While there are many things to do in Alishan, Taiwan, it is possible to see everything in Alishan in two days. All you have to do is follow my comprehensive 2-day solo Alishan itinerary, and you can see all the best attractions effectively and efficiently.
Since the 1970s, the Alishan mountains have become a major tourist attraction. Alishan National Forest Recreation Area, or Alishan National Scenic Area, was one of the three main logging areas where the Alishan Forest Railway was built for transporting lumber.
Today, Alishan in Taiwan has a conservation area with over 1,400 hectares of forest with many historical remains throughout the park.
Alishan is known for its five wonders: sunrise, forest, cloud sea, forest railway, and sunset glow. So if you want to do some serious hiking, see thousand-year-old trees, and watch the famous Alishan sunrise, then you must visit Alishan in Taiwan.
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Table of Contents
Before you start your solo Alishan itinerary
Before you plan your Alishan trip, take a look at my post on all the best tips for travelling to Taiwan. I included a lot of information, including getting a Taiwan SIM card, transportation around the country and more.
And before I dive into my Alishan itinerary, I want to share a few quick tips about going to Alishan Taiwan:
- There are many trails in Alishan; some are hilly, and some have stairs. But you don’t need to be an advanced hiker to trek any of these trails.
- The bus ride from Chiayi to Alishan in windy for the last hour. If you have motion sickness, it might not be a pleasant ride. Take an over-the-counter anti-nausea medicine like Gravol.
- When you disembark the bus from Chiayi to Alishan, the bus driver will give you a piece of paper. Don’t throw it away because it gives you a discount on the entrance fee.
- There are several food options in Alishan in Taiwan; several restaurants serve hot pot and sharing plates.
- If you don’t like any of the restaurant options, there is a 7-Eleven. The convenience store is great for snacks and meals.
- Bring enough cash for two days. I don’t remember seeing any ATMs, but maybe there is one in 7-Eleven. You will need cash for the entrance fee, food, a train ticket to see the sunrise, bus fare, and any souvenirs you want to bring home.
- When you leave Alishan, you can return to Chiayi or Sun Moon Lake.
What to bring for your Alishan trip
Alishan Forest Recreation Area is in the Yushan Mountain range, with an elevation of 2,200+ above sea level. The average daytime temperature is between 15-25°C during summer and 5-15°C during winter.
And it is quite common to get a bit of rain in the mountains. Alishan weather changes quickly as you may get sunshine in the morning, light drizzling in the afternoon, to heavy fog in the late afternoon. At least, that is how I experienced Alishan in October.
The best way to dress is to wear layers while hiking through Alishan. And also, be prepared for cooler temperatures if you travel during winter.
Here is a list of items that you should bring for hiking in Alishan:
- Long sleeve shirt
- Thermal long-sleeve shirt
- Hiking pants
- Waterproof jacket
- Comfortable and waterproof hiking shoes
- Thick hiking socks
- Hat for sun protection
- Water bottle
- Small backpack for day hikes
- Camera (or smartphone)
How to get to Alishan Taiwan
But first, you need to travel to Chiayi, the gateway city to Alishan. Chiayi has many buses and trains going to Alishan.
At a minimum, stay overnight in Chiayi and start your journey to Alishan the next morning. But if you have a few days to spare, definitely add Chiayi to your travel itinerary, as there are many things to do in Chiayi.
From Taichung to Chiayi
In Taichung, take the Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) train since it is the more straightforward route because both Taichung HSR Station and Chiayi HSR Station are outside the respective cities.
- Taichung Railway Station to Chiayi Station
- TRA Tze-Chiang Limited Express
- Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
- Cost: NT$224
- TRA Local Train
- Time: from 1 hour 50 minutes
- Cost: NT$144
- Check Taichung Station to Chiayi Station train schedule and cost
- TRA Tze-Chiang Limited Express
From Taipei to Chiayi
The easiest way to travel from Taipei to Chiayi is to take a direct local express TRA train to Chiayi.
- TRA: Taipei Main Train Station to Chiayi Station
- Chu-Kuang Express, Tze-Chiang Limited Express or Puyuma
- Time: from 2 hours 30 minutes
- Cost: NT$461+
- Check Taipei Station to Chiayi Station train schedule and cost
Once you are in Chiayi, take the Taiwan Tourist Shuttle Bus #7322 from Chiayi Station to Alishan Bus Terminal.
From Chiayi to Alishan
- Chiayi Station to Alishan Bus Terminal
For more information on bus schedules and train travel from Chiayi to Alishan, see my post dedicated to transportation options from Chiayi to Alishan.
