- East asia
The Ultimate Backpacking Guide for Taroko Gorge
Taroko Gorge, the stunning 18 km long canyon with the pristine blue Liwu river running through it is Taiwan's most known and celebrated tourist attractions in the country and for a good reason.
The Taroko Gorge is filled with extreme nature, impossible architectural wizardry, and beautiful scenic hiking trails to the brim, all waiting for you to explore, and I'm here to help you do just that.
Here is a complete guide on how to travel around Taroko Gorge and Hualien in Taiwan. Without further ado, let's begin with an overview of Taroko Gorge's things to do map:Table of Contents
- Taroko Gorge Things to Do Itinerary Map
- Taiwan Travel Video
- When to Visit Taroko Gorge, Taiwan
- Where to Stay in Hualien, Taiwan
- How to Get to Taroko Gorge, Taiwan
- How to Get to and Around Taroko Gorge, Taiwan
- How Many Days to Spend in Taroko Gorge, Taiwan
- How Much Money Do I Need for Taroko Gorge, Taiwan
- Is it Safe in Taroko Gorge?
- Internet in Taroko Gorge and Hualien
- Travel Insurance
- Things to Know Before You Visit Taroko Gorge
- One Day Itinerary for Taroko Gorge
- Other Things to Do in Taroko Gorge if You Have One More Day
- Further Reading for Taiwan
Taroko Gorge Things to Do Itinerary Map
Taiwan Travel Video
When to Visit Taroko Gorge, Taiwan
The park is open all-year-round but the best time to visit Taroko Gorge and Hualien are from December - June where the temperature hovers around 14°C - 27°C at low elevation, which is the case for most places I recommended here in this guide.
The temperature is colder the higher you go up so please do pack a light jacket if the hike you want to do goes up above 2,000m. Taiwan is also prone to typhoon and it is common to see many areas closed off due to rockfall and landslide so be sure to look up that information before you embark on any hike.
Due to the hazardous condition of the typhoon in Taiwan, I would recommend you avoid visiting Taroko Gorge during the typhoon season (July - September) or right after heavy rainfall at all costs as landslide can occur at any moment.
Where to Stay in Hualien, Taiwan
Budget - Comfy Hostel - 13 USD/Night (Dorm) - A really clean and cozy hostel in a quiet street of Hualien.
Mid-Range - Art Zone 2 - 48 USD/Night for 2 (Deluxe Twin Room)
How to Get to Taroko Gorge, Taiwan
In order to get to Taroko Gorge from abroad, you will first have to travel to Taipei and to do that you will likely have to fly into Taoyuan International Airport in Taipei. Thankfully, there are several airlines you can fly to Taipei:
From the US, there are several direct flights from big cities like New York and LA via United Airlines, or you can also fly direct to Taipei via EVA Airlines, its national carrier.
From within Europe, you can also fly direct via EVA Airlines or popular carriers like KLM or AirFrance to Taipei. You can also fly via Asian Airlines like Singapore Airlines or Thai Airways but you will have to transit in their respective home country.
From Asia, traveling to Taiwan gets a lot easier and cheaper with several low-cost airlines operating this route from hub cities like Bangkok and Singapore. Lion Air, as well as AirAsia, have many flights flying from Bangkok/KL to Taipei every day so you should have no problem finding one if you are planning to fly from Asia.
How to Get from Taipei to Hualien
After arriving in Taipei, you will have to travel to Hualien, a gateway city to Taroko Gorge off the east coast of Taiwan, where you will be basing yourself out of.
The journey from Taipei to Hualien should take about 2 hours and it will cost you around 440 NTD per person. The reason I recommend you to take the fast train is that the price between the slow and express train from Taipei to Hualien is only 100 NTD less and take almost twice the time so taking HSR is preferable on this route.
For the train schedule from Taipei to Hualien or if you want to book online, be sure to check out: The Official TRA Ticket Information and Timetable.
