Taroko Gorge National Park is quite possibly Taiwan’s biggest natural attraction and for many good reasons. Some have dubbed Taroko as one of the seven wonders of Asia, and visitors tend to agree. One reviewer even called Taroko “…the best experience I had in Taiwan!” and another “Hiking Jhuilu Old Trail in Taroko was a once in a lifetime experience.” Here we look at what visitors had to say about many aspects of the park.
Location and Where to Stay at Taroko Gorge
Located on Taiwan’s mountainous green East Coast, the primary access point to Taroko Gorge National Park is a quick 30 minutes from the coastal city of Hualien, just a few hours south of Taipei. It is very common therefore for travelers to use Hualien City as a base camp for explorations into and around the Gorge. There are only a few accommodation options inside the park. The 5-Star Silks Place resort, the Tianxiang Youth Hostel and the Heilu Campground. Numerous reviewers complained of “bed bugs” in the Youth hostel and the lack of services in the area. “There is little to do in Tianxiang after 5pm.” expressed one reviewer. As for the campground at Heilu, be warned that it is first-come-first-served and can be very competitive during holidays and peak season. For these reasons and others, most visitors opt for a hotel outside the park.
Visiting Taroko Via Public Bus vs. Tour
There is so much to see in Taroko Gorge and in the area around Hualien. Most travelers opt to use a Taroko Gorge tour, as public transport throughout the park is largely lacking. One reviewer had this to say about the public bus “I waited an hour for the bus to take me five minutes to the next trail. I would have walked but there are no sidewalks and the giant tour buses go flying on those roads!” Also, the public bus follows the same route as the large tour buses. One reviewer had this to say about the advantages of a small group tour “Our guides knowledge of the park allowed us to maximize our time while avoiding all the large tour bus groups. The latter is highly recommended and worth it.”
Taroko Gorge Tour Types
Not getting the right Taroko Gorge tour however could be your undoing. It is important to ask what language the tour is offered in and how many people will be in the vehicle. One reviewer said “We were packed like sardines in a van much too small for our group. My legs still hurt!” and another said “The advertising online was in English so I assumed our guide would speak some. Won’t make that mistake twice.” Be sure to ask good questions if you opt for a Taroko Gorge tour.
Getting the right guide however can make your day, as this happy reviewer wrote “He brought us to a place on the trail where we could get traditional aboriginal sausages made with black pepper grown right there in the forest! Then he led us to a hidden swimming hole for swim after a long hike. Never would have seen either of those without him.”
Different tour companies have different packages for travelers depending on numbers of passengers and the places to be visited. Some Hualien tour companies have 1-day tours, while others offer 2-day tours or more. Nature walks, forest treks and high mountain treks are all available depending on what you want. It is best to get in touch with the tour company beforehand and plan with them to book the package that suits you best. One reviewer had this to say “We had two days for Taroko Gorge and told ******* what we were interested in. Everything was planned to perfection and even got our Zhuilu Old Trail Old Trail permits sorted before we arrived in Hualien saving us a LOT of time.”
Places to See in Taroko Gorge National Park
Taroko has many impressive formations and landscapes including a good number of nature walks and hikes (Note: Some hikes, including Jhuilu Old Trail, require permits). While there are several hiking trails leading to remote areas of the park, and these will certainly bring you away from the crowds, they might not take you to the more impressive locales. Four of the most popular trails are widely reviewed as four of the best. Shakadang Trail, Baiyang Waterfall Trail, Swallow Grotto and the infamous Jhuilu (Zhuilu) Old Trail.