How to get around Alishan Taiwan
There are a few ways to get around Alishan National Forest Recreation Area.
I loved exploring Alishan on foot. It is a lot of walking, and many Alishan trails are uphill or have stairs. But it is worth your energy and effort. And it is possible to explore the entire park on foot in two days.
Alishan Forest Railway
The Alishan Forest Railway has a dedicated train line with three stops: Sacred Tree Station, Chaoping Station and Zhushan Station. You can see many things at each train station so that you can plan your day around the activities near each stop. It costs NT$150 for a one-way ticket.
For this itinerary, I suggest taking the train from Alishan Station to Zhushan Station on the second morning of my two-day Alishan itinerary to watch the sunrise.
There are four tourist minibus stops around the park. You can purchase the tickets at the bus stand. But this mode of transportation is not required for this itinerary.
Where to stay in Alishan Taiwan
There are not a lot of choices for accommodations in Alishan. It is one of the most challenging places to find reasonable accommodation at an affordable price in Taiwan. Budget accommodation does not seem to exist in Alishan, and mid-range hotels have very basic rooms and amenities.
If you are only doing a day trip to Alishan, figuring out where to stay in Alishan is not an issue.
However, if you are following my Alishan itinerary and want to watch the famous Alishan sunrise, I highly recommend staying at one of the hotels in the Alishan National Forest Recreation Area.
- Gau Shan Ching Hotel ($$) – The 3-start hotel is in high demand because it is the cheapest hotel in Alishan. A double room is basic, and it comes with an ensuite bathroom. The bed was comfortable, but the bathroom was old and dingy. The best part about the hotel is the convenient back exit at level two, where you can easily walk over to explore the park. I didn’t love my stay, but I didn’t want to spend that much on a hotel either. I would only recommend it if you want to watch the sunrise and don’t want to spend more money than you need to.
- Check prices & reviews: Agoda
- Alishan Shermuh Hotel ($$) – one of the newer hotels in the park that offers a modern and clean guestroom for any travellers who want to stay overnight and get a good night’s sleep. If I return to Alishan, I will definitely check out this hotel.
- Check prices & reviews: Agoda
- Alishan House ($$$) – A luxury hotel in Alishan Forest Recreation Area. It is further away from Alishan Forest Station, so you must trek to the Alishan Station to catch the sunrise train. But you will enjoy the modern guestroom and other amenities. I read many blogs and reviews and most bloggers say it is the best hotel in Alishan.
- Check prices & reviews: Agoda
Alishan Airbnb accommodation
There is no Airbnb accommodation within Alishan Forest Recreation Area. And if you follow my 2-day Taiwan Alishan itinerary, you should stay within the park.
However, if you must stay at an Airbnb, the closest Airbnb accommodations are around Shizhao, where the Taiwan Tourist Shuttle Bus #7322 stops en route to Alishan. Check the bus schedules to and from Alishan Forest Recreation Area if you want to stay there.
Alishan travel guide: Things to do in Alishan Taiwan
There are many things to do in Alishan Taiwan, and it might seem confusing what you should see first, where to start, etc.
With my efficient solo hiking itinerary, you can see everything in Alishan in 2 days. My how-to Alishan guide will show you exactly what you will see and how you can see everything most efficiently and economically.
Alishan Taiwan Map: What to do in Alishan in 2 days
All the Alishan attractions are pinned in the interactive map below. You can find more information about each attraction by clicking on the individual pin.
Day 1 of self-guided Alishan Itinerary (red pins)
1. Start bright and early from Chiayi
The best way to start your Alishan journey in Taiwan is to stay overnight in Chiayi and leave Chiayi first thing in the morning. Chiayi is the closest city to Alishan and has plenty of transportation options to Alishan. There are many things to do in Chiayi, so if possible, stay an extra day if possible.
The easiest way to get to Alishan from Chiayi is by taking the Taiwan Tourist Shuttle Bus #7322. Take a look at my detailed post on how to take the bus from Chiayi to Alishan. You can catch the bus in front of Chiayi Station (pictured below).
The bus ride takes about 2 hours and 30 minutes. Take the 8:05 am bus at Chiayi Station, where you will arrive at Alishan Bus Terminal at 10:30 am. If you are an early bird, take the 6:05 am or 7:10 am bus to have more time in Alishan.
When you arrive at Alishan Bus Terminal, the bus driver will give you a piece of paper as you disembark. It is a discount for the entrance fee for Alishan Forest Recreation Area. The regular entrance fee is NT$300, and with the discount, you only pay NT$150.
