Visiting Taroko Gorge in Taiwan

When I was planning my trip to Taiwan in August of 2014, the one thing I immediately knew I wanted to do was visit Taroko Gorge. From all the pictures and blogs I had read, I knew I was in for some fantastic scenery and amazing hiking. This stunning site is located in Hualien, a smaller city in central Taiwan, about 4 hours away from Taipei on the regular speed train. 

To get from Hualien to the gorge itself is a relatively simple process. Using Google Maps you can either walk, or take a cab to the main bus station. Our hostel was actually a little bit far from the main bus and train station, but we met some great people who were staying in a place that was apparently right behind the bus station - so that was a big win for them.  The station is a big orange building, and it's right next to the train station, so assuming you took the train into Hualien itself, you shouldn't have any trouble finding your way. 

Once you find the bus station buy a ticket. Now, there are several ways you can go about the process of exploring the gorge itself - It really just depends on your comfort preference and how you would prefer to spend your day.

Taiwan Hualien Taroko Gorge Hiking.jpg

Option #1: Hire a taxi for the day

You can hire your driver either outside the bus station, or once you get to the bottom of the the gorge. As this is not what we did, I cannot speak to exact prices, but from other blogs I have gathered that the average flat rate for the whole day is between 2000-3000 TWD (You can barter so make sure to keep this in mind). This option might be better for higher end travelers, or those people who are traveling with children. 

Pro: Air conditioning and convenience - Con: Significantly more expensive

Taiwan Hualien Taroko Gorge Grey River.jpg

Option #2: Take buses exclusively 

This is what my group did and though there were a few hiccups, everything ended up working out just fine. You can either buy a ticket from the main Hualien bus station to the last stop at the very top of the gorge, OR you can buy a ticket from the bus stop to the tourist office at the bottom of the Gorge. Though we did the former; in retrospect, I would definitely choose the later. If you stop at the tourist office first, you can snag a handy map of the attractions, advice from one of the office employees, and any memos about sites that may be closed due to inclement weather. Once you're done in the tourist office you simply ride the bus between designated stops along the Gorge road, and pay as you go along. 

Pro: Cost effective and relatively easy to navigate - Con: Waiting for buses and having to find the correct stop

Option #3: Rent a motorbike/scooter

This option may be the most cost effective of the three. In that you simply rent a scooter for the day, and then zip along as you please. This being said, it's also significantly more dangerous. The road along the Gorge is extremely curvy and like most Asian countries I've been to, the driving situation is pretty scary. From what I can tell the main driving mindset is: Get where you're going. Try not to kill anyone. People drive fast and do not practice what we in the States would call "defensive driving". So, while I have friends who have taken this option and are fine - they did report that it was pretty nerve wracking experience. Also, if a torrential downpour decides to come along (and it very well might) you'll need to pull over and wait it out.

Pro: Cheapest and great for those daredevils out there - Con: More dangerous. Easily affected by the weather. 

When choosing which option you prefer, make sure to think about the composition of the group you are with, as well as what level of ease and comfort you are wanting. Any of the options are easily viable; however, different ones are better suited for different needs.

Additional Tips:
- Bring a poncho that will cover you and your backpack (or at the very least a plastic bag for your cell phone and camera)
- Bring small bills and change for the bus
- Get a map of the park 
- Ask the tourist desk about site closures
- Wear good shoes for being outdoors (some of the sites require light hiking)
- Wear clothes that you are OK with sweating in or getting wet (It's humid as all get-up, especially during summer months and there is a significant possibility of rain).

Ever been to Taroko Gorge? Which option did you choose and what did you think of your choice. Please share your experiences in the comment sections below! I'd love to get feedback about the other options, and I'm sure many other readers would find it helpful too. For more amazing travel photos follow me on Instagram! And if you have further questions about the Gorge, or Taiwan in general shout out on Facebook, and I'll be sure to answer :)

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Enjoy the beautiful view!

Morgan S.