How to visit Taroko National Park, Taiwan

Taroko National Park in Taiwan may be an illustrious unknown to most Westerners, but it is stunning and a must-see! It quickly became one of our favorite destinations!

Carved by marble gorges, where several rivers flow with turquoise water, Taroko National Park is a feast for the eyes, and visiting it is an unforgettable experience.

Hence, we decided to write this article explaining how to visit Taroko National Park, highlighting must-see locations and everything you need to know before going there!

Where is Taroko National Park?

This National Park is located on the west-central coast of Formosa Island – Taiwan, about 150 km from Taipei, the capital. Hualien is the nearest major city and serves as a base for most visitors as it is 20 km from the park entrance and visitor center.

The Park extends over 920 km² and has high mountains and steep gorges. Much of the park is composed of mountains at an altitude of 2000 meters with peaks above 3000 meters. The impressive Taroko Gorge and the scenic Liwu River are the most popular areas.

How do you visit Taroko?

There are three main ways to visit Taroko NP – on tour, by public transport, or by self-driving. The way we chose to do this, and the one we will explore in more depth here, is by public transport.

However, each has its advantages and disadvantages. Let’s explore a little about each of them.

How to travel to Taroko NP, Taiwan
Nine Curves Gorge and Tunnel in Taroko National Park

Taking a guided tour of Taroko

Visiting Taroko National Park on a tour is undoubtedly the easiest way as you don’t have to plan anything, and you will be taken to different locations without having to worry about anything. You will also have a guide explaining the exciting facts about the park and each location. You can even take a tour directly from Taipe and make a day trip of it.

The cost will be higher, and depending on your chosen tour, you may have to visit with a relatively large group. The experience of visiting on tour is also quite different, as you will have very limited time at each point in the park.

Finally, and perhaps the most negative point in our opinion, is that visiting this type of destination on tour takes away some of the charm and immersive experience of discovering each corner of the park.

If you opt for a tour, we strongly recommend choosing a tour with small groups and starting the trip early to avoid crowds in the most iconic places.

How to take a tour to Taroko
Old road and tunnel in Taroko Park

By public transport

Visiting a national park by public transport is rarely a good idea as we are immensely limited in where we can go and where we can stop. However, in Taroko, it works pretty well. It’s not the same as going in your own car, but you can go to 3 or 4 points in the park easily (we will detail how below).

This is undoubtedly the cheapest way to travel in the park, but also the most laborious as it involves some planning, exercise, and patience. Given that this is how we visited the park, we will explain exactly how to do it below. It’s not especially difficult, and with our help, it gets easier!

How to take public transportation to go to Taroko National Park
Taroko National Park Visitor Center bus stop

By car/motorcycle

Car travel gives you the flexibility that public transport and tours can never. It also allows you to go to more places, stop whenever you want, and have the immersion and adventure experience missing on a tour.

Looking back, this is undoubtedly a great way to visit Taroko, as it allows you to visit many of the park’s main points in one day. Furthermore, the beautiful road and views make the car trip unforgettable.

Even if you don’t want to have a car for the entire trip to Taiwan, renting a car in Hualien for a single day to visit Taroko is perfectly possible. The roads are good, although sometimes a little narrow. Driving is relatively easy in this region of Taiwan, so that’s not a problem either.

In terms of cost, car rental for one day for two people should be at a similar price to traveling on a tour.

how to visit Taroko National Park in Formosa island
Incredible sights along the road in Taroko National Park

Taroko’s main attractions

One of the main features of Taroko National Park is that it has lots of points of interest scattered along the main road that runs through it. We could even say that the road itself is a massive point of interest as it allows us to see some of the most spectacular landscapes.

Each of these points of interest usually has a trail that allows us to visit the area. Many of these trails are relatively short and easy, and you must return the same way you went.

There are also some longer and much more challenging trails. These usually involve asking for a permit to the park in advance. We won’t explore these trails much as we didn’t do any of them. However, if you have the time and ability to make them, they look monumental!

attractions in Taroko
Turquoise water in Taroko National Park

Shakadang Trail

Perhaps the best-known trail in Taroko, Shakadang is also the most popular, and it is easy to see why. Access is easy, the hike is simple, and the beauty is unparalleled.

