Taroko Gorge, the gorge landmark of Taroko National Park, is one of Taiwan’s best natural attractions and is an accessible day trip from the capital city, Taipei. At the national park, you’ll see sky-blue water, marble mountains, shrines, waterfalls, plunging canyons and more.
Taroko Gorge was one of my Taiwan trip’s highlights and here, I share practical tips on visiting it. This post covers:
- 🚗 How to visit and get around Taroko Gorge from Taipei
- 🗓️ Day trip itinerary for Taroko Gorge
- ⭐️ Top attractions in Taroko Gorge and my honest reviews of them
- 📍 Taroko Gorge map with key places pinned
- 🎒 What to pack for a Taroko Gorge visit
- ✏️ Taiwan trip planning template
- Taroko Gorge at a Glance
- How To Get There
- Taroko Gorge Map
- Day Trip Itinerary
- Top 3 Attractions
- 7 Other Things To Do
- What To Pack
- Taiwan Trip Planning Template
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Taroko Gorge at a Glance
Here is some general information on Taroko Gorge National Park to help with your trip planning.
⛰️ Known For
Taroko Gorge, a stunning marble gorge carved by the Liwu River, is primarily known for its natural beauty, particularly for its mountain and marble canyons.
- From Taipei, you’ll have to travel ~90 miles (approximately a two-and-a-half-hour train ride) southeast to the national park. See below for how to get to Taroko Gorge from Taipei.
- From Hualien, Taroko Gorge is located ~15 miles north (about a 30-minute drive).
For a closer day trip from Taipei, consider visiting the picturesque town of Jiufen.
🕜 Hours of Operation
According to Taroko National Park’s official site, the park is “open to the public at all times and all days of the year”.
☀️ Best Time To Visit
Taroko Gorge has decent weather year-round. The best time to visit Taroko Gorge is from November to April.
The rainiest months are between June and September and the most humid months are between May and September.
⏳ How Long To Visit
Taroko National Park has over a dozen attractions and is 26 miles wide. You can spend a full day visiting its top attractions or stay for two to three days to deeply explore the park and do its numerous hiking trails. In this post, I will focus on how to do a full-day trip in Taroko Gorge.
💰 Expected Cost
Taroko National Park doesn’t have an entrance fee, so it’s free. The only exception is Zhuilu Old Trail, a narrow trail with limited edge protection, which has a 100 NT (~$3.33 USD) fee.
If you visit Taroko Gorge with a tour group, expect to pay ~$100 USD for a full-day tour especially if you want it to be English-speaking. Multi-day tours are also available for $250+ USD.
A lot of attractions in Taiwan are free and have no entrance fee. This Taiwan cost breakdown outlines all my trip expenses.
How To Get To Taroko Gorge
Taroko Gorge is located in Hualien City. Here’s how to get to Taroko Gorge from Taipei and how to get around the national park once you arrive.
Getting to Taroko Gorge From Taipei
You can get to Taroko National Park from Taipei by either taking an organized tour that includes transportation to Hualien or by taking public transportation down to Hualien.
🚗 Option 1: Organized Tour
The most hassle-free way to visit Taroko National Park from Taipei is by booking an organized tour, which will include round-trip transportation. Tour groups will either provide a private vehicle to drive you (like this highly-rated tour) or take care of train tickets for you (like this popular tour).
Since it takes about two and a half hours to travel one-way, Taroko Gorge tours from Taipei usually have very early pickup times, around 5:30 am or 6:30 am.
🚆 Option 2: Public Transportation
A more affordable way to get to Taroko Gorge from Taipei is by taking a train down to Hualien station and then doing a tour from there or visiting the national park on your own. I did the former (i.e., took the train down and took a tour from Hualien).
Here’s how to take the train from Taipei to Taroko Gorge:
Which Train to Take
You can take an express train that will take you to Hualien in under three hours. The fastest trains to Hualien are the Taroko Express and Puyuma Express, which cost 440 NT (~$14.60 USD) per trip. Taking a regular local train will take three to four hours. You can see the train schedules on Taiwan Railway’s site.
Purchasing a Train Ticket
You can purchase a train ticket online or in person.
