Travel Guide to Alishan Forest Recreation, Taiwan

March 27, 2016

Traveling to Alishan Forest 阿里山國家風景區 is not as difficult as it is being perceived.
It is extremely easy for Chinese literate like me.

It is not difficult if you cannot read or speak Chinese eiher, read on for my

Travel Guide to Alishan Forest Recreation, Taiwan

1) Best Time to Visit

Cherry Blossom seasons starts Spring (mid of March). The fireflies season will start from April-June. Visiting Alishan these time of the year will make your trip a memorable one.

I visited early March 2016 which was unexpectedly met by light showers that lasted all day. Nevertheless, the forest is still a beauty not to be missed.

2) Getting There

Coming from Taipei 台北, you need to take a HSR (High Speed Railway) or Taipei Railway to Chiayi 嘉義 Station. 

The HSR and Railway arrives in different stations in Chiayi. 

HSR is a quicker option and has ample of trips a day.
Taipei - Chiayi HSR costs NT$1,035 per way
Or you can look up on the Internet for cheap deals for foreigners, such as KKDAY that offers One-Way Train Tickets. 

If you arrive at Chiayi HSR, you can take a public bus just outside of the station all the way to Alishan. If you are staying in other smaller villages, make sure you tell or show the bus driver your destination before paying. Ticket cost varies but a trip up to Alishan peak is NT$270+.

Below is a timetable of the bus:

From Chiayi to AlishanFrom Alishan to Chiayi
8:1014:10 (Mon-Fri)
*Infomation correct as of March 2017

I strongly suggest that you take the Alishan Forest Railway from Chiayi to Fenqihu 奮起湖 (mid of the mountain) at 9am or when returning Fenqihu to Chiayi at 2pm. As of 2016 they only opened up the Forest Railway from Chiayi - Fenqihu - Chiayi section and on the peak of Alishan (Alishan - Shenmu 神木, Zhaoping 沼平, ZhuShan 祝山).

3) Accommodation

Choosing to stay at the Forest Recreation Area (peak) or some other smaller villages on the way towards the peak is absolutely fine. 

The public bus runs from Chiayi and passes by practically all towns on the expressway, which means it will be easy to commute up to the peak.

I stayed at Alishan Lauya Homestay 阿里山神禾民宿 and I enjoyed very much. 

The homestay has only 5 rooms for guests, the owners are really dedicated and helpful giving guides and information during our stay in Alishan. 

There is a bus stop right in front (Shanghudi 上湖底 stop) of the homestay making it easy for us to go up to Alishan peak and other towns. 

Highly recommend this Homestay as they provide breakfast, afternoon tea, very detailed information and free transport between nearby town (Shizhuo 石卓). A night in this homestay costs NT$3500.

4) Shizhuo

Shizhuo is a small town on the Alishan Expressway. There are many restaurants where you have have a bite. However, restaurants generally closes around 6pm. 

If you happen to be at Shizuo, try the mutton hot pot at a local restaurant called "石卓羊肉店". It is opposite of 7-11 and has red laterns in front of the shop. 

A pot of soup with highland cabbage (Gao Li Cai 高丽菜) and tofu is served with good mutton and rice. Nice to enjoy with the chilly weather of Alishan. A hot pot meal like this range from NT$500-700.

From Shizhuo, you can ride on buses (NT$25) towards Fenqihu, a small hidden village off the expressway. 

5) Fenqihu

Fenqihu is a small village off the expressway and a former maintenance station for the forest railway. Currently the forest railway from Chiayi reaches here. 

Worth a visit only if you have some extra time in Alishan. 

Fenqihu has proper hiking trails like Alishan Forest Recreation Area. The Muma Trail 木馬棧道 on the right side was used by the Japanese to transport logs in the olden days. 

Because this is a railway village, it is famous for its Railway Lunch Bentos 奮起湖鐵路便當. A lunch meal like this cost NT$100.

6) Alishan Forest Recreation Area

It is hardly that you will get to see the sunrise from Alishan due to the heavy mist, unless you are really lucky. 

If you are planning to see the sunrise, your day's journey starts around 3am and you will need to take a train from Alishan Station to Zhushan Station. 

Entrance Fee to the park is NT$150.

Here is a map of the recreation are, spot marked in red are places you should visit.  

Start or end (or both ways) with a train ride to either Zhaoping station or Shenmu (Sacred Tree) station. The train cost is NT$50 per way.

The Cherry Blossoms are located near Zhaoping station, once you step out from the station, turn left and walk along.  

This trail is to Mt.Shuishan Giant Sacred Tree. At Zhaoping Station, walk towards left until you see the abandoned train tracks. Walk along the tracks will bring you to the Sacred Giant Tree.

This trail is quiet and much more enjoyable compared to the trails near to Shenmu (Sacred Tree) Station which is always packed with bus loads of tourists. 

Half a day in Alishan will be sufficient where you can walk along the forest at your own pace.

7) Alishan Oolong Tea

Alishan is famous for its Oolong Tea. Ask your homestay/hotel to send you to a nearby tea house to taste some tea. 

Oolong Tea is a type of green tea and has higher content of caffeine. The other tea on the right is Red Oolong Tea.  

1 packet of tea leaves (200g) costs around NT$400.

8) Suggested Itinerary

Most travellers spend 1 night on Alishan which is quite tight but still doable. I highly recommend a trip of 3 days 2 nights to Alishan. Assuming that you are staying at the same place I stayed (Alishan Lauya Homestay), below is my suggested itinerary.

Day 1
9:00HSR to Chiayi and bus to accommodation for checkin and leave bags
13:00Fenqihu visit, bento lunch and trekking; buy tickets for forest railway Fenqihu-Chiayi
18:00dinner at Shizhuo
Day 2
9:00bus to Alishan Forest
16:00early dinner at Shizhuo
18:00tea tasting
Day 3
9:00morning walk at the nearby trails and coffee at nearby local cafe
12:00lunch at Fenqihu
14:00forest railway Fenqihu-Chiayi, transit bus to HSR Chiayi Station and take HSR back to Taipei

9) Weather

It will be chilly in Alishan so be prepared with warm clothing. It is very likely to get wet/damp because of the mist as well, wear waterproof jackets and shoes. 

If you do not have waterproof gears, there are vendors around who are selling raincoats or shoe wraps. 

10) Chinese Characters 

Below are some Chinese characters of the names for any of you who cannot read Chinese.
Alishan 阿里山
Chiayi 嘉義
Shenmu 神木
Zhaoping 沼平
ZhuShan 祝山
Fenqihu 奮起湖
Shanghudi 上湖底
Shizhuo 石卓
Shizhuo Mutton Shop 石卓羊肉店
Cabbage 高丽菜

Hope my simple travel guide will help you when visiting Alishan. If you need to ask me questions, drop me a message and follow me on Instagram @juliayong.

Note: Information is correct as of March 2016.

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