Day Trip to Taroko Gorge Itinerary + Visiting Information

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Taroko Gorge is a 19-kilometer-long narrow valley located on the east coast of Taiwan. It is within the expansive Taroko National Park, which spans three counties in Taiwan: Hualien, Taichung, and Nantao.

Today, Taroko National Park is one of the country’s most visited tourist attractions with millions of visitors each year. My sister and I are among those travelers. And we had an unforgettable experience exploring the natural beauty of the park. In this post, I’ll give you an idea how you can also enjoy a day of a visit to Taroko Gorge, as well.

Here’s a fun fact: Did you know that “Taroko” is a word from the aboriginal Truku tribe that means magnificent and splendid? Well, after seeing the gorge, I couldn’t agree more with the tribesmen who named the gorge!

Is Taroko Gorge Worth Visiting?

If you’re still unsure about visiting Taroko Gorge, I have a simple answer: The stunning scenery of Taroko Gorge alone is enough to justify a visit. And to simply put it, Taroko Gorge is more than just a destination for sightseeing or adventure. It’s also a place where you can learn about Taiwanese history and culture.

You’ll find spectacular unconformities etched into the canyon walls, impressive tunnels, and captivating turquoise rivers at its deepest points. Simultaneously, the gorge also holds a fascinating history related to the construction of the park’s roads and the people who have lived in the area for centuries.

If you explore Taroko Gorge with a guide, you’ll uncover the story of the dedicated workers who built Taiwan’s first cross-island highway.

Are you still looking for a place to stay in Taiwan or Hualien for your trip to Taroko Gorge? Look no further! You can find the best hotel deals here.

When to Visit Taroko Gorge

If you’re planning to visit Taroko Gorge, it’s important to consider the best time for your trip. The ideal period is during spring, which spans from February to May. During this time, the climate is not humid and the temperatures are comfortably warm.

Spring is also a fantastic time in Taiwan as it’s when the cherry and plum trees are in full bloom, adding to the beauty of the landscape.

However, it’s advisable to avoid the monsoon season, which typically runs from July to September. This is when Taiwan is more prone to typhoons, leading to an increased risk of rockslides and accidents. As a result, more trails are often closed during this period.

Things to Do in Taroko Gorge (Day Trip)

Taroko Gorge may have only a few named destinations (I will call them the “main attractions“), but it’s home to hundreds of hiking trails ready for your breathtaking exploration. If your time is limited to just one day, like ours was, I suggest focusing on the main attractions. Fortunately, all of these highlights can be covered in a single day trip.

If it’s your first time visiting or you’re keen to learn more about Taroko Gorge, I highly recommend hiring a tour guide. We did just that and gained so much knowledge about the gorge during our trip. With the help of your guide, getting around the gorge will definitely be twice or thrice easier!

With some thorough research and tips from our guide, I was able to create an itinerary of things to do in Taroko Gorge.

If you prefer to visit the gorge independently to save some money, the information I provide should be enough. To summarize, there are five key points of interest that you should not miss. These include the Taroko Arch Gate, Eternal Spring Shrine, Tunnel of Nine Turns, Swallow Grotto Trail, and Shakadang Trail.

Later, you will come across a map of Taroko Gorge. This map shows the exact locations of various tourist attractions. It also indicates spots where you can find food.

1. Taroko Arch Gate

Taroko Gate

The Taroko Arch Gate is the first landmark you’ll see before reaching the actual gorge in Taroko National Park. This was our first stop, and it will likely be your first destination during your trip as well.

We stayed in the area for about ten minutes to read about the gate and breathe in the fresh air. We patiently waited for our turn to take photographs with the arch gate, ensuring there were no photobombers, and left the place afterward.

The arch gate is a popular landmark of Taroko Gorge, so don’t forget to take a photo souvenir here. Near the Taroko Arch Gate, there are shops where you can buy snacks and beverages. These shops come in handy if you forget to have breakfast or bring bottled water.

Keep in mind that your destinations in Taroko Gorge will require you to walk for an entire day. Therefore, it’s important to pack enough supplies for the day.

