Taiwan, 327 kilometers from Taipei (4.30 hours drive by a car or high-speed train+public bus).
Alishan has everything to get in Alice Wonderland: to feel small against enormous trees, ride an old railway, feel mistery standing on top of the highest mountain in Taiwan looking at the sun coming out of the clouds.
It’s no wonder that it is so popular among tourists that spend many hours and bear transportation discomfort to get here. The place is secluded among forests on the highest peak of 2451 meters above the sea level and is been served by one of the three high mountain railways in the world – Alishan Forest Railway. Once built by Japaneese to convey red cypress for lumber, now it is used to ride tourists. It has 2 lines: the AliShan-ChaoPing-Sacred Tree line and ChuShan line. The last one operates from 4-5am early in the morning (depends on the season), to get tourists to the Jade Mountain where they can catch on the sunrise.
The sunrise is a true Alishan adventure. To see sunrise, you have to get to Alishan station at 4-4.30 am. In high spring season buying tickets for the train can be tough, as the seats go off quickly, so better get your ticket a day before (pre-sell starts from 1-4.30pm). You can buy a no-seat ticket but get ready to be standing for 30mins. On getting to sunrise observation deck, if you feel the area is too crowded (and you still have the time), hike to Ogasawara viewing deck. It’s about 15-mins uphill walk from the station’s exit – you won’t get lost as it the only trail here.
The other spot that makes this place truly unique is sacred giant trees alley. Some of the trees are 1500-2000 years old (!), as high as 28-40 meters and 9-12 meters in circumference. It is a real pleasure walk and see these nature wonders, as well as some of the other well maintained spots such as: Sister Pond, Magnolia Garden, Shouzhen Temple and Alishan Museum.
Alishan on map:
How to get to Alishan by public transport:
Alishan is available from Chiayi city and Sun Moon Lake.
- by train+bus: at 9am on weekdays and 9am, 2pm on Saturdays take the Alishan Mountain Railway from the Chiayi (TRA) station to Fenchihu station (2.45 hours) and then connect to minivan from Fengqihu to Alishan (1 hour).
- by bus from Chiayi HSR station: find Bus Stop 3 at Exit 2 (there are only 3 buses: at 10.10, 11.40 and 13.10) or by bus from Chiayi TRA station: find Bus station next to the railway (there are 7 buses departuring hourly from 6.10am to 12.10pm plus 2 extra at 8.40am and 2.10pm). Tickets can be bought on the bus. See details and prices here.
- by taxi (90-100$ USD at least).
From Sun Moon Lake:
- by bus: find Shuishe Visitor Center. There are only 2 buses: at 8am and 9am.
- The road from Chiayi to Alishan is winding mountainous. Bring a sick bag or take medicine if needed.
- The easiest way to see Alishan is get to ChaoPing station and then take a downhill walk towards the Sacred Tree station (1-2 hours).
- During peak seasons like cherry blossom (15 March to 15 April) and summer the trains can get very crowded. Just take it easy.
- Due to its high elevation, Alishan is considerably cooler than the other regions with 14-24°C in summer and 5-16°C in winter at daytime.
- Tourists have to pay admission fee to get to Alishan (5-6$ USD) but it comes with an insurance. Just fill in the stub and drop it at the box near the Visitor Center. A map of the area can also be found at the back of the insurance stub.
- Alishan is famous of its High Mountain Oolong tea. Due to lots of fogs and cold air the tea grows slower, so better quality and good smooth taste. Get a pack with you (though better prices are at Fenchihu or Ruili village).
Trips to Alishan:
Central Taiwan: Sun Moon Lake, Alishan, Ruili and Kaohsiung in 7 days by Alex (published May, 2015)