If you only visit one place in all of Taiwan, Taroko Gorge National Park MUST be it! Carved by the Liwu River, Taroko Gorge is one of the most beautiful places we saw while traveling Asia. You’re best to stay in the nearby town, Hualien, which is about 30 minutes journey by car to the entrance of Taroko National Park.
When To Go…
Best time to visit is during the fall (Sept-Nov), as you’ll have cooler weather and less rainfall.
How To Get Around…
Getting to Hualien from Taipei via train is the easiest mode of transport. I read a lot of forums about taking a bus, then a train etc. We wanted the simplest form of travel with the least amount and the train seemed to be perfect. Tickets can be purchased at Taipei Main Station for $15USD (440TWD) each way, or $30 total round trip (880TWD). The journey takes about 2.5 hours via LSR. The train ride is SUPER scenic, as it travels along the coast (gorgeous mountains and beach right next to each other!), so be sure to stay awake and have your camera ready! The train station is situated about 1.5 miles outside of the city center.
Where to stay…
We stayed at Beauty Inn, which was a fantastic hotel!The rooms were modern, clean and spacious. Breakfast, which differed daily, was included as well as free coffee, water and tea 24/7. The staff is especially friendly and helpful and they speak descent English. The only negative is that it is about a mile walk into the city center, but its made better by the free bikes the hotel has for you to use. The hotel is located a ½ mile to the hotel.
Where to eat…
Honestly, we were totally craving American food during our time in Hualien, so we didn’t dab too much in local cuisine. Salt Lick is your typical southern BBQ restaurant that houses its own smoker. If you’re in the mood for beef brisket, pulled pork, hush puppies and other fried comfort foods, than this place is your jam. That being said, Salt Lick is a great restaurant, with good service, beer and food!
Located next door to Salt Lick, this pizza place had great reviews, although we didn’t eat there.
Tungtamen Night Market:
If you’re looking for local street eats in Hualien, then the night market is a MUST! Every local food you could imagine is located here, along with arcade games and souvenirs. It’s HUGE and is open daily from 5pm-Midnight. It’s located near the water by Nanbin Park on the map. Just find Salt Lick and continue to follow the same road (Zhongshan Road) and you’ll run right into it.
Taroko Gorg National Park:
Taroko was the HIGHLIGHT of our trip to Taiwan, and I’d 100% recommend it for anyone coming to Taiwan. The best way to get around Hualien/Taroko to see all its incredible sights is to hire a private driver, unless you’re keen on a public tour (which is usually cheaper). You can arrange these tours through your hotel. We hired a driver prior to arrival that was recommended by a forum online for $80USD (2500TWD). I wouldn’t personally recommend her, but I’d definitely suggest hiring a private driver over a packed, impersonal tour bus.
The 5 hour tour included the following:
Pickup from our hotel
Entrance of Taroko National Park (Shakadang Trail, which we opted out of doing)
Eternal Spring Shrine
Swallow Groto Trail
Tzu Mu Bridge
Holiu Suspension Bridge
Drop off back at hotel
Optional Places for additional cost (which we opted out of):
Cingsheui Cliff-$16USD (500TWD)- add one hour to tour (6 hours total)
Shakadang Trail (3km round trip hiking trail)- $16USD (500TWD)- add one hour to tour (6 hours total)
Taroko tour + Cingshuei Cliff + Shakadang Trail= 7-8 hours total
Photo Credit: https://www.facebook.com/HualienCityFitness
Of course we had to find a gym while here and we were SO pumped to stumble upon City Fitness! Located only 7 minutes walking from our hotel, we were so excited that they had just opened and gave us a free week as a promo!