Last Updated on November 19, 2019 by Tina
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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. 🙁
Near the Shouzhen Temple, there’s supposed to be a path going to 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.
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.
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.
- 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. 🙂
8 thoughts on “Trees and Trains of Alishan National Scenic Area”
Nice! Makes me wanna visit Taiwan!
Thanks Hanna! You should go visit, I’m sure you’ll enjoy your stay there.
So it’s mean Alishan and the place for see the sea of cloud is different place?
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.
Did you buy the bus ticket from chiayi to Alishan and the return tickets in advance? or can just buy at the counter before the departure time? i worry it running out of tickets.
Hi Simon. I went to Alishan from Shizao, the area near Fenchihu. I just waited for the bus to Alishan on the road. The bus that I boarded wasn’t full. When you board the bus, you pay using Easy Card. When you get to Alishan, before alighting, make sure you get the bus ticket from the driver so that you only pay NTD 150 entrance fee (they charge NTD 300 to those arriving by car). The driver actually gives the ticket to passengers before going down the bus. For the return trip, you don’t need to book in advance. You just need to be at the Alishan Transport Station and wait for the bus there then use the Easy Card again to pay for your trip.