If you only have a few days in Taiwan and you want to go somewhere outside of Taipei, you should definitely go to Taroko National Park. On an island full of mountains, rain forests, beaches, and abounding natural beauty, Taroko might just take the top spot as the most beautiful scenic area in Taiwan.
Taroko National Park is well known for its amazing marble cliffs and canyons carved out by the Liwu River. It is also a popular spot for hiking, rafting, and river tracing. If you have the time, come to the East coast and see it. If you don't have time, then make some time!
History and Background:
Taroko National Park is well known for its marble cliffs and canyons, and is also known as "The Marble Gorge." Millions of years ago, the rock we see today was sediment at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, but oceanic and tectonic pressure turned it into limestone, and later into marble. Later the Eurasian plate was uplifted where Taiwan is today, and a gorge was cut out of the limestone thanks to the Liwu River.
Taroko means "human being," from the Truku tribal language. Originally the Tupido Tribe settled in the area of what is now Tianxiang Taiti mesa. They built the Tupido Tribe Trail which was only 30 cm wide, and resided there until they were massacred by the Japanese in 1914. In 1917, the Japanese expanded the original trail made by the Tupido Tribe to 1.5 M and forced aboriginal tribesmen to carry goods along the trail to the east coast. This is now the Zhuilu Old Trail. Currently only 3km of the trail is open to the public. The Japanese created a national park in the Area in 1937, which was disestablished by the ROC in 1945, and then reenstated in as a national park in 1986.
When to visit?
Hualien is great year round, but it can get a little hot in the summer, and Typhoon season and heavy rain season lasts from about May to October. If you are afraid of the heat and rain then you can visit during winter when the temperatures are mild and the climate is usually dryer.
Where to stay?
Most of the accommodation you will find is near the city center. If you only want to visit Hualien City and Taroko Gorge, you can consider booking a hotel near downtown, walking or cycling around the city, and taking a bus to Taroko Gorge.
We have stayed at and recommend Dream Taiwan Homestay
(Agoda / Booking.com / Expedia / Hotels.com), a high quality hostel for the money in downtown Hualien, Farglory Hotel (Agoda / Booking.com / Expedia / Hotels.com), right next to Farglory Ocean Park with amazing views of Hualien, and Goldenflower B&B (Agoda / Booking.com) in Yuli right next to Sixty Stone Mountain.
You can find out where to stay in our Taiwan hotels guide or search for the best hotel deals in Taiwan here.
How to get there:
By Car: From Taipei, Take National Highway 5 to Yilan and then drive on the Suhua Highway 9 to Hualien. A few miles before Hualien City, the gorge will be on your right.
By Train: Take the train to Hualien station, and from there you can rent a scooter or car, or take a tour bus to the gorge.
For more travel information see here.
You can book tickets to travel to Hualien via inter-city bus on Klook here.
Book tickets via the normal train (TRA) on Klook here.
Need travel insurance? Compare prices on Insubuy here.
How to get around in Taroko Gorge:
As always, we recommend renting a scooter as the best way to see Taiwan. However, you can also a great deal of Tainan by taking the train, inter-city bus, local bus, biking, or just walking. Getting around in a car is also a convenient option as there is plenty of parking pretty much everywhere in this less crowded county.
By Bus: You can book a shuttle bus to Taroko Gorge from Hualien on Klook here.
Scooter Rental: Looking for scooter rental in Hualien? You can search KKday here or Klook here to look for options.
You can also check out our scooter rental guide here.
Car Rental: If you are looking for car rentals in Hualien, you can also search Klook here or KKDay here.
You can also check out our car rental guide here.
You can find more tours and activities in Hualien such as Surfing, Paragliding, SUP / Paddle Boarding, Kayaking, Canoeing, River Tracing, River Rafting, Whale Watching, Snorkeling, Diving, ATV / 4-wheeling, Paintballing, Farm Dream Estates Zoo, Water Biking, Oyster Harvesting, Shrimp Harvesting, Indigenous Experience, Glamping, Cycling, Ziplining and much more on Klook here or KKday here.
You can also book Wifi and SIM cards for Taiwan on Gigago here.
Just to let you know, if you book using the links above, we get some commission at no cost to you, and you can help support our blog.
You can click here to receive $5 USD on your first Klook purchase.
Hours: 8:30AM-5PM (Zhuilu old trail is open from 7AM to 10PM).
Flying a Drone?
Apply for a drone permit here.
Price: Free! (Except Zhuilu old trail, which is 200 NT per adult. See below for more info.)
Map: Please see below:
You can also check out our drone footage of Taroko below:
Places we will cover in this blog:
Let's get started!
Qingshui Cliffs 清水斷崖
The Qingshui Cliffs in Taroko National Park on the coast of Hualien are some of the most spectacular geological features in the country, and the world. The tallest peak on the cliffs is 2,408 meters (7,900 feet) above sea level, and drops straight into the Pacific Ocean. It is a spectacular sight to behold.
View from the cliffs from above.
View from the Chongde rest area.
For our full blog on the Qingshui Cliffs, click here.
You can see the Asia Cement Corporation's Xincheng mine here, which has been criticized by environmentalist groups.
First view from inside the gorge.
Changguang Temple 禪光寺
Changguang Temple is a Buddhist monastery built not long after the central cross island was improved in 1960, in order to boost tourism in the area.