More information about the Taroko Arch Gate

The gate serves as the entrance to the eastern portion of the park. It was built by the Taiwanese to commemorate the construction workers who endured extreme hardship to complete their first Central Cross-Island Highway.

This ambitious project, spearheaded by Chiang Kai Shek, connected the eastern portion of Taiwan to the west. The Central Cross-Island Highway, also known as the Taroko Gorge Road, was opened to the public on May 9, 1960.

This monumental achievement was realized after four years of construction, which involved carving tunnels and building roads in the middle of marble cliffs.

2. Eternal Spring Shrine (Changchun Shrine)

Across the Liwu River, you will see a picturesque shrine with a waterfall flowing from it. This structure is known as the Eternal Spring Shrine. Visiting the Eternal Spring Shrine is a popular activity in Taroko Gorge, primarily to learn about the 220+ veterans who died during the construction of the Taroko Gorge Road.

The Eternal Spring Shrine is already visible from the road or the parking lot just before the Changchun Bridge. The scene is lovely from afar, but I didn’t feel any “wow” factor when we arrived. If the weather had been better and the sunlight had hit the shrine, it would have looked epic, reminiscent of scenes from some Chinese movies.

You can reach the main shrine in 5 to 10 minutes through a tunnel after ascending the stairs from the end of the Changchun Bridge. The tunnel adds a touch of adventure and could serve as a warm-up for a day of hiking throughout the park.

Inside part of the small tunnel, you can see three gold-painted statues of Buddha. Below them is a list of the names of the construction workers who died in an accident while building the Central Cross-Island Highway.

There’s not much to see in the shrine itself. However, it’s relaxing to hear the cascading water while admiring the view of the gorge behind the Zhangchun Bridge from the shrine. The Eternal Spring Shrine serves as a visual appetizer for the more spectacular views of Taroko Gorge that await you.

3. Jiuqudong (Tunnel of Nine Turns)

To me, the Tunnel of Nine Turns or Jiuqudong is an architectural gem, an engineering marvel, and one of the best attractions in Taroko Gorge.

A structure like this tunnel will surely amaze those who understand basic engineering or physics. I find it hard to imagine how they calculated everything to ensure the tunnel wouldn’t collapse, even in the event of seismic tremors. Anyway, enough with the technical nerdiness!

The Tunnel of Nine Turns, which is over 700 meters long, offers some of the most fantastic sights from the gorge. The epic rock formations, the cascading Liwu River with its Gatorade-blue water, and the mesmerizing unconformities evident in the rock walls will surely leave you in awe.

These sights from the Tunnel of Nine Turns showcase the spectacular creative craftsmanship of nature. You should be able to finish exploring the tunnel at a walking pace in 20 to 30 minutes. However, don’t forget to wear a hard hat while inside the tunnel, as rockfalls can sometimes occur suddenly. You can get a hard hat from the visitor’s center.

The only way to reach this location is by bus, as there is no parking lot for cars near the tunnel. If you’ve rented a car, you may need to park it elsewhere and take a bus instead.

4. Swallow Grotto Trail

Of all the places in Taroko Gorge, Swallow Grotto Trail is my favorite. Here, I saw the most spectacular sights. The narrowest and deepest gorges of the park were truly breathtaking. Swallow Grotto Trail stretches for a kilometer. For me, it was a pretty short walk. However, the view of the gorge was endless and gorgeous.

There are two spots that you must not miss here. The first is the Rock of the Indian Chief. You can see its photo from the first image (left). The second is the hundred potholes at the opposite marble rock wall. You can see this in the following image (right).

Continue reading about Swallow Grotto

Actually, I still couldn’t find where the Indian Chief was in the first photo. My sister captured me perfectly while I was wondering where that rock was. I guess I spent more than five minutes looking for it? I don’t know. But I’m sure I found the Rock of the Indian Chief soon after she took the picture. Well, how about you? Can you see it now too?

The second photo shows our silhouette in front of the hundred potholes. These potholes have become the home of many swallows. This is where they make nests and give birth to their babies. Hence, the name of this trail is Swallow Grotto.

