Trees and Trains of Alishan National Scenic Area

I visited Alishan National Scenic Area on my second day in Taiwan. When I booked my trip to Taiwan, I didn’t know about Alishan yet. I booked that trip because it was on sale. I really had no idea which places to visit. Then one day, while browsing pictures on Instagram, one of the accounts I follow posted a really beautiful sunrise picture of Alishan. Since then I started checking out blog posts about the place and made sure I get to visit it when I go to Taiwan.

Alishan is famous for five wonders: the railway, forest, cloud sea (sea of clouds), sunrise and sunset glow. It would have been a better experience if I stayed overnight at Alishan so I will be able to witness both the sunrise and sunset glow. But because I was traveling alone, I opted to do a day trip instead. Accommodations there are really expensive especially when you are alone because you have no one to split the cost with. That said, I was not able to experience the sunrise and sunset in Alishan.

As mentioned in my earlier post, I stayed overnight at Fenchihu before going to Alishan. On my way to Alishan, I had a little misadventure again. I guess my trips are not complete without me experiencing a misadventure. It wasn’t a big deal actually, I just hitchhiked unintentionally on a tourist bus. Unintentional because I was not aware that it was a tourist bus.

What happened was that when I checked in at the hotel in Fenchihu, the receptionist gave me a map with Chinese characters. She told me that to get to Alishan, I have to ride the bus at the bus stop at 9 in the morning. That morning when I saw a bus parked at the bus stop, I asked the passengers if it’s the bus to Alishan. They don’t speak English and I don’t speak Chinese so it was a bit difficult for us. And then one of them said no, they are going to Chiayi. So I left.

A few minutes later, I remembered that the receptionist told me to get off somewhere and from there I have to wait for a bus to Alishan. She marked it on the map so I went back, showed the driver the map and asked him if they are passing by that place. He said yes so I asked him if he could drop me off there. He said yes, then told me to sit on the step near him. I asked him how much is the fare and he said “no fee”. When I was already sitting, it’s when I realized it’s actually a tour bus. It was a bit awkward with some of the tourists looking at me with an amused look but they were all very friendly. No wonder it’s free. Must be my lucky day. Hahaha.

At Shizhao, where I waited for the bus to Alishan. The mountainous part is where Fenchihu is located.

Anyway going back, I alighted at Shizhao where I waited for a bus to Alishan. The waiting area is in front of the convenience store Hi-Life. The bus trip to Alishan from Shizao is about 45 minutes to one hour. Entry to Alishan costs NT$150 per person if arriving on public transport (so make sure you get your bus ticket when you alight from the bus), and NT$300 if arriving by car, charged on arrival.

Alishan Transport Station. This is where the buses drop-off the passengers visiting Alishan.

This is where you pay the entrance fee to Alishan National Scenic Area. For visitors arriving on public transport, you just need to walk a few meters from the Alishan Transport Station to get here and tickets can be purchased on the booth located at the right side of this tollgate.

View of Mount Tashan and the sea of clouds from the tollgate overpass.

After paying the entrance fee, I looked for the visitor center of Alishan to leave my big backpack. It is a 5 to 10-minute walk from the tollgate. It is located near the parking lot and beside it is the office of Chunghwa Telecom, in case you need to buy a sim card. The visitor center has shelves where you can leave your things for free but they are open (no lock).

The Alishan parking lot with the Chunghwa Telecom building on the left and the Alishan Visitor Center next to it. It is about 5-10 minute walk from the tollgate to this parking lot. There are shelves in the visitor center where you can leave your bags.

This is the shelf where you can leave your bags located at the Alishan Visitor Center. It is free but you need to get your things back before 4:00 PM.

As mentioned in my earlier post, I was not able to purchase this sim card in Chiayi because they ran out of stock. Luckily, Chunghwa Telecom has an office in Alishan. I purchased the sim card with 5 Day Pass of Unlimited data with NT$150 credit for texts or calls. It costs NT$300. You need to provide them your passport to be able to purchase one.

The Alishan National Forest Recreation Area map

After leaving my backpack at the visitor center, I dropped by the post office to send postcards. After which I went to the railway station. I had a tourist map with me but I had no idea where to go so I just followed my instincts.

The post office of Alishan that doesn’t look like a post office. I sent myself, my sister and a new friend a postcard (as part of my 2017 bucket list).

Wall Art made of tiny tiles

The Forest Railway Alishan Station

Location map with the recommended travel itinerary

The Alishan Forest Railway Alishan Station Trains Timetable and corresponding fare

I got to the railway station a few minutes after the 11:40 train to Sacred Tree left. The suggested tour route is to take the forest rail from Alishan station to Zhaoping station and start walking to the different spots from there. But the next train to Chaoping was 1:00 PM. The best option for me was to take the 12:05 PM train to the Sacred Tree. The train ride to the Sacred Tree was really short, it only takes 7 minutes. But I enjoyed the view of tall trees along the way, and I was the only passenger on the train.

