|A day at Taroko Gorge (太魯閣峽谷), Taroko National Park (太魯閣國家公園).|
After Luodong, the next stop on our Taiwan itinerary is Hualien. One of the major attractions here is, of course, Taroko Gorge at Taroko National Park. We made this a priority, and after a good night's sleep in Hualien city, we got up nice and early, and scooted over to Taroko first thing in the morning!
There are quite a few options for exploring Taroko Gorge. You can go with a tour, you can get a driver to chauffeur you around for the day, you can take a hop-on hop-off shuttle bus. Or you can procure your own transport, which is what we did! We hired a scooter and away we went...
It took us less than an hour to get to Taroko National Park, and entry is free, which is awesome. We kicked things off with the Shakadang trail - an easy choice, as it's very close to the park entrance. It was a pleasant trail, and the rocky overhangs were cool, though also a little bit worrying, given that the park also warns about falling rocks. It is not uncommon to see people wearing safety helmets when they explore the gorge!
|I think this is the Shakadang trail (砂卡礑步道). Check out those overhanging rock formations!|
I can't remember which section of the park it was where I took this picture. But the mountain views here sure are pretty.
|Bright green and misty mountains.|
And minutes after I captured that photo, I found another opportunity to put my camera to work when I spied this cute little skink! It's a baby five-striped blue-tailed skink (otherwise known as an elegant five-lined skink). Apparently they're adorable and striking as younglings, then sort of go drab as they grow into adults. I wish I could say we saw heaps more wildlife at Taroko, but that didn't happen... I suppose we just didn't venture deep enough into the park to see them. I'm glad to have met this cutie, at least.
|A baby five-striped blue-tailed skink, also known as an elegant five-lined skink (麗紋石龍子).|
A bit further along, we were treated to the clean aquamarine waters of Liwu River rushing through a deep and narrow section of the gorge. This is the Swallow Grotto trail, named as such due to the abundance of swallows nesting in the marble cliff faces.
|Gorgeous blue Liwu River (立霧溪) at Taroko Gorge. I think this is from the Swallow Grotto Trail (燕子口步道).|
After that we stopped at Tianxiang Village for food. Shockingly, I do not have any pictures of our lunch on my camera. I guess it probably wasn't anything special.
We continued on with our sightseeing... here's the gateway to Xiangde Temple and Tianfeng Pagoda. We were getting a bit short on time, so we didn't do the Xiangde Temple trail, and only admired these structures from afar.
|Xiangde Temple (祥德寺) and Tianfeng Pagoda (天峰塔).|
At this point we turned back towards where we started, picking up more trails as we went along.
|A green and leafy trail.|
If I recall correctly, this is part of the scenic Lushui trail.
|A lovely walk through the forest.|
I really enjoyed the trek - it's a gentle walk that includes both forest and cliff terrain, very rewarding for not too much effort!
|Lushui trail (綠水步道) at Taroko Gorge.|
There are some good views of the river here, and I believe we also saw the rare Taroko oak tree (quercus tarokoensis), which is endemic to Taiwan.
|Views of Liwu River (立霧溪). I think that's a Taroko oak tree (太魯閣櫟) at the forefront of the picture.|
I can't remember if this was part of a trail or just a spot we stopped temporarily on our way back, but look at how gorgeous it is! Or should I say, gorge-ous? Haha.
|Gorge-ous views at Taroko Gorge.|
Ditto these magnificent mountain views.
|Beautiful mysterious misty mountains.|
As daylight dwindled, we were almost back to where we started, near the park entrance, but of course, we had one more important stop: the Changchun Shrine, also known as the Eternal Spring Shrine. The trifecta of shrine, mountain and waterfall makes for a charmingly photogenic location, definitely one that attracts hordes of tourists. You can easily admire this view and take pictures from afar, but there is also the Changchun Trail if you would like a more up close and personal experience.
|The Eternal Spring Shrine or Changchun Shrine (長春祠) at Taroko Gorge.|
And we also noticed this - a mountain temple? - perched at a higher elevation. Intriguing!
|Another memorial or temple high up on the mountain in Taroko Gorge.|
We ended up spending a full day at Taroko Gorge - we were there for about 8 hours in total, from morning till sunset, and it was a day well spent. If you have time to spare and you're strongly into nature and hiking, you might even consider allocating two days here - the Taroko National Park is actually seriously huge (look it up on the map!), and what I've covered in this post is but a tiny percentage of what it has to offer. So, go forth and be intrepid... and tell me all about it!
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