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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, and there are few hotels in Alishan so they often sell out.
For more general info about transportation in Taiwan, please also visit my guide to visiting Taiwan.
Table of Contents
Map for Getting to Alishan
Because this is going to be a little complicated, I have custom designed this Alishan map. This should answer a lot of questions right off the bat. As you can see, you can take the bus (purple line) directly from the Chiayi city regular (TRA) train station or High Speed Rail (HSR) station.
The Alishan Forest Railway (red train car) will get you to Fenqihu, but from there you’ll need to transfer to a bus. Arriving at Alishan, you’ll have the option of taking the E-bus for getting around the scenic area or the more fun option: the three remaining sections of the Alishan Forest Railway still operating in the park.
Getting from Taipei to Alishan: Quick Summary
- Chiayi city is the starting point for getting to Alishan. Get discounted HSR tickets from Taipei to Chiayi here, or take the slower regular (TRA) train to Chiayi. Sign up for Klook with this link first and you’ll get a TWD 100 credit in your account.
- Fr0m the High Speed Rail (HSR) station (outside of city center), you can take a bus directly to Alishan (2 hrs). Save your bus ticket, because it gives you half price on the Alishan entrance fee (TWD 150 instead of 300 per adult). You can buy the return bus ticket here, which works for buses from HSR or TRA station, and allows you to make one stop on the way to Alishan, and another on the way down.
- From the TRA station (city center), you can also take a bus directly to Alishan (2 hrs) or you can ride the more scenic but slower Alishan Forest Railway. If you arrive at the HSR station but want to take the Alishan Forest Railway, you’ll have to first take a taxi or local bus from HSR to TRA station.
- If you ride the Alishan Forest Railway, it only goes halfway to Alishan because the upper section was destroyed in a typhoon. So you should buy a ticket to Fenqihu (2 hrs 5 min), from where you can transfer onto the bus (1 more hour). Fenqihu is a cute town worth spending an hour or two (or overnight!) in. You can also stay on Alishan tea farms in nearby Shizhao (Shizhuo) village. All buses from Chiayi to Alishan pass through Shizhuo, but only some stop in Fenqihu.
- You have to reserve your seat online for the the Alishan Forest Railway from Chiayi to Fenqihu up to 15 days in advance (6 a.m. to midnight Taiwan time only). It always sells out, so book early. You don’t have to book in advance for the bus.
- From Sun Moon Lake to Alishan, there is only 1 minibus per day in each direction (3 hours), departing 8 am, and departing Alishan at 1 pm back to SML. You can swipe EasyCard and can’t buy advance tickets. It’s best to go a little early to line up.
- There are also three short lines of the Alishan Forest Railway running between the scenic attractions inside Alishan National Forest Recreation Area (including the sunrise viewing point). You can buy tickets for those at Alishan station (next to the Alishan tourist village and hotels) when you arrive in Alishan, or reserve them in advance here (not essential). These are a fun way to experience the Alishan Forest Railway if you didn’t ride it from Chiayi to Fenqihu.
- There’s an electric Alishan shuttle bus (called “Alishan e-bus”) that goes to from Alishan’s Visitor Center (阿里山旅客服務中心) in the tourist village, where most hotels and the train station are located, to basically the same three spots as the three train lines inside the scenic area. I recommend riding the trains, though, because they are a pet of the Alishan experience.
I will further clarify each of the above points in the article below!
The Easy Way: Take a Tour or Get a Private Driver
- Alishan day tour from Chiayi or Kaohsiung: Full day tour from Chiayi train station, Chiayo HSR station, or Kaohsiung Formosa Blvd. Station
- Alishan day tour from Taichung: As above, but from Taichung.
Or you can arrange a private driver such as this one to take you to Alishan. The price is 4000/day + 1000 for driver’s accommodation if you want the driver for more than one day.
Find more private drivers and guides in Taiwan here.
Alishan Forest Railway Introduction
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.
Going by train is a slower but more scenic way to reach Alishan. For the fastest way, you can go the whole way by bus (see next section below).
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 village. Read my guide to Alishan for all the details on spending the night in Fenqihu or Shizhuo.
