ASIA Featured Taiwan

How to get to Alishan, Taiwan the simple and easy way | MAY 2019

I don’t know about you guys, but finding a way to visit Alishan was the bane of planning our trip to Taiwan. We heard about the magic, the fresh air, the incredible views and wonders – but how the hell do you get there? The amount of options for travelling to the mountainside area was so confusing – but limiting at the same time! I scoured blogs, government websites, tourism bureaus, but it was all proving ridiculously difficult, to the point where we almost threw in the towel. But, we made it! And now I can pass the wisdom we gained from the forests of Alishan on to you šŸ™.

Where is Alishan?

Alishan refers to a whole forest area in the mountains on the west coast of Taiwan. But, when people refer to Alishan they typically mean the Alishan Recreational Area – a small township and national park.

You can actually visit many areas of the larger Alishan area, but these are far more difficult, so to simplify the situation this blog will only discuss Alishan Recreational Area, which is famous for the five wonders of Alishan: sunrise, forest, cloud sea, forest railway, and sunset glow.

How do I get to Alishan?

Oh boy, here is a biggie. There are quite a few ways to get to Alishan, so I will spell them as easily as possible in the coming paragraphs.

Option One: Forest Railway

This is the most popular way of getting to Alishan, BUT it is SO popular tickets are almost impossible to reserve. They go on sale fifteen days before the date of travel – but I am still yet to find a person who has secured them.

The Forest Railway is supposedly an amazingly scenic ride up the mountain on trains that were originally built by the Japanese during the occupation. But, there are some cons to taking this option:

  1. The availability of tickets (see above)
  2. Part of the track was destroyed during a 2014 typhoon. This means the track ends before you get to Alishan township and you are put onto a shuttle bus the rest of the way.

But, never fear! Because if you don’t take the Forest Railway option to get to Alishan there is a forest railway that runs within the scenic area to get to the different drawcards. It’s not necessarily as scenic, and it is much shorter, but you can still experience the beauty of being on an old train in a forest (and it’s pretty good!)

Option Two: Bus (recommended)

Taking the bus to Alishan is the most highly recommended option. Why? It’s SUPER easy and affordable.

The buses to and from Alishan are pretty modern and spacious – for the most part! On our way up the mountain we were stuck in a dingy mountain bus. This one to go back was much better!

To make your journey to Alishan even easier just follow the step-by-step instructions below:

  1. Take the TRA train to Chiayi.
  2. Exit Chiayi station through the main doors. Directly ahead of you (less than 100 metres away) will be an outdoor undercover bus stop.
  3. Wait for bus #7322 to arrive.
  4. Enter the bus, pay the driver in exact change ($251 NTD per person) or scan your EasyCard/iPass.
  5. Relax until you get to Alishan!

The bus timetable can be a little bit hit or miss, but typically go every hour or so. When we took this journey our bus arrived directly in the middle of two scheduled times, so it’s easier to sit tight and wait. Regardless, a copy of the timetable is below (accurate to May 2019). We found the most up-to-date timetables here.

CHIAYI TRAIN STATION ALISHAN TRANSPORT CENTRE
6:05 8:40
7:05 9:40
8:05 10:40
8:35 11:10
9:05 11:40
9:35 12:30
10:05 12:40
11:05 13:40
12:05 14:40
14:05 16:40

As you can see, buses to Alishan are pretty frequent, running around every hour or so, so you don’t need to plan ahead too much. The bus costs around $350 NTD, some of them will make a stop, and others will go right there. It’s a very winding road up to the mountain, so sea-sickness tablets are recommended.

NOTE: This bus does not go from the High Speed Rail station in Chiayi – there is a bus service that goes from the HSR station, but it is far less frequent. If you are arriving at the HSR station you can check out the timetable, or simply taxi/public bus over to Chiayi Station.

Option Three: Private Car

It is possible to take a private car up to Alishan, but you do so at your own risk. We were approached at the bus stop by a sketchy woman who was offering to take us with three other Japanese girls for $400 NTD per person. She claimed it was cheaper than the bus (it wasn’t). I’ve heard that these types of private cars typically drive pretty crazy, and to be honest I would much rather be on the bus.

What To Do In Alishan

You’ll arrive in Alishan at the Transport Station, right by the gate to the national park area and just a short walk into the town. Alishan is such a beautiful and inspiring place I had to write a whole post on it! For recommendations for exploring Alishan, including accommodation, things to do, and what to eat, head over thatta way!

How to Leave Alishan

Done with mountain life? When it comes to leaving Alishan it’s super simple. Just do whatever you did in reverse – if you took the bus up you can prepurchase tickets from the 7/11 at the Alishan Transport Station to make your way back to civilization.

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