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If you’re planning a trip to Alishan during summer, or especially during Chinese New Year or the March/April cherry blossom season, you’ll want to book your accommodation and plan your transportation well in advance, as it can get extremely busy there.
For other transportation information, please also visit my guide to visiting Taiwan.
Essential Info for Traveling to Alishan
– Reserve your Alishan Forest Railway (Chiayi to Fenqihu) train tickets online up to 2 weeks in advance. From Fenqihu, you have to take the bus the rest of the way.
– Alternatively, you can take the bus from Sun Moon Lake, Chiayi train station, or Chiayi HSR station to Alishan. No reservation is needed. This is easier, but super winding and not as scenic as the train.
– There are also sections of the Alishan Forest Railway running between the scenic attractions inside Alishan National Scenic Area. You can buy tickets at those stations when you arrive.
– For the train to the sunrise viewing point, you can buy the ticket at Alishan station one day before.
– Book HSR tickets from Taipei to Chiayi online to get a discount.
– Use Klook to find discounts on travel in Taiwan. Sign up with this link for a free TWD100 voucher.
The Easy Way: Take a Tour to Alishan
The Alishan Forest Railway from Chiayi to Alishan
Before getting to all the transportation details, it’s worth learning about the Alishan Forest Railway’s unique history.
Destruction of the Railway Line
Fenqihu is a very interesting little town famous for its bento boxes and hikes through bamboo forests. You can even spend the night there or on a tea farm in nearby Shizhuo. Read my guide to Alishan for all the details. Although you can catch the same bus from Fenqihu, Duolin, or Shizilu, I still think Fenqihu is the most interesting one to stop at and break up your journey.
The Alishan Railway Sections in the Scenic Area
Getting from Chiayi to Alishan
Your two main options for getting from Chiayi to Alishan are the bus or Alishan Forest Railway. The bus is easier, and you don’t need advance tickets. You just show up at the bus stop and catch a bus all the way there. It’s a super winding ride and takes around two hours. The train is a little more complicated, as I’ll describe in detail below.
Taking the Bus from Chiayi to Alishan
The bus numbers are #7322C and #7322D. Only the second one stops at Fenqihu. I’ve compiled the times for both below. You can find the exact bus routes and times for each stop here. You may have to change the language to English, click under “Chiayi”, open the bus route page, and click “download price and timetable”.
Bus times from Chiayi train station to Alishan
7:05 (also stops in Fenqihu)
8:35 (wheelchair accessible)
9:35 (also stops in Fenqihu)
12:05 (also stops in Fenqihu)
15:05 (to Fenqihu only)
*additional buses departing from Fenqihu to Alishan: 11:30, 12:50, 14:00
Bus times from Alishan to Chiayi train station
9:00 (to Fenqihu only)
9:10 (also stops in Fenqihu)
10:10 (to Fenqihu only)
12:40 (wheelchair accessible)
14:10 (also stops in Fenqihu)
17:00 (Fenqihu only)
These buses are called #7329 and #7329A (via Fenqihu). Don’t worry about the numbers. “Alishan” will be clearly marked on the bus.
Bus times from Chiayi HSR to Alishan
11:00 (also stops in Fenqihu)
13:10 (wheelchair accessible)
Bus times from Alishan to Chiayi HSR
10:10 (also stops in Fenqihu)
16:40 (wheelchair accessible)
The 7-11 where the buses depart from is located just outside of the main entrance gate to the Alishan National Scenic Area. If you are walking through the gate to go buy tickets at the 7-11 and plan to re-enter the park, the gate attendant should give you a voucher to re-enter the park.
Taking the Alishan Forest Railway from Chiayi to Alishan
Your second option is to take the Alishan Forest Railway train from Chiayi to Fenqihu. The shaky ride takes 2 hours and 20 minutes and costs NT$384. Kids under 12 are half priced and under 6 are free, but if you want a seat for your child under 6, you need to buy a half priced ticket for him or her (same goes for the buses).
