Half-a-day at Wulai Waterfalls: Gondola, History, Culture and Nature

Wulai (烏來) is home to one of the many aboriginal tribes in Taiwan - the Atayal, who were known for their traditional facial tattoos depicting their coming of age and skills (e.g. weaving skills for the women and hunting skills for the men). Nowadays, due to the changing norms of society and modernization, many younger Atayal have moved to the cities and don’t maintain the custom of facial tattoos.

Besides being a popular hotspot for soaking in the hot springs, there are other attractions that are interesting as well: you can take a leisurely hike amidst the green foliage of the mountains and beautiful scenery that surrounds, take a tram, visit the Atayal Museum, and take a cable car up the mountain to see the gushing waterfalls.

And so that is what we did – visit the waterfalls – when we first arrived in Wulai early in the morning (it was too early to check-in). We had wanted to take the tram up and take a leisurely walk up the stairs to the cable car that would bring us to the waterfalls, but unfortunately we took a wrong turn as we were distracted by the 7-11 outlet on the left hand side of Volando Urai Spring Spa & Resort.

Due to momentary loss in orientation, we decided to take a taxi to the cable car (gondola) station to the waterfalls. The short taxi ride took about 15 minutes or so and cost NT$200. All rides within Wulai are a flat rate of NT$200 (about S$8), for shorter distances it is NT$150 (about S$6) Taking a taxi is a good alternative if you want to spare your aching feet from all that walking/hiking or if you simply feel lazy. Of course if you want to save (that bit of) money, taking the bus or walking would be better options. If we were to have walked, instead of taking a taxi, it would have taken us about 45 minutes to an hour to make our way to the cable car station!

Wulai Waterfalls and Gondola
The carpark and prelude to the waterfalls

It was a slow morning when we arrived at the cable car station. There were not too many visitors yet as the station had just opened for operation.

Wulai Waterfalls and Gondola
The ticketing area
Wulai Waterfalls and Gondola
An old-school looking wash area with steps that lead to somewhere
Wulai Waterfalls and Gondola
Try making your own origami bat before boarding the cable car!
Wulai Waterfalls and Gondola Opening Hours
Cable car operation hours are from 830am to 10pm. The price of a ticket is NT$220 (about S$9) per adult and it
includes admission into the park (where the waterfalls are located) and access to the hotel. Children, the elderly
and those with special needs get discounts.

With tickets in hand, we boarded the cable car (which could accommodate about 10-13 people or so seated down) and begin our journey up. There was a guide that was explaining the history of the place as well as some information. The total length of the cable car is 320 meters with a 165 meters difference between the highest and the lowest point. There are only two stations, the station at the bottom and the one at the top, and only two cable cars to ferry visitors up and down with an interval of every 15 minutes or so. 

Wulai Waterfalls and Gonolda Interior
The 2 cable cars and the interior
Wulai Waterfalls and Gondola
The view going up and coming down in the cable car
When we finally arrived at our destination, we alighted and proceeded to climb the massive flight of stairs upwards to the park and beyond. The park is a massive place and ascends upwards with each level containing different attractions.

Wulai Waterfalls and Gondola
The station at the top with a food kiosk selling snacks like ice-cream (NT$60), drinks, popcorn and hotdogs etc...
Wulai Waterfalls and Gondola
Binoculars to enhance your viewing
Wulai Waterfalls and Gondola
For just NT$30 you can mail a memento of your trip, or you could just bring along a book/paper to stamp for memory's sake
Wulai Waterfalls and Gondola
Climb up these flight of stairs to begin the adventure!
Wulai Waterfalls and Gondola
The first flight of stairs would bring you to the Yun Hsien Park & Resort
Wulai Waterfalls and Gondola
A somewhat dismal souvenir/photo taking shop/area
Wulai Waterfalls and Gondola
The sight that awaits you step after step
Wulai Waterfalls and Gondola
Gushing waterfalls and nature under the cool spring's breeze
Wulai Waterfalls and Gondola
The cable car (top) station from above

If you are hungry or looking for a rest stop, there is a restaurant further up where the more interesting attractions such as the adventure park and the village are located.

Wulai Waterfalls and Gondola
The restaurant, a place for you to rest your tired feet, have a snack or meal and just relax.
Wulai Waterfalls and Gondola
The restaurant's mascot
Wulai Waterfalls
Explore the area: there's a playground, adventure park, villa, village etc...
Wulai Waterfalls
A lake, pavilion and a couple of boats that you can row on your own.

As mentioned previously, it was a quiet morning with most of the attractions, such as the village not yet active with activities. Due to the long walk up (the steep slope of steps) and the fact that we were not prepared for the long walk (as we had just touched down), we gave up making it to the top. But it was worth the trip to explore the place. Check out my video below on some of the sights and the sounds!

On our way back down (to the cable car station), we made a stop at (another) souvenir shop and exchanged the tickets for souvenirs. In exchange for the tickets, we were given one bead of pearl each. They were having a promotion and with every two beads you could get 50% off any of their selected earring which prices ranged from NT$600-1,200. As soon as DramaQueen heard that, her eyes sparkled as she targeted a pair of earrings and paid NT$300 (original price NT$600) for a pair. When the cashier realized we were tourists, she let us DramaQueen keep the pearls as souvenirs. It was a nice gesture from the souvenir shop.

Wulai Waterfalls
Souvenirs and a discount off earrings!

Before exiting out to the station, there is a mini exhibition hall and souvenir shop selling handicrafts and toys etc...

Wulai Waterfalls
Mini exhibition

Verdict: It might be located in the heart of nature and exudes off a rustic retro vibe, but it could certainly do with a ‘facelift’ and some maintenance works. While the waterfalls were interesting and the walk up (halfway) a good hike, most of the attractions look worn and some looked a little dismal. For instance, the ghoulish rollercoaster ride (decorated with monsters of old) that greets you as you make your way up looks unsafe (not that I would ride it even if it was safe, it's just not my thing lol). That said, past the exterior (which could be much better maintained), it was an experience worth the trip. Half a day for this place should be sufficient, maybe slightly more if you intend to thoroughly explore the place with its Adventure Park and animal zoo etc…

Wulai Waterfalls and Gondola

Recommended: Those who are adventurous, love hiking and nature, and or/ want to get up close with the waterfalls and nature. It is a good experience with its rustic retro vibe.

Not recommended: For those expecting pristine conditions and/or those who aren’t keen on creepy crawlies (which are a part of nature), you might want to avoid this place as you might bump into the occasional spider web, caterpillar etc...

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When travel collides with a byte, a unit of information made up of bits, TravelBytez is formed: snippets of ramblings on travel, food, shopping, living and anything else that comes to mind.
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