It was sightings of the east that led the Portuguese to call Taiwan Ilha Formosa, meaning 'Beautiful Isle'. Steep ridges of thickly forested mountains rise from the Pacific in wave after wave, often leaving only a narrow strip of oceanside land. Or none at all around the Qingshui Cliffs. Between the region's two main cities, Hualien and Taitung, the East Rift Valley provides an alternative north-south inland connection through a valley of rich agricultural land that's at its most picturesque in the expansive rice paddies around Chishang. Mountains, still being created by the pyrotechnics of plate tectonics, edge both sides of the valley, where geological activity also results in several hot springs.
Regional highlights are exploring mountain canyons, cycling the quiet country lanes and meeting the indigenous peoples who give the east a unique cultural appeal. That's most visibly evident on the highly distinctive island of Lanyu.