Although you can transfer to the Alishan-bound bus at Fenqihu, Duolin, or Shizilu, there isn’t much to see or do at the latter two stops. So most people get off in Fenqihu, explore the village for 1-2 hours (or spend the night), then hop on one of the buses to reach Alishan. There are a limited number of buses from Fenqihu to Alishan, so make sure to see the bus times below.
The 3 Alishan Railway Lines Inside Alishan Scenic Area
If you decide to ride the bus from Chiayi to Alishan instead of taking the train, because the bus is faster, then riding these short train lines is a great way to experience the Alishan Forest Railway. In fact, these three short train lines have cooler train cars (see image above). The trains that go from Chiayi to Alishan look more like a normal train with normal rows of seats inside.
Taking the Alishan Forest Railway from Chiayi to Alishan
The Alishan Forest Railway line starts from the Chiayi regular (TRA) train station in Chiayi city center (NOT the HSR station outside of the city). After leaving the city, the train ascends through dense greenery and bamboo forests, featuring mountain views from both sides of the train car.
The shaky ride from Chiayi to Fenqihu takes 2 hours and 5 minutes and costs NT$384. Kids under 12 are half priced and under 6 are free (must sit in your lap), 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).
As I already described above, most people ride it to Fenqihu station, where they get off to take a break, explore the small, scenic village, and eat a famous Fenqihu lunchbox. For those who don’t care about stopping in Fenqihu, then ride the train to the terminal station, Shitzulu, from where there are more frequent buses to Alishan than at Fenqihu.
If you don’t want to stop in Fenqihu, you can ride the train to the next stop, Duolin, or the terminal stop, Shitzulu (Shizilu). In fact, there are more Alishan buses passing by Shitzulu than Fenqihu, so if your only goal is to get to Alishan quickly and you don’t care about stopping in Fenqihu, then I advise you to take the train all the way to Shitzulu. There isn’t much at Shitzulu besides the train station, bus stop, and usually a small food stall.
How to Buy Alishan Forest Railway Tickets
You should reserve your Alishan Forest Railway tickets from Chiayi to Fenqihu here. You may have to switch the language to English in the top right corner. You can reserve your tickets online up to 15 days in advance (or buy from Chiayi, Fenqihu, or Alishan train stations 12 days in advance). I would recommend trying to do so because it always sells out.
Demand is especially high during cherry blossom season (March/April), so it can be very tough to get tickets at that time. After buying your ticket, I recommend saving the QR code on your phone. You might lose your Internet signal during the ride, and the conductor sometimes doesn’t walk around to check them for a while.
Even if you don’t reserve a ticket in advance, there is supposedly a small quota of tickets that is sold at Chiayi station even after the online tickets sold out. If you want to try to get a ticket in this way, 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 did this once and succeeded in buying one the day before.
Also note that on weekends and holidays, there is an extra service, called Jungshing Express, which you can only buy a ticket for in person on the day of travel.
One more thing to note: there is running commentary for much of the ride, explaining things about the scenery and Alishan. It’s mostly in Chinese and can be kind of loud and annoying. It’s a rare case in Taiwan when the train ride isn’t dead silent.
Alishan to Fenqihu Train Times
The train times I list below are taken from the official Alishan National Forest Recreation Area website, which was 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.
Here are the current times, taken from the above linked website:
Alishan forest train times: Chiayi to Fenqihu
The following times were most recently updated here on March 20, 2023.
Alishan Express No. 1 (every day): Departing Chiayi: 9 AM Arriving Fenqihu: 11:30 AM
Alishan Express No. 3 (Sat/Sun + holidays): 9:30 AM, arriving Fenqihu 12:00 AM
Jungshing Express (Sat/Sun only): Departing Chiayi 8:30 AM, arriving Fenqihu 10:51 AM (no online tickets, buy at station on departure day only)
Alishan forest train times: Fenqihu to Chiayi
Alishan Express No. 2 (every day): Departing Fenqihu 2:30 PM Arriving Chiayi: 4:48 PM
Alishan Express No. 6 (Sat/Sun + holidays): Departing Fenqihu 3 PM Arriving Chiayi: 5:18 PM
Jungshing Express (Sat/Sun only): Departing Fenqihu 2:00 PM, arriving Chiayi 4:18 PM (no online tickets, buy at station on departure day only)
Getting the Bus from Fenqihu to Alishan
After riding the Alishan Forest Railway from Chiayi to Fenqihu (or Duolin or Shizilu), you’ll have to take the bus for the remaining one-hour drive to Alishan.