How to Get to and Around Taroko Gorge, Taiwan
After arriving in Hualien, the Taroko Gorge is right at your fingertip and there are several ways you can travel from Hualien to Taroko Gorge and that will determine how you will be getting around the national park as well.
This is the easiest and most affordable way to travel around Taroko Gorge especially if you are traveling independently. The Taroko buses leave from Hualien Train Station and will travel to all the bus stops inside the National Park ending in Tianxiang.
The first bus leaves from Hualien Station at 7 AM and will continue to depart every hour until 15:10. The journey from Hualien Station to Tianxiang should take about 1 hour. The bus leaves in front of the orange building by the Hualien Train Station.
I highly recommend you go as early as possible, even before 7 AM to queue up at the bus stop as the bus gets packed fast and you will unlikely to get a seat if you arrive on time. Also, in arriving early, you will also beat the crowds to the park and you will have a little moment of solitude before big tour buses arrive.
If you plan to spend an entire day in the park, I would recommend you buy the Taroko Day Pass from the kiosk inside the orange building before getting on the bus.
The day pass will cost you 250 NTD per person and you will be able to travel on buses 1132, 1133, and 1142 that travels around the park as many times as you like for that day.
NOTE: Keep in mind that the day pass only works on bus #1132, #1133, and #1142. There is another bus #302 that goes around the park as well and that isn't included on the Day Pass ticket. That said, you can still use your EasyCard if the #302 bus schedule works better for you as I did.
Also, another thing to keep in mind about traveling around Taroko Gorge by bus is that the bus runs through the park every hour only so be sure to plan carefully on your stops so that you do not have to waste an hour waiting for the bus.
One important tip that I wish I knew before I was at Taroko Gorge is that if they say the trail is closed, do not even think about stopping at that stop just to see the view, because you will be done in 15 minutes and you will have to wait another 45 minutes for the bus to pick you up. Only get off on stops that have 1 hour worth of things to do (all recommended in this guide, so you are all set).
By Tour Buses
This is a common option if you are traveling in a group as you will have the flexibility of time and places to visit, but not ideal for an independent traveler such as myself.
You should have no trouble finding tour operators in Hualien or through your accommodation that will help you organize the tour for you given your group size and budget.
By Rented Car
If you are not on a budget and you like the freedom of time and places you want to see, you can also rent a car from one of the many car rental places near Hualien Train Station.
Keep in mind that the roads inside Taroko National Park are narrow and bendy and you will be sharing the road with big buses so be sure that you are comfortable driving in that condition before going this route.
This is for the extreme enthusiast only as the road around Taroko Gorge is very narrow and bendy, and having several large buses sharing the narrow road with is not making it any easier for you.
By Foot - NO!
Unless you want to go on a hike, DO NOT expect to walk from one attraction to another in Taroko National Park. The attractions in the park are further than it looks on the map and since the terrain is extremely mountainous, you will have a hard time reaching places on foot without wasting hours doing so.
How Many Days to Spend in Taroko Gorge, Taiwan
The minimum amount of time I would recommend is to spend at least one full day exploring the Taroko National Park. If you want to do some mountaineering hikes, you would need an extra day to really appreciate the beauty of Taroko Gorge. Here is an example itinerary for Taroko Gorget:
Day 1: Visit Taroko National Park in the morning starting from Tianxiang and make your way back out of the park, one bus stop at a time until the last bus at 17:22 and then spend the evening in Hualien at the Dongdamen Night Market.
Day 2 (optional): If you have an extra day to spend in Hualien, I would recommend you do sone day hikes in Taroko National Park such as the Zhuilu Old Trail or Lushui-Wenshan Trail which should take you an entire day.
How Much Money Do I Need for Taroko Gorge, Taiwan
Given the one-day itinerary above, we can calculate the estimated amount of money you will need to do this trip. Here is how much you will spend in Hualien and Taroko Gorge in one day:
Accommodation: With a total of 2 nights, you will be paying around 26 USD (780 NTD)
Food: You can prepare your own lunch the day before to avoid eating overpriced food in the park so I would say, you should be able to get by with around 400 NTD for 3-meals a day.
