If you’re planning your first trip to the mystical forests of Alishan National Forest Recreation Area (阿里山國家森林遊樂區), the very first thing you’re probably trying to figure out is how to get to Alishan.
Alishan is a beautiful alpine area in Chiayi County in central Taiwan, with the Alishan National Forest Recreation Area as its shining star. This gorgeous scenic area sits at an elevation of 2158m and is neatly tucked away in the Alishan Mountain Range, one of Taiwan’s five biggest mountain ranges.
As one of Taiwan’s top three tourist attractions, Alishan is a huge must on any Taiwan travel itinerary. But unlike Taroko Gorge and Sun Moon Lake (the other two must-visit sights), Alishan is not the easiest place to reach and definitely requires proper planning.
Chiayi City, located roughly 67km away, is the main gateway to Alishan and also where you’ll kick-start your epic journey to one of the most beautiful places in Taiwan. So today, I’m going to share exactly how to get from Chiayi to Alishan so that you can find the best way to travel for you! With that said, I’ve also included a couple of alternative routes below if you’re coming from elsewhere in Taiwan.
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Essentials Tips for Traveling to Alishan
Before heading out to the misty forest-filled slopes of Alishan, there are a couple of things you need to know.
- Read my detailed Alishan guide to discover the best things to do, where to stay, and so much more!
- If you don’t want to plan a thing and prefer to join a guided tour of Alishan, this full-day discover Alishan tour departing from either Kaohsiung or Chiayi is your best bet. A multi-day tour is also available through the same operator for those who’d like to spend a bit more time in the area.
- Another stress-free option for more independent travelers is to book a shared shuttle bus from Chiayi THSR Station to Alishan. This is a great alternative if you don’t like public transport or simply want to squeeze in a few other attractions like Fenqihu Old Street and the Eryanping Trail into your Alishan itinerary.
- If you’re relying on public transport to get to Alishan, there are only two ways to do so. The first and easiest option is to take the bus from Chiayi to Alishan. And the second option is to take the Alishan Forest Railway from Chiayi to Fenqihu and then bus the remainder of the way. Both steps are set out below, but it’s crucial to book your train ticket from Chiayi to Fenqihu online before your trip.
- Don’t forget to bring your Easy Card (Taiwan’s transport card) so that you can travel on trains and buses easily.
- While it is possible to visit Alishan on a day trip independently, it would be very rushed, and you’ll probably miss out on quite a bit (including the famous Alishan sunrise). At a minimum, book at least one night’s stay in Alishan, or at one of the nearby tea farms in Shizhao (石棹) for a truly memorable experience. Find the best hotel deals in Alishan here on Agoda.
- Grab a discounted Alishan National Recreation Area entry ticket here on Klook to save some money on entrance fees!
- If you suffer from motion sickness, don’t forget to bring some medication along for the bus ride. The road past Fenqihu has lots of twists and turns!
How to get to Alishan from Chiayi by Bus or Train
Alishan is accessible from several places in Taiwan, but its main gateway is Chiayi City (halfway between Taichung and Tainan). So therefore, the very first thing you need to do is get yourself to Chiayi.
While several trains and buses offer access to Chiayi City from elsewhere in Taiwan, the fastest option is via high-speed train. The high-speed train runs all along Taiwan’s west coast, between Taipei and Kaohsiung, with several stops along the way, including Chiayi. It’s not hard to get a seat on the train (unless you’re traveling during special holidays), but it’s always a good idea to grab a discounted high-speed train ticket to Chiayi (tourists only) online first!
From Chiayi, there are essentially two ways to travel onward to Alishan; bus or train. The easiest and fastest way to get from Chiayi to Alishan is by bus, although the ride is a bit rough, and you can get sick from all the twists and turns. With that said, if you have lots of time and want to experience one of the most beautiful train rides in the world, then definitely consider taking the iconic mountain train.
Buses depart from both Chiayi THSR Station and Chiayi Station, while the Alishan Forest Railway departs from Chiayi Station. Here’s what you need to know about all the different ways to get to Alishan from Chiayi.
