Alishan 阿里山 2016

Alishan has two 7- Eleven Stores, and claims they are the second highest in Taiwan ~ and Taiwan’s #1 highest post office too. Another must see!

And Taiwan’s #1 highest elementary school.  Wow, that’s quite something!  2,195 metres above sea-level, that’s over 7,000 feet. Imagine that eh?

But of course, none of these reasons are really why Alishan is so popular.  It’s very well up on the list of THE places to visit in Taiwan. Tourists from all over Asia and especially Mainland China, zillions of people have it on their list.  Alishan is famous, very famous.

We’re talking about an area of over 400 km² way up in Taiwan’s central mountain range, with the main Alishan mountain resort located at just over 2,000 metres above sea level. Famous for it’s sunrises and sea of clouds, for it’s cherry blossom and giant ancient ‘sacred’ trees, for the famous folk song about the beautiful girls of Alishan (阿里山的姑娘) and the local Tsou indigenous people, for its tea plantations and wasabi, and for its mountain railway and winding roads….

From Wikipedia:

The Alishan area was originally settled by the Tsou tribe of the Taiwanese aborigines; the name derives from the aboriginal word Jarissang…. Following the cession of Taiwan to Japan at the end of the First Sino-Japanese War, Japanese expeditions to the area found large quantities of cypress (檜木, or hinoki in Japanese). This led to the development of the logging industry in the area and the export of local cypress and Taiwania wood. A series of narrow-gauge railways were built in the area during this time to facilitate the transportation of lumber from the mountains to the plains below, part of which continues to operate as the Alishan Forest Railway.

Now the area is called Alishan National Scenic Area and possibly the only reason for it not being completely overrun with even more tourists (not true, it IS overrun by tourist in the cherry blossom season!) is it’s remote location ~ 6 hours by road from Taipei, that’s 3 hours down the motorway to Chiayi and then 3 hours of winding roads going forever round and round and up and up!

Anyway, a fine day was promised for Saturday, and it’s the end of April – so we’re right at the end of the cherry blossom season.  Gotta get there fast!

How to do it?

Well, this is one way ~ overnight bus from Taipei straight to Alishan, arriving in Alishan at 3:00 am, just in time to get ready to head for the sunrise due at about 5:30 am.  The key place is to see the sun coming up over Yushan, Taiwan’s highest mountain (3,952 m) …..

By which time it’s about 6:30 am, and time for a big explore of the Alishan area. Checking out all the ancient trees, cherry blossoms, views and of course the little trains.

And then back by bus to Chiayi mid-afternoon, train to Taipei and home on the last bus, arriving just before midnight.  Phew! 

Yes, Alishan on a day trip ~ kinda crazy but definitely worth doing, even if you have to survive on hardly any sleep.  Hey, there’s always plenty of coffee available at Taiwan’s second-highest 7-Eleven stores ~ and you’ll need it, I’m telling you!

8 thoughts on “Alishan 阿里山 2016”

  1. Hello Catherine Lee
    I really need your help
    I am interested in your trip I wanna do like this
    I would like to catch direct bus from Taipei to Alishan by night bus
    What to concern…
    Is it possible to book at that boarding day by walk-in?

    I will arrive Alishan by 3AM the next day… can I buy train ticket to see the sunrise at chusan station? how can I buy national park entry ticket at that time? is it too early to buy tickets from ticket office??

    What can I do after arriving Alishan that very early morning? walking around? is it cold?

    Appreciate your time and your help


    1. Thanks for your interest. You can only book your ticket on the same day if they have any spare seats. It’s a bit risky to leave it so late. I booked 2 days before and it was already nearly full. The bus company will take your phone number to contact you in case of bad weather and need to cancel. The bus driver is excellent and does everything to help you have a good time in Alishan. When the bus arrives in Alishan at 3:00am, first the bus passes through the national park entrance where you buy your entrance ticket, then you will pass the train station, where you will see there are already long lines of people waiting to buy their tickets for the sunrise train. You can join the long line. Or there is a private driver with minibus who meets the Alishan bus (the bus company and minibus driver have a cooperative agreement to work together) and you can go with him for NT$ 300 in a group, and he will avoid all the lines, he will take you to a sunrise viewing station and back. I did that and think it was worth it. The sunrise train is NT$ 100 one way, so it’s not much more expensive. On arrival back after seeing the sunrise, it’s about 6:30am, then you can enjoy walking around the beautiful area. There’s lots to see and they give you a free map, lots of trails to follow. When I went it was quite cold at 3:00am, so take a jacket, some people wear gloves, but you can stay in the 7-Eleven until its time to leave for the sunrise trip so it’s not too bad. You need to make the most of the early morning to enjoy the scenery and maybe mid-morning you can join the other 2 train rides that go around the area. The big tourist buses start to arrive about lunchtime to that’s a good time to think about leaving. The return bus trip to Taipei leaves Alishan at 11:30am. It’s a fun trip and well worth it. Enjoy1

      1. soooo it means that the ticket office works very early in the morning !
        I heard that I need to buy train ticket to see the sunrise the day before because they work only daytime!
        but if you see them work in that time I will go to Alishan by bus like you then take train

        Appreciate your help!!

      2. The train station does sell tickets the day before, so if you definitely want a ticket, that’s the best way. On the actual day, they open very early to send off the sunrise trains, there are notices telling you what time. The people are lining up very early. I guess on arrival you could first check out the train station at Alishan, and if it’s not possible to get a train ticket, then go on the minibus instead. Have a good trip!

  2. Hi Catherine,
    I am also planning to go to Alisan on 17th April 2018. Do you meant there is still some opportunity of seeing Cherry Blossom??

    1. I was there last weekend, and there was lots of white cherry blossom. There will probably still be some when you go, although most will be over. Still beautiful though!

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