Alishan Travel Guide: Things to Do in Alishan, Taiwan

Situated in the heart of Taiwan’s central region lies the breathtaking Alishan, a veritable paradise for nature enthusiasts and culture connoisseurs alike. Renowned for its mesmerizing landscapes, the region is a veritable feast for the senses, with cascading waterfalls, serene lakes, and pristine forests enveloping the landscape in a tranquil cocoon. A coveted destination for discerning travelers from all over the world, Alishan is particularly acclaimed for its ethereal sea of clouds, a mystical phenomenon that mesmerizes visitors with its otherworldly allure.

Beyond its natural beauty, Alishan is also rich in cultural heritage, boasting a fascinating history dating back centuries. The area is home to several indigenous tribes, each with its unique traditions, art, and cuisine. Visitors can immerse themselves in the rich tapestry of the region’s heritage by sampling traditional dishes such as bamboo rice, aboriginal-style chicken, and wild boar sausage, or by attending cultural performances and festivals that celebrate the indigenous peoples’ unique customs.

Alishan is also a destination for adventure-seekers, offering a range of outdoor activities such as hiking, cycling, and rock climbing. The area’s hiking trails are particularly popular, with the most well-known being the Alishan Forest Railway Trail, which offers panoramic views of the mountains and the surrounding forests.

As the sun sets, visitors can retreat to one of the region’s charming towns or villages, each with its unique character and style. The towns of Fenqihu and Shizilu, in particular, are renowned for their traditional architecture and quaint charm, while the more modern town of Alishan offers a range of accommodations, from rustic mountain lodges to luxurious hotels.

A visit to Alishan is an immersive experience that awakens the senses and nourishes the soul. With its sublime natural beauty, rich cultural heritage, and endless array of activities, Alishan is a true gem of Taiwan that beckons to be explored.

Nestled high in the mountains of Central Taiwan, Alishan is a place where many Taiwanese go to escape the stress of the city. Carpeted in a cloud forest and much cooler than the lowlands, it is a trip that refreshes the spirit of locals – we are confident it will do the same for you.

Alishan Travel Guide: Things to do in Alishan, Taiwan forest train

Alishan City Guide: A Brief History Of Alishan, Taiwan

Alishan is a place where the past and present converge in a breathtaking display of natural beauty and cultural diversity. The history of Alishan stretches back centuries, marked by the ebb and flow of various cultures and civilizations.

The region’s earliest inhabitants were the indigenous tribes of Taiwan, including the Tsou, Bunun, and Paiwan. These tribes lived in harmony with the land, relying on the rich natural resources of the region for sustenance and spiritual renewal. Evidence of human settlement in the area dates back to the Neolithic era, with archaeological finds revealing the presence of early human communities.

In the 17th century, the Chinese began to settle in the region, drawn to its fertile soil and abundant timber resources. They established several small towns and villages, including the town of Fenqihu, which became a center for trade and commerce. The Chinese presence in Alishan continued through the centuries, with the region becoming an important center for tea cultivation and trade during the Qing dynasty.

During the Japanese colonial period (1895-1945), Alishan underwent significant development, with the construction of the Alishan Forest Railway. The railway was built to transport timber from the region’s forests to the coast, and it also became a popular mode of transportation for tourists who came to admire the region’s stunning scenery. The railway still operates today, providing visitors with a unique and immersive way to experience the region’s natural beauty and cultural heritage.

In the 1940s, Alishan was occupied by the Chinese Nationalist Army, and it became an important base for military operations during the Chinese Civil War. After the war, the area was gradually opened up to tourists, and it quickly became a popular destination for both domestic and international travelers.

Today, Alishan continues to be a cherished destination for visitors seeking to immerse themselves in the region’s natural beauty and rich cultural heritage. The area’s indigenous tribes continue to play a vital role in preserving their traditions and customs, while modern developments such as the Alishan Highway and the Alishan Forest Recreation Area have made the region more accessible than ever before. With its deep history and breathtaking landscapes, Alishan is a true treasure of Taiwan and a must-visit destination for any traveler.

