Visiting Taroko Gorge for the first time and not sure how to plan the perfect Taroko tour? This post has you covered!
Taroko Gorge (太魯閣) is one of the most popular tourist spots in Taiwan and a huge must on any Taiwan itinerary. Situated in Xiulin Township on Taiwan’s mind-blowing east coast, this dramatic 19-km gorge is the shining star of Taroko National Park (太魯閣國家公園) – one of the country’s nine national parks. The park spans more than 920 km² and actually lies over three counties; Taichung, Nantou, and Hualien.
Taroko Gorge is famous for many things; it’s more than 200 million years old, it’s home to some of Taiwan’s highest peaks, and the Truku tribe (the area’s indigenous tribe) is settled here. However, what really makes Taroko Gorge so special is its stunning scenery.
The gorge was shaped by thousands of years of erosion and carved out by the Liwu River that flows right through it. With breathtaking natural beauty featuring high mountain tops, steep gorges, dreamy waterfalls, and abundant plant and animal life, it’s not hard to see why Taroko Gorge is a must-visit attraction in Taiwan. What’s more, Taroko is absolutely littered with colorful temples, glorious hikes through lush jungles, and easy trails along high-rising marble walls.
In this guide, I’ll cover absolutely everything you need to know about visiting Taroko Gorge for the first time. I’ve also included tons of tips from how to get to Taroko, where to stay, the best Taroko Gorge hiking trails, and more!
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Tips for visiting Taroko Gorge Taiwan
Before visiting Taroko Gorge National Park, here are a couple of quick tips to make your trip all the easier.
- Hualien City is the main gateway to Taroko Gorge. Find out exactly how to get to Hualien, and also read my detailed Hualien guide to discover the best things to do, where to stay, and so much more!
- Taroko Gorge is Taiwan’s #1 attraction, and as a result, it’s important to book accommodation a few weeks in advance. There are several hotels within and near the park, but you’ll find more choices in Hualien. Find the best hotel deals here on Agoda. Book at least one night’s stay to experience all of Taroko’s best bits.
- If you don’t want to plan a thing, this day tour from Hualien is your best bet. And if you’d like to plan all of your stops without worrying about any transport hassles, this private car charter is a great stress-free option.
- Don’t forget to bring your Easy Card (Taiwan’s transport card) so that you can travel on trains and buses easily.
- Some of Taroko’s hiking trails, like Zhuilu Old Road, require permits. See the official park website for more details on fees and permits, or apply for a permit here.
- Pack bug spray, sunscreen, and a hat for your trip. Also wear comfortable non-slip walking shoes or hiking boots when tackling longer trails.
- Check the weather before visiting Taroko National Park because the east coast is prone to unpredictable weather conditions.
- Check the road and trail conditions before your Taroko trip. Trails often close due to safety precautions or construction.
- Taroko Gorge is full of animal life. Remember to keep an eye out for poisonous snakes and giant hornets when hiking.
How to get from Taipei to Taroko Gorge
While it’s possible to access Taroko Gorge via several places in Taiwan, Hualien City on Taiwan’s east coast is its main gateway. Hualien is a picturesque city with loads to keep you busy. So if you have a few days to spare, definitely also check out these great things to do in Hualien.
Since Hualien is the main access point to Taroko Gorge, it’s very easy to reach from practically anywhere in Taiwan. I’ve written a detailed guide on exactly how to get to Hualien from Taipei. But if you’re in a rush, here’s a quick look at all the ways to get there.
Taking the Train from Taipei to Hualien
The quickest way to get to Taroko Gorge from Taipei is via Hualien by train. Loads of trains run daily from Taipei, but take a Taroko Express or Puyuma train for the fastest route. The journey to Hualien takes less than 2.5 hours and costs NT$440 per way. See prices and time schedules here.
Trains bound for Hualien fill up quite quickly, so it’s best to book tickets well in advance. You can buy tickets directly at any train station across Taiwan or online (up to 14 days in advance).