2. Drop off your bags at your accommodation in Alishan
Since you will be staying overnight in Alishan and you don’t need to hike around with all your belongings, drop them off at the hotel you booked ahead of time.
It is best to book accommodation before you arrive at Alishan as it is a popular tourist destination.
Once you arrive at the Alishan Bus Terminal, walk towards the entrance gate and pay your entrance fee.
Follow the road until you see several buildings on the left. This is the retail and restaurant area. Most restaurants, souvenir shops, 7-Eleven, and Alishan Visitor Centre are here.
And the majority of the hotels are just to the east of the Alishan Visitor Centre, including Gau Shan Ching Hotel (where I stayed) and the new Alishan Shermuh Hotel. Alishan House is about a 10-minute walk into Alishan Forest Recreation Area.
3. Pick up a handy Alishan National Forest Recreation Area Brochure at the Alishan Visitor Centre
After you drop off your bags, return to the Alishan Visitor Centre and pick up the brochure (pictured below). The pamphlet is very informative, has all the info on all the best things to do in Alishan, and has a very accurate map of the area.
Besides following my Alishan itinerary, the brochure map is also a great resource for visiting Alishan National Forest Recreational Area. I am thoroughly surprised by how accurate the information is in the brochure. All the attractions, sites, approximate distances, and times are pretty accurate.
Don’t worry about not speaking Mandarin. The staff at the Alishan Visitor Centre is very helpful, and they speak perfect English.
4 & 5. Walk to the entrance of Tashan Trail and hike up to Tashan Peak Observatory
The weather in Alishan is quite weird. It is clear and bright in the morning and slowly gets foggy in the early afternoon. As the afternoon approaches, the sky is quite foggy and grey. So it is best to do the most difficult hikes first to see the views.
From the park entrance, walk towards Chaoping Station along the Forest Trail towards the entrance of Tashan Trail.
The trail is 3.5km long and will take about 2 hours to descend the mountain.
Tashan Mountain comprises several odd-shaped rocks and several platforms along the way. At the Tashan Peak Observatory, you can see Jade Mountain, the Central Mountain Range, and Alishan National Forest Recreation Area.
Remember to bring water and snacks with you.
6. See the Jiemei (Sister) Ponds along the Pond-shore Boardwalk
Follow the trail to see the Jiemei (Sister) Ponds, composed of a larger Elder Sister Pond and a smaller Younger Sister Pond, where nearby mountain streams fill both ponds.
There are two pavilions in the centre of the Elder Sister Pond, where you can rest and enjoy the quiet surrounding. And the Younger Sister Pond is full in the summer and pretty low during winter. The pond nourishes the soil and provides water for animals, plants and microorganisms.
The Pond-shore Boardwalk goes around both ponds, where you can see the ponds from different angles. The entire path is about 186 meters long.
7. Visit the Alishan Shouzhen Temple
Follow the trail until you reach the Alishan Shouzhen Temple.
As the largest temple in Alishan and also the highest in altitude, Alishan Shouzhen Temple was built to bless and protect the people who are part of the logging industry. Logging was a big part of Alishan back in the day, but it is now a conservation area where the old cypress trees are honoured and protected.
There are also a few vendors selling souvenirs and snacks. This is a good time to fuel up if you are hungry.
8. Try Alishan Oolong Tea at the 50s Coffee Shop at Alishan House
After the long hike up Tashan Trail and meandering through the park, you might welcome a short coffee or tea break.
Visit the 50’s Coffee Shop, which is part of Alishan House and order the famous Alishan Oolong tea and pastry if you are feeling famished.
The Alishan tea comes in a kettle, and you can have more hot water if you wish.
The tea and cake are not cheap, though. I believe the raindrop cake is NT$60, and the Oolong tea is NT$120. But the 1950’s ambiance, heated interiors, and the use of the clean bathroom are well worth the money.
9, 10 & 11. See King Cherry, Elephant Tree Trunk and Three Generation Tree
After a well-deserved break, follow the trail and find King Cherry trees. Alishan Forest Recreational Area has some of the best spots for cherry blossom viewing. There are over 19,000 cherry trees, most of which are Yoshino cherry trees, similar to the ones in Japan. During the Alishan Cherry Blossom Festival, thousands of visitors come to see the gorgeous pink flowers. It is truly the best time to visit Alishan!
Continue on the path and find many sacred tree relics in Alishan, including the Elephant Tree Trunk. It is an old cypress tree stump that looks like an elephant trunk, hence the name.
