Breathtaking nature of Taroko Gorge, the best travel destination in Taiwan

Harya Danniswara

Who would have thought that one can find the Grand Canyon in the little semi-county of Taiwan?

Dubbed as the Taiwanese Grand Canyon, Taroko Gorge National Park is one of Taiwan’s most beautiful sightings. Fun fact, it was named after the local Truku aboriginal tribe. Taroko Gorge is already a famous destination among travelers who desire to explore a place outside Greater Taipei area without having to spend dramatic amount of time and money. Myself, I did a one day trip to Taroko, departing and returning to/from Taipei City. Before you visit Taroko Gorge, I would like to share with you the many, many hiking trails that you can explore in the area, ranging from the easiest to the hardest one, from the free-entry trails to the ones where you need to acquire a permit beforehand.

Since Taroko Gorge consists of numerous trails spanning along the main path, you need to firstly be familiar with the sequence of the trails, so that you can plan your trip well and avoid spending valuable time, especially when you are doing a day trip like me. It’s important to pick between the choices of trails based on your overall strength and time availability. Below is a detailed map of Taroko Gorge along with the list of trails available for visitors:

Taroko Map
Taroko Map

Below are some of the recommended trails you can add to your list:

  • Swallow Grotto:
    It is perhaps one of the busiest trails here in the area. The trail runs around 500 meters from the entrance to the Jinheng Bridge. Along the trail you can will be accompanied by the Liwu River with bright green-blue water and the famous rock formation called “Chieftain’s profile rock”.
  • Changchun Trail:
    This is a trail where you can find a beautiful shrine with spring water flowing effortlessly. Changchun (Eternal Spring) Shine was built to honor the 226 people who died during the construction of the Central Cross-Island Highway. It is 1.3 km long in total, which will take around an hour for the entire loop. Do note that the trail is quite steep and it’s fairly unsafe to go on rainy days.
  • Tianxiang (Xiangde Temple & Tianfeng Pagoda):
    Tianxiang is the last stop for shuttle buses in Taroko. It is basically a recreational area where visitors can chill and grab some food. However, my favorite part of the area is the 7-story high Tian Feng Pagoda and Xiangde Temple, which is built near the bridge and have become popular spots for visitors and worshipers.
  • Zhuilu Old Road: I didn’t get the chance to walk this particular trail, since I wasn’t aware of the fact that it requires a permit that visitors need to obtain beforehand. Zhuilu Old Road is only open between 7-10 am, and sometimes there are snakes and insects which requires you to stay safe during the hike. But the view was said to be worth the effort. You can apply for the entry permit here.
A blue river in Swallow Grotto
Liwu River in Swallow Grotto

Finally, what are the things you need to know to have a pleasant trip to Taroko Gorge?

  1. Transportation

Departing from Taipei City, it’s best to book a round trip train ahead of time. You can book online through this link. It costs about … TWD to guarantee you a seat. Book a train to Xincheng Station. In my experience, the trains in Taiwan always departed on time, with occasional delays no more than 5 minutes. After arriving at the station, you can then catch a shuttle bus that will take you to Taroko Gorge area. One important note that might come in handy: they offer you a day pass for taking the shuttle. and it’s a perfect choice since the shuttle is the only public transportation available in the area of Taroko Gorge. I didn’t get this pass, which is a huge mistake because one single ride on the shuttle will set you back 20 TWD, while the day pass only costs 120 TWD. If you plan to visit as many trails as possible then the day pass will save you a lot of money and hassle. There is also a choice of renting a motorbike for 400 TWD, but I wouldn’t recommend doing this if you rarely drive a motorbike on your own and most probably will increase the risk of unwanted accidents. The roads are generally safe, but large shuttle and tour buses pass the same road frequently and you can find yourself stuck between them.

Amazing rock formation you can find all over the place
Amazing rock formation you can find all over the place

2. Food and Amenities

Another important thing to note: food are very limited in this area. The only place where you can find restaurants and marts is in Tianxiang Service Station, which is the last stop of the shuttle. I don’t know about you, but the restaurants there were all above my budget, so I decided to buy some food in 7 Eleven instead. You can buy some food here and eat outside, but be mindful of others and don’t litter. Restrooms are only available here. It is a great place to chill, relax and enjoy the view, but always keep the shuttle schedule in mind because it’s easy to lose track of time here.

Much to see in Tianxiang
Much to see in Tianxiang

3. Safety

The trails of Taroko Gorge are well-equipped with safety signs and measures, so no need to worry as long as you follow the rules and avoid doing something reckless. However, some trails can be very crowded at times, and it is difficult to keep yourself from tripping with people stopping in the middle of the way and mindlessly taking pictures. Always grip the nearest handle when you’re on the edge of a cliff, and walking in pairs is highly encouraged. Use a pair of shoes that is suitable for hiking, and avoid wearing too many layers — just enough to cope with the weather.

Harya Danniswara

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