The trail follows the river course and its gorge for 4.1km (8.2km round trip). It is completely signed and has no technical or physical difficulty other than the distance.

Natural pool in the Shakadang trail
Shakadang Trail in Taroko

Changchun Temple

The trail that leads to Changchun Temple is relatively short, but it involves climbing several stairs, making it a little more difficult.

One of the trail’s highlights is the waterfall that passes beneath a small sanctuary, creating a beautiful aesthetic effect. But note that the trail continues to a temple much higher up the mountain.

Changchun Temple and Waterfall in Taroko
Changchun Temple and Waterfall in Taroko

Yanzikou Trail (or Swallow Grotto)

The Yanzikou trail was perhaps our favorite part of the park due to the marble gorge’s beauty and the Liwu River’s turquoise waters.

The route is only around 1300 meters (2600 return) and runs parallel to the old road, but the views are out of this world. We don’t know many places rivaling this little bit of the tight Liwu River gorge.

Beautiful river with turquoise water in Taroko NP
Yanzikou Trail in Taroko

Tunnel of the Nine Curves

The tunnel of the nine curves is even shorter than the Yanzikou trail, but it is almost as spectacular. With only 700 meters (double as it is a way and back course), it takes about half an hour, but it is well worth going there.

Here, the river gorge narrows immensely, creating a dramatic effect. The route is completely flat and very easy to access. Unfortunately, there is no parking, so it is easier to go there by tour or public transport.

Nine Curves Tunnel and Gorge
Nine Bends Tunnel in Taroko

Buluown Trail and Suspension Bridge

This trail is also relatively short, just 700 meters long. The highlight of this area is the impressive Buluowon suspension bridge. We didn’t go there, but the view can only be monumental.

Pedestrian suspension bridge in Taroko
Buluown Suspension Bridge in Taroko

Baiyang Trail and waterfall

A trail measuring just over 2 km takes us to the beautiful Baiyang waterfall. It’s a round-trip trail, and it counts for around 2 hours for this route. The two most interesting points on this trail are the suspension bridge and the water curtain cave.

The cave is especially exciting, allowing you to go behind the waterfall. Prepare to get wet, and be careful with electronic devices!

Zhuilu Old Trail

This is the park’s main long trail, or at least the best known. We didn’t do it, but from the information we gathered, it involves walking on narrow trails next to gorges 700 meters high. It’s definitely not for everyone.

This could be a great option if you like full-day hikes and don’t mind heights. To hike this trail, you must request a permit from the national park in advance.

bulb on How to visit Taroko National Park, Taiwan

Top Tip

There are many other points of interest and trails in the park, but these are the ones we visited and some of the best known that we would have liked to have gone to.

Our experience visiting Taroko

As we mentioned, we chose to visit Taroko National Park by public transport as it was the cheapest way, and we did not have the possibility of renting a car as we did not bring our international driving license.

It is best to start early to make the most of the day and get on the first bus that crosses the park. It is essential to plan which trails to take and which attractions to visit because although there are some buses, you will probably have to wait a long time to get from one point in the park to another.

There is a bus stop at all of these attractions.

Visiting Taroko NP in Taiwan
Nine Bends Tunnel in Taroko National Park

How to get to Taroko National Park

Since we use Hualien as a base, this is where we begin our visit. Hualien bus station is conveniently located opposite the train station. In the same place, there is also a tourist support point where you can ask any questions and get a map of the park and buses. It’s very useful!

To get to Shakadang, we first have to go from Hualien to Xincheng and then to the trail. Between Hualien and Xincheng, you can go by bus (310) or train, with the bus having the advantage of stopping at Xincheng station before going to the visitor center.

From the visitor center you can walk to the start of the Shakadang trail (it’s relatively close), or take bus 302 from Xincheng station. We suggest taking the bus, as we have a long day of hiking.

From Shakadang, we always have to take the 302 bus to other attractions as the distances are relatively long. Furthermore, the road is narrow and has no sidewalks. It is highly inadvisable to walk on the main road! The only other option is to hitchhike, but we leave that up to each individual.