Taking the bus from downtown Chiayi to Alishan
- Taiwan Tourist Shuttle Bus 7322
- Departure point: Chiayi Station (臺鐵嘉義站)
- Arrival point: Alishan (阿里山)
- Cost: NT$240 (cash or Easy Card accepted)
- Duration: 2 hrs
If you’re spending a bit of time in Chiayi before heading out to Alishan, your best transport option is Taiwan Tourist Shuttle 7322, departing from Chiayi Station (also where you can get the Alishan Forest Railway).
The bus operates several times a day between Chiayi and Alishan, making it a cheap and convenient option to access the area.
It’s worth noting that two buses run this route, #7322C and #7322D. However, don’t get confused with the codes because either one will connect you to Alishan. The only difference between bus 7322C and 7322D is the route. While bus 7322C goes directly to Alishan, bus 7322D stops in the scenic little town of Fenqihu.
If you have some time to spare on your Alishan itinerary, it is worth making a pitstop in Fenqihu because this little mountain village is extremely charming! And, particularly famous for its Old Street, tasty bento boxes, gorgeous tea fields, cherry blossom viewing spots, and excellent hiking opportunities nearby.
Bus schedule from Chiayi Railway Station to Alishan
|09:40||12:18 (stops in Fenqihu)|
|12:10||14:48 (stops in Fenqihu)|
The Alishan bus stop is next to the Alishan National Forest Recreation Area entrance gate. Before you can enter the park, you’ll need to buy an entrance ticket (NT$300) at the gate, but you can also grab a discounted entry ticket online here first.
You can take the same bus back to Chiayi train station when leaving Alishan, and I’ve set out the bus schedules for you below. If you’d rather go to the high-speed train station instead of the Chiayi main station, simply follow the steps in the next section below.
Bus schedule from Alishan to Chiayi Railway Station
|09:10||11:35 (stops in Fenqihu)|
|14:10||16:45 (stops in Fenqihu)|
Another very important thing to know is that you can only buy a bus ticket back to Chiayi on the day you travel. Therefore, it’s always best to arrive at the bus station a bit earlier to make sure you get a ticket. Tickets can be bought at the 7-Eleven adjacent to the bus stop.
Taking the bus from Chiayi THSR Station to Alishan
- Taiwan Tourist Shuttle Bus 7329
- Departure point: Chiayi THSR Station (高鐵嘉義站)
- Arrival point: Alishan (阿里山)
- Cost: NT$278 (cash or Easy Card accepted)
- Duration: 2 -2.5 hrs
If you’ve just arrived in Chiayi via high-speed train, you can take Taiwan Tourist Shuttle Bus 7329 right from the HSR station at Exit 2, platform 7.
Similar to the Alishan bus that departs from the Chiayi Railway Station, this bus also has two codes, 7329 and 7329A. Both buses go to Alishan, and both buses will be marked “Alishan.” The only difference yet again is that bus 7329A stops in Fenqihu.
Bus timings from Chiayi HSR Station to Alishan
|11:00||13:35 (stops in Fenqihu)|
The same two buses go back to Chiayi HSR Station, so you can take either one of them back when you leave Alishan. Remember to be at the station a bit earlier so that you can buy tickets and line up for the bus.
Bus timings from Alishan to Chiayi HSR Station
|10:10||12:56 (stops in Fenqihu)|
Insider tip: For more info, you can see all the Alishan bus routes and schedules here on the left side of the page. It’s a good idea also to download the schedules to your phone so that you can always have them handy during your trip. (Simply select the route, click fare & timetable, and then click download. Voila!).
Taking the Alishan Forest Railway from Chiayi
- Alishan Forest Railway (from Chiayi to Fenqihu) and Taiwan Tourist Shuttle Bus (from Fenqihu to Alishan)
- Departure point: Chiayi Station (臺鐵嘉義站) via Fen Chi Hu Station (奮起湖車站)
- Arrival point: Alishan (阿里山)
- Cost: NT$384 (train) + NT$98 (bus)
- Duration: 3.5hrs
The Alishan Forest Railway is arguably the most iconic train ride in Taiwan. Built by the Japanese in 1912, this tiny railway has a long and interesting history and played a key role in Taiwan’s former logging industry.
