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It’s not often that I visit a new country and return to it just a few weeks later. However, once you’ve had a taste of Taiwan, you’ll soon realise that the depth and breadth of its adventures will always leave you wanting more.

My first experience of Taiwan was a quick city break, where I tracked down some of the best things to do in Taipei and spent a day exploring the coastal city of Kaohsuing in South Taiwan. The East Coast of Taiwan

The East Coast of Taiwan is an adventurer’s playground. Its dramatic, geological landscapes are actually the result of the island’s high seismic activity, so you can expect sheer cliffs plunging into the Pacific Ocean, marbles gorges, deep canyons, turquoise rivers, stunning waterfalls and winding roads that wrap themselves around endless mountains.

Here’s all the need-to-know info and a two-day itinerary for Taroko National Park on the East Coast of Taiwan – because that’s where you’ll want to spend all your time.

How to get from Taipei to Taroko National Park

Highway roads through the green mountains of Taiwan

If you want to get to Taroko National Park and experience everything mentioned above, then you need to head to Hualien; it’s a small city on the East Coast. To get from Taipei to Hualien, you have three main modes of transport: you can drive there, catch a train or take an internal flight. We caught the train from Taipei to Hualien and then flew back to save time.

Taroko National Park

When people travel to the city of Hualien, they are usually there for one reason – to get themselves to Taroko.

Taroko National Park is Taiwan’s top tourist destination. Covering 1,200 sq km, the park is 90% mountainous and boasts 27 peaks over 3000m. Also, try to get there mid-week; remember that popular hotspots come with tourists, particularly on the weekends.

For those who want to avoid the crowds:

  • Like a lot of trails and scenic hotspots in Asia, I noticed that while you may see a lot of people at the beginning of trails, they often disappear after the immediate “I was here” photo ops. Essentially, the longer the trail, the less people you’ll meet along the routes, so keep walking.
  • You can expect to see tour buses on the scenic roads, but this tends to be in the afternoon, so get to your must-visit hotspots as early as possible
  • When the sun starts to go down, the roads and scenic spots are deserted, so dusk is also a great time to soak up the serenity of the mountains.

Qingshui Cliffs

The Qingshui Cliffs are just one feature of Nature’s jaw-dropping creative canvas. From Hualien, we drove along Highway 9 to get to two spectacular viewing points of the clear-water (Qingshui) cliffs.

. You’ll easy spend a couple of hours just taking in your surroundings around the Qingshui cliffs.

Eat among the tribes

Did you know that Taiwan has 14 recognised indigenous tribes? Neither did I until I got to the East Coast where a high concentration of indigenous people live. So, lunch on both days in Taroko was tribal-style cuisine, and it didn’t disappoint.

After visiting Qingshui cliffs, we drove to our first, incredibly scenic spot for lunch.

.) Tables and benches at Dajeeli are made from driftwood slabs and the décor is true to its indigenous roots. You can read the story behind Mother Gao, but the food speaks for itself and its history. You can expect a cheap banquet-style feast made up of mountain ingredients and served on mountain leaves; you can hit your bamboo-tube rice off the rocks to open it up and scoop it out. And you’ll wash it all down with Oolong tea served in a papaya shell.

Silks Place Hotel in Taroko Gorge

What I loved about Silks Placemore than the incredible rooftop that boasts temperature-controlled jacuzzis, two pools, real fire-pit features and a cosy outdoor lounge – was that it is not one of those invasive five-star hotels that drops itself into a landscape without any consideration for its surroundings. Rather, Silks Place is nestled into the mountain-side and is relatively low-key upon approach. It’s only when you walk around the hotel from inside that you appreciate what it is hiding. When you stand on the rooftop and look around you, you’ll see mountains – everywhere – and in the distance, you’ll catch a glimpse at all the things you plan to do tomorrow, including hiking trails, suspension bridges and hill-top pagodas.

