A Taroko Gorge Day Trip From Taipei

I need to confess. I've been living in Taiwan for 4.5 years now, and never visited the Taroko Gorge National Park, Taiwan's most famous tourist destination. I have been to its nearby city, Hualien, but never the sweet spot. Because it is most often mentioned on all the most very touristy lists, I wrote it off as too far to get to for too little payoff. I assumed it would be an amazing view worthy of 10 minutes of photo taking crowded with tourists, and not an entire park filled with natural wonder and options. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Taroko is located on Taiwan's scenic East Coast, just North of the center. It can be visited as a stop on the whole East Coast, or in a day from Taipei. The park is free, so organizing transportation is the main expense. It is possible to rent a car and drive yourself, but even easier is to take an express train from Taipei Main Station via the TRA. The high-speed rail does not connect with Hualien. A ticket can be booked online, at the station, or from an ATM at Family Mart of 7-11. I booked ahead from the 7-11, because I didn't know if the tickets would sell out. Booking ahead also guarantees a seat, as long as you book an express train.

The Eternal Shrine 鐘樓

Shakadang hike

Shakadang hike

I visited the park in early May on a Wednesday. My parents were in town, a truly fun visit, and I knew my time had come to finally get down to Taroko. We left Taipei on a 7 am train that arrived at 10:15 am in Hualien. It was early but worth it. I arrived without a solid plan. I figured I would check out some of the bus tours that leave from the train station, or pay a taxi driver to take us to the park. There is a tourist center next to the train station for anyone with questions.

Taroko National Park Entrance

Taroko Lion

I'm very happy that I chose to go with a taxi driver. A bus tour takes 3 hours, costs $800 NTD per person and is usually in Chinese. Our English-speaking taxi driver gave us an 8-hour private tour for $3600 NTD or $1200 per person. We saw a huge variety of spots in the park getting lots of great information along the way. Our driver Paul Chen, 陳寶欽, was very flexible with time spent in each spot. By the end of our tour we were a little too tired to keep walking, and so we made an ice cream stop at 7-11 and relaxed on the beach. I can't imagine a better day. We returned to the train station early, and Paul helped us change our tickets to sooner train. The courtesy and friendliness towards foreigners in Taiwan has never stopped amazing me.

The beach near Taroko

The highlight of the trip for me was lunch. I definitely inherited a value for food from my family, and we never shy away from something different. When presented with the option to have an aboriginal style lunch, we did not hesitate. 達基力部落屋風味餐 is an open-air restaurant nestled on a hill. There is no menu, just a $400 NTD set meal that includes local flavors and even some ingredients only found in the area. The meal was one of the freshest and most unique I've had in Taiwan. It was also huge! Luckily for us, our driver had bug spray for us. I saw some other less fortunate guests whose legs were ravaged by the mosquitoes. This blog also has some good information, in Chinese on getting there.

Our Server at the Aboriginal Restaurant in Taroko

Our Meal at the Aboriginal Restaurant in Taroko
There are still plenty of spots in Taiwan for me to visit, but I can't wait to go back to Taroko and try some more hikes, rafting, or river tracing. If you are reading this and planning a trip I highly suggest contacting our drive, Paul Chen, who is also a guide and has hostel.

My cab driver's contact info! Call him if you are going to Taroko and need a guide, transportation, or a place to stay. 


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