Transportation: Assuming you are taking the bus, you will be spending 250 NTD for the day pass and that should be it for your trip around Taroko Gorge.
Activities: The entry to the park is free so you won't be paying anything for activities unless you want to do a hike that requires a permit (Zhuilu Old Trail, for example), so 0 NTD for activities for this itinerary.
Total Budget for one day in Taroko Gorge: 1,430 NTD (47.62 USD)
Is it Safe in Taroko Gorge?
As mentioned earlier, the east coast of Taiwan including Hualien and Taroko Gorge is prone to typhoon and heavy rainfalls that can cause rockfalls and landslides and the area you will be exploring in Taroko Gorge are highly exposed to these unexpecting elements so the best way to stay safe is to avoid visiting the national park during the typhoon season or after days of heavy rainfall.
The roads are also curvy and narrow and so if you are planning to drive around the national park, make sure that you are comfortable doing it and go slow.
Other than that, you should have no trouble traveling around Taroko Gorge. Be sure to ask your accommodation in Hualien about trails that are closed and places to avoid before embarking on the journey.
Internet in Taroko Gorge and Hualien
Taiwan has one of the fastest public WIFI out there. You can find WIFI in almost every cafe and restaurant in Hualien. Most of the hostels I stayed in Taiwan have fast reliable WIFI and you could go by without having a local sim card but if you wish to navigate the city by bus, I recommend getting a local sim card at the airport on your arrival.
I recommend Chungwa Telecom, one of the leading telecommunication carriers in Taiwan that offers several 4G unlimited unthrottled data package with a price range from 300 NTD - 1,000 NTD.
You can find their kiosk among other carriers at the arrival hall at Taoyuan International Airport in Taipei. Simply approach them and they will show you the list of packages available that you can pick from. They will ask for your passport, pop the sim card in for you, and within 2 minutes, you will have unlimited 4G data for your Taiwan trip.
I had 15 days in Taiwan and so I bought their 15 days unlimited data sim card for 700 NTD (they also accept credit cards) and I was able to get 4G connection everywhere I went in the country and so if you are looking for a reliable way to stay connected throughout your stay in Taiwan, be sure to get a local sim card at the airport.
For more information about Taiwan's local sim card: Taiwan Prepaid Data Sim Card.
If you are looking for travel insurance to go along with your trip to Taiwan, I would recommend WorldNomads.com, which is what I use to look for travel insurance that fits my kind of adventure.
Things to Know Before You Visit Taroko Gorge
- Do Not Expect to Walk: Do not expect to walk from one attraction to another in Taroko National Park. The place is larger and more mountainous than it looks on the map. Prepare how you want to navigate the park before you travel to Taroko Gorge.
- Prepare Water, Snacks and Light Lunch: There are a few restaurants and convenient stores at resting stops like Tianxiang and Taroko Visitor Center in Taroko National Park and it can be quite pricey at around 150 - 300 NTD so if you do not want to waste money, prepare some light snacks or meals for lunch.
- Trail Closure: Be sure to know which trails are closed off due to hazardous conditions before you get off the bus stops and hit the trail so that you do not have to waste 45 minutes waiting for another bus to come pick you up as I did. Most accommodations should be able to give you some guidance, otherwise, when you buy a day pass at Hualien Train Station, they should be able to provide you with some information about the condition of each trail.
- Get the Hiking Permit in Advance: If you plan to do the famous Zhuilu Old Trail, be sure to get the hiking permit way in advance before your trip to Taiwan. You can file for a permit on the Taiwan official tourism website.
- Sturdy Shoes: If you plan to go on a mountaineering hike, be sure to have sturdy shoes as the trail will likely take you on a narrow gravel trail up the mountain.
- Jackets: Jackets are also required if you plan to do any mountaineering hike that will take you beyond 2000m above sea-level.