It’s head-scratching to think about how these potholes appeared. I wondered if some giant worms or animals created those holes. It’s both puzzling and marvelous at the same time.

Swallow Grotto Trail

What captivated me so much about the Swallow Grotto Trail was the water’s spectacularly deep and zigzag path between the towering rock walls. It’s an eye-opening view that would make you ask yourself, how was that formed?!

There are also good photo opportunities here for both professionals and Instagram addicts. But before you enter the trail, be sure to put your safety helmet on. Yes, safety must come first.

Lastly, the path on the Swallow Grotto Trail is narrow and used by large vehicles. Please be careful and always maintain a safe distance from the center of the road.

5. Shakadang Trail

Unlike the other parts of the gorge, Shakadang Trail is a section of Taroko Gorge where the water flows slowly and calmly. This was the most relaxing hike I had in Taroko Gorge.

My sister and I completed the four-kilometer trail in three hours, back and forth. Hiking the Shakadang trail is one of the best activities in Taroko Gorge, especially if you’re looking to immerse yourself fully in nature also. If you’re a foodie, Shakadang Trail has a hidden gem to offer.

The hike was indeed time-consuming, but I enjoyed walking among the trees and listening to the sound of the nearby river’s flowing water.

What to expect in Shakadang Trail

In the Philippines, the elderly tend to stay at home, and most would not prefer hiking at all! So, when I saw dozens of senior citizens on Shakadang Trail, I was more than amused! Some of them even had hair that was all gray! I remembered my parents then, even though they weren’t as old as these senior citizens. I wished my parents were with us on the trail.

In Shakadang Trail, when you get tired from strolling, you can find wooden platforms or stations where you can sit and breathe for a while. It’s where I found most of the elderly but strong people. Most platforms offer views of the crystal-clear turquoise water plunge pools made still by the river’s boulders.

Another surprise that I encountered in Shakadang Trail is the Farmer’s Market. It was my salvation! The shops sell delicious sausages and cold refreshing drinks in the middle of the trail. They are helpful, especially if you forgot to bring trail food and bottled water to Shakadang Trail. The food will keep you energized for the upcoming impressive towering sights on the trail.

You must be careful to always look on your path on Shakadang Trail, especially if you are tall. Some parts of the trail have low and overhanging rocks. Surely it will hurt if you bump onto them! You will find a picture-worthy bridge opposite the entrance of Shakadang Trail. You can stay under the bridge for a while to relax and take good photos.

Where to Eat in Taroko National Park

There are only a few places in Taroko Gorge where you can buy food and eat. I suggest you purchase a packed lunch from 7-11 or other food shops in Hualien City before proceeding to the park if you are saving money. This is unless you want to taste the delicacies from the gorge.

As far as I know, there are only four places in the park where you can eat. These are listed below. They are also the shops and restaurants closest to the main attractions along Taroko Gorge that were mentioned previously.

1. Jinheng Park (Swallow Grotto Trail)

Jinheng Park (Swallow Grotto Trail)

Jinheng Park is located in the middle of the Swallow Grotto Trail and is an excellent stop for a short refreshment break. There is a shop in Jinheng Park where you can buy drinks and food when needed.

Like other parts of the Swallow Grotto Trail, Jinheng Park boasts beautiful scenery of towering rock mountains covered with thin vegetation. You can find seats here shaded by the trees. It promises to be a pleasant snack time unless you arrive at the park during peak hours when many tourists flock to rest or eat.

If you need toilets along the Swallow Grotto Trail, Jinheng Park has facilities available.

2. Farmer’s Market (Shakadang Trail)

Farmer's Market Shakadang trail

Shakadang Trail is a destination where you can enjoy two experiences at once. Here, you can engage in forest bathing and savor the best sausages in Taroko Gorge! They also sell Grilled Mochi, which many reviews rate as a must-try dish in the gorge.

If you visit Shakadang Trail during the summer, the Farmer’s Market will quench your thirst with their delicious and refreshing iced coffees and teas! The Farmer’s Market is conveniently located in the middle of the Shakadang Trail, perfectly positioned to assist visitors in completing the 4-kilometer track back and forth.

