, and surfing in Dulan!

6 thoughts on “A Guide to Luye & the Taitung Hot Air Balloon Festival 2021”

  1. Thanks for your useful information. Passed Luye today and enjoyed meal at 愛嬌姨茶餐. Recommended the Laoban to offer you some discount next time.

  2. Hi Nick,

    Great write-up on the festival. Is this a ticketed event or can we just sit around the hills to view the balloons?

    • Hi Jennifer, I’m not sure if it’s too late for this year, but you can book the balloon ride here: https://bit.ly/2AkFo17
      It’s quite expensive though. You can also take a very short ride (called a “tethered ride”) with the balloon still attached the ground. For this, you just have to arrive there very early and get in line.


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