Taroko National Park is one of Taiwan’s nine national parks. Nicknamed “the marble gorge”, it’s one of the most spectacular sights you’ll see as you travel through the country. Located 15 km north of Hualien on Taiwan’s east coast (about 3 hours from Taipei), this stunning national park offers visitors breathtaking panoramic views of the gorge, waterfalls, mountains, rivers, cliff formations, and much more. In this Taroko National Park Guide and podcast episode, we give you the inside scoop on where to stay, how to plan a trip, navigating through the park, cultural and traditional activities, wildlife, and more.
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National Parks in Taiwan
Taiwan is mostly known for its food and night markets. It’s not a place specifically equated with National Parks, but tourism in Taiwan is well developed. There are many hotels, Bed and Breakfasts’, and the local transport is very accessible to tourists. The locals are very friendly and willing to help out. Renting a car is also easy to explore the island.
Taiwan has a lot more to offer than just Taipai City – it’s extremely green and mountainous. There are beaches, hot springs, nice cities, and of course, National Parks.
Taiwan has nine national parks – six are on the mainland and three are located on the outlying islands of Taiwan. There are three on the mainland that you need permits for the mountain hikes that can be applied for online, 30 days before the visit, including some in Taroko National Park.
Tip: There are a limited number of permits accepted for the mountain hike, so make sure you apply early. All permit information can be found on the Tawain National Park site.
Taroko National Park
Toroko National Park is located on the eastern, mountainous side of the island. Several rivers have helped carve the gorge over many years. It was established as a National Park in 1937 when Tawain was under the rule of Japan. It was later re-established in 1986 to protect the natural scenery, historical relics, and wildlife.
Taroko is 9,000 hectares (920 km²/355 square miles) and has mountains, shallow rivers, marble and rock formations, waterfalls, and panoramic views. It is well known for its marble supply and will see giant blocks of marble throughout the park.
Taroko Gorge’s name is derived from the Truku tribe, who still live in the area. The park is made up of many high mountains and steep gorges. The Central Cross-Island Highway runs through the gorge, and a memorial monument has been built there in honor of the men who died during construction. It’s the only road through the gorge, and you can see beautiful views of the rivers and mountains on the drive.
How to Plan a Trip to Taroko National Park
Planning a trip to Taroko isn’t difficult if you know where to look and what resources to use. Plan on stopping at the park’s Visitor Center – they have a lot of great information on the park including hikes there. The book, A Walk to Taroko is also a great resource to have before you enter the park along with their website and this guide and podcast episode.
There is only one road through the park, so it’s relatively easy to find your way through the park.
How can I get to Taroko National Park?
The first thing you should do is rent a car if you want to visit Taroko National Park. It is possible to arrive by bus or scooter, but it’s much easier to rent a car. You can also organize a day trip from Taipei, but if you can stay more than a day in the park, it’s highly recommended.
When is the best time to visit Taroko National Park?
The park is open all year round, but the best time to visit is from October to June. From July to September, it’s typhoon season in Taiwan and it’s also extremely crowded there. If you visit during typhoon season, you should closely follow the weather predictions. And directly after a typhoon, check the Taroko NP website to make sure it’s safe to enter again.
How many days should I visit Taroko?
If you want to see the park in its entirety, you should plan for at least two days and nights. This gives you enough time to visit the main interest points and time for hiking. If you’re just there for a day, you can still see plenty of amazing sights as well.
What should I bring with me to Taroko National Park?
You should definitely bring lots of water with you because of the high temps. You can also buy water there, but bringing water with you will be cheaper. Sunscreen and a hat (or umbrella) are also recommended to protect yourself from the sun. Don’t forget a raincoat as the weather can change quickly in the mountains, flashlights for hiking through tunnels, and of course, mosquito spray for those pesky insects.
LANGUAGE TIP: The most important signs throughout the park are also in English, so if you don’t speak Mandarin, it’s not a worry.
What to See at Taroko National Park
Inside the park, there are so many different things to see, with three main interest points:
The Swallow Grotto – This is one of the most beautiful and famous parts of the park. The almost-vertical cliffs are covered with small caves from long-term erosion. You can find small spring swallows nesting in these caves, giving it its name.
Eternal Springs Shrine – This shrine was built to memorialize the 212 workers who died during the highway construction. There is a beautiful waterfall in the middle and is a short hike from the parking lot.
Tianxiang Village – The main village in Taroko with accommodation, restaurants, and convenience stores. The highlights to see in the village are the temple and pagoda. There is a climb to reach the temple, but the view is worth it! The panoramic view of the gorge and village is spectacular! There are also lots of monkeys to be seen here.
TIP: The best way to see the main sights at the park is to visit during the early morning or at the end of the day to avoid the huge crowds.
Is Taroko a Family-Friendly National Park?
Taroko is a family-friendly and safe place to visit. The drive through the park is interesting, and the tunnels through large rocks are always a hit. There are several viewpoints on the road where you can stop for views. The time between stops on the road is brief, helping when you’re traveling with younger kids.