3. Taroko Village Hotel (Buluowan)

The restaurant at Taroko Village Hotel captivated me with its food and ambiance. Their menu combines Chinese and Western cuisine, along with delicacies from the indigenous Taroko.

The restaurant serves a breakfast buffet from 7 until 10 in the morning, offering both Western and Chinese options. From 12 noon to 2 in the afternoon, they offer lunch dishes with a Taroko flavor. The same is offered in the evening from 6 until 7:40 pm.

Upon entering the restaurant, I noticed wood carvings placed on the shelves. Feeling intrigued, I decided to explore further after we had our lunch. To my delight, I discovered a gallery of the Truku tribesmen at the back of the wall divider near the restroom. Their faces reminded me of the people from Sagada, Philippines. It seemed that these individuals shared the same ancestors as the indigenous people from my country.

By the way, our lunch was excellent. The food satisfied my eyes, mouth, and stomach. I particularly liked the way they served rice in bamboo tubes, which reminded me of how my grandparents cooked rice in my hometown.

After lunch, my sister and I decided to take a walk outside, as a walk after a meal is good for digestion. Just in front of the restaurant, we saw charming wood carvings and statues that revealed more about the culture in Taroko. There were also beautiful plum trees just across the entrance, providing a lovely area for visitors to stroll around after eating.

4. Taroko Visitor Center

Taroko National Park Visitor Center

Almost all tourists visit Taroko Visitor Center before going elsewhere in the park.

It is where you get a brief overview of Taroko Gorge. The Visitor Center is an excellent place where you can plan your day in the Taroko National Park.

You can get almost anything you need here, like brochures, safety helmets, toilets, recent announcements, souvenirs, and food. There are a few restaurants near the Visitor Center. But, I’m telling you they are expensive and not worth the price. I just included Visitor Center on this list if you need more options.

4. Dongdamen Night Market

While it’s not technically inside Taroko National Park, I believe Dongdamen Night Market is worth mentioning. It could be the perfect place to enjoy affordable meals after expending all your energy in Taroko Gorge.

Dongdamen Night Market is a spacious venue filled with shops selling items and food from mainland China, Thailand, Japan, and even America! Under normal travel circumstances, Dongdamen Night Market houses more than 400 vendors, offering a variety of food and goods in one spot.

What makes a visit to Dongdamen Night Market exciting are the festive activities in the area. There are band performances and a multitude of amusing games to play. The atmosphere of the night market is simply incredible. I’m sure you’ll enjoy eating here.

Speaking of food, you can find traditional Taiwanese steaks, fried tofu, grilled pork, and refreshing fruit juices at Dongdamen Night Market. You must not miss the Taiwanese bubble milk tea! My sister loved it so much, and I bet you’ll love it too.

Taroko Gorge Map Details and Itinerary: Travel by Bus

Details about the map and itinerary (please read)

For your convenience, I have created a map that shows the locations of the places I mentioned above. This map includes service stations where you can borrow safety helmets and inquire about Taroko Gorge. There are 15 places pinpointed on the map. You can access the map legend from the upper left corner of the widget.

While you can use this map, you can also obtain brochures and guide booklets from the visitor center if you prefer a more traditional journey. There are several ways to travel from one destination to another in Taroko Gorge. However, if you plan to use the bus as your primary mode of transportation, I suggest you follow the itinerary I have provided below.

Please note that if you rely solely on the bus, particularly the Taroko Tourist Shuttle Bus, as your means of transportation, it will be challenging and rushed to visit every place I mentioned on the map in one day. You will need to make compromises. It would be better if you join a tour guide to have everything planned for you.

I prefer the Taroko Tourists Shuttle Bus (#1133) over the Taroko Bus 302 because the Shuttle Buses stop directly at the main attractions of the gorge that I previously mentioned. The timetable of the Taroko Tourists Shuttle Bus company forms the basis of the itineraries I have created below. You can see all bus schedules in the “How to Go to Taroko National Park” section of this blog post.