Flying from Taipei to Hualien
If you want to maximize your time in Taroko Gorge National Park or have limited time, you might want to consider flying to Hualien.
Uni Air flies daily from Taipei’s Songshan Airport, and Mandarin Airlines has direct flights to Hualien from Kaohsiung. One-way tickets shouldn’t set you back more than NT$2500, but as prices often change, it’s best to check individual sites directly.
Once you arrive at the Hualien airport, you could either hop on the Hualien Bus (more details and schedules here), rent a car, or grab a taxi.
Taking the bus from Taipei to Hualien
It is possible to take a bus directly from Taipei to Hualien. Both Taipei Bus and Ubus offer cheap rides from Taipei to Hualien. Buses depart from Nangang Bus Station in Taipei City and take about 3 hours to reach Hualien.
Taipei Bus 1071 departs from platform 1, while Ubus 1663 departs at platform 3. If you’re traveling via the Lunar New Year holidays, it’s quite common to find greatly discounted tickets which will easily cost half than a Puyuma train ticket. See more details here (only in Chinese): Taipei Bus | Ubus
Alternatively, take a bus to Luodong and continue your journey by train to Hualien. However, as these combo tickets are only slightly cheaper and the travel time is nearly the same as the train, I wouldn’t recommend using this transport option.
Joining a Taroko Gorge day trip Tour from Taipei
Another option you might want to consider is taking a shared sightseeing car from Taipei to Hualien. The journey takes about 8 hours, but it’s a great way to see a bit more of Taiwan’s beautiful coastline. The charter stops by several iconic sights in Taiwan, including Jiufen, Qingshui Cliff, the Nanfang-ao viewing platform, and Yilan Jimmy Park.
How to get from Hualien to Taroko Gorge
Unless you stay within the Taroko National Park at Tianxiang or near the park’s entrance, the best place to stay is in Hualien. (More on accommodation later). Although it is a 40-minute ride to the National Park, basing yourself here would give you so much more freedom to explore the city and surrounding areas. Not to mention, you’ll have better accommodation and food options.
There are a few ways to travel between Taroko Park and Hualien, the easiest being driving a car or renting a scooter. Buses also run daily between Hualien and Taroko. Here’s what you need to know about each one.
Getting to Taroko Gorge By Car
There are plenty of car rental companies available in Hualien itself, so you could easily take the train to Hualien and then rent a car upon arrival. However, it is important to note that you need a valid local or international license.
Another thing to know is that driving within the park has some constraints – the roads are quite narrow with tons of twists and turns, and traffic can get congested easily – especially if there are roadworks underway. Also, you’ll need to watch out for the huge tour buses, and finding a parking spot can sometimes be a total pain. Nonetheless, if you want to explore the park at your own pace, this is a great way to do so.
For a hassle-free journey, consider booking a private car charter instead.
Driving a Scooter to Taroko Gorge
A great way to explore Taroko National Park at your own pace is by renting a scooter. This way, you’ll also get to visit some of the amazing attractions in and around Hualien.
You can rent a scooter right outside the Hualien train station – there are a plethora of scooter shops lining the parking lot towards the left. Near the exit, and between the bus and train station, is another great little shop. The owner speaks excellent English, and rentals go for NT$500 a day.
However, to rent a scooter anywhere in Taiwan, you must have a valid local license or an international license for a scooter. It’s also highly likely that you will need to leave some kind of identification at the shop to guarantee you return the scooter. So, be sure to bring some form of identification along – apart from your passport or ARC card.
If you are traveling on a shoestring, you might want to check with your accommodation beforehand whether it is possible to rent a scooter or even a vehicle through them. Many of the hotels and hostels in Hualien offer this service – often at a lower price than the scooter shops near the train station.
Taking the Hualien Bus to Taroko Gorge
The best way to reach Taroko Gorge via public transport is by bus. Buses run daily from the Hualien Bus Station (the orange building near the train station) towards Tianxiang. Although it’s pretty hassle-free to use the bus, keep in mind that the buses aren’t that frequent. So you may spend more time waiting for a bus than actually sightseeing. The best tip I can give you is to plan your schedule properly beforehand.