How to Buy Alishan Forest Railway Tickets
After years of not having a functioning English website for booking Alishan Forest Railway tickets online, the website is finally up and running here. You’ll just have to switch the language to English in the top right corner. You can reserve your tickets up to two weeks in advance, and I would recommend trying to do so.
Even if you don’t reserve a ticket in advance, there is still a quota of tickets that is sold at Chiayi station. I would suggest you arrive in Chiayi the day before your trip to try to get a ticket for the Chiayi to Fenqihu train. We were able to buy ours on the afternoon of the day before, on a weekday, but this may not always be possible. It is also possible to buy Alishan train tickets at Beimen Station, Fenqihu Station, and Alishan Station.
Alishan to Fenqihu Train Times
The train times I list below are taken from the official Alishan National Forest Recreation Area website, which seems to have been recently updated. The times have been adjusted slightly since the last time I went to Alishan. If you visit Alishan and find that any of the below times are wrong, please let me know!
Note that these trains continue two more stops after Fenqihu (Duolin and Shizilu), but they still don’t go all the way to Alishan. So no matter whether you get off at Fenqihu, Duolin, or Shizilu, you still have to catch the bus the rest of the way to Alishan. Maybe someday the train will finally go all the way to Alishan again.
I still recommend getting off at Fenqihu, which is a very interesting little town with lots of interesting food to eat and beautiful hikes nearby.
Alishan forest train times: Chiayi to Fenqihu
Departing Chiayi: 9 AM (train code 1)
Arriving Fenqihu: 11:05 AM
Extra service on weekends and holidays:
Departing Chiayi: 9:30 AM (train code 3)
Arriving Fenqihu: 11:35 AM
Alishan forest train times: Fenqihu to Chiayi
Departing Fenqihu: 2 PM (train code 2)
Arriving Chiayi: 4:21 PM
Extra service on weekends and holidays:
Departing Fenqihu: 3 PM (train code 6)
Arriving Chiayi: 5:21 PM
You’ll notice that there’s a Jungshing Express train code #311/312 train. This is an additional service on weekends only, departing Chiayi at 8:30 AM, and from Fenqihu to Chiayi at 13:50. It is slightly cheaper, and tickets can be purchased on site only, not in advance.
Train Times inside Alishan National Scenic Area
These trains run from Alishan Station, which is beside the tourist village, to three stations within the Alishan National Scenic area: Zhaoping (Chaoping), Shenmu (Sacred Tree), and Zhushan (the main sunrise viewing point).
Alishan Station is the closest to the Alishan tourist village, where most of Alishan’s hotels are located, as well as a collection of souvenir shops, restaurants, tourist information center, post office with ATM, and Taiwan’s highest 7-11. The station is just a few minutes walk in from the bus station where you will likely arrive.
Zhaoping (Chaoping) Station is closest to the Sister Ponds trail, the most walked tourist trail in Alishan. There are usually many tourists here, but it’s also an incredibly beautiful section of forest (see photo at top of this article. Zhaoping is also close to the starting point for a few lesser known hikes, as well as Alishan Hotel (see on Booking / Agoda / TripAdvisor), the nicest hotel in Alishan.
Shenmu (Sacred Tree) Station is located in another very pretty section of forest with some particularly large and ancient trees (2300 years+). Most people take the train to from Alishan to Zhaoping station, then walk and head back to Alishan station from Shenmu Station.
Zhushan Station takes you to the most famous sunrise spot in Alishan, so trains only run here super early in the morning. The times vary throughout the year depending on the time of sunset. You can check the times and purchase tickets one day in advance from from 1:30 to 4:30 in the afternoon from the second floor window at Alishan Station.
2020-2021 Note: Zhushan Station is currently under repair, so you may have to get off one stop earlier, at Duigaoyue Station, and walk about 15 minutes up to Zhushan. The train times are adjusted accordingly.
