Taroko National Park and its famous gorge is often, and rightly described, as the jewel of Taiwan and is a must-do part of any visitors itinerary.
The park itself is spread over 92,000 acres of the islands Central Mountain range and the scenery here is simply breath-taking, with deep canyons and potholed cliff faces running into the white water of the Liwu River below. Our start point for exploring the park was from Hualien, the biggest city on the East coast – my advice to any traveller however would be to stay at one of the resorts near the park itself, such as the Leader Village Resort, where you can stay in aboriginal style cabins set in the ground of the remote forest. At the very least enjoy lunch here, as the they serve some delicious meals including wild vegetable salad and local wild boar!
We drove along the Central Cross Island Highway that runs through the park, past the picturesque Eternal Spring shrine, to the entrance of the Shakadang Trail. There are many hiking trails within the park, some harder than others, but this is a pretty easy going route that follows the route of the Shakatang river through the valley for 3 miles or so. The trail is very shaded – be careful of the overhanging rocks above your head! – and there are some dramatic lookout points where you’ll get some stunning views of the gorge and surrounding mountain peaks. For flora and fauna lovers, the trail is also a great place to admire the beautiful butterflies and giant ferns that are common throughout the park. After our walk a short drive took us to our next stop and the most well known section of the highway called the ‘Swallow’s Grotto’. Here, a long tunnel here was blasted through the cliff face, which gives amazing views down to the narrowest and most dramatic part of the gorge, opposite which is a steep marble cliff face, home to thousands of swallow’s nests.
The tunnel has now fortunately been closed to traffic to allow hikers to walk the length of the narrow road without having to worry about coach traffic. We only spent a day in the park on a whirlwind tour of Taiwan but such a spectacular place clearly deserves 2 or 3 days of any travellers itinerary.
Click here to read about our National Parks of Taiwan Tour.
View more of Peter’s Travels.