Approximately 152 km from Taipei (台北) and 23km from Hualien (花蓮), Taroko National Park (太魯閣國家公園) is Taiwan’s top tourist destination due to its beautiful marble-walled canyons, majestic inland mountainous landscape and seaside cliffs.
How to get there
By far, the most convenient way to visit Taroko National Park from Taipei is by train. Tze-Chiang Limited Express – Tze-Chiang Limited Express (Taroko) and Tze-Chiang Limited Express (Puyuma), is the fastest, which takes approximately 2 – 2.5 hours to reach.
It is a tilt train, so reserving the seats online via TRA Website (NT 440 one way) is advisable. The tickets can be collected at any TRA Counters in train stations OR convenience stores such as 7-11, Family mart and Hi-Life when reached.
Navigating TRA website can be quite frustrating, which will take awhile to master the skill to book the tickets online. Remember to print out the confirmation letter immediately, as no email will be sent to you.
In order to maximise coverage of the park leisurely, you might want to get on an earlier train.The first train usually starts at 6am.
Once at Hualien Station, there are a few options which can you choose to travel to the park.
1) Taroko Shuttle Bus (任我行) – allows tourists to hop on and off to visit different destinations in the park. Although it is the cheapest way to travel in the park, the fixed bus timings from one destination to another might not be suitable for tourists that want to explore each location slowly. Also, the time range between each bus is 45 mins to an hour, so you might be spending way too much time waiting for the bus to bring you to the next destination.
2) Motorbike – for those that have bike licence and are confident to ride in mountainous terrains.
3) Taxis – if you are in a group of four or more, taking the taxi will be a better option. There are a lot of taxis outside Hualien Station, waiting to pick up tourists to the park, with price ranging from NT2,200 – NT3,500 for a full day tour of Taroko Gorge.
Taking the taxi will allow tourists to have more time to explore each destination. Most taxi drivers are familiar with the attractions and they will explain along the way about the history and geographical terrains of the park which is insightful.
Place of Interests
Taroko Archway – Built in the 60’s, this archway marked the beginning of the journey into the park.
Shakadang Trail (砂卡噹步道) – famous for its crystal clear water and marble boulders. The trail is semi-paved with fences on the side to prevent tourists from climbing over into the canyon. There are various observation decks along the way for photo-taking opportunities. The total time taken is approximately 1.5 hours (both ways). At the end of the trail, there will be a few shops selling souvenirs and food such as Taiwan’s sausage. The trail after the shops was closed when we were there due to damage after an earthquake.
Beware: the scenery along the trail can be overwhelming but do be careful when passing under overhanging rock faces, which can be quite low for some tourists. The trail can be also quite slippery and slightly muddy during the wet season.
Swallow Grotto (燕子口) – the trail runs for about half a kilometre starting from the entrance to Jinheng Bridge, crossing various tunnels. It overlooks the narrowest portion of the gorge with the Liwu water running at maximum velocity.
3 tourists attractions along the trail will be the pothole on the cliff faces, the Zhuilu Cliff, and Rock of the Indian Chief (near the jinheng bridge). Tourists can continue to walk along the bridge, which will bring to an open area on the other sides. By lying on the road and looking up into the sky, surrounded by mountainous terrains, you will be able to see the sky resemble the geographical boundary of Taiwan.
Beware: tourists need to wear a helmet when crossing the Swallow Grotto, as there will be rocks slides at time. The helmet can be collected a couple of miles before the entrance, along the roadside or at the visitor centre before entering Taroko Gorge.
Eternal Spring Shrine (長春祠) – near the park administration centre. The shrine is built to honour the workers that have lost their lives while building the highway. It is one of the scenic spot in the park with water gushing through the rocks below the shrine. Tourists can walk near the shrine via mountain tunnels but the shrine and trail after the tunnels are closed due to damage by earthquake.
Beware: this is the busiest scenic spot in Taroko. Try to avoid visiting the place after 3pm. We were told that due to tight schedules, most travel agencies only bring tourists to this place for a quick stopover before travelling out of the park and carrying on with their journey to other destinations.
Take note: due to earthquake damages, some of the scenic spots and trails such as Jiuqudong (Tunnels of Nine Turns – 九曲洞) had been closed since 2010.