Taroko Gorge Hualine

Hualien and The Amazing Taroko National Park

My first week in Taiwan was pretty rushed. I moved from one city to another every two nights, which was quite exhausting, especially after hiking Snow Mountain. I needed to slow down a bit.

I had planned in advance to do some volunteering in Taiwan and found a place in Hualien.

So, for the next week, I was staying in Hualien. Located on the east coast of Taiwan, Hualien is home to the country’s most scenic natural landscapes, including the mighty Taroko Gorge.

I definitely wanted to check it out, but since I had enough time in Hualien, I wasn’t in a rush.

I arrived by train from Yilan to Hualien and went straight to the hostel where I had signed up for volunteering.

My tasks were simple, like cleaning for three hours in exchange for accommodation. During my free time, I either explored the city or just relaxed.

Hualien is a beautiful, laid-back city, which I didn’t expect at all. I thought it would be busy with tourists roaming around before heading to Taroko Gorge, but it was quite the opposite.

The city is surrounded by mountain ranges, and along the coastline, there are several parks and beaches where locals enjoy afternoon strolls.

A river cuts through the middle of the city, and bubble tea shops are almost everywhere! Let me share some points of interest that I visited in Hualien.

Hualien Martyr’s Shrine

The day was beautiful, neither cloudy nor rainy; instead, the sky was perfect. Done with my shift, I fought my laziness to go out and explore the city.

When you know you’ll be staying in a place for a long time, you keep delaying and making excuses to yourself – you can always go the next day, better to stay in bed today.

I got my maps ready, tied my shoelaces, put on my cap, and took a big step outside. I was walking straight, but my eyes were roving in all directions, scanning everything happening around me, as I normally do in a new place.

Then, I saw this eye-catching building; from its appearance, I was pretty sure it was a temple. I walked up the stairs and entered the gate. Inside, there were three similar buildings: I assumed a left wing, a main, and a right wing.

It resembled a Korean temple more than a Chinese one. The doors were closed, which was unusual, and it was very quiet. I thought maybe it’s only open on special occasions, so I left.

On my second visit, with some friends from the hostel, one suggested, “Try to have a peek inside.” I did, but in less than a second, I got goosebumps all over my body. I saw many memorial tablets inside.

It turned out to be a memorial place for soldiers who had died after the civil war, not a temple. “Now you know why it’s so quiet and peaceful,” my friend added.

Martyrs Shrine things to do in hualienHualien Martyrs’ Shrine

Pine Garden

Originally, Pine Garden served as an administrative office for the Imperial Japanese Navy. An ash-colored building with symmetrical arches set beautifully in a pine tree garden.

The building is now used for events or exhibitions. I love the vintage look of the souvenir shops with roots crawling on the walls. The area wasn’t very large, so it didn’t take me long to look around. From this higher ground, I could see the town and the ocean.

Pine Garden things to do in HualienA corner at Pine Garden

Beibin Park, Nanbin Park, and Dongdamen Night Market

Time flies. The day was almost over, but I managed to speed up and arrived at Beibin Park before sunset. The park was bustling with locals exercising or families just enjoying their time.

Beibin and Nanbin Park are actually along the same coastline; “Bei” means north, and “Nan” means south. It would have been too late for me to walk down to Nanbin Park, so I settled in at Beibin.

The breeze was pleasant on the beach. Although not a spectacular beach, it was enough to make me stay until sunset. The sky glowed pink from afternoon to evening, beautiful.

As the sun went down, the wind grew stronger, so I decided to leave before I caught a cold. What else should I do? Getting food at the night market sounded like a good plan, but I was too tired after walking all day.

I walked back to the hostel and grabbed takeout on my way, which turned out to become my favorite eating place!

The next evening, I visited the night market. The night market was larger and more organized than I had expected.

There was a section for games like shooting balloons, with the rest being food and beverage stalls.

I hopped from one shop to another, overwhelmed by the options, but eventually followed the busiest line to try the famous coffin bread.

I ate it while watching street performers, needing extra patience because it was messy. One thing you shouldn’t miss in Hualien is the scallion pancake—a must!

Qixingtan Beach and Qilaibi Lighthouse

On my day off, I pondered how to spend it and decided Qixingtan Beach looked interesting. In fact, it’s one of the most popular tourist destinations in Hualien.