My ticket to the Sacred Tree. One way costs NT$ 100 and takes 7 minutes of travel.

In case you don’t feel comfortable leaving your things on the shelves of the Alishan Visitor Center, there are paid lockers at the Alishan Railway Station where you can leave your valuables.

Gate to the Alishan train platform

I’m not fond of taking selfies, but I had to take this photo to show you that I had the whole train to myself

The Alishan train at the Sacred Tree Train Station

From the Sacred Tree train station, I followed the trail going to the Three Generation Tree. Was really curious how the tree looks like. But before I got there I passed by the Giant Trees Boardwalk, the Pagoda of the Tree Spirits, the Alishan Museum, Ciyun Temple and the viewing deck near the Ciyun Temple which is one of the best spots for viewing the cloud sea/sea of clouds, sunset and sunset glow.

Signs are available along the trails

This is how Alishan forest looks like. Lots of tall trees

More trees

Hanging bridge which I did not cross because I was looking for the Three Generation tree

The Pagoda of the Tree Spirit. This monument devoted to the sacred trees was built to appease the tree spirits. The base of the monument is made of a series of concentric circles representing the annual growth rings of a tree. Each step is for 500 years of growth, commemorating the 3000 years of the Alishan Sacred Tree.

The Alishan Sianglin Sacred Tree. This tree has a circumference of 12.3m, a height of 45m and is about 2,300 years old.

The thousand year Cypress trees in the Alishan Forest

The best place for viewing the sea of clouds, sunset glow, and sunset. Visitors are able to view the Alishan village and Mt. Tashan from here.

Selfie with Mount Tashan in the background

The path leading to Ciyun Temple

Ciyun Temple

The belfry beside Ciyun Temple

The Three-Generation Tree up close

The Three-Generation Tree, a tree that grew on top of a tree on top of a tree.

From the Three Generation Tree, I made my way to Shouzhen Temple. Along the way, I discovered that I lost the bluetooth remote of my selfie stick. Goodbye selfie. 🙁

The road going to Shouzhen Temple

The boat-shaped bridge

Shouzhen Temple

A wooden horse track

Near the Shouzhen Temple, there’s supposed to be a path going to the Sister Pond. When I got there, however, it was under repair. It was already 2:00 PM so I decided to take a bus from Shouzhen Temple to Zhaoping Station just to check what’s in there. The bus fare is NT$ 50.00. I have read that from March to April you will see the blooming flowers in the Cherry Blossom Trail near the Zhaoping Station.

Zhaoping Station

Alishan train

I didn’t stay long at the Zhaoping Park because I had to catch the bus to Chiayi which leaves at 3:00 PM. From Zhaoping Station, I rode the bus to Alishan Visitor Center. The fare is NT$50.00. After getting my backpack at the visitor center, I walked back to Alishan Transport Station because it is where the buses going to Chiayi stop to pick up passengers.

Alishan Bus Timetable. This might help you plan your trip to Alishan.

Chiayi Train Station

My train ticket to Taipei

How to Get to Alishan

  • From Taipei or Taoyuan, you first need to get to Chiayi. You can either take the bus, the ordinary train (TRA) or the high-speed train (THSR). The high-speed train is the fastest (takes about an hour) but is the most expensive (check here for the timetable and fare for THSR and here for the TRA) while the bus is the cheapest but takes 4 to 5 hours travel. Travel time for the ordinary train (TRA) is around 3 hours.
  • When you get to Chiayi, you need to go to Chiayi Bus Station. If you took the TRA, you just need to walk a little, the bus stop to Alishan is located in front of Chiayi TRA Station. I haven’t tried the THSR but I think there is also a bus stop to Alishan from the THSR Chiayi Station.
  • From the Chiayi Bus Station, you can take a bus all the way to Alishan. Refer to the photo below for the bus schedule and the corresponding fare.

Chiayi-Alishan bus timetable

Tips:

  • If you would like to experience the sunrise and sunset in Alishan, you should stay in a hotel in Alishan, not in Chiayi or Fenchihu. Refer to the picture below to give you an idea how far Chiayi and Fenchihu are from Alishan.
  • Seeing the sunrise, however, is not a given. When it is too foggy, then don’t expect to see the sunrise.
  • I highly recommend using sneakers or comfortable footwear when exploring the trails of Alishan forest because you will be walking a lot.
  • Restaurants are located near the parking lot of Alishan and also near Shouzhen Temple.

That’s it for my Alishan experience. From Alishan, you might want to visit Fenchihu too. Or you can go to Fenchihu first before going to Alishan. Check out my Fenchihu experience here. If you have any questions about Alishan, feel free to leave a comment below. 🙂

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4 thoughts on “Trees and Trains of Alishan National Scenic Area

    • Hi Andika. No, it’s the same. Alishan National Scenic Area is a mountain resort and nature reserve and there is a part in the area for viewing the sea of clouds.

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