- Plan your Route Carefully: If you are taking the bus, be sure to plan where you want to go carefully and use the bus timetable as a way to pick where to stop as the bus only runs once an hour and some places may not be worth a one hour wait.
One Day Itinerary for Taroko Gorge
Walk the Baiyang Trail and Check Out the Water Curtain Cave
There are 2 options when it comes to where you can start exploring the Taroko Gorge, from the Visitor's Center to Tianxiang or the opposite direction. With this itinerary, we will take the bus from Hualien Station all the way to Tianxiang and then make our way out of the park, one bus stop at a time.
From the Hualien Station, take the 7 AM bus from the bus stop in front of the orange building. Be sure to go there as early as you can so you can get a seat on the bus.
The journey should take about an hour before you arrive in Tianxiang Recreational Area, the terminal bus stop inside Taroko National Park. From there, you can start your journey by doing the Baiyang Scenic Walk which begins from the road just north of Tianxiang.
The Baiyang trail is very easy to hike. The trail begins from a dark tunnel off the road and from there, it mostly consists of flat terrain through tunnels and canyons. Some sections along the trail are quite prone to rockfalls so do not linger around those areas.
The trail should take about 1 hour before you arrive at Baiyang Suspension Bridge where you should be able to see the Baiyang Falls. That is not the end of the trail though. If you continue further on, you will find the highlight of the Baiyang Trail.
The Water Curtain Cave, a long dark cave where water seeps through cracks creating a water curtain effect as you see above. You will get wet from the spray, there is no avoiding it so prepare a rain jacket or you can do like me and wait for someone to donate one for you in front of the cave 😅.
Also, be sure to walk slowly along the walking path on the right-hand side of the cave when you enter to avoid slipping on rocks and be sure to keep your phone and camera covered before you enter the cave.
After you are done, you will have to walk back the same way for about an hour before you arrive back in Tianxiang which should be right on time for the third bus to depart at 10:40 from the Tianxiang Bus Stop.
Admire the Architectural Wonder of the Tunnel of Nine Turns
A stop you should get off next is the Tunnel of Nine Turns bus stop where you will be able to admire the architectural wizardry that is the tunnel that dug through the canyon.
In Chinese, the number nine implies "many", which is why the tunnel is called the Tunnel of Nine Turns. The number 9 is describing the twists and turns that requires to build this tunnel.
At the Tunnel of Nine Turns, there is a walking trail which considered to be one of the most scenic walks you can do in Taroko Gorge and I wholeheartedly agree.
The trail will take you along the side of the actual tunnel while overlooking the beautiful gorge and Liwu River from above. The trail is 700 m long and should take about 30 minutes one-way to walk and absorb the beauty of it all.
Spend 1 hour at the Tunnel of Nine Turns before catching the 11:49 bus to our next destination, the Swallow Grotto.
Walk the Scenic Swallow Grotto Trail (Yanzikou Trail)
From the Tunnel of Nine Turns, it should take less than 5 minutes for the bus to reach the next stop, Yanzikou where you will be walking the Swallow Grotto (Yanzikou) Scenic Walking Trail.
The scenic Swallow Grotto trail is another beautiful and easy trail anyone can walk. It's a 1,372 meters long walking trail that will take you through a narrow section of the Liwu River Gorge allowing you to see some of the features of the gorge up close.
For walk should take from 10 - 30 minutes depending on how deep you want to walk the Swallow Grotto Trail. Since the trail goes along the side of a very narrow road shared by cars and buses, you will have to be very watchful when walking this trail. The trail is also exposed to rockfalls so please do proceed carefully.
The trail goes quite deep into the mountain so make sure you spare some time to walk back and catch the bus at either 13:02 or 14:22. There is a cafe at the beginning of the trail so you can sit there and have lunch before catching the 14:22 bus to our next destination, Changchun Shrine.
Visit the Changchun Shrine (Eternal Spring Shrine)
Depending on the condition of the trail, you can spend from 30 minutes to 2 hours exploring the trails around Changchun Shrine (Eternal Spring Shrine). The shrine is located above a waterfall and it was built in honor of those who lost their lives building the highway through this mountain.
