Taroko Gorge National Park
I can quite see why this is regarded as one
of Taiwan’s most spectacular sights,
Taroko Gorge reaches a height of 10,800 feet
with spectacular mountains, high waterfalls and
varied marble canyons. Cliffs and canyons stretch along the Li Wu
River which is cluttered with massive rocks
the size of chalets. Taroko became a national park in 1986 that
covers 92,000 hectares with mountain peaks
rising across Hualien County, Nantou County,
and Taichung County. It is the second largest
national park in Taiwan.
Four million years ago, the island of Taiwan
was formed by the collision of plates. After
millions of years of wind erosion, the marble
rocks were exposed and cut by the Li Wu River,
creating impressive grand canyons. From Tsing
Shui to Nan Hu Peak, the drop height is 3,742
meters. The special geography has bred special
flora and fauna in this area with swallows
nests on the cliffs.
Shakadang Trail - situated close to the visitor centre at the
entrance of the gorge.
Known in the past as the Mysterious Valley,
the gentle trail follows the Shakadang River
towards the 3D Cabin (9km round trip). There’s
no need to do the whole route and 30 minutes
of walking is more than enough to see the
gorgeous colours of the river. Whilst
swimming here is technically prohibited,
it’s rare not to see people cooling
off in the water during the summer months.
The Eternal Spring Shrine was built to honor those who died during
the construction of the Central Cross- Island
Highway. There is a hidden gem of a Changchun
trail that goes up the mountain behind the
Shrine. Crossing the Changchun Bridge, one
soon reaches the middle shrine and the trail
starts across a suspension bridge over the
ravine. The gurgling sound of water rushing
over the cliff edge matched with the cool
shade offered by the shrine has a most relaxing
effect.The trail is a little challenging,
especially in the rain!
Swallow Grotto This part of Taroko Gorge is composed of
a massively high marble cliff face covered
with small holes; the result of long-term
erosion by river and ground water. House
swifts and Pacific swallows often forage
and nest here, giving the place its name.
No longer open to traffic, pedestrians have
to wear hard hats (provided free) and can
only walk a few hundred metres along the
Tunnel of Nine Turns – currently closed
The tortuous course cut by the river has
produced a gorge of many curves, and the
path of the highway that has been carved
out of the cliff face here seems to be an
endless aerie of turns, hence the name. The
gorge is so narrow that only a very narrow
width is open to the heavens, in what the
Tiawanese call ‘a thread of sky’.
The marble cliff face opposite the highway
varies in colour from deep grey to pure white
in a multitude of changing designs. A walk
through the Tunnel of Nine Turns (30 minutes)
is one of the most scenic parts of the gorge,
and the best place to observe the gorge's
ecology. Sadly it’s closed!
This 2km short, gentle trial (40 min) provides
views over the gorge and roadway below. It
passes through a small, narrow tunnel where
you need a torch (The light from your mobile
phone is usually good enough to get you through).
This is the site of an old Atayal village
at the confluence of the Liwu and Dasha rivers.
Its name commemorates Wen Tian-siang, who
lived in the 13th century and was the last
prime minister of the Song Dynasty. Scenic
spots at Tiansiang include Siangde Temple,
Tianfong Pagoda, a suspension bridge, the
Wen Tian-siang Memorial Garden, the Plum
Garden, and Tiangsiang Church. In winter
each year the Plum Garden blooms forth, forming
a sea of white blossoms stretching from the
highway to Siangde Temple. Shanyue Village
at Bulowan, another old tribal settlement
in the gorge, offers a new and unique type
of accommodation for the area.
Silks Place Hotel, Tianxiang
Overlooking the deeply ravined confluence
of two rivers that become the Liwu River,
it is built on the site of one of Chiang
Kai-shek’s 27 guesthouses. A short
walk across the ravine takes you to the Hidden
Summit Pagoda where you can admire the 10
faces of Bodavista.