Alishan, Taiwan

Sunrises. Fresh air. Stars. Cold weather. Misty blankets of clouds swirling around mountain peaks. Alishan is a magical dream world. And better yet, for those of you living in Kaohsiung, it can easily be done in a weekend. (Click HERE for a Google Map)

Coming from the smoggy and smelly city of Kaohsiung, it’s as if somewhere along Highway 3 our motorcycle passed through a wormhole, transporting us into another dimension. Gradually, the cold, steel edifices turned into mountains, and the foul city smells evolved into fragrant aromas from the newly emerged flora.

Dom and I took the scenic way on the way there, which took about 7 hours including our one hour stop for lunch. On the way back, we took the quick and drastically different unscenic route going through Tainan. This took exactly 5 hours including about 45 minutes worth of stops.  I really suggest going the scenic route on the way there if you have time, as it’s absolutely 100% worth it.

Once you leave the nastiness of Kaohsiung and it’s outskirts, the ride is splendid. As you approach the last hour of the drive up the mountain, however, it’s possible to get stuck behind tour buses (it’s really hit or miss.) With luck (but remember that this is one of the most popular destinations in Asia, and those Mainland Chinese have pictures and boxes to check off their list), you won’t be held up too much.  We didn’t have much trouble with them on our journey.

alishanlandslideOther factors to consider are landslides and falling rocks. We were stopped on the way back due to both. At one point, workers barricaded the road and were pushing the loose rocks down the mountain. It was quite dramatic seeing the massive boulders crash into the road just yards in front of us.  We also passed many parts of the road which had been struck with recent landslides. Dom went to Alishan last month, and on this journey he pointed out two new landslides since his last visit. Taking this into consideration, I wouldn’t plan a road trip to Alishan after there has been lots of rain.

As for accommodation, there are plenty of hotels and home stays. We stayed in Tea Homestay, a place we found on Agoda,  in a town about one hour away from Yushan National Park. Our room was spacious and comfortable, and the price was right at 1600NT a night. To book a room, click HERE.

Scenic Route From Kaohsiung to Alishan:

Take highway 1 north from Kaohsiung, then turn right on the 22. Drive for about 16km until just before the big river bridge, then turn left on the 21. Follow the 21 until it joins the 3 northbound. Highway 3 then turns very scenic as it takes an indirect route through the mountains, passing close to Tsengwen Dam. Fuel is available in most towns in the lowlands, but in the hills only in Dapu, so be sure to stock up.
Continue along the 3 until it meets the 18, where you turn right and follow the brown signs for Alishan.
Approximate distances on highway 18 (distances are clearly marked on roadside signs every half a kilometer):
km35: the town of Chukou which marks the start of the mountains.
km62: Tea Homestay and gas station.
km63.5: village with 7-11 and Hi-Life convenience stores and several restaurants.
km88: gas station.
km89: entrance to Alishan national park. Bear right here to head to Yushan.
km109.4: Tataka visitor center, the starting point for hiking some of Yushan national park’s trails.
Direct Route From Alishan to Kaohsiung:
Follow the 18 back down the mountain to Chiayi. On the outskirts of Chiayi, the 18 turns right and crosses a river. Shortly afterwards, keep an eye out for a sign to Highway 1, which will be a left turn. Continue along this link road for a couple of km, until you meet Highway 1 at the big Carrefour. Turn left. From here, it’s a straight shot to Tainan City. In Tainan, you can save a bit of time by ignoring Highway 1’s detour through the suburbs and instead keeping straight through the middle of the city. I prefer to turn right in central Tainan to pick up the 17, which follows the coast back to Kaohsiung. Alternatively, rejoin the 1 and head south out of Tainan back to Kaohsiung.
Author’s Tip:
Don’t waste your time going to Alishan National Park proper, where one has to pay 200 NT to get in. You will only be bombarded by pushy Mainland Chinese tourists, and will miss out on the peace and solitude the mountains of Alishan have to offer. Instead, make your way up to Yushan National Park, which is further along the same road to Alishan. Dom and I took this route, and enjoyed the sunrise all to ourselves. To make it possible, we had to leave our hotel at 2:55 AM, but trust me, it’s worth it.
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Comments

  1. This is a really cool blog! Are you a teacher in Taiwan? If so, I’d love to hear what it’s like. I’m planning on finding a job in Taiwan this next year. I visited Taipei last December and I loved it! I have been teaching in South Korea for four years now, and I want to try teaching in a new country.

    • Thanks, Martin! Yes, I am teaching in taiwan. A lot of teachers I know taught in South Korea before moving here, and it’s a the general consensus that Taiwan offers a lot more independence and choices for teachers. I really love it here! If you have any questions about moving out here, please don’t hesitate to ask 🙂

  2. Gorgeous photos!! I have been to Alishan a few times and it is a beautiful place to escape the Taiwan heat during the summer!!

  3. Anonymous says:

    This is a beautiful picture

  4. This blog is my go-to for choosing weekend retreats! So you really think avoiding Alishan proper is the best way to enjoy this area?

    • Hey,Shauna! Glad you have found the blog useful-thanks for reading. I think it all comes down to personal opinion. Alishan proper has a little trolly that takes you up to the mountain which could be fun, but you are surrounded by hoards of tourists, and entry fee is $200NT. I much prefer walking to the top in silence, away from all the tourists and with an extra $200NT in my pocket 😉

  5. Hi, glad to come across this very informative post! The tip you mentioned about going further to yushan national park instead of alishan, does it involve hiking? Is it possible to drive to the spot to catch the sunrise with as little of walking? We are ill-equipped for undertaking a big hike. Thanks!

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