Alishan Top Attractions and Best Places to Visit in Taiwan

On a trip to Alishan, you’ll be spending the bulk of your time exploring the Alishan National Forest Recreation Area. A 1,400-hectare park situated at an average elevation of 2,200 metres above sea level, it is home to an extensive cloud forest which draws nature lovers from across the country on weekends and holidays.

A world apart from the subtropical lowlands, the area’s average temperature hovers around ten degrees and it experiences more than 200 days per year of rain and fog. While you may want to pack rain-resistant clothing and an umbrella, the cool damp climate shouldn’t stop you from discovering its trails and viewpoints.

While there are many wilderness trails to hike, make sure you pay a visit to this region’s Sacred Tree. Said to be over 3,000 years old, this moss-covered cypress is a popular photo shoot venue for newlyweds and selfie takers.

Be sure to also wake up early so you can catch a natural phenomenon known as the Sea of Clouds. Due to the geological positioning of the Alishan Valley, temperature inversions occur frequently, resulting in morning cloud cover that hangs low over the valley.

Right after, stop in at a tea plantation nearby. Taiwan is well-known internationally for the quality of its tea, so it would be a shame if you didn’t get to have a cup made from leaves plucked straight from the fields of one of Taiwan’s most productive growing regions.

While all the previously mentioned attractions are all worth experiencing, you shouldn’t leave the area without taking a ride on the Alishan Forest Railway. Originally built to transport cut logs from the region to waiting Japanese ships during the Colonial Period, the emphasis of the railway shifted from commerce to tourism.

Wending its way up the side of peaks, between giant trees and in season, alongside blooming cherry trees, it is a ride you won’t soon forget. Book your trip on this attraction at least two weeks in advance, as its immense popularity makes getting walk-up tickets impossible through much of the year.

Pay a visit to Taiwan’s highest place of worship by dropping by Shouzhen Temple. Spooked by supernatural occurrences in the woods of Alishan, forestry workers were moved to build this Buddhist temple in 1948. Like many Chinese-style Buddhist structures, its exterior is trimmed by intricate design features that temple lovers will adore. Between the incense smoke and throngs of pilgrims, it is an atmospheric place everyone should experience on a trip to Alishan.

Before leaving Alishan, head over to Tanayiku for a brief visit, as its grand suspension bridge, clean river, and indigenous cultural centre will keep you occupied for at least an hour or two. The river is only one of a few in all of Taiwan which are clean enough to allow fish to spawn without incident, while the Tsou First Nations people will treat you to dancing and cuisine which may make this place one of the highlights of your trip.

Other Cultural Attractions: Trip to Alishan, Taiwan

Learn more about the history of this area by spending some time in the Alishan Museum. Made from the wood of this region, its interior contains exhibits which explain this area’s history as a centre of the Taiwanese logging industry and its past as a home for indigenous people from the Tsou First Nation.

Check out a cross-section of a typical Cypress tree, and be amazed at its size – from the abundance of rings, you’ll gain an appreciation for how long these virgin stands have existed in this part of the country.

Those wanting to learn even more about this region’s First Nations people will want to spend part of their time visiting Yuyupas. A cultural hall built to help this tribe recover from the effects of Typhoon Morakot in 2009, it contains traditional houses, an exhibition hall, a theatre, and the princess’ quarters.

In the exhibition hall, you’ll find artifacts which show traditional clothing and how they hunted food over the years, among other items, making it a great place to see how the first residents of Taiwan lived before others moved here from the mainland.

Romantics will not want to miss including Sister Lake on their itinerary. A tranquil pond situated in the midst of the Alishan Forest Recreation Area, it is a gorgeous spot with a tragic tale attached to it. According to legend, sisters who were in love with the same man made a death pact to avoid their predicament from damaging their relationship as sisters.