Today, the narrow gauge forest railway line no longer transports timber. Instead, it offers travelers front row seats to the mystical forests, ancient tunnels and wooden bridges dotted along the scenic train route.
Although the Alishan Railway ran all the way from Chiayi to Alishan back in the day, it’s only possible to go as far as Shizilu today. However, note that’s not where you need to get off. For the easiest route, you want to get off at Fenqihu and not Shizilu, which is still two stops further down the line. From Fenqihu, you’ll need to continue your journey to Alishan by bus. Here are the steps.
Step 1: Alishan Forest Railway to Fenqihu
- Alishan Forest Railway (from Chiayi to Fenqihu)
- Departure point: Chiayi Station (臺鐵嘉義站)
- Arrival point: Fen Chi Hu Station (奮起湖車站)
- Cost: NT$384
- Duration: 2.5hrs
While taking the train to Alisan is undeniably an incredible experience, you’ll need to weigh the pros and cons to see if it is the best transport option for you.
The journey is much longer than taking the direct bus from Chiayi, and it’s not uncommon for services to be halted due to bad weather conditions. Another thing that you need to know is that the Alishan train tickets sell out super fast! There is only one Alishan train service per day (and three over weekends), so planning is key.
You can buy a train ticket (in person) up to 12 days in advance from the Chiayi train station, but your best option is to reserve a ticket online in advance. Tickets can be booked up to 15 days in advance here on the official Alishan Forest Railway online ticketing system. And you can pay online or in cash (within two days of booking). Tickets can be collected from any of the Forest Railway Stations or at any convenience stores. See all the ticketing info here.
Daily train from Chiayi to Fenqihu SCHEDULE
- Train: Alishan Express 1 (mainline)
Daily train from Fenqihu to Chiayi SCHEDULE
- Train: Alishan Express 2 (mainline)
For more info on the additional weekend trains, see the Chiayi to Fenqihu train timetable here.
Step 2: Bus from Fenqihu to Alishan
- Taiwan Tourist Shuttle bus 7322D or 7329A
- Departure: Fencihu Terminal Station (奮起湖終點站)
- Arrival: Alishan (阿里山)
- Cost: NT$98
- Duration: 1 hour
As already mentioned, it’s not possible to take the forest train all the way to Alishan. Therefore, once you get to Fenqihu, you’ll need to take the Taiwan Tourist Shuttle Bus for the remainder of your journey.
Make sure you have the right change for the bus as most bus drivers hardly ever give change. Alternatively, use your Easy Card so that you can simply tap and go! Also, it would be wise to bring some medicine if you suffer from car sickness as the ride is quite shaky!
Direct Bus timings from Fenqihu to Alishan
If you miss the direct bus from Fenqihu to Alishan, you can also take a Chiayi County bus to Shizhao and then get a bus from there to Alishan. Make sure you’ve got Google Maps downloaded on your phone so that you can check real-time information easily.
Here is the schedule to get back to Fenqihu.
Direct Bus timings from Alishan to Fenqihu
For more info on the bus timings, take a look at the schedules above under the bus section.
How to get to Alishan from elsewhere in Taiwan
If you’re planning a trip to Alishan from elsewhere in Taiwan, here are a couple of alternative routes to help you out.
From Taipei to Alishan
There are several ways to get from Taipei to Alishan, but you should know it’s quite a long journey. Therefore it might be wise to break up your trip and spend a night in Chiayi. Below is a quick look at all the various ways you can get to Alishan from Taipei.
Option 1: High-speed rail & Alishan bus
- Travel time: 75-110 minutes (HSR) + 2.5 hrs (bus)
- Cost: NT$1080 (HSR) + NT$278 (bus)
The fastest option to travel between Taipei and Alishan is to take a high-speed train (HSR) from Taipei Main Station to Chiayi HSR Station and then take a Taiwan Tourist Shuttle bus to Alishan from there. Trains depart roughly every 25 minutes between 6:26 am and 10:16 pm. From Chiayi HSR station, follow the steps above. But remember there are only four direct buses from Chiayi THSR Station to Alishan every day.