If you choose to use the bus to travel to/ within Taroko Gorge, I highly recommend investing in an Easy card. That way, you won’t need to bother with small change. Alternatively, you can also buy a 1-Day Pass (NT$250) or a 2-Day Pass (NT$400) at the bus station.
The earliest bus leaves Hualien at 6:30 am, and the last bus from Tianxiang is at 5 pm. The journey takes about 1 hour, and buses leave every 1.5hrs or so.
For more details, see the Taroko shuttle bus timetables.
When to visit Taroko Gorge
Taroko Gorge generally enjoys mild temperatures year-round, which drop as the elevation rises. Seeing that the elevation here rises from 60 m to 3,742 m, you might want to bring a light jacket and an umbrella along, no matter which time of year you visit.
Taiwan’s East Coast is also prone to heavy rainfall and earthquakes, so it’s vital to always keep an eye on the weather forecast before traveling here. Taroko Gorge, in particular, sees about 2000mm of rain a year, and typhoons are common from July to September.
As a rule of thumb, it’s best not to visit mountainous areas anywhere in Taiwan after extended periods of rain as rockfalls and landslides can occur here.
How long to stay in Taroko Park
How much time you spend in Taroko Gorge will ultimately depend on what you’d like to get out of your trip. While it’s possible to visit Taroko on a day trip, I highly recommend staying longer as there is so much to do and see! To really get a feel of what the area offers, stay at least two to three days. This will allow sufficient time to do a few hikes and explore some of the stunning places around Hualien.
However, if you are pressed for time, this Hualien Day Tour from Taipei is your best bet. The tour lasts 11hrs and includes a visit to Qixingtan Beach and the Swallow Grotto Trail in Taroko.
Taroko Gorge Hotels
Taiwan’s east coast has loads of excellent accommodation options to match any budget. With that said, though, to really maximize your time in Taroko Gorge, I highly recommend staying in one of these three areas:
- Tianxiang (If you want to stay in Taroko National Park)
- Fushi Village (If you’re looking for a cheaper option, right beside the park)
- Hualien (If you’re looking for more choice and want to see more of Taiwan’s east coast)
Where to stay in Tianxiang
Silks Place is the only 5-star hotel right in the heart of Taroko Park and the best Taroko Gorge hotel. It has beautiful rooms, a restaurant, a dreamy swimming pool, and a gym.
Nearby you’ll also find the Taroko Tienhsiang Youth Activity Centre with basic rooms and a much friendlier price tag.
If you are traveling on a tight budget but still wish to stay a few nights, you could consider camping. There are two campgrounds near Tianxiang, namely Heliu and Lushui Campgrounds.
Heliu, near Cimu Bridge, has 12 wooden platforms where visitors can pitch tents. There are also bathrooms with cold water showers. A platform costs NT$300 per day and works on a “first-come, first-serve basis.”
A little further along, you will also find Lushui. Here you’ll need to pitch your tent on the grass as there are no tent platforms. Water and lighting are available too. No reservations or fees are necessary. For more details on camping, you can check out the park’s website here.
Where to stay in Fushi Village
Fushi Village is just a stone’s throw from the Taroko National Park’s East Entrance Arch Gate. Don’t expect anything too fancy here, as this area mainly caters to budget travelers. But, if you want to base yourself near the park, this is a great option. Popular Taroko Gorge hotel options here include Liwu Hotel and Yong Ying B&B.
Where to stay in Hualien
Hualien is the biggest city near Taroko Gorge and is an excellent base, especially if traveling further afield. There are many accommodation options to suit every pocket and traveling style. Here are a few places I highly recommend staying at:
Meci Hotel is an excellent mid-range hotel only a few hundred meters from the Hualien train station. While the hotel’s exterior may look somewhat outdated, the interior is top-notch. You’ll find clean, trendy rooms, great staff, and lots of food choices nearby.
Wow Hostel is a great alternative for those traveling on a tight budget. Choose between dorm rooms or rooms with private bathrooms. The hostel is a stone’s throw away from the train station, and you can spot its bright green exterior a mile away!
