The main draw at Taroko National Park (太魯閣國家公園, Tailuge Guojia Gongyuan) is the steep-sided Taroko Gorge, though the national park also covers quite a large mountainous area beyond the gorge itself. We visited as a day-trip from Taipei, which involved an early train from Taipei Main Station to the east coast region of Hualien, from where we took local transportation to the national park. This gave us a few hours to hike in the gorge before heading back the same way to Taipei. Visiting Taroko this way makes for quite a long day, but if that’s all the time you have available it’s still well worth the effort.
The initial train ride south took us through some fantastic scenery as we travelled down Taiwan’s rugged east coast, with towering cliffs in places dropping dramatically right into the ocean. Two and a half hours after departing Taipei we arrived at the small Xincheng Taroko Station ( 新城太魯閣站 ) and took a taxi from there, and we had the driver take us into the park and up the road as far as the trailhead we intended to start from. Taroko has a number of hiking trails and we did the Tunnel of Nine Turns (九曲洞, Jiuqudong) and Baiyang Waterfall (白楊瀑布, Baiyang Pubu) trails, the latter leading to the Cave of Water Curtain (水簾洞, Shuiliandong). One downside to Taroko Gorge is that the road sees heavy traffic – but the upshot of this downside is that it’s surprisingly easy to find a taxi to get between the hiking trails!
The Tunnel of Nine Turns section is the narrowest part of the gorge, giving you dramatic views as you walk along a path cut into the side of the cliff, the crystal clear waters of the river just below and the canyon walls towering above it on either side; and the Cave of Water Curtain is aptly named as the water filters down through the rock in such volume that it’s basically raining inside the tunnels – thankfully, there was a stash of umbrellas available at the cave entrance and we made good use of them, though you might want to make sure you’ve got decent rain gear in case there aren’t any umbrellas. You also want a flashlight – we didn’t have one, so I was taking flash photos every few steps so we could keep our bearings. This worked okay, except when I bashed my knee against the guide rail… so, yeah… bring a flashlight!
Taroko covers a large area and there are numerous other trails in the park, some of them quite serious as the highest peaks in the inland area of the park are above 3,000m (these require pre-arranged mountain permits, same as those required for Yushan as discussed here). It’s definitely doable to visit Taroko Gorge as a day-trip from Taipei and hike a trail or two, as we did, but if you want to do any of the more serious trails you’ll need to stay for longer. It’s a tremendously beautiful area so it’s probably a good idea to stay for longer in any case, if you have sufficient time. If you’re here because you’re reading up on things to do in Taipei and are wondering whether or not Taroko is doable as a 1-day trip and worth it on a tight schedule, I highly recommend it as long as you’re ok with the boring train ride back in the dark – in fact, it’s probably the most ambitious day-trip from Taipei that I would recommend, although Sun Moon Lake is also realistic (I like Taroko better)
Have you been to Taroko Gorge? Any questions or comments? Give me a shout below and I’ll get back to you!
Accommodation: search & book rooms in Taipei. If you’re not day-tripping from the capital, the closest city to Taroko is Hualien; see accommodation in Hualien. To stay right in the park, check out Silks Place Taroko Hotel (pricier) or Taroko Tienhsiang Center (cheaper, though still hardly a budget option due to the location), and the Liwu Hotel Taroko is located at the park entrance just over the bridge from the Taroko National Park Tourist Information Center. There are more affordable options in the nearby town of Xincheng; Taroko Susi Space hostel is a 10-minute walk from Xincheng Station.
Airbnb’s also a great option in Taiwan, if you’ve never used it before you can get a 30 dollar discount if you sign up with this link
Make sure you have a good insurance policy; World Nomads offer flexible travel insurance you can buy even if already overseas – most travel insurance companies won’t cover you if you’ve already left your country, and this can be a crucial point as I once found out the hard way in Thailand
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