Finally, don’t miss the chance to send a wooden postcard to friends and family from the atmospheric Alishan Post Office. Despite the weight of this gift, it costs less than a dollar to send abroad, so do something touristy for a change – your loved ones will appreciate the gesture.

source: THE POOR TRAVELER on YouTube

Top 10 Things To Do in Alishan, Taiwan For Visitors

Here are the top 10 things to do in Alishan:

  1. Take a Ride on the Alishan Forest Railway: This historic railway takes you through the scenic mountains of Alishan, offering breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape. You can even book a special sunrise or sunset train ride to experience the beauty of the region during these magical times of day.
  2. Visit the Sacred Trees of Alishan: Alishan is famous for its ancient trees, some of which are over 1,000 years old. Take a stroll through the forest and marvel at these majestic giants, which are believed to have spiritual significance for the region’s indigenous tribes.
  3. Watch the Sunrise from Alishan’s Main Peak: If you’re an early riser, head to the main peak of Alishan to watch the sunrise over the mountains. The view is truly breathtaking and worth waking up early for.
  4. Explore the Alishan National Scenic Area: This vast area encompasses many of the region’s most popular attractions, including the Alishan Forest Recreation Area, the Giant Trees Trail, and the Shouzhen Temple.
  5. Hike the Trails of Alishan: Alishan offers a wide range of hiking trails for all skill levels, from easy strolls through the forest to challenging treks up steep mountain paths. The trails are well-marked and offer stunning views of the surrounding landscape.
  6. Visit the Tea Plantations of Alishan: Alishan is known for its high-quality tea, and you can visit the tea plantations to learn about the production process and sample some of the region’s best brews.
  7. Experience the Local Culture: Alishan is home to several indigenous tribes, and visitors can learn about their unique customs and traditions through cultural performances and exhibitions.
  8. Taste the Local Cuisine: Alishan is known for its delicious local cuisine, which features fresh ingredients sourced from the surrounding mountains. Don’t miss the chance to try dishes like bamboo shoots, mountain vegetables, and wild mushrooms.
  9. Visit the Ruili Scenic Area: Located just outside of Alishan, the Ruili Scenic Area offers stunning views of the region’s mountains and valleys. Highlights include the Ruili Suspension Bridge and the Dajiuhu Trail.
  10. Relax in Alishan’s Hot Springs: After a long day of hiking and exploring, unwind in one of Alishan’s many hot springs. These natural pools offer a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life and are a great way to rejuvenate both body and mind.

Alishan oolong tea is a must try item in Taiwan

What To Eat and Drink at Restaurants in Alishan, Taiwan

Alishan is known for its delicious cuisine that features fresh ingredients sourced from the surrounding mountains. Here are some must-try dishes and drinks:

  1. Alishan Tea: Alishan is famous for its high-quality tea, and you can sample some of the region’s best brews at the local tea houses. Don’t miss the chance to try the Alishan Oolong, which has a delicate flavor and floral aroma.
  2. Bamboo Shoots: Alishan is known for its tender and juicy bamboo shoots, which are often served in soups, stir-fries, and hot pots.
  3. Wild Mushrooms: Alishan’s forests are home to a variety of wild mushrooms, which are used in many local dishes. The most popular varieties include matsutake, shiitake, and king oyster mushrooms.
  4. Mountain Vegetables: Alishan’s mountainous terrain is home to a variety of unique vegetables, such as fuki, a type of wild Japanese butterbur, and wild asparagus.
  5. Sun Cake: Alishan is famous for its sun cake, a sweet pastry filled with malt sugar and maltose. The pastry is shaped like a sun and has a crispy exterior and a chewy interior.
  6. Shaoxing Wine: Shaoxing wine is a popular drink in Alishan, and it’s often paired with local dishes. The wine is made from fermented rice and has a rich, complex flavor.
  7. Alishan Pork: Alishan is known for its high-quality pork, which is raised in the region’s clean mountain environment. The meat is tender and flavorful and is often used in hot pots and stews.
  8. Wild Mountain Honey: Alishan’s forests are home to a variety of wild flowers, which are used to produce delicious and aromatic honey. The honey is often used as a sweetener in tea and desserts.
  9. Alishan Milk: Alishan is also known for its fresh and creamy milk, which is produced by local dairy farms. The milk is often used to make ice cream, yogurt, and other dairy products.
  10. Alishan Roast Chicken: Alishan is famous for its roast chicken, which is marinated in a blend of local spices and roasted to perfection. The chicken is tender and flavorful and is often served with rice and vegetables.