How to go to Taroko NP
View from the Yanzikou Trail in Taroko

Transport between trails in Taroko

Transport between each of these (and other attractions) is quite simple, as there is only one road and one bus that runs the route, the 302. Each attraction has its bus stop, so we need to reconcile the schedule of the next bus with having enough time to visit the attraction/hike the trail.

This risk is not always easy to manage, and there will probably be times when you will have to wait 15 to 30 minutes if it goes well, or if you miss the bus, wait more than an hour. Check the timetables carefully, but in our experience, it is relatively easy to visit 4 points on the route and, if it goes really well, maybe 5.

We planned to prioritize visiting the four below, which we managed to do. So, and in this order, we went to:

  • Shakadang Trail
  • Tunnel of the nine curves
  • Yanzikou Trail
  • Chagdung Temple
Taroko NP transports
Nine curves tunnel and Gorge

Shakadang Trail

The Shakadang trail starts next to a bridge and is quite well-indicated. The car park and bus stop are on the other side of the bridge, but it is easy to cross and has a sidewalk.

In total, this trail is 4.1km long, that is, 8.2km round trip. Most people only hike the initial 1.5km to the Aboriginal village and then return. The village has a small local market with food and drinks. The local Sausage is highly recommended by everyone who goes there. After trying it, we can say that it is really interesting, as it has a lot of spices and a slightly sweet flavor.

eating in Taroko NP
Delicious sausage that is sold on the Shakadang trail in Taroko

This first part of the route is considered the most beautiful as the gorge is narrower, we have more tunnels, and the river views are more impressive.

However, the rest of the route is also very interesting and much calmer as there are fewer people. If you have the time and energy, doing the 8 km is well worth the effort.

Other travel guides and pamphlets say the total route takes 4-6 hours to complete, but it seems too much. We are relatively slow hikers, we took lots of photos, and it only took us 3 hours in total.

Everything about visiting Taroko NP
Shakadang Trail is a beautiful path that runs along the banks of the river in Taroko Park.

Tunnel of the Nine Curves

The Nine Curves Tunnel is the shortest route on this list but should not be forgotten. This trail was closed for many years for reconstruction and opened again in 2019.

Only 700 meters long, completely flat, and accessible, this route can easily be completed in half an hour, even less if you’re in a hurry. This route must always be done as a way and back trail. As it is a relatively quick visit, try to go to the nine curves tunnel at a time of day when there are more frequent buses.

This is one of the narrowest areas of the canyon, creating spectacular light and color effects. The turquoise blue of the water and the different tones of the marble are breathtaking.

Tunnel of the nine curves is open in Taroko
Nine Bends Tunnel Trail in Taroko National Park

Yankizou Trail

The Yankizou trail is a little unconventional because it is simply a narrow path along the old road (which is still used) next to the Canyon. This may not sound very attractive, but believe me, there are not many more beautiful and surprising views.

The landscape is impressive and impossible to ignore, with a few hundred meters high gorge, deep colors, and plenty of water. There is even a phenomenon of water coming out of nowhere through the gorge’s rock, creating small springs and cascades.

cascades in the Yankizou trail
Water coming out of nowhere through the rock of the gorge in Taroko Park

Two impressive suspension bridges mark the beginning of the walk, but neither of them can be crossed on this trail. The lower one is part of the old Zhuilu trail, which can only be done with a permit, and the highest is part of Buluowan, which is inaccessible from here. You will have to take another bus there.

The whole trail is only about 1300 meters (2600 way and back), which takes about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

How to hike the Yankizou trail
Yankizou Trail in Taroko National Park

Changchun Temple Trail

This is perhaps the hardest trail on this itinerary and undoubtedly the least accessible, as it has a lot of climbs and stairs. It is only 2000 meters, but it takes almost two hours to complete.

We only did a small part of the trail to the waterfall as we were already quite tired, and it was getting late in the afternoon. They say there are beautiful views from up there, but we can’t confirm it as we didn’t go.

Changchun Temple and Waterfall in Taroko
Changchun Temple and Waterfall in Taroko

Is Taroko National Park worth visiting?