You’ll find a few posher options a bit further away from the train station. Both Lakeshore Hotel Hualien and LeaLea Garden Hotels – Hualien are excellent choices if you’re looking for an upscale stay.
What to pack for Taroko Gorge
Since most of the activities in Taroko National Park are centered around hiking, make sure to pack comfortable walking shoes or sturdy non-slip hiking boots. It’s also a good idea to bring along sunscreen if you’re visiting during the warmer months. Other must-pack items include mosquito repellant, a refillable water bottle, and an umbrella. Oh, and don’t forget your camera – you’re going to need it!
Also, check out my Taiwan packing list for more tips on what to pack.
Best Taroko Gorge Hiking Trails & Things to do
Great, now that you know all the ins and outs of planning a Taroko Gorge trip, it’s time to find out what to do!
There are loads of amazing things to do in Taroko Gorge. The National Park is home to some of the most incredible hiking trails in Taiwan, and it’s easy to explore the area whether you’re planning a day trip from Taipei or a bit longer. Here are the best Taroko Gorge hiking trails and top things to do in Taroko National Park.
Altitude: 60m | Length of trail: 4.4km | Time: 3-4 hrs | Difficulty: Fairly Easy | MAP
Just a short drive or walk from the park’s Visitors Center, you will find the Shakadang trail. There is a small parking area near the Shakadang bridge’s entrance if you need parking. The trailhead starts to the right of the bridge – follow the small staircase down to start the hike.
The Shakadang trail, also known as the “Mysterious Valley trail,” is an easy hike and one not to miss while visiting Taroko National Park. The course takes you past the river valley, renowned for its deep azure rock pools, beautiful natural scenery, and diverse plant and animal life.
Note this trail runs near a restricted area home to the local Truku people – please pass by respectfully. You might also see some of the locals selling snacks and handmade souvenirs along the trail from time to time.
The trail ends at 3D Cabin, and if you want to continue past this point, you would need an entry permit to do so. You can find more details on obtaining permits for Dali and Datung here.
If you happen to visit Taroko in May, this is a great place to see the beautiful Tung blossoms in bloom.
Eternal Spring Shrine Trail (Changchun Trail)
Altitude: 85m | Length of trail: 1.35km | Time: 30mins | Difficulty: Fairly Easy | MAP
No visit to Taroko Gorge would be complete without dropping by one of the most iconic landmarks in Taiwan – the Eternal Spring Shrine. The shrine was built in memory of 226 veterans who died constructing the Central Cross-Island Highway between 1956-1960 and plays an important role in the park’s history.
The small shrine is perched on the side of a mountain, and a beautiful waterfall flows nearby. It’s a spectacular sight to see and one you definitely shouldn’t miss when visiting Taroko Gorge.
The trail leading to the shrine is currently only partially open, so best to keep an eye on the park’s road and trails page for any updates before you visit. Remember to wear sturdy shoes as the path is quite slippery.
If you don’t feel like hiking via the East trailhead, you can still get an amazing view from the observation deck. The small coffee shop beneath the walkway also offers an excellent vantage point and is a terrific spot to enjoy a cuppa while marveling at the shrine from a distance. The entrance is right next to the bus stop.
The Swallow Grotto (Yanzikou Trail)
Altitude: 274m | Length of trail: 1.37km | Time: 10-30 mins | Difficulty: Easy | MAP
The Swallow Grotto trail takes you past towering marble walls covered in lush vegetation, with the Liwu rushing by below.
The hike follows the old road all the way to Jinheng Bridge and is an easy walk. Generally, you only need about 20 minutes to finish a leg but as the scenery is mindblowing, work on more if you want to stop for photo ops.
Apart from getting a bird’s-eye view of the magnificent gorge, potholes resembling swallow nests, and weird rock formations, you can also spot the” Chieftain Profile Rock” along the way. This rockface has been carved out by years and years of water erosion. The best place to spot this rockface is from the observation deck at Jingheng Park, at the trail’s end. It’s also an excellent spot to take a breather and enjoy the beautiful scenery. There is a small coffee shop where you can enjoy a bite to eat, grab some refreshments or shop for local souvenirs too.