Here are 10 restaurants in Alishan to possibly consider:

  1. Min Zhu Turkey Rice
  2. Ban Tian Yan Goose Duck Eatery
  3. A Rice Cake
  4. Liu Borough Chief Of Chicken Food
  5. Lijvyuan Restaurant- Wengziji
  6. Jinfeng Restaurant
  7. Wan Jia Zhuang Pork Knockle Restaurant
  8. Alishan House Restaurant
  9. Deng Shan Eatery
  10. Fenchihu Hotel

Tours For Visitors To Alishan, Taiwan

There are several tours available for visitors to Alishan that offer an immersive and convenient way to experience the beauty and culture of the area. Here are some of the top tours to consider:

  1. Alishan Forest Railway Tour: This tour takes visitors on a scenic ride through the Alishan mountains on the famous Alishan Forest Railway. The train passes through breathtaking landscapes and stops at various scenic spots along the way, including the sacred tree, Sister Lake, and Zhushan Station.
  2. Alishan Sunrise Tour: This tour is perfect for early risers who want to witness the stunning sunrise over the mountains. Visitors can take a shuttle bus to the Zhushan Sunrise Observation Deck, where they can watch the sun come up over the mountains and enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.
  3. Alishan Cherry Blossom Tour: This tour is available during the cherry blossom season (usually from late February to early April) and offers visitors the chance to see the stunning pink and white cherry blossoms in full bloom. The tour takes visitors to various cherry blossom viewing spots in the Alishan area, including the Alishan National Forest Recreation Area.
  4. Alishan Tea Tour: Alishan is known for its high-quality tea, and this tour offers visitors the chance to learn about the tea-making process and taste some of the best teas in the region. Visitors can tour tea farms, learn about the different varieties of tea, and participate in a traditional tea ceremony.
  5. Alishan Forest Hiking Tour: This tour is perfect for outdoor enthusiasts who want to explore the lush forests and scenic trails of Alishan. Visitors can hike along the Alishan Sacred Tree Trail, the Alishan Skywalk, and other scenic routes and enjoy the fresh mountain air and stunning views.
  6. Alishan Hot Springs Tour: This tour offers visitors the chance to relax and unwind in the natural hot springs of the Alishan area. Visitors can soak in the warm, mineral-rich waters and enjoy the tranquil surroundings of the forested mountains.
  7. Alishan Photography Tour: Alishan is a photographer’s paradise, with its stunning natural beauty and unique cultural attractions. This tour takes visitors to the best photography spots in the area, including sunrise and sunset views, cherry blossom fields, and picturesque villages.
  8. Alishan DIY Tour: This tour is for independent travelers who want to explore Alishan at their own pace. Visitors can rent a car or scooter and drive through the scenic routes of the area, stopping at various attractions and scenic spots along the way.

Alishan Accommodations Guide: Hotels, Guesthouses and Hostels

If you’re planning a visit to Alishan, you’ll need to find the perfect place to stay. Here’s a list of some of the best accommodations in the area:

  1.  Tea Cloud Residence
  2. Alishan House
  3. Alishan Youth Activity Center
  4. Alishan Gou Hotel
  5. Mimiyo
  6. Yingshan Hotel
  7. Cing Shan Hotel
  8. Ajang Home
  9. Alishan Lauya Homestay
  10. Dafeng Hotel

No matter what your budget or preferences, you’re sure to find the perfect accommodation for your visit to Alishan.

Day Trips From Alishan, Taiwan

If you’re looking to explore the area around Alishan, there are plenty of day trip options available. Here are some ideas:

  • Sun Moon Lake: This is a large lake located in the mountains of central Taiwan, and it’s a popular tourist destination. The lake is surrounded by hiking trails, temples, and scenic viewpoints, and it’s also possible to take boat rides on the lake.
  • Fenqihu: This small town is located about 30 minutes from Alishan, and it’s famous for its traditional street food and tea culture. You can stroll through the narrow streets and try some of the local snacks, or visit one of the tea shops and learn about the different varieties of tea.
  • Chukou Nature Education Area: This area is located about an hour from Alishan, and it’s a great place to go hiking and enjoy nature. There are several trails of varying difficulty levels, and you can see waterfalls, forests, and wildlife along the way.
  • Fenchihu Old Town: This is another small town near Alishan, and it’s known for its historic architecture and charming atmosphere. You can explore the old streets, visit the local market, and try some of the traditional snacks.
  • Eryanping Trail: This hiking trail is located about 45 minutes from Alishan, and it’s a popular spot for birdwatching. You can see a variety of bird species as you hike through the forest, and there are several viewpoints along the way with panoramic views of the surrounding mountains.
  • Dabang Shan: This mountain is located about an hour from Alishan, and it’s a popular destination for hiking and camping. The mountain has several trails of varying difficulty levels, and you can see a variety of flora and fauna along the way.
  • Jiao Lung Waterfall: This waterfall is located about an hour from Alishan, and it’s a popular spot for photography. The waterfall is surrounded by lush forest, and there are several viewpoints where you can get a good view of the falls.
  • Guanziling Hot Springs: This hot spring town is located about 2 hours from Alishan, and it’s a great place to relax and unwind. There are several hot spring resorts in the area, and you can soak in the natural hot springs while enjoying the beautiful mountain scenery.
  • Yuyupas: This Aboriginal village is located about 2 hours from Alishan, and it’s a great place to learn about the culture and history of the local Indigenous people. You can visit the traditional houses, see the handicrafts, and learn about the customs and traditions of the Yuyupas people.
  • Tainan: This historic city is located about 2.5 hours from Alishan, and it’s a great place to explore the culture and history of Taiwan. You can visit the temples, museums, and night markets, and try some of the local snacks and specialties.

Alishan Transportation Guide

Alishan is a popular tourist destination in Taiwan known for its stunning mountain scenery, hiking trails, and unique cultural experiences. Getting to Alishan can be a bit challenging, but there are several transportation options available.

Here is a guide to transportation options for traveling to and around Alishan:

  1. Train: The Alishan Forest Railway is a scenic narrow-gauge train that runs between Chiayi and Alishan. The train ride takes about 4 hours and offers beautiful views of the mountains and forests. It’s a must-try experience for train enthusiasts and nature lovers.
  2. Bus: There are several buses that run from Chiayi to Alishan. The journey takes about 2-3 hours depending on the traffic and weather conditions. The buses are comfortable, air-conditioned, and offer stunning views of the mountains and forests along the way.
  3. Taxi: Taxis are available from Chiayi and other nearby cities to Alishan. They are convenient for travelers who prefer privacy and flexibility. However, they can be more expensive compared to other transportation options.
  4. Rental Car: Renting a car is a good option for those who want to explore the surrounding areas of Alishan at their own pace. However, it’s important to note that driving in Taiwan can be challenging, especially for foreigners who are not familiar with the traffic rules and road conditions.
  5. Shuttle Bus: Once you arrive in Alishan, there are shuttle buses that can take you to different tourist spots within the area. The buses are frequent, reliable, and affordable. They are a great way to explore Alishan and its surroundings without the hassle of driving.

Overall, transportation options for Alishan are convenient, affordable, and offer scenic views of the surrounding mountains and forests. Whether you choose to take the train, bus, taxi, rental car, or shuttle bus, you’re sure to have an unforgettable travel experience.

Where To Visit After Your Trip To Alishan?

After your trip to Alishan, there are several nearby destinations you can visit to continue your journey in Taiwan. Here are some options:

  1. Sun Moon Lake: Located in Nantou County, Sun Moon Lake is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Taiwan. It is the largest body of water in Taiwan and is surrounded by beautiful mountain scenery. You can take a boat tour, visit temples, and try local food.
  2. Tainan: If you want to experience the rich history of Taiwan, Tainan is a must-visit destination. It is the oldest city in Taiwan and is known for its temples, traditional street food, and cultural sites.
  3. Kaohsiung: Kaohsiung is the second-largest city in Taiwan and is known for its beautiful coastline and cultural attractions. You can visit the famous Love River, enjoy delicious seafood, and visit the Fo Guang Shan Buddha Museum.
  4. Kenting National Park: Kenting National Park is located at the southern tip of Taiwan and is known for its beautiful beaches, coral reefs, and scenic hiking trails. It’s a popular destination for outdoor activities like surfing, snorkeling, and diving.
  5. Taipei: Taiwan’s capital city is a vibrant and modern metropolis that offers something for everyone. You can visit the famous Taipei 101 skyscraper, explore the night markets, and indulge in the local food scene.
  6. Kaohsiung: As Taiwan’s second-largest city, Kaohsiung offers a mix of modern and traditional attractions, including the Lotus Pond, the Fo Guang Shan Buddha Museum, and the Liuhe Night Market.
  7. Kenting National Park: Situated at the southern tip of Taiwan, Kenting National Park boasts picturesque beaches, coral reefs, hiking trails, and water sports.
  8. Jiufen: A former gold-mining town located in the hills above the northeastern coast of Taiwan, Jiufen is famous for its narrow alleyways, teahouses, and stunning views of the Pacific Ocean.
  9. Hualien: Situated on Taiwan’s scenic east coast, Hualien is a nature lover’s paradise, with attractions such as Taroko National Park, Qingshui Cliff, and the Coastal Mountain Range.
  10. Penghu: Located off the west coast of Taiwan, Penghu is an archipelago of 90 islands known for its white sandy beaches, crystal-clear waters, and traditional fishing villages.
  11. Kinmen: A group of islands located off the coast of China, Kinmen is a unique destination that combines traditional Taiwanese and Fujianese culture, with attractions such as the Kinmen National Park and the Kinmen Folk Culture Village.
  12. Green Island: A small volcanic island off the eastern coast of Taiwan, Green Island is a popular spot for snorkeling, diving, and relaxing in hot springs.
  13. Yilan: Located in northeastern Taiwan, Yilan is known for its hot springs, traditional night markets, and scenic natural attractions such as the Lanyang Museum and the Wufengchi Waterfall.
  14. Taitung: Another scenic spot on Taiwan’s east coast, Taitung offers outdoor activities such as surfing, hiking, and hot springs, as well as cultural attractions such as the Taitung Forest Park and the National Museum of Prehistory.
  15. Taroko Gorge: Located in eastern Taiwan’s Hualien County, Taroko Gorge is a natural wonder with towering marble cliffs, rushing rivers, and scenic hiking trails.
  16. Taichung: Taiwan’s third-largest city, Taichung is a popular destination for its museums, shopping, and food, as well as nearby attractions such as the Gaomei Wetlands and the Rainbow Village.
  17. Matsu Islands: Another group of islands located off the coast of China, the Matsu Islands are a scenic spot with attractions such as the Beihai Tunnel and the Matsu Folk Culture Village.

No matter where you choose to go after Alishan, Taiwan offers a variety of destinations that are rich in culture, history, and natural beauty.

Alishan Mountain views over the clouds in Taiwan

Alishan Travel Guide: Final Thoughts

Alishan is a beautiful mountain town that is worth visiting for its stunning natural scenery, unique cultural experiences, and serene atmosphere. The area is famous for its sea of clouds, sunrise and sunset views, and towering ancient trees. The Alishan Forest Railway is a must-see attraction that offers visitors a chance to take a ride through the beautiful mountain landscapes.

When planning your trip to Alishan, make sure to pack warm clothing and comfortable shoes, as the temperatures can get chilly, especially at night. Be prepared for large crowds during peak seasons and weekends, and consider staying overnight in Alishan to experience the sunrise and sunset without the crowds.

If you have extra time, there are many day trip options available from Alishan, such as visiting the nearby tea plantations, hot springs, and temples. Additionally, you can explore the nearby cities of Chiayi and Taichung, both of which offer a variety of cultural and historical attractions.

Alishan is a must-visit destination for anyone traveling to Taiwan. The natural beauty, cultural experiences, and peaceful atmosphere make it a perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Amidst the clouds and misty air, Alishan’s beauty is beyond compare, From towering trees to mountain views so rare, Each moment in this wonderland is worth the fare.

With cherry blossoms in the spring, And autumn leaves so bright and captivating, Alishan’s charm is an evergreen thing, A sight to behold, forever captivating.

Take a train ride to Fenqihu town, Or hike the trails to see waterfalls come down, Visit the tea plantations, roam the night markets so renown, Experience it all, from the city to the countryside’s crown.

Alishan, a paradise in the clouds, A place of beauty that leaves one wowed, For travelers seeking nature’s shroud, It’s a must-visit, an experience endowed.

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