Alishan to Zhaoping Station departure times (NT$100, 6 min)
9:00, 9:30, 10:00, 10:30, 11:00, 11:30, 13:00, 13:30, 14:00, 14:30, 15:00, 15:30
(note the lunch break)
Zhaoping to Alishan Station departure times (NT$100, 6 min)
9:15, 9:45, 10:15, 10:45, 11:15, 11:45, 13:15, 13:45, 14:15, 14:45, 15:15, 15:45
Alishan to Shenmu Station departure: times (NT$100, 7 min)
10:15, 10:45, 11:15, 11:40, 12:05, 13:15, 13:45, 14:15, 14:45, 15:15, 15:45, 16:15
Shenmu to Alishan Station departure times (NT$100, 7 min)
10:30, 11:00, 11:25, 11:50, 12:15, 13:30, 14:00, 14:30, 15:00, 15:30, 16:00, 16:30
Staying in Chiayi Before Catching Your Morning Bus or Train
Staying in Chiayi the night before allows you to get one of the earlier buses, or to make sure you don’t miss your morning train. I recommend doing this so that you can get a nice early start to your day, not to mention that the trains mostly leave early in the morning.
Other options are Hotel Discover (see on Booking / Agoda / TripAdvisor), which has great reviews and as close as you could get to the train station, Yongxing Inn (see on Booking / Agoda / TripAdvisor ), a very cheap hotel near the train station, while good hostel options also near the train station are Petite Hostel (see on Booking / Agoda / TripAdvisor ) and Light Hostel (see on Booking / Agoda / TripAdvisor).
There is only one Alishan train service per day on weekdays, two services on Saturdays and three on Sundays, but you still may have better luck on weekdays.
If the train is indeed sold out when you arrive, you can always take the bus up to Fenqihu or all the way to Alishan. It’s not as scenic and the road is super winding, but you’ll get to Alishan twice as fast.
Getting from Taipei to Alishan
Wondering how to get from Taipei to Alishan? Or would you like to squeeze in Alishan as a day trip from Taipei? Well, it’s doable, but you probably won’t be able to take the Alishan Forest Railway, and obviously you won’t be able to catch the sunrise at Alishan unless you stay there overnight.
In theory, you could just barely make it on time to catch the Alishan Forest Railway, traveling from Taipei to Chiayi by high speed rail (regular price NT$1080): depart Taipei 6:30 AM, arrive Chiayi 7:43 AM, catch a taxi (20 minutes) or take the free shuttle bus (30 minutes) from Chiayi HSR Station to Chiayi Train Station, arriving in time for the 9 AM departure (or later one on weekends).
Save money by booking your HSR ticket in advance online.
However, there’s a good chance that if you arrive at the last minute like this, the train will already be sold out. You could always try, and if it is sold out, just catch the bus from Chiayi to Alishan (see above section).
Therefore, what I would recommend doing (if you didn’t book your Alishan train tickets in advance and are worried about getting seats) is simply taking the HSR from Taipei to Chiayi and getting the bus from Chiayi HSR to Alishan (2.5 hours, see times above). It’s almost always possible to get a seat on this bus, but arriving early is still a good idea, especially on weekends.
Then, if you are only visiting Alishan as a day trip, just make sure not to miss the last bus from Alishan back to Chiayi train station or HSR station. One full day is definitely enough to see the enjoy the main trails and sights of Alishan, but if you want to see the famous sunrise, of course you’ll need to stay overnight.
A cheaper way to get from Taipei to Alishan is to take the regular train from Taipei to Chiayi (approx. 3.5 hours, earliest departure 6:10 AM, arrives, 9:39 AM, NT$461-598) and then the bus up to Alishan. This is a lot of time to spend on a train and bus in one day, so I’d recommend the HSR option if you have the budget for it.
If trains seats are sold out, you can stand on all trains except the Puyuma Express (which only takes 2.5 hrs, but always sells out first), or you can take the bus from Taipei to Chiayi, which takes a similar amount of time to the slower trains, or possibly longer if there are traffic jams.
