With its stunning turquoise water and impressive cliff faces, Taroko National Park is a must see destination in Taiwan. We stayed for two days in December and it was the absolute highlight of our trip to Taiwan. We are sharing some of our tips in the hope that your trip to Taroko is just as great.
How do I get to Taroko National Park?
Spanning across three different counties the best place to visit the park is from Hualien county. You can hire a car or catch a bus if you want to go direct to the park. You can also take a plane or go via train to Hualien city which is about half an hour drive from the park.
We opted for the train, as it is relatively quick (2 hours on the fast train) and inexpensive (1760TWD or ~$80AUD return for two tickets i.e 440TWD per ticket per way). The train is a very popular way to travel especially on the weekend. You can make the train booking from this site.
Tip #1: make sure you buy your tickets at least 2 weeks before you intend to travel so you can get your preferred date, time and train.
Tip #2: Pay attention to which train you are booking, make sure you book the fast train. Some trains can take up to 4 hours to get to Hualien city and you won’t want to waste your weekend on the train.
Tip #3: Make sure you arrive at the train station at least half an hour before. you need to present the printed out completed collection form to pick up your tickets.
Where to stay?
While there are places to stay near the park, we wanted to stay in Hualien city to be closer to bars and restaurants. Food options near the park are scarce. It depends on what sort of experience you like to have. We like things to be a bit more lively, but others may enjoy the tranquility of staying near the park.
We stayed at the Fupin Hotel which is a great basic hotel in Hualien city. The staff are super friendly and speak great English. They also offer free pick up and drop off service from the train station. I would skip the breakfast here, but everything else about the hotel is fantastic. And it is only 10 mins walk from the night market.
What is there to see and do?
The absolute must see sites in Taroko park are: hiking the Shandang trail, Swallow Grotto and the QingChui Cliffs.
Tip #4: If walking the Swallow Grotto pick up a helmet at the entry point. It is known for there to be landslides/falling rocks in this area.
There are also a number of other hikes at Taroko, but a number of them require permits, so it is best to book these through a tour company.
Tip #5: Make sure you book any guided hikes early. Some hike require permits that need to be applied for at least a week before.
Another activity which is very popular in Taiwan is River Tracing. River Tracing is a combination of hiking, swimming and climbing. We highly recommend it and it is one of the most fun activities we have ever done. For more details on this read our blog.
Tip #6: book a private or shared group tour through KKDay. We booked a private driver to take us to Taroko National Park through KKDay (~$57AUD for 4 hour tour) and built a custom itinerary of the places we wanted to visit. While we couldn’t communicate directly with our driver on the day (as we are non mandarin speakers) when he needed to ask us something, he called someone who could speak English in the office
Tip #7: book river tracing through KKDay for discount prices and book early so you don’t miss out.
Tours can be booked the day before, but we recommend you book them early so you don’t miss out.
Tip #8: If you want to fly your drone in the park or the surrounding area you will need to get a permit. To apply for the permit you will need to complete this form and can take between 7 days to 3 months for approval.
Where to eat dinner?
Avoid the western restaurants, and go to the Dongdamen Night Market in Hualien city. The night market is open 5:30 -11:30pm every day, so it is great for dinner, or a late night snack. The food is tasty, inexpensive and is freshly cooked in front of you. Two must haves at the night market are:
- Cōngyóubǐng 蔥油餅 which is also known as scallion pancake (similar to flaky rotti bread wrapped up with egg and other meats inside) and;
- the fresh fruit juice.
The market is very lively, there are performers on each corner and the place seems to be a favourite hang out for the locals. Not only is it a great place for people watching and to taste some delicious local food, you can also participate in one of the many carnival games that Taiwanese people love so much such as real life Angry Birds (where you shoot a toy bird from an actual sling shot)!
How long do you recommend staying at Taroko National Park?
We stayed in Hualien city for two nights (Fri and Sat), but only had one full day in Taroko National Park as we had to catch the train back at midday on Sunday. It is not recommended to stay such a short time, as we felt quite rushed. We booked a half day private driver in the morning and did the river tracing tour in the afternoon. We would have enjoyed staying for three nights so we could have two full days to be able to spread out the activities, as well as do another hike.
It is easy to see why Taroko is the Taiwanese people’s national treasure, and we hope this has helped with planning your visit.