Purchasing online: The most convenient way to get a train ticket online is through the TRA mobile app (iOS, Android) since the train’s website is confusing and doesn’t let you claim the ticket. Here are three tips to keep in mind:
- Tip #1: Booking a train ticket only reserves it, so you need to claim it as well. If you don’t claim your ticket (whether in person or digitally) within 20 minutes of departure time, they can release your ticket to another passenger.
- Tip #2: You need to figure out how to turn on “English mode” on the TRA app. Once you go through the small annoyance of figuring out how to turn on English mode, booking and claiming your ticket on the app is easy.
- Tip #3: For multiple tickets, each rider needs to claim their specific ticket. That means that each rider will have to download the app separately.
Purchasing in person: If you don’t want to deal with the potentially confusing mobile app, you can also purchase a train ticket in person. Some Hualien train times are very popular and need to be booked in advance. When I booked a train to Hualien a week in advance, some of the afternoon departures were already sold out.
Most trains will depart from the Taipei Main Station. Google Maps has several “Taipei Main Stations” depending on whether you’re catching a train, bus or the MRT. Double-check the “Subway services” section of the location on Google Maps to make sure it is the right place.
It’s feasible to do a one-day trip to Taroko Gorge from Taipei, but since it takes five hours round-trip to get there, I suggest spending a night exploring Hualien City.
This will allow you to have more time flexibility where you don’t have to wake up at 5 am and get back to Taipei at 7 pm and explore Hualien’s night market, which was my favorite Taiwan night market when I visited.
Getting Around Taroko Gorge
Once you’re in Hualien’s city center, Taroko Gorge’s entrance is about a 30-minute drive away.
You can get to and explore Taroko Gorge by car, train, cycling, bus or an organized tour. There’s a mountain highway (yellow line in the map below) that runs east-west across the national park and each trail and attraction is located near the highway.
🚗 Car or Motorbike Rental
You can rent a car or motorbike to explore Taroko Gorge National Park. You must have an IDP (International Driver’s Permit) to drive in Taiwan legally. Once you’re in the park, you’ll navigate to the different attractions on your own.
Advantages: Renting a car or motorbike on your own will give you the most flexibility. Navigating through Taroko Gorge is not difficult as most attractions are either on or on the side of the main road, Zhongbu Cross-island Highway.
Disadvantages: However, parking can be difficult in the national park. Many attractions do not have sufficient parking when it’s crowded (I experienced this first-hand). You also need to be aware of any road closures and research the best times to visit each attraction to avoid crowds.
Hiring a Driver
If you can’t or don’t want to drive or navigate, you can hire a driver to take you to the different attractions in Taroko Gorge.
This option will give you some flexibility. A driver will have basic knowledge of the park, but will not give you an in-depth tour of it like a tour guide would.
🗺️ Hiring a Guide
The most convenient way to get to and see Taraoko Gorge is by hiring a guide. They’ll pick you up at your accommodation or Hualien train station and all you need to do is follow a guide with very little planning. You also get to learn a lot more about the park.
I did my tour through Island Life Taiwan and highly recommend my tour guide, Iris, who was energetic, entertaining and knowledgeable (e.g., she not only knew a lot about the park’s history, but also knew the best way to avoid the crowds and avoid road closures).
🚌 Public Bus
For the most affordable, but inconvenient option, you can also explore Taroko Park by a tourist shuttle bus.
The bus you want is the 1133A bus (catch it from a bright orange building next to the train station) and it costs 250 NT (~$8.30 USD) for a full-day pass. You’ll need to look up bus stop locations and the bus timetable to make sure you can visit all the attractions within a reasonable time as the bus doesn’t come that frequently.
For those who are more adventurous, you can get to and explore Taroko Gorge by renting a bike and cycling through the park.
It’s best to cycle through the park when it’s less crowded (not during any holidays or the weekends) as some roads are fairly narrow and you’ll need to share them with vehicles.
