When the Portuguese first arrived in Taiwan, they exclaimed ‘Ilha Formosa!’ The expression translates to, ‘The Beautiful Island.’ And while Taiwan has long outgrown the name, much of the island continues to inspire that same kind of awe and wonder.
On site, in particular, amazes even the Taiwanese. A 3-hour train ride south of Taipei is Taroko Gorge, Taiwan’s grandest natural attraction. ‘Taroko,’ which means ‘magnificent and beautiful’ in the language of the native Truku tribe, is a fitting description. Taroko Gorge is an impressive geological mass of cliffs, canyons, and ravines, with mountain peaks rising 10,000 feet above the sea.
The Taroko National Park covers over 120,000 hectares with multiple roads and pathways for visitors to explore either by bus or by foot. This 1-day guided tour will take you to all the major attractions without exhausting you.
Most tourists skip over Quingshi Cliff to head straight to the main gorge; you’ll instantly see why you shouldn’t do the same. Your bus will park by the north of the Chongde Tunnel, close to an observation deck where you’ll see a 21-km cliff stretch jutting out of Mt. Quingshi to overlook the sea. Within a single photo frame, capture the earth sky, and sea as Mt. Quingshi rises from the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean before disappearing into the clouds.
On the trail to Swallow Grotto, the first thing you’ll hear isn’t the birds—it’s the river. Over the years, Liwu River’s erosive current has carved out deep valleys and ravines across the park before emptying into the Pacific Ocean. As a result, a number of potholes formed into the marble cliffs, and swallow birds began nesting.
There are two suspension bridges nearby (only one is crossable) for you to walk. Get an up-close view of Taroko’s most dramatic land formations; Some bends are only a meter wide, giving you sheer cliff to the left, and a 400-meter drop to the right. If you want a different experience, try your hand at river tracing: an outdoor activity where travelers wade, climb, and trek through the river.
Eternal Spring Shrine
Your next stop will be to the Eternal Spring Shrine, a sobering historical monument amidst all the natural beauty. Often mistaken for a temple, the shrine is a memorial built in honor of 212 construction workers who died during highway construction. A natural spring of water cascades from below the shrine, draining into the Liwu River.
After a series of overwhelming sights and climbs, take a leisurely walk along the scenic, beginner-friendly Shakadang Trail. But while the trial is just a steady climb, be sure to watch your head. The mountain sides just out at odd angles, like a massive tower of jenga. You’ll pass ‘Beware: Falling Rocks’ signs every few meters.
Unlike the wild and rapid Liwu River, the Shakadang Stream is much calmer and gentler. Its brilliant, turquoise waters snake around marble boulders and lush vegetation.
Unique to this trail is that it passes through a Truku tribal village And while visitors are prohibited from going to grounds, there is a small stall that sells indigenous crafts and delicacies.
If you want to see more of Taroko National Park, check out our other similar tours:
- Day Tour from Hualien: Hualien and Taroko Private Charter
- Taroko Gorge Half Day Tour
- River Trekking in Hualien