Then you will see the Three Generation Tree, where three generations of cypress trees grow on top of one another. The tree keeps on growing despite weather conditions and other disruptions.
12, 13, 14 & 15. See the Pagoda of the Tree Spirit, Xianglin Giant Tree, Alishan Museum and Ciyun Temple Scenery
Next, you will see a monument in the cypress forest. The Pagoda of the Tree Spirit is a monument devoted to sacred trees. The base comprises a series of concentric circles where each of the six layers represents 500 years of growth.
Follow the Giant Trees Boardwalks and see all the thousand-year-old cypress in the Alishan Forest, including Xianglin Sacred Tree, a 2,300-year-old cypress.
If it is open, pop into Alishan Museum to see historical artifacts, models and old photographs of the Alishan Forest Railway.
And if you are visiting Alishan on a clear day, you can see the sea clouds at the Ciyun Temple Scenery. And in the late afternoon, you can see the sunset with Tashan in the background.
16 & 17. Follow the Giant Tree Plank Trail to see Shunyi Waterfall and No. 28 Giant Tree
Keep following the path, pass the Sacred Tree Station, and you will see Shunyi Waterfall. Compared to everything else in Alishan, the waterfall is nice but not particularly impressive.
Continue on the Giant Tree Plank Trail and see some of the oldest Taiwanese red cypresses in the park. There are at least 36 giant trees in the area, including No. 28 Giant Tree, which is 43.5 meters tall, 13.1 meters in circumference and over 2000 years old. It is one of the biggest trees in the giant tree forest.
18. Stop by Alishan Station to check the departure time for the sunrise train
Before dinner, stop by the Alishan Station and check the departure time for the sunrise train.
Since sunrise differs daily, the information is updated daily at the train station. And the departure time for the sunrise train is based on the estimated sunrise time. Typically, the departure time for the sunrise train is around 5:00 am.
Buying the Alishan Forest Railway tickets between 1:00 pm and 4:30 pm the day before is possible. But if you follow my two-day Alishan itinerary, you must buy the train ticket the next morning. It is not a big deal to buy it the following morning as there are usually plenty of tickets. An hour before departure, go to the train station to secure a ticket.
19 & 20. Have dinner at the food centre or 7-Eleven
Most of the restaurants in Alishan are hotpot style or sharing plates, which are meant for bigger groups of travellers. I didn’t find any exciting options for solo travellers.
But there is a food center just south of the Alishan Visitor Centre. Several food vendors line the hallway of the food center selling local Taiwanese food.
Based on the clientele, I would assume that most people eating there works at the park (they wore uniforms).
Nonetheless, some food stalls have English menus. Plus, it is really affordable to eat there. A bowl of beef noodles costs about NT$90.
You can always eat at 7-Eleven in the retail and restaurant area if you don’t see anything you like. Eating at a convenience store sounds weird, but Taiwanese 7-Eleven’s have excellent food! I had microwaved xiao long bao (soup dumplings) at 7-11, which was so delicious!
Day 2 of self-guided Alishan Itinerary (purple pins)
1. Wake up early to catch the sunrise train at Alishan Station
The best Aliahsn itinerary includes seeing the famous Alishan sunrise! This means the second day of your Alishan trip will start super early.
Your hotel will give you a morning call and give you an ample amount of time to get ready. So grab your warm clothes and camera (smartphone) and go to Alishan Station.
Purchase a ticket from the booth on the main floor of Alishan Station. The sunrise train ticket costs NT$150 (one way). Make sure to bring cash.
Then wait for the sunrise train on the platform, where the train will take you directly to Zhushan Station.
2 & 3. Walk up Mount Ogasawara Viewing Lot and wait to see the famous Alishan sunrise
Once you arrive at Zhusan Station, there is a platform where you can watch the sunrise called Zhushan Sunrise Observation Deck. There are also food vendors selling tea eggs and warm drinks in case you want an early breakfast while waiting for the sunrise.
But you should walk up to Xiaoliyuanshan Lookout (previously called Mount Ogasawara Viewing Lot) to watch the sunrise instead. The hike is easy, and it only takes 10 minutes.
Standing at 2,488 meters above sea level, Xiaoliyuanshan Lookout is the best spot to watch the sunrise at Alishan. The 360-degree platform lets visitors see the cloud sea and sunrise over Jade Mountain in Yushan National Park. And it is also an excellent spot for watching the sunset and stargazing.
