Taiwan is a place that is dripping in natural beauty. Its location of a sub-tropical island makes it perfect for big and beautiful flora to thrive. The island, although small, is comprised of a whopping eight national parks, this alone should be a testimony to the beauty that can be found here.
One such location is the Taroko National Park, which is famed for its naturally formed gorge and beautiful outdoor scenery. Allow me to walk you through a trip to Taroko Gorge in Taiwan.
Taiwan history is fascinating and the establishment of Taroko as the Taroko National Park was very significant. This happened in 1986 and came in a time when environmental protection was a big thing in Taiwan. The establishment of this national park was a reflection of the public and governments feelings in realizing and recognizing the environmental damage caused by the economical success of the country.
The gorge itself is made up of metamorphic rock such as marble and has had a huge gorge carved down through it know as Toroko gorge. The gorge itself is remarkable as it is so steep, you can get 3400 meters above sea level in just 60 KM.
The original inhabitants of this area are the Truku aboriginal tribe who named the area Taroko in their own language, which means “magnificent and splendid”. The tribes are an integral part of Taiwan culture and they still reside in the area giving you a chance to experience the aboriginal culture.
Getting in and around
There are a number of different ways to make it into the area. The closest major city is Hualien so we shall talk about getting in to the gorge from here. Transport in Taiwan is always so convenient and Hualien is no exception. It is easily reached by trains and even flights from Taipei and most major cities. The gorge is about a 40 minute drive from Hualien.
Public Bus – Getting to the gorge by bus is easy, but you have to make sure you make it on time. The busses leave Hualien station as early as 6:30AM to as late as 1:50PM. Busses finish leaving after this point so make sure you aren’t lying in bed when your bus leaves, they won’t wait. There are usually different stops that you can get off at in the gorge, so plan ahead as to where you want to get off and what you want to see. This option can be limiting as you can only get off at where the bus stops and are restricted to the bus timetable.
Bus Tour – This option is more expensive but you get more freedom. They will take you to all of the good spots in the gorge for you to look at. The downside is that you feel a little like cattle being herded on from one spot to the next, which takes away the option of truly exploring off the beaten track.
Taxi – This is the more expensive way to get in and see the gorge, but it allows you the freedom of stopping and starting at your own leisure. The cost can be anything between $2000NTD and $3000NTD, but usually the taxi drivers act as a tour guide also.
Scooter – This is the most inexpensive and most popular way to get in and see the gorge. Scooter hire shops are everywhere at Hualien station. You will more than likely need either an international drivers license or a drivers license from your home country and your passport to hire one, so plan ahead for this option. Hire can be as cheap as $500NTD a day and you have the freedom to go anywhere you like for as long as you like.
The Eternal Spring Shrine – Whilst constructing the Central Cross Island Highway in 1956-1960 there was a freak accident leaving 212 veterans dead. To remember them the Eternal Spring Shrine was built. The name comes from the Changchun Falls that never stop flowing. Towards the back of the shrine there are steps that will take you to Guanyin Cave, Taroko Tower, Bell Tower (which is the highest point), and a suspension bridge to Changuang Temple. Definitely a must-do.
Tunnel of nine turns – This is a magnificent sight to behold and a definite must see for people visiting Taroko Gorge. Here two cliffs are almost joined, but for a 10 meter gap. Created by thousands of years of river erosion you can enjoy a pleasant drive in and through cavernous archways and tunnels.
The name comes from the imagery of a coiled dragon, nine is often used in mandarin to mean ‘many’, if you would prefer to walk through the tunnel of nine turns, this will take you around 30 minutes.
Baiyang waterfall trail – This one is very self explanatory. If you like a walk then you must not miss this trail. It is a series of seven tunnels scattered with varying types of waterfalls. These tunnels were created when there were plans for hydro-electric energy, this would have involved damming parts of the gorge and destroying parts of the habitat. This was abandoned but what it left was easy access to once remote parts of the gorge.
Please not that some of the tunnels are straight so you can see the light at the end, whereas others bend and wind so you will be in complete darkness.
Bring a flashlight.
River Tracing – This really is one not to miss for the adventurous types. What better way to see the gorge and the beauty of the water running through it than to be in it. That’s right, river tracing (trekking) is an activity formed in Japan which involves a combination of techniques such as rock climbing, bouldering and climbing wet surfaces. You can jump from rock to rock, swim through strong currents, and climb through waterfalls to then jump into the deep and inviting natural blue pools. This is of course one that you need to book with a professional, this is not something you should do on your own without guidance.
As Hualien is the area that most people head into before making their way to the gorge, this is usually a good place to stay over in. You can take the day to explore the gorge, head back to Hualien for a relaxing night in your hotel or exploring what Hualien has to offer, and then the next day explore the East coast of Taiwan or even more of the gorge, because you really can’t see it all in a day.
There are some cheap options once you are in the gorge which are perfect if you are just passing through for the night and don’t mind where you stay. Places like the Youth Activity Center in Tienhsiang can get you a bed for around $850NTD a night. Or cheaper still is the Catholic Hostel where you can grab a bed for as little as $300NTD.
For a little more money you can stay at the Leader Village in Hsiulin, this is located in the Pulowan Park and is managed by aboriginals. You will be very well taken care of with three meals a day and aboriginal dance and music shows at night. The cheapest room is $3100NTD for a 2 bed room for 1 night.
For those looking to splash out on something fancy you should try out Silks Place. Here you can indulge in fine foods, huge rooms, and spa treatments all nestled into the side of the gorge with stunning views. At night they have an open fire pit for you to relax around an in the day there is a pool to enjoy.
For those more adventurous who enjoy the great outdoors there are also camping options. The Lyushui Heliu Campground charges only $200NTD a tent per night and offer restrooms, cold showers and drinking water.
Taroko Gorge offers you everything, whether you like adventure, sight seeing, luxury or camping its all here for you. This is just one of many beautiful parts of Taiwan to visit, please comment to let us know other amazing areas that you have visited in Taiwan.