Taiwan’s Taroko National Park
May 30, 2017
We visited Taroko in mid-April, 2017; a two day stop during our week and a half in Taiwan. Taroko is a stunningly beautiful place with deep gorges and steep jungle-covered mountains, but despite the ruggedness it is surprisingly accessible. Public busses shuttle visitors into the park and directly to most of the trail heads, and the hiking trails available to day hikers are wide and mostly flat. Backcountry hiking/camping and some of the suspension bridges require extra permits, so check well in advance if you want to do anything more off the beaten path.
The train from Taipei to Xincheng (Taroko) is quick and cheap. We purchased our tickets online a couple of days before (this is highly recommended due to the popularity of the park and the number of people visiting the east coast from Taipei) and picked them up at the Taipei station before catching our train. The express trains take about two hours and cost $400NT, whereas the local trains take about three hours and cost $300NT.
We stayed at the Liiko Hotel in Xincheng, which was a convenient 10 minute walk to/from the train station and a very reasonable $100 USD per night. Rooms were clean, quiet, and palatial in size compared to our Taipei digs. The breakfast buffet was surprisingly good and was included with our room. Shuttle busses leave from Xincheng Station regularly throughout the day going into the park.
Pick up refillable pre-paid EasyCards from 7-11 (each person in your group needs one). This allows you to use any of the public busses in the park without needing exact change or being limited to riding one bus line on an all-day pass. The cards can also be used for most other public transit, including the Taipei subway. They can also be used for buying snacks at 7-11, so don’t worry about having too much on your card and not being able to use it.
There is a schedule for the busses, but it’s much more of a rough guideline to when they might be expected and it takes a lot of processing power to make sense of how the two bus lines manage their schedules. Road conditions, ongoing construction, and traffic jams along the one road in the park can wreak havoc on the busses, so a little patience and building in lots of extra time into your schedule go a long way.
Taroko’s Keys to Success:
- Book your train tickets to Xincheng in advance
- Get EasyCards from 7-11 and use them for bus fare in the park
- Check with the rangers to confirm which trails are open and which require permits
- Spend a few minutes to make sense of the printed and posted bus schedules and use them to plan your day(s) accordingly
- The last bus out of the park departs around 4pm, so don’t miss it and get stuck with an expensive taxi ride out!
- Busses typically only stop at Buluowan on the way up into the park; not on the way back down, so plan to do that earlier in the day.