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Taiwan Weather, climate and geography
Weather and climate
Best time to visit
Despite the island’s relatively small size, the fact that Taiwan is bisected by the Tropic of Cancer means weather conditions can vary considerably from the north to the south. There’s a subtropical climate with moderate temperatures in the north, where rain is common in the winter months. The southern areas, where temperatures are higher on average, are less prone to rain.
Summer can be uncomfortably hot across the island, making autumn and spring great times to come calling. The typhoon season usually comes into effect in late summer and makes itself felt most forcefully on the east coast, although in some years the phenomenon is far more active than in others.
It might sound tempting to visit during the Chinese New Year celebrations, but while you’re likely to experience some spectacular revelry, you should be aware that accommodation prices always sky-rocket and many businesses and service providers shut down for the period.
Light- to mediumweights, with rainwear advised. It’s a good idea not to wear overly skimpy clothing when visiting some of the stricter Buddhist temples, although light trousers and a t-shirt will always be considered perfectly acceptable for both sexes. It’s a wise idea to pack swimwear for the hot springs, although some single-sex bathing areas require no costume to be worn. Bring a pair of sturdy shoes too – even if you’re not intending to go trekking, there are some enjoyable short walks to be had at natural attractions like Taroko Gorge.
Though Taiwanese territory includes dozens of small islands in the Taiwan Strait and the Pacific, the main island known as Taiwan covers the vast majority of the land area under Taiwanese administration. Almost two-thirds of Taiwan is covered by mountains, with 258 peaks over 3,000m (9,850ft), most of them heavily forested. The highest of these, Yushan (Jade Mountain), is northeast Asia's tallest mountain at 3,952m (13,042ft). This mountainous terrain is the result of the island’s location – it sits on the fault line of two tectonic plates, and was formed after a dramatic geological upheaval between four and five million years ago. It also sits on the Tropic of Cancer, putting it on the same line of latitude as Hawaii in the North Pacific.
But while mountains dominate Taiwan's centre and rugged east coast, the island's western third is mostly alluvial plain and is host to most of the population. The two Pacific islands, Lyudao (Green Island) and Lanyu (Orchid Island), are popular holiday destinations, while the Taiwan Strait archipelagos of Penghu and Matzu hold historic and cultural appeal. And just a few kilometres off mainland China's Fujian coast, the tiny islands of Kinmen and Lieyu remain under Taiwanese control.
The combination of climate, terrain and topography also makes the main island of Taiwan ripe for endemic flora and fauna, particularly in the diverse mountain forests. The Taiwan fir tree and Formosan black bear are two key examples. There’s also a rich bird life to enjoy, with various specialist tours available.