Terra Galleria Photography

Taroko Gorge National Park, Taiwan

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While Sun Moon Lake is a scenic area with a fair amount of development, Taroko Gorge, Taiwan’s most well-known natural attraction, has been protected as a National Park since 1986.

The day before my visit, I traveled by rail to Hualien. From the station, I walked to the Amigos hotel, only to find out that it was closed for renovation. The owners referred me to a hotel on the same block, where I happened to be the only guest – the door was even locked when I arrived. Little did I imagine the hospitality. The host, although extremely friendly and eager to help, didn’t speak English. Fortunately his wife was Vietnamese. Although she was not home when I arrived, she served as an interpreter via phone. The host drove me around the city on the back of his motorbike to look for a vegetarian restaurant. This wasn’t successful, so upon returning, the wife fixed me a meal and declined any payment for it. They arranged a day trip to the Gorge by taxi for about $70, whereas the recommended price in the Lonely Planet was about $100. The driver turned out to be a woman, which is uncommon. She didn’t speak a single word of English, however she was also very nice. I realized she was an aboriginal native when at the end of the day she handed me a business card portraying her in a colorful traditional costume.

I started the day walking on a deserted azure beach. Seeing how mountains drop precipitously into the ocean, I understood why Taiwan’s East Coast is so scenic and undeveloped compared to the West Coast.

I was curious to see the local implementation of “America’s Best Idea”, so we stopped at a large visitor center, which looked familiar as I noticed a number of interpretative exhibits and an information desk where rangers provide information and bilingual free maps.

In keeping with Taiwan’s safety-conscious psyche, the park loans helmets to keep visitors safe from rockfall.

On the first stop, I hiked past the Eternal Shrine – dedicated to the 450 workers who lost their lives building the road, up onto a steep trail carved on the side of a cliff.

This led to a temple high above the valley with great views of the lush mountains above. Taroko’s natural beauty is complemented by a number of temples and shrines.

According to the map, Taroko Gorge has a large trail network, but because of my limited time, for the rest of the day I wouldn’t venture too far from the road.

To enjoy the narrowest part of the Gorge, you can simply walk on the side of the road, looking through the tunnel openings. Your driver waits for you at a parking area ahead.

The blue-green Liwu River has carved a narrow gorge in marble rock full of patterns, a unique sight.

The sections called “Tunnel of Nine Turns” and “Swallow Grotto” were particularly remarkable.

Having visited a sophisticated capital, an old city, a scenic area, my quick visit to the Taroko Gorge provided me with another glimpse of Taiwan’s natural beauty, hinting at its former name “Ihla Formosa”, the Beautiful Isle.

View more images of Taroko Gorge

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One Comment

  1. Russ Bishop says:

    Fascinating QT! Great images and account of your travels.

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