Taiwan might not be the first country you think of when you are planning a trip to Asia. You’re not alone; the small island close to the Chinese mainland drew just 12 million international visitors in 2019 (for comparison: London received 22 million visitors that year). One of the reasons could be that the country lacks a major tourist attraction. Perhaps you have heard of the pagoda-shaped Taipei 101 building (once the world’s highest building), but is that really a reason to visit Taiwan? If you like hiking and stunning nature, there might be another reason to visit Taiwan: the Taroko gorge. This article will tell you when to go, how to get there, and where to stay.
My 2 weeks in Taiwan were, in hindsight, quite limiting. I wanted to spend a week in Taipei to get a good feeling of the city, but as my time there went by, I realised that there is much more to the island than I initially thought. I can best compare Taiwan to a combination between Hong Kong and China. The country is well developed in the sense of infrastructure, (public) services, and tourism. On the other side, its rich history and culture are still present. If you’re planning to visit Taroko Gorge, there are some things you need to know before embarking on your journey. In this post, I’ll give you a guide on when to go, how to get there, and where to stay.
When to Go
The best time to visit Taroko Gorge is during the spring and fall. During these times, you’ll experience great weather and beautiful views. In the springtime, the cherry blossoms are in full bloom, adding a splash of color to the already stunning landscape. In the fall, the autumn leaves create a golden canopy across the gorge. Be sure to check the weather forecast before you go, as the park tends to be closed during typhoon season.
How to get from Taipei to the Taroko Gorge via Hualien
To get to Taroko Gorge from Taipei, you have several transportation options. Taroko Gorge is located on the eastern side of Taiwan, and it’s easiest to access by taking a train or bus from Taipei.
Head to Taipei main station and purchase a ticket to Hualien. Taroko Gorge is located in Hualien County. The journey takes around 2.5 to 3 hours, depending on the type of train you choose (express or regular).
Head to Taipei Bus Station, which is located adjacent to Taipei Main Station. In the bus station, find the ticket counters or information booths that offer buses to Hualien. There are frequent buses departing for Hualien throughout the day. The journey typically takes around 3 to 4 hours, depending on traffic and road conditions.
How to get from Hualien to the Taroko Gorge
Once you arrive in Hualien (either by train or bus), you can take a taxi, hire a private car, or join a tour to get to Taroko Gorge. It’s approximately a 30-minute drive from Hualien to the entrance of Taroko Gorge. Taxis and private car hires can be found near the Hualien Railway Station and the bus station.
The cheapest option to get from Hualien to Taroko Gorge is by taking a local public bus. The bus service is affordable and operates regularly, making it a budget-friendly choice for travelers. Here’s how to do it:
- Make your way to Hualien Bus Station. You can reach the bus station either by walking from Hualien Railway Station (around 15-20 minutes) or taking a short taxi ride.
- At Hualien Bus Station, look for Bus Route 302, which is the local bus that goes to Taroko Gorge. The bus schedule may vary, but buses typically run quite frequently throughout the day.
- Buy a bus ticket for Bus 302. The fare is around 250 New Taiwan Dollars for a one-way ticket.
- Get out at Taroko National Park Visitor Center: The bus will take you into Taroko National Park and make stops at various points of interest. The main visitor center is one of the key stops where you can get off. It serves as an excellent starting point for exploring the park and getting more information about its trails and attractions.
The hidden gems of Taroko Gorge
Following the beaten path isn’t my forte, and if it isn’t yours, this section can help you discover some lesser-known trails and points of interest.
Baiyang Waterfall Trail
While not entirely unknown, this trail is less visited than some of the more popular spots. The Baiyang Waterfall Trail leads you through tunnels and over bridges, culminating in a breathtaking view of the Baiyang Waterfall. The trail also features a waterfall tunnel, where you can walk behind the cascading water for a unique and refreshing experience.
Dali Old Road Trail
This ancient trail, once used by the indigenous Truku people, offers a sense of history and mystery. The path takes you through lush forests, traditional stone steps, and unique rock formations. More information
Zhuilu Old Road
For the more adventurous hikers, the Zhuilu Old Road is a challenging and thrilling trail that offers stunning views of the gorge from a higher vantage point. A permit is required to access this trail, and it’s essential to plan and prepare accordingly. More information
This temple is a serene and culturally rich Buddhist temple nestled amidst the awe-inspiring marble cliffs, offering a spiritual sanctuary for visitors amidst the natural splendor of the gorge.
Do I need a permit to visit Taroko National Park?
You generally do not need a permit to visit Taroko Gorge itself. It is a national park and a popular tourist destination in Taiwan that is open to the public year-round. You can visit the main areas of Taroko Gorge, such as the visitor center, the scenic spots, and many of the hiking trails, without any special permits.
However, some specific trails or areas within Taroko Gorge might require permits or have restrictions. For example, if you plan to venture off the main trails and into more remote or restricted areas, you may need to obtain a permit. Additionally, certain activities like camping or organizing group tours within the park might require permits, depending on the number of participants and the locations involved.
It’s best to check with the Taroko National Park Headquarters or the Visitor Center directly for the most up-to-date information on permits and regulations
Where to Stay
There are accommodations inside the park, including the Silks Place Taroko hotel. This hotel is located in the heart of the park and offers stunning views of the gorge. If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly option, there are plenty of guesthouses and hostels in the nearby towns of Xincheng and Hualien. Many of these offer free shuttle services to the park entrance.
Little known facts about the Taroko Gorge
- Changchun Falls Mystery: Changchun Falls, one of the scenic waterfalls in the area, experienced a natural phenomenon in 1987. After a strong earthquake struck the region, the water flow reversed temporarily, causing the waterfall to flow upward, becoming a temporary “upside-down waterfall” for a brief period.
- Aboriginal Heritage: The area surrounding Taroko Gorge has been home to indigenous Taiwanese people for centuries. The Taroko tribe, one of the aboriginal groups, once lived in this region, leaving their mark on the land and adding to the cultural richness of the gorge.
- Eternal Spring Shrine: The Eternal Spring Shrine (Changchun Shrine) is one of the most famous spots in Taroko Gorge. It was built in memory of the 212 workers who lost their lives during the construction of the Central Cross-Island Highway. The shrine was originally located below a waterfall, but it was later moved to its current position due to safety concerns.
- Earthquake Impact: Taroko Gorge lies in an area of high seismic activity due to its proximity to the intersection of the Philippine Sea Plate and the Eurasian Plate. Over the centuries, earthquakes have played a significant role in shaping the landscape of the gorge.
- Marble Abundance: Taroko Gorge is known for its abundant marble formations, which have been exposed through geological processes over millions of years. The gorge’s name “Taroko” is derived from the Truku indigenous word “Taroko,” meaning “human” or “men,” referencing the indigenous people’s practice of searching for marble in the area for crafting tools and ornaments.
- Secret Trails: While many tourists visit the main attractions in Taroko Gorge, there are several lesser-known trails and hidden spots that offer a more secluded and authentic experience of the natural beauty and cultural heritage of the area.
Taroko Gorge Map
Here are two maps that should give you a bit of guidance on the trails and points of interests in the Taroko National Park.