Taroko National Park (太魯閣國家公園) in Taiwan’s east is a jaw-dropping natural wonder and popular area to explore. Named after the local indigenous tribe, Truku, this region has been carved out over millions of years by the Liwa River to form the 19km long Taroko Gorge. The landscapes here are breath-taking as you make your way from the coast through the tropical hills and into the steep gorge walls with the crystal clear waters within.
There isn’t a lot of information on getting around Taroko National Park and the best recommendations. I tried to research a lot about the Park before going to maximise my day, but there was a lot I had to discover on the spot. I have tried to summarise all the information I would’ve found helpful for the trip and put it here in this Taroko National Park Guide.
GETTING TO TAROKO NATIONAL PARK
Getting around Taiwan has been pleasantly simple and Taroko National Park was no different. After researching I determined that the easiest way was by rail, and although there is no High Speed Rail on the east coast of Taiwan yet, the train was still fast (around 2.5 hours) and scenic.
To Taroko From Taipei
- Fast train (Puyuma): 2:15 hours from Taipei Main Station to Hualien, $440 NTD
- Slow train: 3.5 – 4.5 hours from Taipei Main Station to Hualien, $340 NTD
If you decide to visit Taroko as a day trip, it is best to catch the train from Taipei to Xincheng because it’s closer than Hualien. You can catch the shuttle bus from Xincheng into the park.
- Fast train: $403 NTD
- Slow train: $311 NTD
You can book these tickets at the railway station, or using kiosks at 7/11 and FamilyMart. To reserve tickets in advance, use this official website which reserves your seats and then you can collect tickets from the station or convenience stores. Tickets are released 14 days in advance and do sell out reasonably quickly, especially on weekends and holidays, so my advice is to book your ticket if you can.
Although visiting Taroko National Park can be done as a day trip from Taipei, I personally think this would be too rushed. It will take you at least 3 hours each way before you get to the Park and doesn’t leave much room for error with the shuttle buses within Taroko. It is better to spend some time in surrounding towns so you can at least have one or two full days to explore the National Park stress-free (and the other beautiful attractions in the area).
TAROKO NATIONAL PARK ACCOMMODATION
To explore Taroko National Park, I based myself in the nearby city of Hualien. There are plenty of accommodation options in Hualien, as well as in nearby Xincheng or you can come for a day trip from Taipei. In Hualien, I stayed at a lovely hostel called Nin Hao Hostel which was a 5 minute walk from Hualien Station and the bus station to the National Park. You can search for Hualien accommodation options using the button below:
READ MORE: Top 10 Things To Do In Taipei, Taiwan
PARK ENTRANCE FEES
Fantastic news – entrance to Taroko National Park is completely free! This includes free entrance to the temples, pavilions, and shrines within the park boundaries.
A few exceptions: If you wish to enter Zhiliu Old Road, there is an entrance fee of $200 NTD. If you are considering doing some of the mountaineering hikes within the National Park however, you will need to apply for a permit. These trails are the Dali-Datong Trail and the Lushui-Wenshan Trail.
GETTING AROUND TAROKO NATIONAL PARK
Don’t waste money (and energy) on getting a tour or private driver because accessing Taroko National Park using the shuttle bus is simple. This is by far the cheapest way of getting around Taroko National Park and although the buses aren’t super frequent, it is still a very convenient method of transportation. The buses either leave from Hualien Station or Xincheng Station, and the final stop in the route within Taroko is Tianxiang.
Two bus companies operate in Taroko National Park:
- Taroko Tourist Bus Shuttle (from Hualien): Route 1133A
- Taroko Bus Company (from Xincheng Station): Route 302
Coming from Hualien, I opted to go with Hualien Bus Company and caught the route 1133A buses throughout Taroko National Park. The buses were timely and never too full to have a seat. For the price, this was a phenomenal service and a great way to get around.
Shuttle bus schedule
In general, the bus shuttles past each stop every hour to hour and a half. You rarely have to wait at a bus stop for longer than an hour and the buses are usually on time, give or take 5-10 minutes. If you have a lot to do in the park in a short amount of time (like I did), it’s a good idea to plan your stops in advance so you can adjust your walk speeds etc. to ensure you catch the buses you need.
From Hualien Station: 7:00, 8:30, 9:10, 10:00, 11:10, 12:00, 13:20, 14:10, 15:10
From Tianxiang: 8:40, 10:00, 10:40, 11:40, 12:50, 14:10, 15:00, 15:50, 17:00
My top advice for exploring the national park is to cop it and get the first bus from Hualien Station. It might seem early, but it is necessary to avoid the crowds coming in from Taipei which seem to hit the park around 9:30am.
Shuttle bus stops
The bus leaves from near the east exit of Hualien Station at the bus shelter which is a big orange tiled building – hard to miss! Along the rest of the route, the stops are marked with bus signs, usually a red one for one company and a white/yellow one for the other. The buses have slightly varying stops depending on whether you are going towards or coming back from Tianxiang, so make sure you factor this in when crafting your itinerary.
