Taroko Gorge.

Taroko Gorge is spectacular. The crystal-clear waters of the Liwu River plunge from its towering peaks and support a vast array of plant and animal species which thrive in the varied tropical and alpine climates. Lush green rainforest juxtaposes with river stones and boulders smoothed by thousands of years of rain and snow melt.

Taroko National Park lies near Xiulin Township in Hualien County, Taiwan, (or Chinese Taipei? I guess it doesn’t matter, I don’t think the Chinese Communist Party will read this article).

Suspension bridges traverse its deep gorges, and set visitors’ hearts racing, especially when a young man reverts to adolescence and decides to shake the bridge as his girlfriend leaves the safety of dry land, leaving her less than impressed (I wonder if they’re still together). These bridges are often the only way to cross to the other side of some of the more challenging hiking trails.

Trails reward hikers with wonderful views of flowing aquamarine rivers and spectacular high peaks which reach into the clouds and are sometimes blanketed in snow. It’s a rare treat to travel from the humid tropical lowlands to mountains covered in snow in the space of a few hours. In fact, Taiwan may be one of the few places in the world where it is possible to see surf and snow on the same day.

Hikes range from mild short walks to beautiful waterfalls, to challenging multi-day treks across high peaks and precarious paths which plunge into the abyss.

A slow and careful trek through the rainforest reveals myriad plant and animal species which change dramatically in keeping with the changing terrain.

Tunnels bore through the mountains throughout the national park and add some mystery and excitement to any hike. Some of the tunnels are quite long and if you begin your hike without a torch, headlamp or mobile phone, you might find yourself wondering what awaits you in the dark, damp depths of the tunnel.

The gorge is vast, and offers so many sites worth exploration. For that reason, a few days and a vehicle are recommended. A bicycle would suffice for the fit and adventurous, and Taiwan is a very cycle-friendly country. However, the hills are steep and the hiking is spectacular, so exploring the gorge by bicycle may be too arduous for some. A motorised vehicle of some sort would allow for deeper exploration of the various hiking trails, and is advisable for those staying inside the national park, or at one of the accommodation providers near the entrance to the national park.

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