The bus stop in Fenqihu is called “Fencihu Terminal Station 奮起湖終點站” on GoogleMaps. There, you’ll be getting on the Chiayi to Alishan bus, either 7322 (originating at Chiayi train station) or 7329 (originating at Chiayi HSR station). See more about those buses in the next section below.
If these times don’t work for you or you miss the bus, a more complicated option is to catch another bus from Fenqihu to Shizhao (Shizhuo), then board more of the more frequent Alishan-bound buses passing through Shizhao.
Fenqihu to Alishan bus times
Fenqihu to Alishan bus times: Departing Fenqihu at 11:30 AM, 12:50 PM and 2:00 PM
Alishan to Fenqihu bus times: Departing Alishan at 9:10 AM, 10:10 AM, and 2:10 PM
Getting from Chiayi to Alishan by Bus
When getting to Alishan from Chiayi, the bus is actually the easiest and fastest option. You don’t need advance tickets. You just show up at the bus stop, swipe your EasyCard or pay exact change, and catch a bus all the way there.
It’s a super winding ride (especially the second half) and takes around two hours. You can catch a direct bus to Alishan from either Chiayi regular (TRA) train station in the city center, or Chiayi High Speed Rail (HSR) station outside of the city center.
All buses from Chiayi to Alishan pass by Eryanping (famous for Eryanping Trail with its incredible views) and Shizhuo (where you can sleep on tea farms). But only some of the buses stop at Fenqihu, because that requires a 10-minute detour off the main highway going north from Shizhuo.
All Alishan buses arrive “Alishan Bus Station” (阿里山轉運站) in Alishan, also called Alishan Transport Station. For more details about what to do when you arrive, we’ll get to that below. But first:
Taking the Bus from Chiayi Train Station (TRA) to Alishan
This bus is called 7322C or 7322D (the one that stops in Fenqihu on the way). It takes about 1 hr 10 min to reach Eryanping, another 12 min to reach Shizhuo, and from there, another 10 min to reach Fenqihu (for buses that do go to Fenqihu).
You can find a table of all the bus times here. Scroll to the second page for English. I have also summarize all the departure times below. Note that a few departure times were canceled during COVID, but they should be back now.
You can confirm the current times at the Chiayi train station information desk when you arrive in Chiayi. I suggest doing this no matter what, because things can change. Also, sometimes buses in taiwan come a few minutes early, so make sure to line up earlier than the indicated time.
If you’re planning to go to Fenqihu, then please note in the table below that only a few of the Chiayi to Alishan buses per day stop there (9:40 and 12:05 departures). There is an additional bus 7302 that only goes from Chiayi to Fenqihu (not Alishan), departing Chiayi at 7:05 AM and 3:05 PM. Yet another way is to take any of the buses in the below table, get off a Shizhuo (Shizhao) stop, and from there, there are a few more buses you can take for the 10 min ride (or 1 hr walk uphill) to Fenqihu.
Bus times from Chiayi train station to Alishan
8:40 (wheelchair accessible)
9:40 (stops in Fenqihu on the way)
12:10 (wheelchair accessible, stops in Fenqihu on the way)
Bus times from Alishan to Chiayi train station
9:10 (stops in Fenqihu on the way)
12:40 (wheelchair accessible)
14:10 (also stops in Fenqihu)
16:10 (wheelchair accessible)
Bus times from Chiayi train station to Fenqihu only
Chiayi to Fenqihu bus times: 7:05, 9:40, 12:05, 15:05
Fenqihu to Chiayi bus times: 9:00, 10:00, 15:10, 17:00
Taking the Bus from Chiayi High Speed Rail (HSR) station to Alishan
These buses are called #7329 and #7329A (the one that passes Fenqihu).