Stops on the way to Tianxiang: Hualien Qixingtan Xincheng Station Taroko Taroko Visitor Centre Shakadang Train Buluowan Yanzikou Lushui Tianxiang
Stops on the way back from Tianxiang: Tianxiang Lushui Yanzikou Changchun Shrine Taroko Visitor Centre Taroko Xincheng Station Qixingtan Hualien
- 1 day pass: for use of one bus company, $250 NTD
- 2 day pass: for use of one bus company, $400 NTD
- Easycard: can be used around Taiwan, works for both bus companies so you can catch whichever shuttle bus turns up rather than waiting for one company, $100 NTD for card and then loaded with funds
Where to purchase shuttle bus tickets
Getting a shuttle bus ticket is really easy and can be done at several locations. This applies to both the 1- and 2-day passes and the Easy Card.
- Hualien Station Bus Shelter (the big orange building mentioned before)
- 7/11 using the iBon kiosks
BEST PLACES TO EXPLORE IN TAROKO NATIONAL PARK
There are dozens of beautiful hikes and sites to see within the boundaries of Taroko National Park. With only one full day, I had to choose some highlights to explore and these are the ones I recommend to you guys.
Shakadang Trail, formerly Mysterious Valley Trail, was my favourite place to explore in Taroko National Park. This was the first stop I made on the shuttle bus and when I arrived, there was only one other couple on the walk. The peaceful trail carved out from the walls of the gorge meanders alongside an unbelievably clear waterway. Where the pools of water deepen, they transform into the most brilliant blue which contrast against the light hues of the boulders.
The walk is flat and well-maintained, following the base of the gorge past dams, villages, and through subtropical greenery for several kilometres. A unique part of this trail is that it lies in active indigenous land and you pass beneath several villages (although you are unable to enter them directly as it is restricted), there are a few stalls about 1km into the walk run by locals selling indigenous items and talking about the culture. If you can make it to Shakadang Trail first, you will be treated to stunning scenery and the serenity of the turquoise pools to yourself which is a peaceful introduction to Taroko.
Bus Stop Shakadang | Length of hike 4.1km each way | Time: 2 – 3 hours return | Difficulty: Easy
Photo from Wikipedia Commons
This is the most famous part of Taroko National Park where the trail carved out from the gorge winds past the riverside. It is the best place to see the enormity of Taroko Gorge, and you can see spectacular swallow nests carved into the stone. The trail was closed when I visited so I was unable to visit, but it was visible from the bus and I would 100% recommend you add this to your itinerary if you visit.
Bus Stop Yanzikou | Length of hike 1.1km | Time: 15-30 minutes | Difficulty: Easy
The Baiyang Falls trail was one of the most dramatically beautiful places in Taroko National Park and it wasn’t even difficult. To get to Baiyang Falls trail, you need to take the bus to Tianxiang (the last stop) and then walk on the side of the road for about 15-20 minutes. At this point, you will see an entrance to a tunnel on the left hand side which is the start of the Baiyang Falls trail.
The walk meanders through several tunnels and along a river with beautiful rock formations until you reach a suspension bridge. At the suspension bridge, you can see three stunning waterfalls surrounding the suspension bridge in succession. I was lucky to visit after there had been some rain so the falls were full of life. There is a viewing platform after the suspension bridge which is a perfect place to eat lunch. Although the walk says it will take two hours, it took me about an hour walking at a decent pace. Remember to bring a flashlight or strong phone light because the tunnels can get quite dark and slippery.
Bus Stop Tianxiang | Length of hike 2.1km each way | Time: 1 – 2 hours return | Difficulty: Easy
Changchun Shrine, also known as the Eternal Spring Shrine, is a stunningly beautiful shrine built to honour the 226 veterans who died constructing the Central Cross-Island Highway. The colourful shrine sits on the hillside and waterfalls of fresh spring water gush from beneath it. It is a wonderful memorial and a scenic part of Taroko National Park.
Bus Stop Changchun | Length of walk 0.6km each way | Time: 10 minutes return | Difficulty: Easy
MY TOP ADVICE FOR EXPLORING TAROKO
- Stay in nearby Hualien so you maximise your time exploring the National Park rather than spending time on the train from Taipei
- Catch the earliest possible bus (departing Hualien at 7am) because you will arrive before the tour buses. This is the most serene time to explore Taroko as the crowds begin to swell after around 9:30am.
- Bring plenty of water and sun protection because Taiwan can be extremely hot and humid which are draining hiking conditions.
- Either keep covered up or bring bug spray! The mosquitos and midges here are ruthless, I have looked like I had chickenpox for ten days after attempting Elephant Mountain without bug spray.
- Bring appropriate wet weather gear
- Make sure you have a flashlight or strong phone flashlight for the walks involving caves
PIN THIS FOR LATER AND FOR OTHERS!
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Been to Taroko National Park or have questions? Leave a comment below – I would love to hear from you!