4, 5 & 6. Walk downhill to Duegaoyue Trail Head and continue on Duegaoyue Trail to Duegaoyue Pavillion
After you capture many gorgeous photos of the famous Alishan sunrise, follow the paved road and walk down the mountain.
Walk past Zhushan Station, and follow the main road until a sign for Duegaoyue Trail Head.
The Duegaoyue Sunrise Platform is on the right, another great platform for viewing the sunrise. Continue on the Duegaoyue Trail, walking partly on the railway. It doesn’t seem like it is the right way, but it is.
Part of the trail will lead you up a flight of stairs. You will walk up the hill, back down and up again until you reach Duegaoyue Pavillion. The journey is 1.7km and takes about 1 hour and 40 minutes to complete.
Then backtrack the entire way until you see Duegaoyue Trail Head.
7 & 8. Follow the Shuishan Trail and see the Giant Tree of Shuishan
From Duegaoyue Trail Head, follow the road until you see Zhushan Sunrise Trail on the right. Then descend the paved path.
At the end of the Zhushan Sunrise Trail, many signs are pointing to see the giant trees of Shuishan.
Follow the sign and walk along the old railroad tracks of the Zhongzhi Line of the Alishan Forest Railway. The railway is closed and is part of the Shuishan Trail to the giant trees.
You will pass the Truss Bridge, which will take you directly to the platforms built around the Giant Tree of Shuishan. The 2700-year-old tree is a Formosan red cypress tree, and there are many giant trees in Alishan due to abundant rainfall.
9. Walk on the elevated pathways of Cherry Blossom Trail
Walk all the way back from the Shuishan Giant Tree on Shuishan Trail and make your way to Cherry Blossom Trail.
It is a series of elevated pathways where you are high above the ground. It is another hot spot to see cherry blossom during the springtime (March to April). Because the pathways are elevated, you can appreciate the unobstructed views of the park filled with pink cherry blossom flowers.
But even if you are not visiting during the cherry blossom season, the pathways are an excellent way to see the park from another perspective.
10. Return to Chiayi or go to Sun Moon Lake or Taipei
My solo two-day Alishan itinerary includes many attractions and all the best things to do in Alishan. I hope you enjoyed my suggested route and enjoyed your journey.
And it is time to think of your next destination for your journey in Taiwan. So pick up your bags at your hotel and go to the Alishan Bus Terminal.
The only way to leave Alishan is by public bus at the Alishan Bus Terminal (unless you are part of a tour or have any other transportation arranged beforehand).
The same bus from Chiayi to Alishan can take you back to Chiayi. And there are many buses throughout the day. Pay by cash or use your EasyCard or iPass.
Or, if you want to continue to another destination, there is one bus going from Alishan to Sun Moon Lake at 1pm and it costs NT$336. You can purchase your ticket on the day of travel at the 7-Eleven at the Alishan Bus Terminal or purchase two months in advanced. Call the Suili Station at 049-2770041 or email them at email@example.com.
And there is a bus going to Taipei on Saturdays and Sundays only. The bus leaves Alishan at 11:30 am and costs NT$690.
For more information on the bus schedules and destinations after Alishan, check out my post by clicking here.
Are you going to follow my Alishan itinerary and travel guide?
I want to create a complete Alishan travel guide for solo travellers because I had a tough time planning my solo trip to Alishan. There are so many things to do in Alishan, and I wasn’t sure if hiking Alishan on my own was even possible.
But after spending a few days in Alishan and repeating a few hiking trails, I created this 2-day Alishan itinerary that allows any solo traveller to hike all the Alishan trails efficiently and economically while moving at your own pace.
If you still have doubts about going to Alishan alone, there are 1-day to 3-day tours to Alishan from Chiayi. Tours take away all the headaches for planning and etc. But you won’t have the freedom of hiking the park on your own.
I hope this post convinced you that Alishan is worth visiting and it is possible to travel solo to Alishan. Let me know in the comments if this Alishan travel guide is helpful to you.
Thank you for reading my Alishan Taiwan itinerary
You might also like these other posts on solo travel in Taiwan:
Introduction to Taiwan
- Things to know before visiting Taiwan
- How and where to buy a Taiwan prepaid SIM card
- How to spend 3 weeks in Taiwan
- 22 must-eat food in Taiwan
- Top 10 must-try Taiwan 7-11 Food
Southern Taiwan posts
- 17 Best things to do in Chiayi Taiwan
- How to travel from Chiayi to Alishan
- Things to do in Tainan as a solo traveller
- 23 Things to do alone in Kaohsiung
- 3 Best night markets in Kaohsiung
- Kenting Travel Guide: things to do