Taroko Gorge Map
Taroko Gorge Day Trip Itinerary
Below is a great way to spend a day in Taroko Gorge while doing all the top attractions mentioned further below. I’ve included my actual timestamps to give you an idea of how long you might need for each activity and how to efficiently sequence them.
|Before 9 am||🚙 Get to Taroko National Park entrance and park|
|9 am–11 am||🥾 Hike the Shakadang Trail|
|11 am–11:25 am||💧 Visit the Eternal Spring Shrine1|
|11:40 am–12:10 pm||🐦 Walk through Swallow Grotto|
|12:20 pm–1 pm||🍚 Have lunch at Taroko Village Hotel|
|1:10 pm–1:35 pm||⛅️ Cross the Buluowan Suspension Bridge|
|1:50 pm–2:20 pm||🪨 Walk through the Tunnel of Nine Turns2|
|2:20 pm–3 pm||🚙 Head back to Hualien City and drive to Qixingtan Beach|
|3 pm–3:20 pm||🏖️ Look out at Qixingtan Beach|
|3:30 pm||🚙 Arrive back in Hualien City, in time to take the train back to Taipei and arrive between 7-8pm3|
Modifications to the Day Trip Itinerary
Here are some modifications you can make to the itinerary to fit your needs:
- If you don’t have to be back before 4 pm to catch a train to Taipei, you can visit the Changuang Temple after Eternal Spring Shrine since they share the same parking lot.
- You can also head further west to hike the Baiyan Trail after the Tunnel of Nine Turns.
- If you have a second day in Hualien City, I highly recommend visiting Hualien’s night market. I would also consider doing more hikes in Taroko Gorge, including the Zhuilu Old Trail, which requires advanced preparation.
Top 3 Attractions in Taroko Gorge
Taroko Gorge has over a dozen attractions and things to do, including waterfalls, trail hikes and shrines. I visited over half of them and researched all of them, and here are the top three attractions based on reviews and my personal experience.
1. Hike the Shakadang Trail
🤔 Why: The Shakadang Trail is a crowd favorite where you hike an easy, paved path for about 3 miles. Almost the entire way, you will get to see stunning, sky-blue water flowing through rivers. You’ll see some wildlife, crouch below low tunnels and get some beautiful nature views.
About a mile into the trail, you’ll come across Trukku people, a Taiwanese aboriginal tribe, selling beverages, snacks and gifts in a few small stalls. Make sure to bring some cash if you want to buy something and support them.
📍 Location: The Shakadang Trail starts here, near the entrance of Taroko National Park.
⏰ Suggested duration: The Shakadang Trail takes approximately two hours to hike if you walk the entire three miles.
Being one of the most popular attractions in Tarako Gorge and closest to the entrance, Shakadang Trail can get extremely crowded so it’s best to go as early as possible and make it your first stop.
🍀 My take: I was on the trail by 9 am and it was mostly empty, but Taiwan had just opened its border for tourism, so there were fewer tourists than usual. Walking through the Shakadang Trail while admiring the turquoise-blue water and all the natural beauty was a great way to start my trip.
2. Visit the Eternal Spring Shrine
🤔 Why: The Eternal Spring Shrine, another popular tourist stop, is a cluster of colorful shrines tucked into the mountain with a waterfall spewing out underneath. It was built to honor the 200+ workers who died while working on the highway in the early 1900s.
📍 Location: You can see the Eternal Spring Shrine from the parking lot here, which is also where you can start the walk to the shrine after crossing a bridge and going into some tunnels.
⏰ Suggested duration: If you take the tunnel to the Eternal Spring Shrine, you’ll likely spend about 20 minutes walking and visiting it. If the tunnels are closed due to a landslide, you can spend 10 minutes looking at the surrounding area.
🍀 My take: The shrine is great to admire both from far away and up close. Although the shrine is not as intricate as other Taiwanese temples I’ve seen, it’s still fun to walk through the tunnels leading up to it and see the waterfall.
3. Walk the Buluowan Suspension Bridge
🤔 Why: The Buluowan Suspension Bridge is one of Taiwan’s tallest bridges, but it leads to nowhere. It was built to give a beautiful panoramic view of the valley.
📍 Location: To visit the Buluowan Suspension Bridge, you can park here and walk to the terrace before crossing the bridge.
⏰ Suggested duration: You can expect to spend 20 to 30 minutes visiting and crossing the Buluowan Suspension Bridge.
🍀 My take: I found the suspension bridge a bit odd since it didn’t lead anywhere, but can’t deny that the views from it are stunning.
7 Other Things To Do in Taroko Gorge
If you can spend an entire day or more at Taroko Gorge, here are 7 other things you can do there.
1. Swallow Grotto
Swallow Grotto is one of the narrowest parts of Taroko Gorge with amazingly sheer cliffs. While walking the short 0.7-mile Swallow Grotto Trail, you can see the marble cliffs that have little holes in them which are popular nesting spots for swallows.