Important notes for your trip (please read)
  • Do not forget to return the helmets you borrowed to Visitor Center. 
  • Taroko Gate is a 10-minute walk from the Visitor Center. You can proceed immediately to the gate soon after returning your helmets to the Visitor Center.
  • The buses following Outbound Route are coming from Hualien and going to Tianxiang.
  • The buses following Inbound Route are returning from Tianxiang to Hualien.
  • You can always change the itinerary depending on your taste. I provided the bus timetable under the How to Go to Taroko National Park section.

Taroko Gorge Itinerary A

With this itinerary, you will have the opportunity to taste the mouth-watering food served by the Taroko Village Hotel Restaurant. However, this schedule does not include a visit to the Tunnel of Nine Turns. Please note that there is no need for a packed lunch.

No Packed Lunch Arrive Depart Route
Hualien Station   7:00 Outbound
Taroko visitor center 7:40 9:10 Outbound
Shakadang Trail 9:11 11:51 Outbound
Buluowan (Taroko Village Hotel) 12:05 14:15 Outbound
Yanzikuo (Swallow Grotto Trail) 14:23 15:12 Outbound
Changchun Shrine 15:22 16:12 Inbound
Visitor Center & Taroko (Gate) 16:20 17:32 Inbound
Hualien Station 18:10   Inbound
Taroko Gorge One Day Itinerary – A

Taroko Gorge Itinerary B

Similar to Itinerary A. However, you’ll miss Changchun Shrine instead of the Tunnel of Nine Turns. No packed lunch is required.

No Packed Lunch Arrive Depart Route
Hualien Station   7:00 Outbound
Taroko visitor center 7:40 9:10 Outbound
Shakadang Trail 9:11 11:51 Outbound
Buluowan (Taroko Village Hotel) 12:05 14:15 Outbound
Yanzikuo (Swallow Grotto Trail) 14:23 15:13 Outbound
Tunnel of Nine Turns 15:16 15:59 Outbound
Visitor Center & Taroko (Gate) 16:20 17:32 Inbound
Hualien Station 18:10   Inbound
Taroko Gorge One Day Itinerary – B

Taroko Gorge Itinerary C

If you choose to follow this itinerary, please note that you must bring a packed lunch as it does not include a meal at the Taroko Village Hotel. This itinerary allows you to visit all the places in Taroko Gorge that I have mentioned. I recommend using this itinerary if you are looking to save money.

With Packed Lunch  Arrive Depart Route
Hualien Station   7:00 Outbound
Taroko visitor center 7:40 9:10 Outbound
Shakadang Trail 9:11 11:51 Outbound
Yanzikuo (Swallow Grotto Trail) 12:13 14:23 Outbound
Tunnel of Nine Turns 14:26 15:09 Inbound
Changchun Shrine 15:22 16:12 Inbound
Visitor Center & Taroko (Gate) 16:20 17:32 Inbound
Hualien Station 18:10    
Taroko Gorge One Day Itinerary – C

How to Go to Taroko National Park

There are several ways to travel to Taroko, each with its own advantages.

You could opt for the most cost-effective method, which is by bus. Alternatively, for convenience, you might prefer a tour or a private car. If you’re looking for the easiest way to get around once you’re there, consider renting a motorbike.

Regardless of your choice, your journey will begin in Hualien City. This is where you can purchase bus tickets and passes, rent motorcycles or cars, or meet up with your tour company.

Bus in Taroko Gorge

There are two bus companies operating in Taroko National Park. You have the option to take either the Taroko Tourist Shuttle Bus (#1132, #1133, #1142) with a Taroko Day Pass or the Taroko Bus #302 with an EasyCard. It’s important to note that these passes are different and cannot be used interchangeably.

The Taroko Day Pass can be purchased from the orange building depicted in the picture below. This building is conveniently located just a minute away from the Hualien Train Station and can be easily spotted as soon as you exit the station. The Taroko Day Pass allows unlimited travel for a day on buses #1132, #1133, and #1142.

Bus Station to Taroko

As for the EasyCard, it can be bought from any 711 store. It functions as a tap-and-go card for the Taroko Bus #302.