The bus times for Chiayi HSR to Alishan are here (page 2 for English). I’ve summarized the departure times below.
Note that only one bus per day goes from the HSR station to Fenqihu. You can also ride any of them to Shizhuo, then catch a different bus to Fenqihu.
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.
Make sure to save the receipt that you will get from the bus driver. The entrance fee to Alishan is TWD 300 for adults, but only 150 for students or anyone who shows their bus ticket.
Arriving at Alishan
Whether you take the bus from Chiayi, Fenqihu, or Sun Moon Lake to Alishan, or take the Alishan Forest Rail + bus, you will arrive at the same place in Alishan, which is called Alishan Bus Station on GoogleMaps. This small bus station is connected to a 7-11, and you can buy bus tickets from the 7-11 clerk.
Alishan Bus Station is very close to the Alishan National Scenic Area entrance gate, which is a large gate over the road. When you go through the gate, you have to pay the Alishan National Scenic Area entrance fee (TWD 300 per adult, only 150 for students or if you show your bus ticket, additional 100 for a car).
From the bus station or entrance gate, it’s a 5-minute uphill walk to Alishan Train Station, where you can board the train and ride 3 different lines to scenic areas within the park. The train station will be on your right, while on the left is Alishan Tourist Village, a large parking lot with the main collection of restaurants, shops, and hotels of Alishan.
Most Alishan hotels are on a road at the back of the parking lot. It’s a 10-15 minute walk to reach most hotels from the bus station. Only Alishan House (see on Booking / Agoda), the nicest hotel in Alishan, is in a different location even deeper inside the park, and offers free pickup from the bus station.
Three Alishan Train Lines Inside the Park
As I mentioned above, these train lines use some really cute old train cars, so I highly recommend riding them as an experience in itself. It’s more fun than taking the shuttle bus (see next section below). But if you prefer walking, you can also walk or hike to all the places that the train and bus go.
You can buy tickets for these train lines at the Alishan train station when you arrive at Alishan, just before getting on the train. They never sell out. However, if you prefer, you can also book your tickets online here. Only the sunrise trains can get really busy, but as far as I know, they never actually sell out. There are no reserved seats, and people just cram onto them during busy times.
Here are the four stations where you can access this small train.
Alishan Station is the closest to the Alishan tourist village, where most of Alishan’s hotels are located, as well as the souvenir shops, restaurants, tourist information center, post office with ATM, and Taiwan’s highest 7-11. The station is a 5-minute walk uphill from Alishan BusStation (the bus station where you arrive at Alishan).
Alishan Train Station is where you will board the train to ride the three different lines to the below three stops. Buy your ticket from the window just before boarding. The station itself is cool, too, and offers sunset views from the second floor.
Chaoping (Zhaoping) Station
Chaoping is the terminal station on Zhaoping Line, the shortest of the three lines. It is the closest stop to the Sister Ponds trail, the most famous tourist trail in Alishan, as well as the cherry blossom viewing spot.
There are usually many tourists on the Sister Ponds Trail, but it’s also an incredibly beautiful section of forest. Chaoping is also close to the starting point for a few lesser known hikes. Alishan Hotel (see on Booking / Agoda / TripAdvisor), the nicest hotel in Alishan, is also near it.
Note that you can also walk from Alishan tourist village to Chaoping (15-20 min). The most common way to visit Alishan is to start your hike at Chaoping Station and finish it at Shouzhen Temple or Shenmu Station before going back to Alishan village by bus or train, respectively.
Shenmu (Sacred Tree) Station
Shenmu Station, or Sacred Tree Station (named after huge tree that feel beside it) is at the terminal end of the Shenmu Line. It is the only one that is not bus-accessible, but the e-bus stops nearby at Shouzhen Temple (on the Xianglin Route).
The station is located in another very pretty section of forest with some particularly large and ancient trees (2300 years+) called Giant Tree Trail. The loop trail around Shenmu station is usually less busy than Sister Ponds Trail, but just as beautiful, so I highly recommend it. Many visitors follow the Sister Ponds trail to Shouzhen Temple, from where you can connect to Giant Tree Trail and Shenmu Station.
