Taiwan was never a bucket list destination for me. In fact it wasn’t even on my radar when I was researching places to travel while studying in Asia. So when my friend Adam invited me along on a trip there I had to do some serious research. This little island country took me by surprise. I scoured the internet and found incredible black sand beaches, breathtaking national parks, and vibrant city life. Taroko Gorge quickly made it to the top of my list of things to do in Taiwan. I was drawn to the stunning marble mountains and rushing waterfalls.
Taroko Gorge Park was declared a national park in 1986. The park spans an impressive 920 square kilometers and includes some incredible natural beauty. Besides the gorge itself, the park consists of twisting hiking trails, beautiful cascades, tunnels, shrines, and a huge suspension bridge.
Taroko Gorge is actually really easy to get to. There’s a bus from Hualien that leaves daily from 6:30am to 1:50pm. The bus is a very reasonable NT250 ($8) for unlimited hop on/hop off throughout the day of purchase. The bus takes about an hour to get from Hualien to the park headquarters. There is no fee to enter the park, although some areas require a special permit to hike in.
Adam and I sat next to a group of German travelers on the bus ride there. One of the guys in their group was an English teacher in Hualien and had been to the park several times. Their group had dedicated several days to exploring the park because of how vast it is. Adam and I only had a day to hike so we wanted to make the most of it but had no idea where to start. Luckily they allowed us to tag along with them on the trail.
There are a ton of trails throughout the national park. Every one of them will blow you away. We walked along the edge of the river, passing under tunnels and up and down through the gorge.
We saw several places to stop and get a snack. At the end of our trail there was a local vendor selling grilled meats wrapped in leaves. My stomach was growling but being vegetarian I couldn’t indulge, so I bought a fruity milk drink.
We stopped about a million times to take pictures and got some cool shots beyond a “do not pass” sign that we took as a suggestion. At the very end of the trail there’s a large river bank with plenty of boulders to sit on. The area was fairly crowded with picnicking locals. We managed to find a pretty secluded spot and stopped to rest and enjoy the view. The Germans had with them some local flavored grain alcohol. We took turns drinking and sharing stories. Some of the guys went out into the river and balanced rocks on the boulders jutting out.
I don’t remember any of their names or stories but I’ll never forget the little moments we all shared that day.