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Alishan National Forest Recreational Area has over 1,400 hectares of land where the majority of it is located at above 2,000 meters above sea level. And Alishan has 36 cypress trees with an average age of over 1,000 years old.
So if you love to hike and want to experience a gorgeous sunrise peeking from the mountains in Central Taiwan, then you must include my two-day Alishan guide to your Taiwan itinerary.
When I was researching transportation options from Chiayi to Alishan, I had a tough time finding different public transportation options. And since I was travelling by myself, taking public transportation is the safest and the most economical option. But through some digging, I found the easiest way to get from Chiayi to Alishan.
I’m really glad I didn’t skip Alishan because it is worth visiting, even as a solo traveller. So I put all the information in one spot and make it easier for you to plan your trip to Alishan. If you are keen on doing some major hiking and seeing a beautiful cypress forest, then keep reading!
Before you visit Taiwan
Before you go to Taiwan, take a look at my post on learning all my best tips for travelling to Taiwan. I included a lot of information, including getting a Taiwan prepaid SIM card, transportation around the country, and more.
Travelling to Taiwan? Learn how you can see all the major cities in Taiwan in 3 weeks
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How to get to Alishan from Chiayi
However, the easiest way is to travel from Chiayi. At a minimum, stay overnight in Chiayi and start your journey to Alishan the first thing 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.
Chiayi to Alishan bus: Bus 7322
The easiest way to go to Alishan from Chiayi is by taking the Taiwan Tourist Shuttle Bus 7322. The bus from Chiayi to Alishan departs at Chiayi Train Station, just outside of the main entrance.
The journey takes about 2 hours or so where the last hour will be on a windy mountain road. If you have motion sickness (like I do), you may want to take a gravol.
Bus fare costs NT$240 for the bus ride, and you can use your EasyCard or iPass. If you haven’t already, purchase either rechargeable smartcard for taking public transportation in major cities in Taiwan. You can get the rechargeable card at any major train station or convenience store in Taiwan.
Bus schedule: Chiayi to Alishan
When you visit the information counter inside Chiayi Station, there is a bus schedule at the information desk (see photo above).
Many buses go to Alishan from Chiayi:
- Chiayi to Alishan (2 hours 30 minutes, NT$240; few buses go to Fenqihu)
- Chiayi HSR to Alishan (2 hours 30 minutes, NT$278)
There are also buses to and from Fenqihu:
- Fenqihu to Alishan (1 hour, NT$98)
- Chiayi Station to Fenqihu (1 hour 40 minutes, NT$175)
Solo travel tip: When you arrive at Alishan via bus 7322, the bus driver will give you a slip of paper, which will provide you with a discount for the Alishan entrance fee. Don’t throw the piece of paper away. Hand it over to the counter at the Alishan entrance gate.
Past promotions for Chiayi to Alishan bus
I visited Alishan during the fall of 2019 and there was a promotion for the second half of 2019 where certain buses from Chiayi to Alishan were half the price.
Take a look at the bus schedule above. For the buses that are highlighted in grey, 50% were taken off the regular price if you use your EasyCard or iPass for the bus ride.
Even though this was a promotion in the past, there may be new and upcoming promotions in the future. Keep your eyes peeled while you are in Chiayi!
Option: Stop off at Fenqihu on the way to Alishan
All the buses from Chiayi to Alishan make a short stopover at Shizhao for a brief stopover. There are a few local restaurants and a 7-Eleven.
From Shizhao, some buses will go to Fengqihu, and other buses will continue to Alishan.
If you have time in your itinerary, you can visit Fenqihu, a town near Alishan. The area has many excellent hikes like Ruitai Historic Trail, where you can see the bamboo forest. Other great walks include Mist Trail, Sunset Trail, Tea Trail, Cloud Trail and Sakura Trail.
There are hotels, guesthouses on tea farms in the area. The tea farms grow Alishan high mountain oolong tea, Taiwan’s most famous tea.
And make sure to get the famous lunchboxes at Fenqihu Hotel.
Alternative route: Alishan Forest Railway + Taiwan Tourist Shuttle Bus
The Alishan Forest Railway used to transport timber when it first opened.
Today, it is a transportation system where it takes passengers up the mountain in Central Taiwan. Riding the train is an attraction in itself because it zigzags up the mountain and crosses as many as 50 tunnels and 70 wooden bridges.
The mainline of the Alishan Forest Railway operates from Chiayi Station to Fenqihu Station. The trail goes uphill and takes about 2 hours, 20 minutes, and costs NT$384.
However, the train does not reach Alishan. To continue your journey to Alishan, you will have to hop on the Taiwan Tourist Shuttle Bus at Fenqihu (see the previous sections for more bus information).
You can get your train ticket either from the automatic ticket vending machine inside Chiayi Station (see photo above) or at the counter just on the outside of Chiayi Station or book it online (see more info in the next section).
While I was in Chiayi (September 2019), the train was suspended temporarily due to railway damages. If you are planning on taking the Alishan Forest Railway Train, make sure to check if the train is operating.
Train Schedule: Chiayi Station to Fenqihu Station
There is only one train (or two trains during weekends) going from Chiayi Station to Fenqihu Station. Take a look at the train schedule above.
The schedule was photographed from the board inside Chiayi Station. There is also an online train schedule.
Since there is only one train (or two trains during weekends), seats are limited. Make sure you book your ticket in advance if you must take the train. You can order the tickets online or buy tickets at Chiayi Station.
You can book online tickets 15 days before the departure date, where you can only reserve six tickets at a time. Online purchasing is only available for Alishan Express and not Jungshing Express. For more information about online tickets, check the ticket purchasing guide.
Purchasing the train ticket in person can be 12 days before the departure date.
Alishan to Chiayi, Sun Moon Lake and Taipei
Unless you have private transportation prearranged after your trip to Alishan, you may want to think about your transportation options leaving Alishan.
The same bus from Chiayi to Alishan will go back to Chiayi.
Other buses travel from Alishan to Sun Moon Lake and Taipei.
All bus passengers will wait for outgoing buses at the Alishan Bus Station (pictured above) at Alishan entrance. You can buy your outgoing bus tickets for same-day travel at the 7-Eleven.
Alishan tourist shuttle bus timetable at Alishan Bus Station
The Alishan tourist shuttle bus timetable is above the entrance to the bus station at Alishan. The board is quite big, and it is right above the doorway.
There are many buses throughout the day going from Alishan to Chiayi Station (bus 7322) and Chiayi HSR Station (bus 7329). You can pay cash or use your EasyCard or iPass.
Yuanlin Bus runs two buses per day going from Alishan to Sun Moon Lake. Bus 6739 departs Alishan at 1:00 pm and 2:00 pm, and it costs NT$336. You can buy the ticket at the 7-Eleven at the Alishan bus station, and you can only buy tickets for the same day.
On weekends, bus 1835 goes to Taipei from Alishan. Kuo Kuang Bus runs this route on Saturday and Sunday at 11:30 am and costs NT$690.
It is possible to see Alishan on your own. But if you want to join a tour, check out these tours:
How will you travel from Chiayi to Alishan?
I hope this post is useful for you to plan your trip to Alishan. The easiest way is to travel to Chiayi first then take a direct bus 7322 to Alishan. However, there are many routes and stop-overs, Which one are you going to take? Let me know in the comments below.