It’s also possible to see very beautiful sunsets on this loop. The exact location of the sunset viewing platform is here on GoogleMaps, close to Alishan Museum.
Chushan (Zhushan) Station
Chushan (Zhushan) is at the terminal end of the Chushan Line, also called the Sunrise Line. It is the furthest and highest station. It takes you to the most famous sunrise spot in Alishan, called “Zhushan Sunrise Observation Deck” (祝山觀日平臺), so trains only run here super early in the morning. Later in the day, you can take the shuttle bus up here.
The train times to Chushan change each month according to the time of sunrise. You can check the times and purchase tickets one day in advance from 1:00 to 4:00 in the afternoon, or 30 minutes before departure on the morning of the sunrise, from the second floor window at Alishan Station.
You can also book them online here (switch language to English at the top). The earliest train is summer is 4 AM and in winter is 6 AM. After watching the sunrise here, you can ride the train back to Alishan station or hike down to Chaoping station for connecting to the Sister Ponds Trail.
IMPORTANT UPDATE: Due to current construction at Chushan Station, the Chushan train will stop at Duigaoyue station (another sunrise viewing spot). From there, if you want to reach Chushan and Xiaoliyushan, you’ll need to walk 15 minutes up the road. If you’re buying tickets online for the Zhushan line, you’ll need to choose “Duigaoyue”. If you see that “Chushan” or “Zhushan” is back as on option, that means the station is open again.
All the train times for the different lines are listed here, but I’ve also summarized them below. I try to constantly update these, but the times are subject to change, so always check the official site or the times posted at the station when you get there.
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 long 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
The Alishan E-Bus (Electric Shuttle Bus)
The new Alishan Electric bus is an alternative to the 3 short train lines inside Alishan National Scenic Area. I don’t really recommend it, because taking the Alishan train is so much cooler.
However, if you want to get from the tourist village or your hotel to the hiking trails, hoping on the shuttle bus can be faster than taking the train. The shuttle bus also provides access to Chushan in the daytime, as well as Chushan Stargazing Tours in the early evening (I’ll cover that below).
There are two spots you can get on the shuttle bus. The main one is at Alishan Visitor’s Center (阿里山旅客服務中心) in the Alishan tourist village. This one is closest to most Alishan hotels.
You can also board the bus at another stop, which is actually closer to Alishan Bus Station and Alishan Train Station. It is called 候車總站 on the Alishan Alipedia app (read about this and other apps to use in Taiwan), but unfortunately it is not marked on GoogleMaps. I’ve marked the exact location here.
You CAN’T swipe EasyCard for the shuttle bus. You can buy your tickets at any of the stops before boarding.
- Chushan E-bus Route: This one goes to the Chushan (Zhushan) sunrise lookout point (only once every 2 hrs, departing the Visitor’s Center at 9 am, 11 am, 1 pm, and 3 pm daily, plus a special stargazing tour at 7 pm (see Stargazing section below). However, this bus DOESN’T run in the early morning, so you can’t take it to see the sunrise. But some people go to Chushan in the daytime because there are other walking trails up there. From Chushan, you can walk down to the main hiking circuit of Alishan (around Chaoping station), which then connects to the hikes around Shenmu station, and from there you can walk or take the train back to Alishan village. Doing all this will take about 2-4 hours.
- Chaoping E-bus Route: This e-bus will take you to Zhaoping station and comes every 5-20 minutes. Chaoping is where the most popular/famous walking trail in Alishan starts, so the majority of visitors start their Alishan walking tour there. You can start hiking here, and finish at Shouzhen Temple (see next route), then take the Xianglin e-bus back to Alishan Visitor’s Center. This is what I recommend if you are just visiting Alishan for a short time and want to walk the most famous and scenic trail.
- Xianglin E-bus Route: This bus will take you to Shouzhen temple, which is a short walk from Shenmu train station. The e-bus can’t go to Shenmu train station because that station is in the forest and doesn’t have road access. This route also runs every 5-20 minutes.
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.
Another option is Mega Hotel (see on Booking / Agoda / TripAdvisor), which has great reviews and is as close as you could get to the train station. Yet another is Yongxing Inn (see on Booking / Agoda / TripAdvisor ), a very cheap hotel near the train station.