A more relaxed approach is to head down to Chiayi by bus or train the night before, stay in one of the hotels near the train station that I mentioned above in the “Chiayi to Alishan” section, and get the bus or train to Alishan the next morning.
Finally, you can also take the Kuoguang direct overnight bus from Taipei to Alishan (Friday and Saturday nights only, departing from Taipei Bus Station at 8:45 PM and 9:45 PM, 6 hours and 10 min, NT670). Either one will get you there with plenty of time to make it up to one of the Alishan sunrise points.
The same bus returns to Taipei on Saturday or Sunday at 11:30 AM. For the Taipei to Alishan bus, I would try to reserve at the station a day or two in advance, but you may still be able to get a ticket at the last minute.
Getting from Taichung to Alishan
If you happen to be coming from Taichung, your options are essentially the same as from Taipei, except that you are closer. It only takes 23-37 minutes (depending on which one you get) from Taichung HSR to Chiayi HSR stations (NT$ 380, note that both stations are located outside of the city centers).
The regular train from Taichung city center train station to Chiayi city center station (for Alishan Forest Railway or buses to Alishan) takes about 75-120 minutes (NT$144-224). There are no direct buses from Taichung to Alishan.
If you also plan to visit Sun Moon Lake, then you could catch a bus from Taichung to Sun Moon Lake (NT$195), and then bus from Sun Moon Lake to Alishan. Click the bus link above for the bus times from Taichung HSR to Alishan and Taichung station to Alishan (see more info below).
Getting from Sun Moon Lake to Alishan
The current times listed are departing Sun Moon Lake at 8 AM and 9 AM, and departing Alishan at 1 and 2 PM. There used to be better information online about this bus, but the webpages have disappeared. I have recently called (July 2019) to confirm these buses are still running.
If you plan to travel from Taichung to Sun Moon Lake then Sun Moon Lake to Alishan, you can save some money with the Sun Moon Lake Alishan pass.
From Sun Moon Lake to Alishan, you are going uphill, and the bus sometimes stops for a while, so the trip takes 3-3.5 hours. Going from Alishan to Sun Moon lake it should be a little faster.
You can sometimes buy tickets from the visitor center at Shuishe, the main tourist village on Sun Moon Lake where the bus departs from, but sometimes it seems you just pay when you board. The fare is currently listed as NT$328.
Getting from Kaohsiung to Alishan
It only take 30 minutes from Zuoying (Kaohsiung) HSR station, located north of the city center and accessible by KMRT, to Chiayi HSR station, with trains starting as early as 5:50 AM (NT$410). Regular trains take 80-140 minutes (NT$158-245).
This makes it easier to travel from Kaohsiung to Alishan on the same day than from Taipei to Alishan.
Getting from Hualien to Alishan
You couldn’t really get further from Alishan by public transportation, but I include this because Taroko Gorge in Hualien and Alishan are the two most famous scenic attractions in Tawan, and many visitors choose these two places as the only attractions they visit outside of Taipei.
If you get the regular train, it’s going to take you nearly seven hours from Hualien to Chiayi, and that’s not counting the bus or train/bus up to Alishan.
Therefore, if you really need to get from Hualien to Alishan, then I would suggest taking the train from Hualien to Taipei first, then transferring to the HSR for Taipei to Chiayi.
Another option if you have more time is to travel around the southern end of Taiwan by and break up your trip. Considering staying in laid back Taitung for one or several nights.
I would personally recommend Luye as a great place to enjoy some of Taitung’s best rural scenery, or nearby on the coast at Dulan (near but not on the train line). You could also stop in Kaohsiung or Tainan en route to Chiayi.
Whether you are traveling or actually living in Taiwan, I hope you found all the info you need here!
Be sure to check out my guide to Alishan for more information for planning your trip, or my other favorite places to visit in Taiwan.
Please let me know if you found any of the info above was incorrect!