Here are the bus schedules:

Motorbikes in Taroko Gorge

If you’re planning to explore Taroko at your own pace and visit the places you want to, renting a motorbike could be a great option. This gives you the freedom to travel without any time constraints.

In Hualien, you’ll find numerous motorbike rental services. These services allow you to rent a motorbike for a day or even longer, depending on your needs.

Private cars in Taroko Gorge

Traveling with your family can be made more convenient and easy with a private car. This allows you to explore Taroko Gorge at your own pace, without any hassle or time constraints.

However, it’s important to note that not all attractions in Taroko Gorge have parking lots, and many of those that do have limited parking spaces.

Especially during peak season, when there’s a high volume of visitors using cars to get around, using a car may not be the best option. It’s recommended to consider other modes of transportation during these times to avoid potential parking issues.

Taroko Gorge Day Tours

Traveling can be a fun, easy, and educational experience when you have guides to assist you. Guides do more than just show you the best spots for taking photos. They also share the history and interesting facts about the places you visit.

If you’re not a fan of making itineraries and prefer to immerse yourself in the wonders of Taroko Gorge, then going on a tour could be your best option. This way, you can enjoy the sights without the stress of planning your trip.

Important Notes and Taroko Gorge FAQs

  • Sometimes you have to walk on a narrow road where buses and scooters pass. Always stay away from the middle of the road as much as possible, especially the blind curves.
  • Always check the weather and seismic advisories before you proceed to Taroko Gorge. Heavy rains and earthquakes pose hazards in the park as they cause debris and rocks to slide off the cliffside.
  • Check if the trail or road you’re going to is open or closed through the Taroko website.
Where can I borrow hard hats in Taroko Gorge?

Hard hats or safety helmets are free to borrow from these stations:

Station Opening Closing Off-days
Xipan Service Station 7:00 am 5:30 pm  
Tianxiang Service Station 9:00 am 4:00 pm 2nd & 4th Monday
Buluowan Service Station 8:30 am 4:30 pm 1st & 3rd Monday
Visitor’s Center 8:30 am 5:00 pm 2nd Monday
Park Headquarters 5:00 pm 7:00 pm  
Where can I leave my baggage in Taroko Gorge?

The Taroko Visitor Center offers a place where you can leave your baggage. However, it’s important to note that this is not a locker service. Therefore, you should keep all your valuables with you.

You have the option to drop off and pick up your baggage on the same day. The service is available between 8:30 am and 5:00 pm.

Is Taroko National Park Headquarters Visitor Center open all year round?

The visitor center is not open every day. Specifically, it is closed on the second Monday of each month, as well as on Chinese New Year’s Eve and other holidays.

However, there is an exception to this rule. If a public holiday falls on a Monday, the visitor center will remain open. In such cases, the closure is moved to the following day, which is Tuesday.

Taroko Gorge Personal Notes

I want to take a moment to express my deep love for my sister. Her support has been invaluable to me in many aspects of my life, including my education, travels, and even my ultimate passion – blogging. I often find myself wondering how I could ever repay her for all the love and care she has shown me.

There was a time during our trip to Taroko Gorge when I became so obsessed with capturing the perfect Instagram shot that I forgot to create unforgettable quality moments with her. I deeply regret this. My hope is that we can travel more in the future. With each trip, I aim to correct that mistake and show her just how much I love her through shared experiences and quality time.

That’s all for now! Thank you for reading my blog. I hope it has been helpful in your exploration of Taroko. But before you go know that:

  • Taroko Gorge is undoubtedly a spectacular destination in Taiwan. However, it’s just one of the many remarkable places you can visit in this country. Another must-see location is Sun Moon Lake. Often referred to as the dreamiest destination in Taiwan, it’s definitely worth checking out.
  • The Philippines, my home country, also boasts its own canyons and gorges. One notable example is located in Cebu. However, visiting these places is more than just a sightseeing experience. It’s an unforgettable adventure that will leave a lasting impression on you. Truly, it’s an experience you’ll remember for the rest of your life.

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Taroko Gorge
Taroko Gorge

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One Comment

  1. It looks an amazing place! If ever I get to Taiwan…. 🙂 🙂 Thanks for your visit!

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