Here you can also find a suspension bridge that reaches the bell tower on the mountain above.
Shakadang Trail 砂卡礑步道
Shakadang Trail is a short 1.5 KM trail along the beautiful Shakadang River. It is a nice place to enjoy the scenery and wildlife in the gorge.
More photos from the Shakadang Trail above.
Eternal Spring (Changchun) Shrine Trail 長春祠步道
The eternal spring shrine is a Buddhist shrine the built on the eternal spring shooting out of the mountain near the entrance of the park. The shrine was originally built to reverence those that died building the cross island highway. There is a trail tunneled through the mountain to the shrine, and an additional trail up the the bell tower. As of 2018, the trail to the bell tower was closed off.
More photos from the eternal spring shrine and bell tower above.
Also along in the gorge, you will norice quite a few abandoned tunnels that used to be part of the cross island highway.
Another abandoned tunnel and bridge.
More photos of the entrance area to Taroko above, including this abandoned military outpost.
A waterfall in the gorge, one of many that I can't tell you the name of.
The Liwu River Dam, which is usually a beautiful blue color.
New bridge next to an old suspension bridge part of the old section of the cross island highway.
Liufang Lookout (流芳橋觀景台)
Another view of new and old bridges through the gorge at Liufang Lookout (流芳橋觀景台).
View from Liufang Lookout.
More photos from Liufang Lookout.
Yuewangting is another scenic lookout, that leads to an old logging trail via this suspension bridge.
Buluowan Recreation Area 布洛灣遊悠區
From around Buluowan, you can see Shanyue Suspension Bridge (山月吊橋) which is the highest suspension bridge in Taiwan, and recently finished construction.
Also you can check out the indigenous people museum here, as well as restaurants and hostels. More photos in the gallery above.
Zhuilu Old Trail 錐麓古道
Zhuilu Old Trail (aka Jhueilu/Zhuilu Old Road) is known as "the best day hike in Taiwan" and has a trail on "the No. 1 cliff in east Asia." It is for sure one of the most beautiful and exciting hiking trails in Taiwan. It features a vertical cliff section with amazing views 500 meters above the world's deepest marble gorge (read more).
Currently only 3km of the trail is open to the public. this trail is only open from 7am to 10pm. There are also venomous snakes and insects along the way. You can apply for a permit for the trail here. Fees for entry are 200 NT for adults and 100 NT for children.
You can book a tour of Zhuilu Old Trail on Klook here or KKday here.
For our full blog on Zhuilu Old Trail, click here.
Swallow Grotto 燕子口
There are many tunnels on the road up to the gorge, but one section called the Swallow Grotto is especially breathtaking, and is a popular spot for tourists. Helmets can be rented at the beginning of the tunnels.
More photos from Swallow Grotto above.
Jinheng Park (靳珩公園)
Jinheng Park commemorates the engineers that were killed during an earthquake that destroyed a wooden bridge that was built in this spot.
Lanting Pavilion 蘭亭
Past the nine turn tunnel you will come to Lanting pavilion next to Cimu bridge (慈母橋). Here are some great views of the marble canyon and Liwu River.
More photos from Lanting above.
A section of road between Buluowan and Changchun shrine now closed off due to rock slide danger.
Lushui Geological Exhibition Hall 綠水地質景觀展示館
Near Lishui Campground, there is a geological exhibition hall which can give you more information about the interesting geology here in the gorge.
More photos in the gallery above.
Tianxiang Recreation Area features the widest and most flat terraces within Taroko Gorge. Here you can find Xiangde Temple, Tianfeng Pagoda, Pudu Suspension Bridge, and Silks Place Taroko, which are all surrounded by amazing high canyons and beautiful deep river ravines. It is a must see spot inside Taroko Gorge...(read more)
Baiyang Falls 白楊瀑布
Baiyang Falls are a beautiful set of waterfalls in Taroko National Park. The trail is only 2 KM long and is flat and paved with no steps. It is an easy and relaxing way to enjoy some of the best scenery in the park...(read more)
Curtain Waterfall 水濂洞
Behind Baiyang Waterfall you can find Curtain Waterfall, a waterfall inside a cave which was made accidentally when making this tunnel.
Hehuan Mountain (aka Hehuanshan or Mt. Hehuan) may be the most popular place to see snow in Taiwan, partly due to the fact that it has the highest public road in the country (located at Wuling (武嶺). Most people in Taiwan live at or near sea level in a tropical/subtropical environment that never has snow. However places like Hehuanshan are special because you can drive a vehicle right to the top.
This ugly and dirty slush is something that probably most city-dwellers in Taiwan have never seen, and would make a journey thousands of miles just to touch.
More photos from Taroko National Park in the gallery above.
Places and activities in Taroko National Park that we missed (hopefully to visit next time):
You can find more tours and activities in Hualien on Klook here or KKday here.
You can also check out our full guide to Hualien here, our full guide to Taroko Gorge here, and our full travel guide to Taiwan here.
We are US Expats that have extensive experience living, working, and travelling in Taiwan. In our day, we had to learn many things about Taiwan the hard way. But we have come to learn that Taiwan is one of the best places in the world for Foreigners to live. Our blog does not represent the opinions of every foreigner in Taiwan. We are just trying to help others learn more about this beautiful country.