Jiufen Travel Guide
Located on the northeast coast of Taiwan within an hour’s train ride from Taipei, the former gold mining town of Jiufen is a day/overnight trip you’ll definitely want to make whether you are in the country for a week or for the long-term. With outstanding mountain and sea views, classic Japanese architecture, and a rich gold mining history, you’ll be planning a return trip not long after your first trip to this underrated destination.
Start your time in this charming corner of Taiwan by taking an evening stroll down Jiufen Old Street. Dating back to the 19th century when the Japanese ran Taiwan, it was the centre of one of the most prosperous towns on the island. As such, it is filled with countless examples of Japanese architecture, as well as Chinese forms.
This narrow street is filled with charming old-style cafes, tea houses, boutiques, souvenir shops, and food stalls, making for an excellent night out. Drop by during the day as well, as the views of the ocean from this street make for some Instagram worthy shots.
Learn about the industrial past of this region by spending a couple hours exploring the Jiufen Gold Mine Museum. Set up in the former offices of the Taiwan Metal Mining Corporation, its exhibits explain how this precious metal was mined back in the 19th century, the equipment used to do it, the mine’s role as a POW work camp during the Second World War, among other topics.
The 2nd floor displays gold pieces and golden works of art – this includes one of the world’s heaviest gold coins. Weighing in at 220 kilograms, there is an open invitation for anyone who can lift and carry it to take it home with them – time to hit the gym!
While visiting the smaller village of Jinguashi in the Jiufen area, be sure to spend some time at the Jinguashi Gold Ecological Park. Styled like a theme park, the aim is to reproduce the feeling of living in a mining village high in the mountains.
Don’t miss the Jinguashi Crown Prince Chalet, which was intended for the soon-to-be Emperor Hirohito. He didn’t make it, but his envoys spent time there, which was enough to send the town into a tizzy, as they (incorrectly) thought they were being visited by royalty.
Apart from this, there are plenty of cafes and restaurants around, as well as a tea garden on the way to the Jiufen Gold Mine Museum, which is the central attraction of this park.
Nature lovers will find plenty of things to love about the Jiufen area, including the interesting way the Golden Waterfall flows. Ambling its way over the golden-brown rocks in a haphazard manner, it is not a conventional set of falls, but in the wet season, it is an intriguing sight to see. Note that due to high concentrations of heavy metal in the water, swimming in the gorge is prohibited.
Taiwan is renowned for its love affair with cats – after all, it was in Taipei where the world’s first cat cafe opened. Knowing this, it is not shocking in the least that a place like the Houtong Cat Village exists.
Situated a short drive away from Jiufen, it is set up amidst the formerly abandoned coal mining village of Houtong – a remainer attempting to care for hundreds of left-behind stray cats began to get assistance from friends, and in a matter of years, the place was re-made into a cat lovers paradise. Kitties can be found everywhere here, so if you are into all things feline, make room for this place in your itinerary.
If you are an avid hiker, you need to set aside half a day to trek the Bitoujiao Trail. A coastal path which is amply served by buses on both ends, it gives walkers a chance to experience the beauty of the ocean in the Jiufen area.
Its mountain views, lighthouse, shore access points, and sea caves will make this three-kilometre walk seem longer than it is, so don’t be in a rush – once you get here, you won’t want to be in one.
Unwind from your long day of physical activity by having a pot of Oolong at the Jiufen Teahouse. The inside is lined with old school wood and plenty of antiques which hearken back to the golden days of this town. With light snacks available for order as well, it is one of the best places in town to relax.
Finally, don’t leave Jiufen without taking in a show at the Chiufen Shengping Theatre. An old-school cinema house which makes use of reels available generations ago, you won’t get the surround sound VR experience here, but you will get the chance to watch some classic Taiwanese cinema in an auspicious environment.