That day was pretty busy, but nobody entered the water due to the strong tide. Unlike typical white sand beaches, this was a dark pebble beach; nevertheless, the landscape was amazing, which made it special.

I followed the path for a walk along the coast to Qilaibi Lighthouse. It seemed this path wasn’t very popular as I saw no one else walking it, but I did have some companions—the dogs.

At one point, the path was broken, perhaps due to waves or a typhoon. If maintained again, it would make a nice coastal walk.

After an hour’s walk, I finally reached the viewpoint for the lighthouse. If the sky had been clearer, the backdrop of the mountains and ocean could have made a perfect shot.

Qilaibi Lighthouse HualienQilaibi Lighthouse

Exploring Taroko National Park

One of the highlights of my trip to Taiwan is Taroko National Park. Pictures can’t capture how amazing it is; you have to see it for yourself.

My friend and I rented a scooter for NTD 400 and explored the area for the entire day. You can also get a one-day bus pass for NTD 250.

We headed first to Wenshan Hot Spring. This area is actually closed to visitors because it is unsafe due to unstable rocks; however, my friend and I still went to Wenshan Hot Spring, and we didn’t regret it at all.

The hot spring sits next to a river, which is surrounded by amazing white walls, resembling a canyon. A stream of water flows out from a gap in the wall and into the pool.

It was too boiling hot for me; I couldn’t stand the blistering pain from the heat. Right by the river, there’s also an area where, once you dip in, it’s actually pretty hot but still bearable.

It’s just like a puddle, an inch away from the river, so you get both cold and hot at the same time, which is very fascinating.

Wenshan Hotspring Taroko GorgeRiver next to Wenshan Hotspring

Things to do in Hualien Wenshan HotspringThe boiling Wenshan Hotspring

The whole scenery in Taroko National Park left me speechless and in awe. It’s unbelievable that this area used to be flat until the stream cut through the middle and created the canyon.

I really enjoyed riding my scooter on the winding roads. There are many walks to do in Taroko Gorge; unfortunately, some of them are temporarily closed until the trails can be repaired after being damaged by a typhoon.

Some of the famous trails include Shakadang, Changchun, and Baiyang Falls.

Bridge Taroko GorgeOne of many bridges in Taroko Gorge

Xiangde Temple Taroko GorgeXiangde Temple

The Famous Zhuliu Old Trail

Hiking the Zhuliu Old Trail requires a permit. I thought it would be easy to obtain the permit since it’s only a day hike, so I decided to apply two days before the date I wanted to hike.

Apparently, it’s not that easy; some of the dates were fully booked, so I had to choose another date. My first attempt was rejected because my emergency contact was not reachable. They actually made a call.

I was about to move to another city and still hadn’t received my permit, which made me nervous. On my second try, they finally issued me the permit.

Swallow Grotto Taroko GorgeSwallow Grotto

Zhuliu Old Trail TrekkingTrail condition Zhuliu Old Trail

I paid the entrance fee of NTD 200, passed the gate, and crossed the Swallow Grotto. The trail is a 6 km return, not difficult and surrounded by beautiful tangling branches.

After climbing the steps and crossing some bridges, I finally found myself on a narrow path on the cliffside, standing high above. Below, I could see the road and cars. There was no barrier to prevent a fall; a mistake could be fatal.

Definitely not a place for those who suffer from acrophobia. I was thrilled, my heart filled with excitement. The view was just terrific!

There was a sign advising visitors to pass this section quickly and to beware of falling rocks. The path is narrow; even two people passing by each other need to be extra careful.

Overall, I finished the walk safely in 4 hours, including stops for pictures. Thank you, Hualien and Taroko National Park; you’re amazing!


Zhuliu Old Trail Taroko Gorge The famous cliff

Zhuliu Old TrailSlowly passing the trail

Taroko GorgePin it!

Originally posted in 2017; We try to provide the most accurate information; however, conditions and prices might have changed. Do let us know so we can update this article, thanks for contributing to help other travelers as well!


One response to “Hualien and The Amazing Taroko National Park”

  1. Holidays to Nepal Avatar

    Amazing photos with great description, enjoyed it. Thanks.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *