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Alishan (阿里山 or Mt. Ali) is one of Taiwan’s top attractions and its most famous mountain resort. A large part of visitors try to include Alishan on their Taiwan itinerary, but it usually proves to be the most complicated in terms of planning, especially getting there. That’s why I’ve written this huge post and separate guide on how to get to Alishan.
The Alishan National Scenic Area in Chiayi County, Central Taiwan is renowned for its misty forests, sunrises over a sea of clouds, views of Yushan (Taiwan’s tallest mountain), the small gauge Alishan Forest Railway, cherry blossom viewing, and Taiwan’s most sought after tea, called Alishan High Mountain tea.
Best Alishan Tours
As I mentioned above, getting to Alishan can be quite complicated, and it’s one of the most common questions I help travelers with in my Taiwan Travel Planning group. If you want to forget about all the logistics, including figuring out the bus and train times, and stress about missing them, then I recommend the following Alishan tours.
Discover Alishan Tour: A guided day trip from Kaohsiung or Chiayi
Alishan Day tour from Taichung: Visit as a long day trip from Central Taiwan
Sunrise Tour: overnight tour from Chiayi, including staying in Alishan’s best hotel
Alishan, Sun Moon Lake, and Cingjing Farm Tour: A 3-day tour that includes other famous Taiwan places
What Makes Alishan So Special?
Alishan has been Taiwan’s most popular mountain resort by visitor numbers for nearly a century. Along with Sun Moon Lake and Taroko Gorge, it is one of the country’s most famous scenic attractions. Located in Chiayi County and bordering Nantou County, almost exactly in the middle of Taiwan, Alishan is actually a collection of peaks averaging 2500m that overlook the massif of Yushan (Jade Mountain), Taiwan and Northeast Asia’s highest mountain.
The area was original settled by aboriginals. In 1912, the Japanese opened the Alishan Forest Railway to log cypress trees in the area, but eventually logging decreased and tourists flooded in. Riding the small gauge train up from Chiayi (it currently only goes half way to Alishan; see my Alishan transportation guide), and between the various scenic areas of the park, is one of the great joys of visiting Alishan.
Due to its altitude, Alishan is always about 10 degrees cooler than the main cities in Taiwan, making it a great respite from the heat. Its alpine forests feature giant Taiwanese red cypresses, many of which are 2000+ years old.
The forests on Alishan are regularly shrouded in mist, producing mystical scenes reminiscent of classical Chinese paintings, one of the reasons the park is so popular among visiting Chinese and Asian tourists.
Besides the many interesting things to do in Alishan, another big draw is the fact that Alishan High Mountain Oolong Tea, the most famous tea in a country that produces some of the world’s best oolong teas, is grown around Alishan.
However, most tourists pass right through the tea growing area without even realizing it. Most Alishan tea is grown not in Alishan National Scenic Area, but around Shizhuo (Shizhao) village further down the mountain.
Seeing Cherry Blossoms at Alishan
One of the most incredible times to visit Alishan is when the cherry blossoms are blooming. Due to the altitude, this happens very late in the season, usually late March and early April, and marks the end of the cherry blossom season in Taiwan.
If you are hoping to see the cherry blossoms in Alishan at this time, you’ll have to book your hotel far, far in advance, as all the hotels always sell out, or you may just need to visit Alishan as a day trip if you can’t get a room. Even when it’s not cherry blossom season, Alishan doesn’t have many hotels, so it’s always important to book well in advance. Travelers often report that they can’t find any rooms in Alishan. Book you Alishan hotel here!
The best spot to see cherry blossoms at Alishan, where the above photo was taken, is called Cherry Blossom Railway Trail (櫻花鐵道) on GoogleMaps. I’ll explain exactly how to get to it by train or on foot in the below guide.
For more information on visiting Alishan in different seasons, see the “best time to visit Alishan” section at the end of this article. You can also see my Alishan hotel recommendations toward the end of the article.
Suggested Alishan Itinerary
If you don’t have much time, or perhaps you couldn’t get a hotel in Alishan, you might want to visit Alishan as a day trip. It’s surely possible, but you won’t be able to see sunrise, and you’ll want to leave early so you don’t miss the last bus back down the mountain.
If you’re going on a day trip to Alishan, then I also recommend taking the bus the whole way there and back. The bus is faster than the train. Don’t worry, you can still ride the Alishan Forest Railway sections inside the park after you get there.
Alishan Day Trip Schedule
If you go there in a single day, I recommend this schedule:
- Board one of the earliest buses to Alishan. Traveling time is two hours. See bus times here.
- When you arrive at Alishan Transport Station, walk to Alishan Train Station (5 min uphill). You’ll need to pay the Alishan entrance fee on the way. If you’re hungry, eat lunch in the tourist village.
- Ride the train to Chaoping (Zhaoping) station. From there, the famous walking route through the misty forest begins. If you’re in a rush, take the Alishan shuttle bus directly from the bus station. This deal includes bus ticket and Alishan entrance fee. Then you don’t have to walk to the train station.
- From Chaoping station, follow the walking route to Shouzhen Temple and Shenmu (Sacred Tree) Station. You can do more hikes around there if you want.
- Take the train back to Alishan Station.
- Explore the Alishan tourist village if you didn’t before.
- Walk back to Alishan Transport Station and take the bus back to Chiayi (last bus departs 5:10 p.m.)
I will give more information about all the above points further below in this article.
Alishan Two Days Schedule
Two days (one night) is my recommended time for seeing Alishan. It’s actually enough! Try to get there early in the afternoon so you can do a little hiking before the sun goes down, and see the sunset. Wake up super early for the sunrise, then you still have several more hours to hike before checking out. If you’re going to Sun Moon Lake next, there’s only one bus per day, but it conveniently leaves at 1 PM.
- Arrive at Alishan in the early afternoon. If you’re coming from Sun Moon Lake, the bus leaves at 8 AM and arrives and 11 AM. If you’re coming from Chiayi, consider stopping at Fenqihu on the way (see more about that below).
- When you arrive in Alishan, have lunch/check into hotel.
- Do one of the hikes around Alishan (see below), go to sunrise view point (also see below), explore the tourist village, and/or eat dinner.
- Next morning, wake super early and hike (details below) or ride train to see the sunrise.
- Walk from sunrise viewpoint back down to Chaoping station. Do the famous walking train to Shouzhen Temple and Shenmu Station. Ride the train, shuttle bus, or walk back to Alishan tourist village.
- Check out of hotel and take the bus back to Chiayi (stopping in Shizhuo or Fenqihu if you want), or bus to Sun Moon Lake (1 PM).
Alishan Three Days Schedule
If you want to spend longer in the area and see more than just the tourist bits, I recommend spending three days (two nights) in the area. Then you can spend a night in Fenqihu and/or Shizhuo on the way to Alishan, where you can hike through bamboo forests or sleep at an Alishan tea farm.
- On Day 1, ride the Alishan Forest Railway from Chiayi to Fenqihu and check into Fenqihu Hotel or others in town. Go for a hike on one of the trails around town through bamboo forests.
- Alternatively, take a bus from Chiayi to Shizhuo (Shizhao), or take the Alishan Forest Railway from Chiayi to Fenqihu. Then spend the night on one of Shizhuo’s tea farms. The hosts will pick you up from Shizhuo bus stop or Fenqihu Railway Station if you arrange it in advance. Or stay in one of the hotels closer to the highway in Shizhuo, which have good sunset views.
- On Day 2 and 3, follow the “Alishan two day schedule” above.
Again, I’ll further explain all of these places and steps below!
Spend a Night in Chiayi First?
All of these Alishan itineraries require you to start in Chiayi. Chiayi is a very typical Taiwanese city with almost nothing interesting to see or do. However, if you’re coming from somewhere else in Taiwan and arriving late in Chiayi, it may be a good idea to spend one night in Chiayi first so that you can get one of the earliest buses or trains to Alishan the next morning.
Other options include Hotel Discover (see on Booking / Agoda / TripAdvisor), which has great reviews and is super close to the train station and Yongxing Inn (see on Booking / Agoda / TripAdvisor), a basic but very cheap hotel also near the train station, while good hostel options nearby include Petite Hostel (see prices / Agoda / TripAdvisor) and Light Hostel (read reviews / see prices).
If you happen to be in Chiayi, also consider making a trip to the unique mud hot spring nearby in Tainan!
Places to Visit on the Way to Alishan
If you have more time, you can consider stopping for a few hours (or even overnight!) on the way to Alishan. Eryanping, Fenqihu, and Shizhuo are three excellent options. They feature a variety of hikes, tea farms, and scenic views. These spots are very much off-the-beaten track. Little English will be spoken, but if you go the extra mile, these are some of my favorite places in all of Taiwan!
These three places are NOT in Alishan Forest Recreation Area. But because they are on the way to Alishan, and because Alishan tea is grown around them, some people consider them part of the greater Alishan area. You may also find that some of their hotels have ‘Alishan’ in their name.
But don’t be confused and think that these places are in the famous Alishan tourist area.
Option 1: Eryanping Trail
The first notable stop on the way up to Alishan is Eryanping Trail (二延平山步道) and nearby Xiding Lookout platform (隙頂觀景臺). The small network of trails with dramatic views is about one kilometer long and is one of the best sunrise and sunset spots in the greater Alishan area.
The trails pass through tea plantations where you can sometimes tea leaves being picked. It’s gorgeous at anytime of day, but especially at sunrise or sunset, when you can even sometimes see the famous sea of clouds that the Alishan region is famous for (see photo above).
To experience Eryanping for sunrise and/or sunset, you’ll need to spend the night. nearby SunSweet Hotel (see on Booking / Agoda), which is a five minute walk along the highway from Eryanping Trail and right beside Xiding Lookout Platform.
The best stop to get off at for Eryanping Trail is Anding (鞍頂). The best stop for SunSweet Hotel and Xiding Platform is the next one, Lincuo (林厝). The traveling time by bus from Chiayi is 1 hr 10 minutes, and it’s about 10 minutes before Shizhuo.
Option 2: Fenqihu and Bamboo Forest
The tiny mountain village of Fenqihu (奮起湖, sometimes spelled Fenchihu) was for years the terminal station of the Alishan Forest Railway line from Chiayi, since the final section from Fenqihu to Alishan was destroyed in a typhoon in 2009. That means everyone taking the Alishan Forest Railway from Chiayi has to get off in Fenqihu and ride a bus the rest of the way to Alishan.
Starting a few years ago, the train now goes to two more stops after Fenqihu: Duolin and Shizilu. You can continue to those two stations and get the same bus to Alishan. But Fenqihu is still the most interesting place, so I still recommend getting off there.
Besides taking the Alishan Forest Railway from Chiayi to get there, you can also reach Fenqihu by bus. However, only some of the Chiayi to Alishan buses stop in Fenqihu. In order to do so, they have to make a 10-minute from the main highway, from the village of Shizhuo (see next entry).
Even if you aren’t sleeping in Fenqihu, I suggest take a stroll through the village, eating a famous lunchbox, and maybe even going for a short hike around town. To see the bamboo forests around Fenqihu, try the hiking the start of the amazing Fenrui Historic Trail (奮瑞古道), which starts at the edge of town.
I like this relaxed little town so much that I’ve actually made a trip to the area just to stay here with friends after we hiked the equally amazing Ruitai Historic Trail (瑞太古道 ). Please note that this hike is quite remote and difficult to get to, so I don’t recommend it unless you are more familiar with traveling in Taiwan and have extra time for it (you really need a whole day to reach it and hike it, and there are only a few buses per day to the starting point). If you want to try, get in touch with me in my group and I’ll share some info. For the average traveler, I recommend the Fenrui Trail (mentioned above).
Fenqihu is really a cute little town. When you first arrive at the station, you can take a picture beside the Alishan Forest Railway cars usually parked there. There’s also a small train museum (see pic below).
Fenqihu is also one of a handful of places in Taiwan famous for their lunchboxes, inspired by Japanese bento boxes when the Japanese built all these train lines around Taiwan. You will see them being sold from train-shaped stalls as soon as you get off the train, and probably masses of Taiwanese people and tourists sitting around eating them.
We bought our Fenqihu lunchbox from the original famous spot, Fenqihu Hotel (see on Booking / Agoda / TripAdvisor), which also happened to be the hotel where we stayed that night. My favorite part of the hotel was probably the super cute little wooden bathtubs in the hotel bathrooms!
If you’re heading to Alishan next, there’s a deal on Klook that includes a Fenqihu lunchbox, Alishan entrance fee, and Alishan shuttle bus. More on that below!
If you’re like me and don’t eat meat, then you might want to go for this delicious stewed slab of tofu stuffed with delicious things, which I find at one of the food stalls on Fenqihu Old Street.
Option 3: Shizhuo Tea Farms
Everybody knows that Taiwan’s most famous tea, Alishan High Mountain Oolong Tea, comes from the Alishan area. But few people know about Shizhuo (石棹, also spelled Shizhao), a picturesque tea village on highway up to Alishan, or a 10-minute drive south from Fenqihu Train Station, where much of the “Alishan” tea comes from.
This can really cause some confusion, as some travelers even book hotels in Shizhuo that have “Alishan” in their name, without realizing they are actually a whole hour’s drive away from Alishan scenic area!
Still Shizhuo is a stunning area, and staying on a tea farm there was one of my favorite experiences in Taiwan. It is very much off-the-beaten-track, so you’ll find little or no info about it in English online (except in this article!)
Virtually every bus from Chiayi to Alishan passes through Shizhuo on the way. There are a few hotels right along the highway around Shizhuo, like this one and this one. They are convenient because the bus to Alishan passes by them. This makes them good options of all the hotels in Alishan are sold out. You can see the sunrise from their balconies. But they are NOT on tea farms, through the latter one does run a tea farm. From them, you can walk or get a ride to some tea farms.
If you want to actually stay on a tea farm in Shizhuo, well the tea farms are all located on the mountainside above town. You can walk uphill to some of them, but it’s better if you book a stay at one of them, then the hosts/tea farmer will come pick you up from the Shizhuo bus stop (5 minutes away) or even from Fenqihu train station (1o minutes). Also, just so you know, most of these guesthouses and remote and they most likely will speak little or no English.
The mountainside where there farms are located also has a network of hiking trails between the farms, with names like Mist Trail, Sunset Trail, Tea Trail, Cloud Trail, and Sakura Trail. Here’s a map showing the hiking trails, which you can compare with GoogleMaps to get a pretty good idea of where the trails begin.
At least one of these trails can be found here on AllTrails, to give you an idea about walking times (budget about 30 min for Cloud trail, or 1 hour for tea Trail).
Shizhuo is situated so that it is best for viewing sunsets, not sunrises, and you can also experience Alishan’s famous “sea of clouds” phenomenon from higher vantage points in Shizhuo during sunset, but you need as much luck as at Alishan.
Alishan National Scenic Area
What most people refer to as “Alishan” is the collection of tourist facilities, short railway lines, and hiking trails on the northern tip of the national scenic park. This is where the vast majority of visitors experience Alishan, and it is the most famous and popular of Taiwan’s many mountain resorts and forest recreation areas.
Arriving and Getting to Hotels or Hikes
If coming by bus from Chiayi (or trainto Fenqihu + bus to Alishan), you will arrive at the Alishan Transport Station. The bus station is connected to a 7-11 right before the office Alishan National Forest Recreation Area Official Entrance Gate (阿里山國家森林遊樂區入口售票亭 on GoogleMaps).
Arriving at the bus station, consider buying your tickets for leaving. Otherwise, later you will have to walk back to buy them. From the bus station, it is a 5-minute walk uphill to the Alishan Tourist Village and Alishan Train Station.
During this walk, you will pass through the Alishan Entrance Gate. There, you will need to pay the Alishan National Scenic Area entrance fee of NT150 per adult (arriving by public transportation) or NT200 per adult (arriving by car, plus 150 for the car itself).
At the top of the hill, the train station will be on your right. If you turn left and walk down the stairs, you will reach the tourist village and large parking lot. There you’ll find several souvenir shops, teashops, restaurants, the tourist information center (which has excellent English maps available), two convenience stores, and a post office (with the only ATM besides the one in 7-11). One cool thing to point out is that the 7-11 at the top of the tourist village is the highest 7-11 in all of Taiwan!
Almost all of Alishan’s hotels are located on a road behind the tourist village. There’s a set of stairs at the back of the parking lot going down to it. Only two other hotels, Alishan House and Alishan Gou Hotel, are located elsewhere in the park, closer to the hiking trails (more on that below).
If you are visiting as a day trip, you will probably walk from Alishan Transport Station (the bus station) to Alishan Station (the train station) to catch a trail to Chaoping station. From there, you can hike to Shenmu station, and ride the train back to Alishan station. If you’re spending the night, you’ll probably walk to your hotel first to check in (about 10 min to most hotels), then walk to Alishan station for taking the train to Chaoping.
However, if you don’t walk to walk, you can take the new Alishan E-Bus. The bus has three lines, all starting from the bus station and stopping at the train station. From there, one line goes to Chushan (the sunrise viewpoint – there are some hiking trails up there, and note that the bus doesn’t go early for sunrise, only in normal daytime hours), one line goes to Chaoping, and one line goes to Shouzhen Temple, which is near Shenmu station.
The bus is a faster alternative to the train, and then you won’t have to walk from bus to train station. However, the Alishan train is definitely cooler, so I recommend taking the train if you can easily walk there. If you want to ride the shuttle bus, this deal includes the tickets and Alishan Park Entrance Fee (plus optional lunchbox in Fenqihu), but you’ll have to decide which line you want to ride.
The Main Alishan Walking Trail
This is the main tourist walking trail in Alishan National Scenic Area. It features beautiful misty forests and huge trees. Even though it’s the most popular and busiest trail, it’s very beautiful, so I recommend it to all visitors. If you prefer to follow maps, the whole route can be walked on foot (with no trains or buses) by following this AllTrails Map.
A more efficient (and fun)way to do it is by hopping on some Alishan Forest Railway trains. Ride from Alishan station to Chaoping first. Start your hike at Chaoping (Zhaoping) Station and finish at Shenmu (Sacred Tree) Station before riding the train back to Alishan station.
It’s a good idea to get a map from the tourist information center at Alishan Village before setting out, although the trails are quite easy to follow. In total, it will take about 1-3 hours to complete, assuming that you walk in a leisurely way, taking lots of stops for pictures.
Walk (20-30 minutes) or take the small train (10 minutes) from Alishan Station to Zhaoping Station. If you walk, you can veer off the road and walk through a park where cherry blossoms bloom in spring (March-April), or take the train then backtrack from Zhaoping Station to see the park. The spot with cherry blossoms, where you can try to take a classic photo of the red Alishan Train car driving past cherry blossoms, is marked 櫻花鐵道 (cherry blossom train line) and Plum Garden on GoogleMaps.
From Zhaoping Station, follow the path beside the train tracks past Alishan Gou Hotel to the start of the Jiemei (Sister) Ponds Trail (20-30 minutes). As soon as you enter the forest, you’ll find yourself in a fairy tale land of misty forests and ancient, enormous, oddly shaped trees.
This part of Alishan is where you will most likely experience the noisy tour groups that some people complain about, but it thins out as you go along, and there are many options for getting off the main trails (see below).
After passing the two pretty ponds, the trail goes through Magnolia Garden (木蘭園), where you can see a variety of blossoms in spring.
The trail then reaches Shouzhen Temple (阿里山受鎮宮), where there is a collection of food and souvenir stalls. Some great snacks on offer include tea eggs (yummier than the ones at 7-Eleven!), sausages, stewed tofu, steamed yams, and drinks with jelly balls made from saturated seeds of mountain plants.
If you want to call it quits here, you can walk back to the tourist village along the car road (20 min). You can also ride the E-bus back (swipe EasyCard or exact change payment).
From Shouzhen Temple, there are two options to connect to another circuit of trails around Shenmu train station, which has no vehicle access. From the middle of all the food vendors, there’s a staircase leading to a trail called Giant Tree Cluster Trail (巨木群棧道). The loop trail around the train station features several enormous trees, the oldest of which is marked Alishan No.28 Giant Tree on GoogleMaps and is some 2300 years old.
The other option is to cross the “Boat Shaped Bridge” on the main road near Shouzhen Temple to reach the same trails.
On the western side or the circuit, you can access Ciyun Temple (慈雲寺), which is considered one of the best spots for seeing the sunset in Alishan National Scenic Area. Also nearby is the small Alishan Museum (阿里山博物館), housed in an old wooden house.
On the northern side of the circuit is Sacred Tree (Shenmu) station, where you can catch the small train back to Alishan Station, or you can walk back to Shouzhen Temple for the more frequent shuttle bus, or walk along the vehicle road back to Alishan Tourist Village if you’d prefer.
If you’re starting your day by watching the sunrise (see next section), then I recommend hiking from the sunrise viewpoint down to Chaoping Station, then follow the walking route I described above. There are two ways to do it, which I will describe below.
If you see the sunrise around (for example) 7:00 a.m., you could easily hike down to Chaoping station by 8:00 a.m., and then to Shenmu by 9 or 10 a.m., and back to the tourist village by 10:30 or 11 a.m for hotel check out.
Best Places to See the Sunrise in Alishan
The classic viewpoint for the famous Alishan sunrise over a sea of clouds is the Chushan (Zhushan) Sunrise Observation Platform at Chushan Station (Zhushan Station/祝山車站, 2451m), where you can expect a mass of noisy people shivering in the dark for the sunrise.
Please note that it is not guaranteed to see a good sunrise at Chushan, or to see anything at all. I’ve been 4 times in total, and only one was really good. Alishan is famously foggy/misty. Sometimes clouds roll in and cover the viewpoint, you can’t see more than 10 meters in front of you.
On a good day, though, you will be looking over a massive valley that fills with a sea of clouds far below you. Across the valley, you can see a wall of mountains, include Yushan, the tallest in Taiwan and Northeast Asia.
To get there, you can ride the Alishan Forest Railway from Alishan Station to the terminal Zhushan station, with several departures before sunrise every morning (book your ticket online or at the station the day before (1 to 4:30) or on the day of sunrise, 30 min before departure). You can also walk there if you know the way (see more on that below).
Sometimes, when they are doing renovations on Chushan Station, the station is closed, and the train may only travel up to the second last stop, Duigaoyue Station (對高岳火車站). From there, you’ll have to walk about 5 minutes uphill to reach Chushan station and the viewpoint.
However, actually has its own sunrise viewing platform, called Duigaoyue Sunrise Viewing Platform (對高亭), which I actually like better than Chushan. EVERYBODY goes to Chushan, so it is very crowded and noisy. When my friends and I saw the sunrise at Duigaoyue, the view was just as good, but we were the only ones there. I think it used to be the main sunrise viewpoint, because it is quite large and could accommodate hundreds of people.
If you’re hiking or driving up to Chushan, you would pass very close to Duigaoyue on the way. It’s at the point where the railway tracks cross over the road. From there, you would follow the train tracks for a few minutes to the left (north) and you can’t miss it.
There is yet another sunrise viewpoint, if you want to avoid the crowds at Chushan. To find it, go to Chushan first, then walk another 10 minutes past Chushan to Xiaoliyuanshan Lookout (小笠原山觀景台).
How to Hike up to the Sunrise Viewpoint
Hiking from Sunrise Viewpoint to the Main Trails
After seeing the sunrise at Chushan, Xiaoliyuanshan, or Duigaoyue, I recommend walking back down, instead of packing onto the train like everyone else.
The most direct way is to take the Zhushan Sunrise Trail, which I just described above, in reverse. Follow the vehicle road down from Chushan. A few minutes after you pass the trail line over the road, and Duigaoyue, watch for the trail entrance into the forest on the right. The downhill trail will end near Chaoping station, from where you can access the main tourist trail to Shenmu station.
A second option is to physically walk on the train tracks from Duigaoyue all the way down to Chaoping station. As for whether this is technically allowed, I’m not totally sure, but we’ve done it twice and nobody said anything. Just watch for oncoming trains. You’ll hear them, and they don’t go very fast.
If you go this way, you won’t have to walk all the way back to Chaoping Station. Shortly before reaching it, there will be a side path that can put you directly onto the Sister Ponds trail, quite close to the ponds themselves.
Don’t Forget about the Sunset at Alishan!
With all the Alishan sunrise hype, a lot of people don’t realize you can also see gorgeous sunsets from Alishan. One decent spot is from Ciyun Temple near Shenmu station, with views of Datashan, the highest peak in Alishan.
A more convenient option is from the 2nd or 3rd floors of the Alishan Train Station, or from the highway around the entrance gate to Alishan, just 5 minutes’ walk from the tourist village, where I shot the above photo at sunset!