There is the Changchun Shrine trail that will take you to the shrine and around the area. The hike should take you about 1 - 1.5 hours roundtrip. The trail is quite easy but there might be a bit of a steep climb in certain areas so please prepare accordingly.
You can also go up to Changuang Temple Bell Tower for a stunning view of Changchun Shrine and its surroundings from above. Unfortunately when I was there, none of the trails here are open so I was able to only appreciate the Eternal Spring Shrine from afar.
From Changchun Shrine, you can take the bus at 16:12 or 17:22 and go straight back to Hualien. The journey should take about an hour and 15 minutes before arriving in Hualien.
Eat Your Way Through Dongdamen Night Market
Your journey isn't over. To reward you for a productive day, there is no better way to do that than to devour your way through the Dongdamen Night Market in Hualien.
Before ending at Hualien Station, the bus will take you by Dongdamen Night Market. Be sure to get off there so you do not have to make the trip by yourself.
Dongdamen Night Market is a fun yet not crowded (for Taiwanese standard) night market full of street food stalls, street performers, and fun activities for both locals and tourists to enjoy.
Be sure to try Xiao Long Bao at at one of the food stalls at Dongdamen Night Market. It was delicious and cost peanuts! You should also try the famous Taiwanese pearl milk tea while you are there as well.
Other Things to Do in Taroko Gorge if You Have One More Day
Hike Longer Trails in Taroko National Park
If you have another day to explore Taroko National Park, you can spend that day hiking longer trails such as the Shakadang Scenic Trail which should take about 4 - 6 hours to complete a round trip or the Lushui-Wenshan Trail, a 5km mountain trail that will take you around 5 hours to complete.
Spend a Day Hiking the Sacred Zhuilu Old Trail
If you want to do an epic one-day trail in Taroko National Park, you can also file for a permit to hike the Zhuilu Old Trail, one of the best hiking trails that will take you through the ancient trails of the indigenous people.
For more information on how to hike Zhuilu Old Trail, check out: 10 Things You Need to Know Before Hiking Zhuilu Old Trail.
And there you have it, a complete backpacking guide to Taroko Gorge and Hualien. If you have any questions regarding the itinerary, feel free to ask me in the comment section below.
Further Reading for Taiwan
Looking for more information for your trip to Taiwan? Here is a collection of articles about Taiwan that you might find useful:
- Looking for a complete travel guide to Taiwan? Check out: 2 Weeks Backpacking Itinerary for Taiwan.
- In order to engage all your senses in Taipei, the hypermodern capital of Taiwan, be sure to check out: The Ultimate Backpacking Guide To Taipei
- Getting border of mountains and cities? How about you take a break at the beach-side town of Kenting? 9 Best Things to Do in Kenting
- If Taroko is known of its gorges and rivers, Alishan is known for its forest and gigantic trees as old as Christendom. Here’s a complete guide to Alisha: The Ultimate Backpacking Guide To Alishan
- Spend a day biking around the stunning Sun Moon Lake with The Ultimate Backpacking Guide To Sun Moon Lake
- Taiwan is known for its unmatched deliciousness of its street food. Here are Top 12 Street Food To Try In Taiwan
- Looking for something more visual to convince you about visiting Taiwan? How about you watch a Taiwan travel video? Turbo Taiwan
- Wondering where to go after Taiwan? How about you drop continue on to Japan and after, visit China?
- For all articles about Taiwan, visit Taiwan Travel Guide page.
- Looking to travel to East Asia? Check out all my articles about East Asia here: East Asia Travel Guide page.
- You can see all my Asia related articles here: Asia Travel Guide page.
- For more of my travel guides like this, visit my Destinations page.
The Solo Traveler’s Journal is a series of posts by Pete Rojwongsuriya, the founder of BucketListly Blog where we will follow his solo journey around the world as he experiences different cultures, people, and historical locations one country at a time.
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