Taroko Gorge is an amazing gorge on the east coast of Taiwan, rated as one of the top attractions in Taiwan. It is located outside Xincheng, which can be reached in 2-3 hours by train via Taipei. If you are planning on spending a night or two in the area, people usually opt to stay in nearby Hualien, as there is a plethora of accommodations to choose from. The ride is incredibly beautiful, first moving through the suburbs of Taipei and then between the mountains and the beautiful teal and light blue waters of the coast. Because of an unexpectedly long travel day getting to Taiwan, I wasn’t able to see the sights on the way to Hualien, since by then it was very late at night. But I highly recommend taking a day train so you can see all the views.
Once you get to Hualien, you can jump on a bus right at the train station. It costs 250 NTD for the day pass, and all you have to do is head to the visitor/information center and they will point you in the direction to the bus stop and where to buy tickets. I suggest going early so you have enough time inside the park. The last bus to get out of the gorge is around 5:30 or 6:00. Sadly, because of the incredibly late arrival the night before, I had a later start to the day than desired. Had I been on the bus at 8 am, I might have been able to see everything I had wanted to see. Another option is to take an extra full day to go back to the gorge, and there happens to be a two-day bus pass available. It is also possible to take one of the many taxis waiting to be your guide for the day, and I’m sure you could negotiate a good price if you are patient and keep at it. There is also the option of renting an electric scooter or bicycle. I’m not sure why, but I have never rented an electric scooter, even though I have traveled and lived in many places where they are common transport. I think maybe I am going to have to overcome my fear and get on one in 2016. (Any encouragement would be greatly appreciated)
For my first stop I chose the visitor center, mainly because I was hoping to get some information about hiking, but also once we pulled into the gorge I wanted to get off the bus and take in the incredible views of the entrance to the gorge and the amazing braided rivers leading out to the ocean. After wandering around getting views of the river I was able to find a good map of all the trails and highlights of the park. The best part was that you could walk from the visitor center along a path (with a really cool rope walkway in one section) that leads to the Shakadong trail. This trail is very popular, and I could see why. The views of the milky teal rivers and beautiful rocks was worth it, and if you need more incentive, at the end of the path (only about a 30-40 minute walk at this time due to the path being damaged) local Taroko indigenous people have built stalls where they sell hot dogs, locally cultivated vegetables (some sort of greens) and mulberry and barley juice. I only tried the mulberry juice, and it was delicious. You can also find some locally woven goods, from headbands to wallets.
Bullowan Upper Terrace was our next stop because there is information about the local people and another visitor center. The information about the indigenous people was sparse but interesting. I learned a little bit about the traditions of facial tatoos, and learned that there is a Formosan black bear, which was surprising. There is a performance a few times everyday, but it started at the same time the next bus was coming, and I decided that time was running out.
The next stop was Swallows Grotto Yanzikou Trail. Again, we had very little time in between getting off the bus and the arrival of the next bus. So off we walked quickly. Pretty much everyone walking down the road had these ancient looking hard hats on. The road basically went under a hill with pockets that looked out onto the deep gorge cut by the river below. The trail name comes from the abundance of nesting swallows in holes along the cliffs. That being said, I’m not sure that I actually saw more than a handful of swallows, probably not nesting time, or they were out catching food, who knows. But I did see a monkey! We couldn’t finish the whole trail, but it was definitely worth the stop.
After having to wait far longer than expected for the next bus, and getting the last two seats on the bus, we realized how tired we were from only having about 5 hours of sleep. So we decided that would be the end of our visit to Toroko Gorge. But it left us wanting to come back and explore more. Maybe next time I will be experienced in riding a scooter and be able to take my time. Also, it would be nice to go in summer next time so there is more hours of daylight.
Have you been to Toroko Gorge? What was the Highlight of your trip there?