Taroko National Park is the one natural wonder in Taiwan that is not to be missed. Taiwan and specifically Taroko National Park is the site where two tectonic plates meet. Earthquakes here are fairly regular and make for an ever-changing, amazing natural landscape.
From Vietnam I flew into Taipei for a 4 day Taiwan adventure. Taiwan is small but because of the mountains, travel across the country can take some time. I wanted to keep Taipei as my home base while in Taiwan so I found a daytrip that included a round-trip flight to Hualien (20 minutes in the air), a city close to Taroko National Park, in an effort to save time and maximize my time.
My guide for the day, a retired environmental engineer who worked in and on Taroko National Park for decades, picked up my 4 person group from the airport and spent the day teaching us about the natural landscape. He was probably the most interesting guide I’ve had because he had so much random information about the park due to the fact both him and his father helped build and maintain the structures and hiking trails within it.
The crowded entrance:
Our early flight enabled the group to get to a few places before the masses descended upon the park. This is a popular place and most tours of Taiwan make a daytrip here.
An easy five kilometer hike under the red bridge and along the gorge had a turn-around point in an area where the native tribe lives. They sell a few trinkets and jewelry but the homemade boar sausage with mountain litsea (a shrub leaf) and mulberry juice was where the hikers flocked.
I ate it all including the weird, lemony green leaf! A tasty breakfast:
The walk back was along the same pretty trail going out. There is an additional section to the trail that going further into the gorge but you have to have a permit and a half day to spend on this section alone.
Since we are on a time crunch of sorts, the group proceeded to my favorite spot of the day- Changchun (Eternal Spring) Shrine.
Set high up in the mountainside, the drive towards it was magnificent.
A short hike over a bridge and through a cave bring you straight to the shrine.
A bit disconcerting is that there are signs that ask you not to dawdle as falling rocks in Taroko National Park are common and they don’t want the tourists to get crushed. Eek! Moving right along…
The Taroko Visitors Center had many exhibits about Taroko National Park and how it was formed. Our guide had gone over most of it so we didn’t spend much time inside and went to lunch.
Lunch was delicious. I ordered the native food selection which included chicken, rice, soup, an orange, papaya salad, and some other things I had no idea what they were. Plus iced coffee.
After lunch was the gorge walk along the Liwu River, the greatest natural scenes of the whole day. Tourists get to wear helmets that you can pick up at different stations around the national park for free. Helmets are required in certain areas because of falling rocks.
Also they make quite the fashion statement.
Another hike inside the Taroko National Park was about 2 miles long and ended at one of the campsites inside the park. We were supposed to see monkeys but the monkeys did not get the memo that they needed to hang out by the side of the trails.
At sunset, we left the park and headed for the pebble Qixingtan beach. There is no swimming on this beach because of the dangerous undertow. Taiwan doesn’t have any natural barriers (i.e. reefs or other landmasses) because it was formed by the meeting of tectonic plates.
We had an hour to spend at the Dongdamen night market before headed to the airport. Here there are only 4 flights per day and no one goes more than 30 minutes before their flight.
After seeing some really interesting food choices, I opted for a scallion veggie pancake ($1.25). There were sushi, grilled meats, fruit, noodle soups, stir-fries, and more to choose from.
Two members of my group got lost in a non-crowded market and ended up being 20 minutes late to our meeting point. I got bored of waiting and went and got some ice cream of sorts. From the flavors below I ordered papaya which was shaved into a cup and topped with sweetened condensed milk.
It was delicious but huge! I ended up sharing it with my new tour friends (once they actually arrived at the meeting point).
After racing to the airport, we boarded our quick 20 minute flight back to Taipei. It was an eventful and wonderful day at Taroko National Park with My Taiwan Tours. I highly recommend this trip. Doing the flights (20 minutes) versus the train (3 hours one way) was definitely the way to go if your time in Taiwan is short.
Reader Question: Have you ever flown somewhere not work related that was only for one day? This was a first for me!