Pudu Bridge & Xiangde Temple

Just a stone-throw away from Silks Place, you’ll discover Pudu Bridge, which leads you the stairways that will take you to a hill-top Pagoda, known as the Xiandge Temple. From the temple, you can take in the views of the Tiangtiang village. It’s an ideal way to start your day because you’ll generally find that no one else will be there, so you can enjoy a peaceful morning under the colourful, and musical, pagoda.

Taroko National Park Hiking Trails

The mountain tunnels along the Central Cross-Island Highway along the East Coast ofTaiwan

Visiting Taroko National Park and taking on its trails is totally free, so you just need to think about your transport, food and accommodation. There are three main types of trails within Taroko National Park: scenic trails, hiking trails and mountaineering trails. With some much more gruelling than others, you can choose a trail that works for your fitness and endurance level.  Here’s the easily-accessible trails that we covered, which can all be done relatively quickly.

Baiyang Trail

  • Wooden suspension bridge along the Biayang Trail on the East Coast of Taiwan
  • The Baiyang Trail with a green suspension bridge and blue waterfalls in the mountains of Taroko National Park

The Baiyang Trail is also known as the Baiyang Waterfall trail, and it’s probably the most fun because it brings you through six tunnels, across a suspension bridge and delivers a Water Curtain Cave as well as waterfalls at the end of it.

Need-to-know: this is a short 2.1km trail that anyone could do. All you’ll need is a torch, a rain poncho and a couple of hours to enjoy it all.

Eternal Spring Shrine Trail

The Eternal Spring Shine in the green mountains of Taroko National Park, Taiwan.

The Etertnal Spring Shrine trail, also known as the Changchun trail, is a quick stop-off that takes you to a monastery that juts out from the bottom of a mountain. It was built to commemorate 226 military veterans who died during the construction of the Central Cross-Island Highway between 1956-1960. Once you’ve seen the engineering feat that is the highway, you’ll likely wonder how there weren’t more fatalities during its construction. It is an incredible road.

Need-to-know: The Eternal Spring Shrine trail is more of a famous pit stop for pictures, which draws the tour buses. The trail is super short but it was closed the day we were there due to damage to the passageway.

Tunnel of Nine Turns Trail

The Tunnel of Nine Turns, also known as the Jiuqudong trail, is just 700m in length and, yes, you guessed it – this trail brings you through nine turns. What is interesting is that this trail used to be a part of the Central Cross-Island Highway, but it has now been pedestrianised. The marble gorges and the Liwu River that runs through it make it incredibly scenic; there’s also an ascending air current at the end of it, so it suddenly gets very windy.

Need-to-know: this is a quick roundtrip that will only take you about 30 minutes; you can read a little bit more about the history and the viewpoint at each of the nine turns here.

Shakadang Trail

  • The mountains and blue rivers on the Shakadang trail in Taroko National Park

However, don’t let that put you off; it’s totally fine. The Shakadang trail winds through canyons and opens up into a rock-strewn river.

Need-to-know: the Shakadang trail is a flat 4.4km trail. Give yourself 3-4 hours for this one, but you could spend a leisurely half-day there if you wanted to chill.

Swallow Grotto Trail

As such, there are now two tunnels that run through Swallow Grotto.

Need-to-know: it is highly recommended to wear your helmet for this one. Free hard hats are provided upon entry to Taroko Gorge.

The East Coast of the island is just another reason why it’s time for Taiwan to feature on your travel bucket list. The next time I visit, I’ll probably take on the Central Cross-Island Highway (Highway 8), the most picturesque route in Taiwan!

Sponsored: This trip was in collaboration with the Taiwan Tourism Board; however, all opinions are my own – as always. Explore #TimeForTaiwan and #HeartofAsia to see more of what the island has to offer on Instagram. Alternatively, you can explore more of my top things to do in Taiwan!

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Taroko National Park – A Two Day Itinerary | East Coast Taiwan