Yes, without a doubt. Even if you only have one day, Taroko National Park is a destination not to be missed in Taiwan, particularly for those who love hiking and nature.

The ideal is to take at least one full day to visit the park, which is why spending at least one night in the region is essential. Below, we discuss where to stay when visiting Taroko.

However, if you cannot go to the Hualien region, there are tours from Taipei. Despite the distance and being tiring, the destination is worth the effort. This situation is where tours are, without a doubt, the best alternative!

Is it worth going to Taroko NP?
Magnificent views in Taroko National Park

Best time of year to travel to Taroko

You can visit Taroko any time of year, but if you can choose the days, avoid rainy ones. If it rains, the experience will not be as pleasant. Although it is possible to visit and go hiking, the colors and spectacularity will not be the same. On the other hand, the waterfalls will be in all their glory.

Furthermore, you should avoid the typhoon season between May and September. At this time, certain areas of the park or trails may be closed for safety reasons.

Although temperatures tend to be pleasant throughout the year, note that there is a significant difference in altitude between the various parts of the park – it can be much colder (or rainier) in the mountains than in lower areas.

Best time of the year to travel to Taroko National Park
Taroko Park has several memorable rivers and gorges

Who can go to Taroko National Park

Anyone can visit this national park, as there are many easily accessible places and hikes for all difficulty levels.

Some spots are so accessible that children, babies, the elderly, and even people in wheelchairs can visit. The tunnel of the nine curves, the Yanzikou trail, and some viewpoints are examples of this.

Even the Shakadang trail is easy and can be done by almost anyone. However, despite being completely flat, the access involves climbing some stairs.

Furthermore, even if you don’t want to walk at all or almost nothing, just traveling the road by car is an experience as it allows you to see a little of what the park has to offer.

Who can visit taroko
Shakadang Trail is accessible to the elderly and children

What should you take on a trip to Taroko National Park?

This is a difficult question to answer as it depends significantly on how you will visit the park and what you will do. Doing the Zhuilu Ancient Trail is different from just going to Shakadang and the Swallow Grotto. We still advise anyone to take:

  • Walking shoes or at least very comfortable ones. We always wear running shoes for these walks.
  • Comfortable clothes. Don’t forget to take warm/waterproof clothing even if it’s sunny and hot in Hualien, as the weather changes quickly in the mountains.
  • Umbrella – suitable for both sun and rain.
  • Repellent – especially in times of higher humidity.
  • Hat, sunscreen, and sunglasses.
  • Drinks – always take water for these walks.
  • Food – There are few options to buy snacks and food inside the park. The most popular is in the Aboriginal village at km 1.5 of the Shakadang trail.
  • Cell phone – Serves as a camera and as a GPS.
  • Backpack to carry all this.
What to take on a da trip to Taroko NP
One of the most beautiful places in Taiwan, Taroko National Park

Where to stay when visiting Taroko?

The city of Hualien is the most popular place to stay when visiting Taroko. It is known as the base for going to Taroko. In addition to having lots of accommodation options and good access, it also has many restaurants, bars, cafes, and convenience stores.

In Hualien, we recommend staying at the Art Zone, an excellent hotel at very affordable prices. It is located close to the station, so it is to get to and from Taroko National Park. See if it is available here.

Alternatively, we also have Visual B&B, which is also close to the station but on the other side of the line and has excellent reviews. See more information.

The city of Xincheng is an excellent alternative to Hualien and is even closer to the park entrance. Access to the park is even easier from here, but there are far fewer accommodation options as it is a small town.

Finally, there is still the possibility of staying inside the park, but there are very few hotels, which are usually quite expensive. Among these, and if you don’t mind spending a little more to have a spectacular experience, the best option might be Silks Place. See photos and comments here.

Where to stay when visiting Taroko National Park
View of Taroko National Park

Taroko National Park is one of the most beautiful places in Taiwan and one of the most beautiful we have ever visited. And that’s why we highly recommend including it on any Taiwan itinerary.

Anyone who likes hiking and nature will love it!

Pin it for later

How to visit the Taroko National Park in Taiwan

Sharing is caring!