Also see the section earlier in this article on Eryanping, an awesome sunrise and sunset spot located half way between Chiayi and Alishan National Scenic Area. But this spot is more difficult to reach.
Other Hiking Trails in Alishan
It is relatively easy to escape the tourist crowds at Alishan. Besides the main tourist walking trail between Chaoping and Shenmu station, the following Alishan hiking trails are all within the Alishan National Scenic Area and can be accessed on foot from the tourist village.
Duigaoyue Trail (對高岳步道)
Duigaoyue Platform (which I described above as an alternative sunrise viewpoint) sits at the start of a two-hour return hike to Duigao Pavilion (2444m). This relatively easy trail follows the train tracks for some time, offering views similar to what can be seen from the sunrise viewpoints.
Tashan Trail (Mount Daito/塔山步道)
Some very motivated individuals hike up this difficult, 4-hour return trail for sunrise. The platform (2663m) at the end offers epic views of Tashan (Dashan/塔山, the highest peak in the Alishan massif) and Yushan/Jade Mountain (the highest peak in Taiwan).
The trail begins at the Sister Ponds, follows the track train tracks going up, then veers north. There’s an AllTrails entry for the hike here.
Shuishan Trail (水山步道)
This easier 1 to 1.5 hour-return walk follows a railway line that once lead to Dongpu and is no longer used. The trail crosses over a wooden train bridge, and ends at enormous 2700-year-old Shuishan Giant Tree.
You can find the trail by looking for the spot where the old train line splits off from the Alishan to Zhaoping line a little south of Zhaoping. The trail head is marked 水山線步道 on GoogleMaps, and there’s an AllTrail entry for it here.
Pro tip: If you really want to get off-the-beaten-track in the greater Alishan region, try the Alishan Northwest Corridor, a tourist-free region featuring more gorgeous tea farms, bamboo forests, hiking trails, and waterfalls. There are very few buses providing access to the area, so having your own transportation is ideal.
Where to Stay in Alishan
Note that there is literally nothing to do in Alishan at night, besides get a beer from 7-Eleven and go to bed early so you can wake up for sunrise.
Where to Eat in Alishan
Most restaurants are found around the parking lot in the tourist village. Here you can find hot pot and several places serving fairly similar meals. The pick of the bunch seems to be 999 Restaurant (九九九餐廳) on the second floor, and nearly identical Xin Xingguang (新星光餐廳) next door.
Their large soups, mountain greens, noodles, and other local-style dishes are perfect after a long chilly day. I personally loved the cold tofu slices with delicious local wasabi and soy sauce. Fresh Alishan’s wasabi is more flavorful and less sinus-burning than wasabi you might be used to from typical sushi shops.
When to Visit Alishan
As I mentioned above, Alishan is usually about 10 degrees colder than lower altitudes in Taiwan (see Alishan’s average monthly temperatures). Therefore, in summer in Taiwan Alishan can be pleasantly warm but chilly at night, so you still need to bring proper clothing, especially for sunrise viewing.
Summer is also one of the most popular times, so it can be busiest and hotel prices are usually higher. Don’t travel to Alishan during (or shortly after) a typhoon or heavy rain, when landslides are common. And cherry blossoms season is probably the busiest time of year at Alishan, so good luck getting a hotel at that time! (see the Alishan cherry blossoms section at the top of the article for more info).
Like everywhere else in Taiwan, fall and spring are probably the best time to visit, but can get quite chilly at Alishan.
If you visit Alishan in winter in Taiwan, especially December, January, and February, you have the highest chance of seeing the “sea of clouds” phenomenon at sunrise, but it can be freezing, especially when you are standing and waiting for sunrise. I quite enjoyed my winter visit but I personally love cold weather.
There was no snow when I visited, but I saw some frost on the Alishan forest railway tracks in the early morning.
See more information about the weather and what to wear in each season in my guide to the best time to visit Taiwan.
Thank you if you read this far, and I hope you found everything here that you needed to know for visiting Alishan! I love answering your questions here or in my free Taiwan Travel Planning group, so please let me know below if I’ve missed anything or you found that any information was out of date. Enjoy your trip to Alishan!