Taroko Gorge is a marble gorge in the aptly named Taroko national park. It is located in the city of Hualien. This master piece of nature consists of towering mountains and peaks that will blow you away. Photos really don’t do this place justice. Many people said that to me before we came here but I didn’t believe them since their photos were spectacular but they were right.
The important thing to note is it’s cheap and fast. The main piece of advice I would give is buy your tickets in advance if possible. We bought them just under 12 hours before our train and didn’t get seats which meant two and a half hours sat in a corridor, we entertained ourselves but a air-conned cabin would have been nice.
When you go you will have three main options of seeing the gorge;
2. Bus Tour
3. Private Taxi
All of these have their ups and downs.
I have never rode a scooter but I have many friends that decided on this option. Some loved it, some were terrified and some had to turn back because of bad weather. If you have experience with scooters or are confident that you won’t get lost then this is a great and cheap option. Especially if you are staying overnight in Hualien. There are many scooter rental places near Hualien station.
The option I would tell you to avoid like the plague is the bus tour .Not only is it extremely expensive but every bus seems to have the exact same schedule. This means that you will be stuck in traffic all day. Our taxi guide knew the bus route exactly so tailored our trip around avoiding the crowds. This meant we had most of the gorge to ourselves the whole day and didn’t sit in a bit of traffic. It was disconcerting on the way home to ride past this traffic and see over 60 huge coaches sat at a standstill. As well as traffic the small roads in the gorge mean that a lot of the sights aren’t assessable by bus so you will miss out. If there has been a storm recently (As there had been when we arrived) you will be forced to see even less. Don’t do it!
As mentioned above we took a taxi guide. For a 7 hour tour it cost us £30 for two people. Our guide met us at the station and despite telling us she didn’t speak much English, her language skills were fantastic. She took us to all the prime locations, we had the best views and she loved taking photos for us. They were some of the only photos Lee and I had together all trip. She took us to a quiet , cheap and delicious restaurant for lunch and left us to our own devices. She knew exactly how much to interact and when to step back. It was the perfect way to see the gorge. We learnt lots of great facts about the gorge and Taiwan itself. I have heard that many taxi tours are similar and I’d recommend it. Especially since we had a lovely air conditioned car to zip around in and avoided the 40 degree heat. (if you would like the tour guides info please send me a message and I’ll send it on to you). I would advice contacting her in advance since the taxi’s do book up quickly.
Unfortunately, as I mentioned, when we arrived at the gorge there had just been a typoon so many roads were closed for repairs and some trails weren’t open. You’ll notice in most photos that the river is grey from the marble clay. The lovely Kaleena (a fantastic travel blogger) went there recently and had the chance to do some amazing activities in the gorge so stay tuned for her posts about this place.
Our necks hurt from craning up to look at the amazing views, our eyes hurt from squinting at the sun and my cheeks hurt from smiling. It was breathtaking. Each temple was more beautiful than the next and our taxi guide made sure we were the only people around.
There was some risky aspects such as having to wear a helmet to walk through the trails since so many stones fall on the paths but we loved it. In fact we loved it so much that we are planning to make a return visit one day and take one of the many exclusive walking trails. To keep its natural beauty the Taiwanese government have decided that only 16 people a day can walk certain trails. You need a special permit and a guide. They were all closed due to the storm when we were there but it’s now on our bucket list. I swear that I add more to my bucket list than I take off when I go on vacations.
One thing we did get to knock off our bucket list this trip however was seeing a wild monkey. We had asked our guide if there were monkeys in the hills. We haven’t been to a country yet such as Indonesia or Malaysia where monkeys roam freely so we crossed our fingers and hoped this would be our chance but our guide informed us that it is extremely rare to glimpse one. This sadden Lee since not only does his love for animals rival even David Attenbourgh’s interest in all things furry but monkeys are one of his favourites. Therefore you can only imagine Lee’s happy face when we spotted a Wild Formosan macaque (aka, rock monkey) eating fruit in the temple garden. We stalked it like we thought we were safari ninja’s and tried our best to get a good shot. It was obviously use to people and didn’t seem bothered by us at all but all the same we kept a little bit of distance. To say we were happy is an understatement.
There are two tours you can take around Hualien, one is just the gorge and the other is the gorge and the beaches. We added on the extra hour and I’m glad we did. We saw some of the most spectacular views of the beaches. It looks more like French Polynesia than what I expected of Taiwan. We ended the day watching dusk fall over the local beach before getting our train. The aboriginal tribes that still live in the Philippines have put their stamp on this tiny island and the culture feels almost Hawaiian like. We danced to some traditional music on the beach and both agreed this was the best place we’d ever been.
Our guide summed up our feelings when she told us that every person she meets on these tours ends the day by saying ‘ No one should come to Asia without seeing Taiwan and no one should go to Taiwan without seeing Taroko. ‘ We couldn’t agree more.
Have you been to Taroko? Would you go again? Have you walked the trails? Tell us your thoughts on Hualien or Taiwan itself. We are on the look out for other places to visit in this spectacular country.