Taroko Gorge – natural wonder of Taiwan

September 25, 2013

TAROKO GORGE- Asia’s Seventh Natural Wonder
The suspension bridge swings dramatically to the left across a wide, shallow river. To the right a vivid and ornately decorated red gate marks the entrance to Taroko Gorge National Park – one of the seven natural wonders of Asia.
As soon as you round the first bend into the stunning beauty of “Swallow’s Grotto” you know why.
Covering over 92,000 hectares, the Gorge National Park sweeps from the eastern coast inland about two hours south of Taipei. A dramatic prehistorically glacier has carved a steep marble gorge through Taroko’s towering mountain range, which is one of the highest in Taiwan.
The Gorge
The pull for tourists to the Gorge is the stunning natural scenery. The smooth and rounded marble boulders at the base of the river bed are churned shades of pearl and white made brilliant under the bright midday sun.
Pastel blue fresh mountain water gurgles down the riverbed that shrinks and stretches through the various twists and turns of the Gorge.
Towering above the Gorge is a fertile and incredibly dense, sub-tropical rainforest set on steep mountain inclines that zoom up to disappear in the permanent low-lying cloud.
A single tourist route weaving through the Gorge can be explored either on an organized tour bus, or a privately rented car or scooter. While the bus provides the most stress free option, a privately rented car or scooter provides far superior itinerary control that any nature-lover – and especially photographer – will savor.
There are a number of stop’n’park destinations where visitors can embark on gentle hikes through the vibrant terrain of Taroko and take in waterfalls, suspension bridges and even an Indiana Jones-esque water cave.
Some of the trails require a permit, something that requires a degree of forward planning, and in some instances a guide.
Depending on the depth of your desired adventure, the Gorge can be conquered in one or two days for a drive-through, stop and look tour or longer for more intensive hiking, camping, river tracing and exploration.
The Accommodation
Taroko Gorge is easily reached from the closest city Hualien – itself a hopping town with great food and nightlife. Hualien offers a range of accommodation in town, but it is worth venturing a little south down the coast to a series of remarkable homestays on the edge of the Pacific.
IF-Ocean is a recent and glamorous addition to accommodation around Hualien. The eleven bedroom manner is perched atop a hill and boasts an uninterrupted view of the ocean from the front facing-bedrooms and the ascending mountain from the rear facing mountains. Run by a brother and sister team and their families, the villa has been artfully built with exquisite decorations in all of the private en suite rooms.
With wifi, a fully stocked kitchen at your disposal and retreat-ready rooms, the bed and breakfast is perfect for a wealth of R&R.
IF-Ocean offers its own direct tour itinerary for those looking to capitalize on a quick and easy weekend away from Taipei.
The beach and ocean world park are only a short ride from the homestay and Hualien city is only a short taxi trip away.
The Aborigines
For those with a little bit more time, looking for a truly unique experience, the Taroko Aborigine Leader Village is the only hotel accommodation offered inside Taroko Gorge National Park.
Leader Village is tucked into a high and hidden plateau between mountain peaks in the heart of the Gorge. Established five years ago, the Village boasts a plethora of Taroko Aboriginal culture from the style of the private wooden cabin accommodation to the round-table arrangement of hotel infrastructure.
The central lobby is almost a museum for Taroko Aboriginal culture. From traditional wooden carved animals and hunting scenes to costumes and Taroko hunting and cooking implements.
The Taroko Aborigines were identifiable by their tattooed faces. Taroko women would receive their tattooed checks and lips when they had mastered the art of weaving and boys received their chin and forehead tattoos when they had mastered woodwork.
The staff at the full-service hotel are converse in all things Taroko Aborigine and the dining room is open to non-guests to sample traditional aboriginal foods at lunch or dinner as well.
Wild boar is an important feature in Taroko cuisine. Slow roasted the meat is succulent and smokey – and served in ample portions at the Leader Village.
The hearty dinner set menu is followed by a two hour educational and entertainment performance by aboriginal hotel staff highlight the musical talents and cultural customs of the Taroko people.
Taroko Gorge and the Leader Village are a must for any long-term Taiwan resident.

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