Nestled in the mountains of south-west Taiwan, Alishan Township is a scenic mountain settlement surrounded by some of the island’s most spectacular trekking terrain. Its tourist railway whisks visitors from the hustle and bustle of city life to red cedar-filled forests on the doorstep of Taiwan’s highest peak.
Things to do in Alishan Township
A highlight of visiting Alishan Township is riding the Alishan Forest Railway, an 86-kilometre network of narrow gauge lines that snakes its way through the region. With its dramatic switchbacks, tunnels and wooden bridges, the railway was originally constructed to serve the logging industry and has now been transformed into a popular tourist attraction. Around lunchtime, the railway stops at Fenqihu, which is famed for its lunch boxes filled with Taiwanese sausage, pork chops and mountain-grown vegetables.
Shenmu Railway Station serves as the gateway to the Alishan Sacred Tree, a 3,000-year-old specimen that is a staggering 23 metres in circumference. You can follow the easy walking trail that leads from the station to admire the forest’s huge red cypress trees while breathing in the cool and misty mountain air.
In addition to the scenic trails of the Alishan National Forest Recreation Area, the township is a base for serious trekkers wanting to scale Taiwan’s highest peak, Yu Shan. This 3,952-metre-high mountain is protected within Yushan National Park, which is home to dramatic cliffs, plunging valleys and around half of Taiwan’s native plant species.
Getting around Alishan Township
Chiayi Airport is just under two hours’ drive from Alishan Township while the larger Tainan Airport is 2.5 hours away. The narrow-gauge Alishan Forest Railway travels from Chiayi to several stations throughout the mountain resort, from where it’s best to explore on foot.