There are also shorter trails that are easier for families with small children, but make sure you read the information signs at the beginning of the trails. There will be signs warning of certain areas that contain venomous snakes or animals on the trail. And stay together on every trail!
There aren’t many places to eat full meals in the park, so make sure you bring plenty of food and snacks with you. Tawainese food is available to buy at the park, but you might want to bring snacks that your child is familiar with.
There is also an activity booklet at the Visitors Center for children, so make sure you ask for one.
What types of landscape will you encounter at Taroko?
Taroko is all about the mountains and dense forest, almost-vertical cliffs, beautiful colored shallow rivers, impressive rock formations, waterfalls, panoramic views, and lots of marble. Half of the park is covered by mountains over 2-3,000 meters high.
Hiking Trails and Tips at Taroko
Hiking in Taroko is accessible for everyone. There are three types of trials in the park:
- Scenic Trails – the easiest and shortest to hike and suitable for all ages – great for families and young children.
- Hiking Trails – located in medium elevations where the weather easily changes and are suited for people in good physical condition.
- Mountaineering Trails – the most challenging trails that are located at over 2,000 meters in elevation or relatively remote areas.
Trails that pass through protected areas require permits in advance. There is also an equipment requirement on these trails, including water, food, maps, warm clothes, and a first aid kit. And some of the longer trails require an overnight stay on the trail.
There are over 20 trails in the park that are easily accessible and available to everyone.
The Zhuilu Old Trail is a great trail for experienced hikers. It cuts through the dense forest with stunning views and narrow cliffs. The cliff is the most challenging section of the trail with only a metal cable to hold on to. This trail also requires a permit – only around 100 hikers are allowed on the trail each day. It can also be booked with a tour company.
Hiking Gear: Wearing good shoes is a must for all trails, and the parks require wearing helmets on some of the more challenging trails. You can borrow them from the park free of charge.
Wildlife found in Taroko National Park
Macaque monkeys are a unique species of monkey to Taiwan that can be seen in Taroko along with 45 other large animals in the park, including the Taiwanese black bear and the sambar deer. There are over 300 types of butterflies, 150 varieties of birds, and countless lizards, snakes, and insects. In the rivers, you can find fish, shrimp, crab, and many types of frogs. While staying in the park, the sounds of the wildlife will fill the air around you.
Where Can I Book a Hotel Near Taroko National Park?
The best and easiest way to book a hotel for your Taroko National Park experience is on booking.com. Here everything will be in English and familiar to you and your family.
Hotel Recommendation Inside Taroko
If you want true immersion into the culture of Taroko National Park, the Taroko Village Hotel will give you just that! You’ll be staying in cabins surrounded by mountains and serve traditional food dishes prepared with local ingredients. There are also custom and culture education and entertainment programs and most all the employees are aboriginals.
Inside the park, choices are limited, so you have to book early and be prepared to pay more for the stay – but it’s worth it!
Hotel Recommendation Outside Taroko
Most hotels will speak Mandarin, so calling isn’t always the best way to go unless you speak the language. If you want to stay outside the park, you can also stay nearby in Hualien City where you can find many hotels and restaurants to choose from with a variety of prices. This is a great option for families and is only about 30 minutes from the park.
Do Not Miss Moments at Taroko
The Tunnel of Nine Trails is a fan favorite trail. This trail takes you through various tunnels, and after each tunnel, there is another breathtaking view. The trail is easy to walk (about 2 km), and in the end, you will cross a bridge and encounter a waterfall and suspension bridge with a viewing deck.
The Water Curtain Cave is also a spectacular sight. It’s essentially a tunnel where water flows out from cracks in the rock to make a water curtain effect. There’s a small tunnel to walk inside, but make sure to bring a raincoat and flashlight – you’ll get soaked inside.
What to Do Near Taroko National Park?
The Qingshui Cliffs are on the ocean-side of the National Park, and you can drive through and see the stunning views of the turquoise-blue waters below. It’s an incredible sight! There are also beaches to visit near the park as well as paragliding experiences nearby. You can also drive further into the mountains into the Central Mountain Range. It’s an incredibly scenic highway leading up to the peak of the mountaintops. It’s the highest automobile pass in Taiwan.
Hidden Gems of Taroko National Park
The hidden gem was the information we discovered about the Taroko tribe. Learning more about their culture was so interesting! Located near the Taroko Village Hotel is another Visitors Center, where they have a small museum with more information about facial tattoos they have and their weaving techniques. And from this museum, you can take a short hike to see more views of the dam and the gorge – a beautiful spot that most people don’t know about.
About Our Featured Guest:
Angelique and her family are from The Netherlands and have lived as ex-pats in Taiwan for 4 years. They recently returned to The Netherlands and are now sharing their vast experience exploring Taroko National Park. They document their travels and ex-pat experiences on their Instagram page, @ourexpatlife_family, and on their family travel website where you can find out more about life as an ex-pat and travel in Taiwan.
National Trippers Podcast
Listen to Taroko National Park Podcast Episode
Did you know we also have a podcast all about Taroko National Park? Get ready for even more inside tips, gems, and stories of this amazing National Park!