While researching this complete guide to Alishan, I found very little information online about getting to Alishan. So here it is for you!
Below I’ll cover the Alishan Forest Railway from Chiayi to Alishan,Taipei to Alishan, Taichung to Alishan, Sun Moon Lake to Alishan, Kaohsiung to Alishan, and Hualien to Alishan. At the end, you can find the Alishan train times for the three routes within the Alishan National Scenic Area.
Getting to Alishan can be half the fun if you ride the Alishan Forest Railway. Built by the Japanese, this small gauge railway was first opened in 1912 to haul logged Taiwanese cypress trees from the Alishan region.
When logging efforts ceased tourists replaced trees, and the railway provided the only access to Alishan until the Alishan highway was built in 1982. The ride goes through some 50 tunnels and crosses 77 wooden bridges.
Several sections of the Alishan Forest Railway were severely damaged by Typhoon Morakot in 2009 and the railway was shut down. The service was resumed part way, from Chiayi to Fenqihu, in 2014, and remains that way today. This means that today, you can only get to Fenqihu, about half way up to Alishan, by train, and need to take the bus the rest of the way.
In the Alishan National Scenic Area, three small sections of the railway are currently operating, providing access from the Alishan tourist village (Alishan station) to the popular scenic areas of the park.
When we visited, we rode in a train car made entirely of wood, and the smell of the train while we were sitting on it was so gorgeous that I wanted to take a piece of it home and have a bath with it 🙂
Getting from Chiayi to Alishan
From Chiayi Station, the first option is to take the bus from Chiayi to Alishan. This is the easiest and fastest way. The bus stop is 130 meters in front of the Chiayi train station. Reservations and tickets are not needed. Have change ready to pay when boarding. The bus ride takes 2 hours and costs NT$240. Confirm all the information I provide here when you arrive because things can change!
The bus drivers are a little wild, and it’s a very winding road, so many people experience car sickness on this drive. If you want to break up your journey, you could stop in Fenqihu and hop back on a later bus. Note that not all buses from Alishan to Chiayi stop in Fenqihu, since it is a little off the main highway.
Bus times from Chiayi train station to Alishan:
6:05 7:05 (also stops in Fenqihu) 8:05 8:35 (wheelchair accessible) 9:05 9:35 (also stops in Fenqihu) 10:05 11:05 12:05 (also stops in Fenqihu) 14:05 15:05 (to Fenqihu only)
*additional buses departing from Fenqihu to Alishan: 11:30, 12:50, 14:00
You can also take a bus from Chiayi High Speed Rail Station directly to Alishan (2.5 hours, NT$278, pay on bus). All buses arrive at the new Alishan bus station and 7-11, which are located just before the Alishan entrance gate, a 5-minute walk from the Alishan tourist village and train station.
9:30 10:10 11:00 (also stops in Fenqihu) 13:10 (wheelchair accessible)
Bus times from Alishan to Chiayi HSR
10:10 (also stops in Fenqihu) 13:30 14:40 16:40 (wheelchair accessible)
When you leave Alishan, you can only buy tickets for the bus from Alishan to Chiayi on the day you want to travel, so it’s a good idea to arrive at the 7-11/bus station an hour or two before your bus departure time to buy your ticket.
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).
The train passes through dense greenery and bamboo forests, featuring gorgeous panoramic views from both sides of the train car.
Before rushing on to Alishan, if you have time, I would recommend staying in Fenqihu for a few hours or even overnight. The area is surrounded by bamboo forests, hiking trails, and tea farms where you can spend the night. See my full guide to Alishan for more info.
The bus from Fenqihu to Alishan then takes another hour (see times above). Even that one hour is enough to make some passengers sick. If you end up staying on a tea farm in Shizhuo near Fenqihu, you can get the bus from the Shizhuo bus stop to Alishan (45 minutes).
Note that all the buses from Chiayi to Alishan stop in Shizhuo, but not all of them stop in Fenqihu, so pay attention to which bus times above mention a stop in Fenqihu.
How to Buy Alishan Forest Railway Tickets
As if often the case in Taiwan, the government website for the Alishan Railway is a joke. Important page links are broken, and the most crucial information, such as where and how to buy Alishan train tickets, is nowhere to be found.
On the Mandarin Alishan train reservation site, it is actually possible to reserve your tickets up to two weeks in advance. I didn’t have any luck trying to do it before our trip (even with the help of Taiwanese friends). The train I tried to book was supposedly sold out, but somehow, several days later when I arrived in Chiayi, I was able to buy tickets from the window at the train station on the day before our trip.