If you spend the night in Chiayi, see my Chiayi travel guide for planning your visit.
Taipei to Alishan Day Trip
So how to get all the way from Taipei to Alishan? Or would you like to squeeze in Alishan as a day trip from Taipei? Well, to answer the first question, all you have to do is hop on a regular (TRA) train from Taipei to Chiayi station, then follow all of the info in my above guide.
These trains take 2.5 to 5.5 hours, depending on which one you book. You can book them up to 28 days in advance on the TRA website. Depending on how late you arrive in Chiayi, you may need to spend the night in Chiayi before catching a bus or train the next morning.
If you take the High Speed Rail (book discounted tickets here), you can easily get to Alishan the same day. The HSR from Taipei to Chiayi takes 1 hr 28 min to 1 hr 43 min. Then the bus from the HSR station to Alishan only takes 2 hrs each way. This means you could even do Alishan as a day trip from Taipei, but it’s going to be a long day.
The first bus departs Chiayi HSR at 9:30, getting you to Alishan at 11:30. The last bus back departs Alishan at 4:40, getting you back to the HSR at 6:40 PM. That gives you enough time to hike the many trails of Alishan and get back to the station. Just don’t miss the last bus departing from Alishan!
If you want to do Alishan as a day trip from Taipei AND ride the Alishan Forest Railway from Chiayi to Fenqihu, I don’t think this is possible as a day trip from Taipei.
There is no direct bus from Taipei to Alishan.
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.
You can also take this guided Alishan tour from Taichung.
Getting from Sun Moon Lake to Alishan
If you plan to visit Sun Moon Lake as well, the good news is that there is a direct bus from Sun Moon Lake to Alishan (and Alishan to Sun Moon Lake). This is minibus 6739 run by Yuanlin bus company. The bus takes around 3 hours.
The bad news is that there is only one bus per day in each direction. The bus departs Sun Moon Lake every day at 8 AM, arriving at Alishan around 11 AM. Then it departs Alishan every day at 1 PM, arriving at Sun Moon lake around 4 PM. It is a small minibus with limited space, but currently doesn’t take reservations. You just swipe with EasyCard or pay exact cash (TWD 336) when boarding.
The bus arrives at and departs from Alishan Bus Station near the Alishan National Forest Recreation Area Entrance Gate, where you have to pay a fee to enter the scenic area.
If the bus time is not convenient for you, you could also take a slightly longer route from Sun Moon Lake to Alishan. From SML, take the bus back to Taichung High Speed Rail Station (90 minutes), then HSR to Chiayi (30 min), then bus to Alishan (2 hours). You could also do the same thing in reverse.
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.
Getting from Kaohsiung to Alishan
It only take 30 minutes from the HSR station in Zuoying, Kaoshiung, 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 as a day trip than from Taipei to Alishan.
Getting from Hualien to Alishan
Hualien is about as far away from Alishan as you can get in Taiwan. It’s at the opposite side of the island, and no, there are no buses running across the island (there are lots of huge mountains in the way!) There are a few roads crossing the island, but they are extremely slow and sometimes dangerous or closed due to landslides.
Still, I want to include this section, because Taroko Gorge in Hualien and Alishan are the two most famous scenic attractions in Tawan, and many visitors want to squeeze both of them into their short Taiwan trip.
This means from Hualien, you’ll have to go back to Taipei first. If you take the regular train, it’s going to take you nearly seven hours from Hualien to Chiayi, then another 2+ hours from Chiayi to Alishan.
Therefore, if you really want to get from Hualien to Alishan in one day, then I would suggest taking the express train from Hualien to Taipei first (2 hr 15 min), then transferring onto the HSR from Taipei to Chiayi. The Hualien to Taipei express train is very popular and always sells out, so it is essential to reserve your seat (up to 28 days in advance). For the HSR, you can buy a ticket even at the last minute, but you’ll get a discount if you book in advance (also up to 28 days, the earlier, the cheaper).
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 on the way.
If you stay in Taitung, I would personally recommend Luye or Chishang as great places 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!