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Is Taiwan Safe to Visit After the Earthquake? Yes! (Updated April 18, 2024)

As most of the world now knows, just before 8 o’clock in the morning of April 3, the entire island of Taiwan was shaken by a powerful earthquake. The magnitude of the temblor was estimated at 7.2 by Taiwan’s Central Weather Administration and at 7.4 by the US Geological Survey, making it the strongest quake to have hit Taiwan since the catastrophe of 1999.

As of this update (April 18), seventeen people are known to have died, with two unlucky individuals still unaccounted for. Compared to some previous seismic calamities, the death toll has been mercifully low and few buildings have collapsed outright, outcomes which many media outlets, including the New York Times, attribute to Taiwan’s strict construction code and high level of disaster preparedness. That said, the northeast — the small city of Hualien and nearby Taroko Gorge in particular — really took a beating.

Taroko National Park and its world-famous gorge

As a result of earthquake damage and the risk of further rockfalls, every hiking path and service point within Taroko National Park has been closed to the public. No schedule for reopening has been announced; it’ll be some months at least before the authorities are able to make any predictions. Some say it could be three to five years before normal tourism can be resumed. Attractions like the Shakadang Trail and Changchun Shrine (aka Eternal Spring Shrine) will surely be off-limits to the public for a long time. 

Highway 8 (the Central Cross-Island Highway), the scenic road that connects Taichung in the west with Hualien in the east via Taroko Gorge, is partly closed. The Wushe section of Highway 14A, which climbs to an altitude of 3,275 m (10,745 ft) near Hehuanshan, is open as far as Dayuling. Private vehicles are currently able to go beyond Dayuling as far as Xibao (the indigenous community also known as Sipaw) but then have to go back the way they came. Official websites are warning of roadworks and timed closures, with traffic typically only allowed to proceed for one hour in the morning and another hour in the afternoon. Before setting out, it’s important to get the latest news from the websites of Taroko National Park and the Highways Bureau (both sites offer bilingual information). And it goes without saying that drivers should take a great deal of care when behind the wheel.  

Sunrise at Alishan, TaiwanThe Suhua Highway connecting Yilan County with Hualian suffered considerable damage including the collapse of a bridge. That span has already been rebuilt and traffic is once again flowing on this scenic coast route. Notwithstanding that rapid-repair achievement, because stabilisation and reinforcement work along the highway is certain to cause disruption for some time to come, tourists travelling between Taipei and Hualien may prefer to take the train. Rail services throughout Taiwan, both high-speed and conventional, are now back to normal.

Alternatives a-plenty

Now that Taroko Gorge is off-limits to sightseers, is Taiwan still worth visiting? Absolutely! Urban destinations like Taipei and Tainan were essentially unaffacted by the earthquake and most mountain areas are perfectly safe to enter. If you’re planning to come to Taiwan but have to strike Taroko Gorge from your itinerary, we suggest exploring the East Rift Valley or Alishan in greater depth. Or perhaps you can venture to Pingtung County’s Sandimen and Wutai indigenous townships, where Austronesian culture thrives and the scenery is excellent. Reach out to us today to (re)plan the Taiwan private guided tour of a lifetime!