If you want to try reserving online (which I would recommend, especially for weekends or holidays), I found this useful English guide to the Mandarin reservation site after our trip. I just tested it out, and was able to reserve a ticket. You can then pay online or at a 7-11 in Taiwan when you pick up your ticket.
The above guide also explains the confusing the train codes (see below). Each “code” refers to a particular departure time, but they don’t mention those times on the Mandarin site!
If you don’t reserve in advance, I would suggest you arrive in Chiayi the day before your trip so you can try to buy a ticket for the Chiayi to Fenqihu train. You can actually buy your ticket up to 12 days in advance and the ticket window at the front of the Chiayi train station is open 8 AM to 4 PM. We were able to buy ours on the afternoon of the day before, on a weekday, but this may not always be possible.
Even if you did reserve, 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.
We had a fine stay at Chiayi King Hotel (read reviews / see prices), a modern, 3-star (but nearly budget priced) hotel five minutes walk from Chiayi train sation.
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.
Alishan forest train times: Chiayi to Fenqihu
Departing Chiayi: 9 AM (train code 1)
Arriving Fenqihu: 11:20 AM
Extra service on weekends and holidays:
Departing Chiayi: 10 AM (train code 3)
Arriving Fenqihu: 12:20 AM
Alishan forest train times: Fenqihu to Chiayi
Departing Fenqihu: 2 PM (train code 2)
Arriving Chiayi: 4:20 PM
Extra service on weekends and holidays:
Departing Fenqihu: 3 PM (train code 6)
Arriving Chiayi: 5:20 PM
You’ll notice that there’s a mysterious “Jungshing Express, train code #311/312” mentioned but not explained on the English guide to the Mandarin booking site I linked to above.
This is an additional service on Sundays only, departing Chiayi at 9:30 AM, and from Fenqihu to Chiayi at 14:30. It is slightly cheaper, and tickets can be purchased on site only, not in advance.
Getting from Taipei to Alishan
Wondering how to get from Taipei to Alishan in one day? Well, it’s doable, but you probably won’t be able to take the Alishan Forest Railway.
In theory, you could just barely make it, 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 from Chiayi HSR Station to Chiayi Train Station (20-30 min), arriving in time for the 9 AM departure (or later ones on weekends).
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 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.
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$461-598) and then the bus up to Alishan. This is a lot of time to spend on a train and bus in one day, so I’d recommend the HSR option if you have the time and budget for it.
If trains seats are sold out, you can stand on all trains except the Puyuma Express (which only takes 2.5 hrs, but always sells out first), or you can take the bus from Taipei to Chiayi, which takes a similar amount of time to the slower trains, or possibly longer if there are traffic jams.
A more relaxed approach is to head down to Chiayi by bus or train the night before, stay in one of the hotels near the train station that I mentioned above in the “Chiayi to Alishan” section, and get the bus or train to Alishan the next morning.
The same bus returns to Taipei on Saturday or Sunday at 11:30 AM. For the Taipei to Alishan bus, I would try to reserve at the station a day or two in advance, but you may still be able to get a ticket at the last minute.
If you happen to be coming from Taichung, your options are essentially the same as from Taipei, except that you are closer. It only takes 23-37 minutes (depending on which one you get) from Taichung HSR to Chiayi HSR stations (NT$ 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).
If you plan to visit Sun Moon Lake as well, the good news is that you can take a minibus from Sun Moon Lake to Alishan (or Alishan to Sun Moon Lake). The current times listed are departing Sun Moon Lake at 8 AM and 9 AM, and departing Alishan at 1 and 2 PM.
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 was NT$328 last time I went, but it had been a while.
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.
You can also do a day trip to from Tainan or Kaohsiung to Alishan on this private tour.
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.
Alishan Train Times in the National Scenic Area
Despite the still closed section from Fenqihu to Alishan Station, the Alishan Forest Railway still currently runs from Alishan Station to three stations within the Alishan Scenc 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) Stationis 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 prices / read reviews), probably 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.
Alishan to Zhaoping Station departure times (NT$100, 6 min)
*You can also walk from Alishan tourist village to Chaoping or Shenmu (about 20 minutes 1 way for either one) and even Zhushan Station (45minutes, see my Alishan guide for details).
There is also a regular shuttle bus from the Alishan tourist village beside the tourist information center to Shouzhen Temple, which is located in the middle of the walking trail between Chaoping and Shenmu stations, closer to the Shenmu station.
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