You should ideally wear a hardhat/ helmet when following this trail, as rockfalls aren’t uncommon. You can borrow a hard hat at the Xipan check-in/check-out Service Station, but many visitors wear a scooter helmet.
Zhuilu Old Road Trail
Altitude: 765m | Length of trail: 3.1km | Time: 5-6 hours | Difficulty: Intermediate | MAP
At the Swallow Grotto’s east trailhead, you’ll spot the Zhuilu Suspension Bridge – this is where the Zhuilu Old Trail starts.
The Zhuilu Old Trail is one of the most famous (and dangerous trails) in Taroko Gorge. It follows through lush jungle and along a narrow path with sweeping views over the valley below. The Zhuilu Old Road plays an important role in Taroko’s history as it’s part of the Old Cross-Hehuan Mountain Road – a former means to connect to the local Truku villages.
The trail is only partially open (Zhuilu Suspension Bridge to the Cliff Outpost) due to rockfall damages, but it’s still worth doing. However, to complete this hike you’ll need to apply for a Park Entry Permit. Only 96 permits are issued per weekday, and 156 on weekends and holidays, so plan in advance. You’ll also need two copies of the permit, an ID card and NT$200 cash, which you need to take to the small office near the Zhuilu Suspension Bridge before accessing the trail.
The trail is open from 7 am – 6 pm, but you’re only allowed to enter it between 7 am – 10 am. If you decide to do this hike, it’s important to know that the terrain is very rugged and the cliff is narrow. You should really only attempt this hike if you are fit and not scared of heights. Spotting poisonous creatures along the trail isn’t uncommon either.
Tunnel of Nine Turns Trail (Jiuqudong)
Altitude: 300m | Length of trail: 700m | Time: 30-40 mins | Difficulty: Easy | MAP
The Tunnel of Nine Turns Trail is one of the most amazing trails in Taroko and well worth your time.
You can only enter and exit at the west end of the trailhead, but the trail takes you along an underpass lined with cliffs, dramatic marble walls, waterfalls, and the Liwu River. Just a stone’s throw from the entrance, you can follow the Waterscape trail to get closer to the valley and the Liwu River.
Other important points of interest, such as the “Fish Leaping over the Dragon’s Gate” and the “Coiled Dragon of the Nine Turns,” can also be found on the way.
Tianxiang (map) is a large terraced area and also the biggest village within Taroko National Park. Here you will find the prestigious 5-star Silks Place Taroko as well as a few cheaper options to stay at.
Apart from popping by the Sakuma Samata Shrine, you can also grab a bite to eat at one of the many vendors or small restaurants, dishing up local delicacies before heading out to the Pudu bridge. From here, you can access the Tianfeng Pagoda and some small temples.
Baiyang Waterfall Trail
Altitude: 480m | Length of trail: 2.1km | Time: 1hr | Difficulty: Fairly Easy | MAP
Another famous trail is the Baiyang Waterfall Trail – a few hundred meters west of Tianxiang. The trail leads you past several tunnels before reaching this breathtaking Taiwan waterfall. Please note that you can only enter the first Water Curtain due to safety reasons.
It takes about 2 hours to complete a round trip, and you might want to bring a flashlight as the tunnels can be a bit dark. It’s also extremely important to check the Taroko website for safety warnings before attempting this hike.
Taroko Park in Conclusion
If you’re spending some time in Taiwan, you should definitely add Taroko Gorge to your list of things to do! It’s one of the most beautiful places in Taiwan and one you certainly won’t regret visiting!
Well, that wraps up this Taroko Gorge guide. If you have any tips or suggestions for fellow travelers visiting Taroko Gorge, let me know in the comments below so that I can add to this list of epic things to do in Taroko!
Ready to plan your trip? Pin this Guide to Visiting Taroko Gorge for quick reference later.