Due to falling rocks, you’re advised to wear a hard hat when visiting this area. The park provides them for free at the entrance.
2. Lunch at Taroko Village Hotel
There are several restaurants you can eat at in Taroko Gorge and Tarako Village Hotel is one of the few where you can have a delicious, amazing aboriginal meal. My lunch was included as part of my tour package.
3. Zhuilu Old Trail
Zhuilu Old Trail is a narrow trail with limited edge protection next to a 1,500+ feet cliff drop. It’s a difficult hike that takes hours and requires a permit. The number of visitors is also limited to ~100 per day (increases to ~150 a day on weekends). Had I known more about this trail, this would have been how I spent my second day in Taroko National Park.
4. Tunnel of Nine Turns
The Tunnel of Nine Turns is a well-maintained 30-minute walk featuring nine turns. It’s a fairly scenic route, but also one that felt the most man-made.
5. Changuang Shrine
Changuang Temple is near Eternal Spring Shrine and can be barely seen from far away. You can visit the temple if you walk 15 more minutes from Eternal Spring Shrine.
6. Baiyang Trail and Falls
The Baiyang Trail is an easy hike that is less than an hour and features a waterfall, cliffs and tunnels. It’s recommended that you bring a flashlight if you plan to visit it, as there are no lights in the tunnels.
7. Qixingtan Beach
Qixingtan Beach is not inside Taroko Gorge, but it’s a good halfway stop between the national park and Hualien City. This makes it a great last stop during your trip. The beach is filled with gray and silver pebbles against a clear, blue ocean.
What To Pack and Wear When Visiting Taroko Gorge
Taroko Gorge has a subtropical climate, so you can expect a mix of humidity, rain and sunshine when visiting. It also has a wide variety of attractions that you can visit by wearing casual clothes or more active, athletic clothes, depending on your itinerary.
Here’s a packing list for Taroko Gorge:
- Light rain jacket or poncho. Taroko Gorge has four seasons and it can rain all year around, with the wettest month being October and the driest month being December. When I visited in October, the day started dry, but rained in the afternoon, so I was glad I brought my rain jacket. If you prefer to carry something lighter to save space, these rain ponchos also work well.
- Umbrella (optional). Many other visitors brought umbrellas instead since the rain can be abrupt and hard. Some areas, like the Buluowan Bridge, can get windy, so make sure to pack a windproof umbrella.
- Running shoes or hiking shoes. The paths in Taroko National Park are well-maintained, so you can visit most of the park with just a pair of running shoes with some traction. I wore my hiking shoes, which I don’t think was necessary for the terrain, but I was glad that they were waterproof.
- Water. Most attractions in the park will not have water readily available, so bring some water. I brought my reusable water bottle that kept my water cold for hours, which is great since the weather is mostly humid and warm in Taroko Gorge.
- Mosquito repellent. Taiwan has mosquitos that can spread dengue fever (you’ll see signs in Taipei encouraging you to protect yourself), so you’ll want to pack bug spray. I like to use this bug-repellent lotion since I think it works better than the spray alternatives.
- Sunscreen (optional). Since you’ll be outdoors the entire day, make sure to wear some sunscreen. I like to wear this dermatologist-approved and water-resistant sunscreen since it applies easily and doesn’t feel oily.
- Flashlight (optional). If you plan to visit Baiyan Trail, bringing a flashlight is recommended since some tunnels don’t have light.
- Snacks. The park doesn’t have food and snack stations readily available (and some of them run low on inventory), so you might also want to bring some snacks.
The Taiwan trip planning template below has the above packing list in a downloadable Notion.
Taiwan Trip Planning Template
To make your travel planning easier, download the trip planning template below and use it as a starting point. The template has country-specific travel information as well as an itinerary, packing list and map with recommended places pinned.
The template is built on Notion, which is what I use for all my travel planning (I’m not paid to say this; I just like the tool). If you don’t have Notion, creating an account is free.
If you have any questions or thoughts, feel free to leave them in the comments below.
🧋 This site is run entirely by me, Lukiih. I spend hours writing each article to ensure its accuracy and conciseness. If you find my site helpful, you can say thanks by buying me bubble tea!