Option 2: High-speed rail & Alishan Forest Railway
- Travel time: 75-110 minutes (HSR) + 40 mins (shuttle bus or taxi to Chiayi Station) + 2.5 hrs (forest railway train to Fenqihu) + 1 hr (Taiwan Tourist Shuttle bus to Alishan)
- Cost: NT$1080 (HSR) + NT$384 (Alishan Forest Railway) + NT$98 (Taiwan Tourist Shuttle bus)
If you specifically want to take the Alishan Forest Railway, it will be a bit more tricky. Your best bet would be to stay overnight in Chiayi so that you have enough time to catch the train the next morning. The first bullet train to Chiayi only leaves Taipei at 6:26 am and arrives at 8:09 am. And, since you’ll still need to get to the train station from there (40 minutes), it will be very rushed, and you might not make it in time to catch the Alishan Forest Railway train to Fenqihu (departing at 9 am). With that said, if you miss the train, you’ll still have the option to take the bus (see details above).
Option 3: Local train & bus
- Travel time: 3-4 hrs (train) + 2 hrs (bus)
- Cost: NT$461-568 (local express train) + NT$240 (bus)
- Trains depart every few minutes between 6:10 am and 7:30 pm
While it is possible to take the normal train (TRA) to Chiayi from Taipei, it’s really not the fastest option, and you won’t make it in time to take the Alishan Forest Railway unless you spend the night in Chiayi.
Many trains run from Taipei to Chiayi, but catch Puyuma Express 111 train departing at 8 am from Taipei Main Station for the fastest journey. The train ride only takes 2h34 and costs NT$598. From the train station, follow the steps for taking the Alishan bus highlighted above to continue your journey.
Option 4: Direct Alishan bus from Taipei
- Travel time: 6h10
- Cost: NT$690
- Departs at 20:45 or 21:45 on Friday nights (only)
Kuo-Kuang bus 1835 departs at 8:45 pm (March-Oct) and 9:45 pm (Nov-Feb). The travel time between Taipei and Alishan is 6h10, and a ticket costs NT$690. It’s a good idea to buy a ticket a day or two in advance (directly at the station) as the bus fills up quickly.
Note though, the bus currently only operates on Friday nights. The same bus goes back to Taipei at 11:30 am on Saturday mornings.
From Sun Moon Lake to Alishan
- Travel time: 3-3.5 hrs
- Cost: NT$336
- Two buses a day leaving at 8 am, and 9 am
If you want to combine a trip to Sun Moon Lake with Alishan, Yuanlin Bus 6739 is your best bet. Only two buses run this route per day, so you’ll need to plan your trip well. The first bus leaves Sun Moon Lake at 8 am, and the second one is at 9 am. The ride takes about 3 hours and costs NT$336. You can buy a bus ticket at the Shuishe Visitors Center (see map) in Sun Moon Lake or on the bus.
From Kaohsiung to Alishan
- Travel time: 30 minutes (HSR) + 40 mins (taxi/ shuttle bus to Chiayi Station) + 2.5 hrs (Alishan Forest Railway) + 1 hr (Taiwan Tourist Shuttle bus)
- Cost: NT$410 (HSR) + NT$384 (Alishan Forest Railway) + NT$98 (Taiwan Tourist Shuttle bus)
Unfortunately, there are no direct buses between Kaohsiung and Alishan. But the good news is that Kaohsiung is only about 30 minutes away from Chiayi HSR Station via high-speed rail (NT$410). The high-speed train departs roughly every 25 minutes at Zuoying Station (accessible via KMRT). See the THSR schedules here.
Your best option would be to catch one of the early trains (departing before 7 am). That way, you’ll have more than enough time to get to Chiayi Station (40 minutes from the HSR station), where you can hop on the Alishan Forest Railway.
If you’re not an early bird, catch one of the later high-speed trains and then hop on the direct bus to Alishan (see above for details). Alternatively, you can also join this day tour from Kaohsiung and forget about all the stress!
Getting to Alishan from Chiayi in Conclusion
Getting to Alishan can be a bit overwhelming, especially if you’re a first-time visitor. But as you can see, there are loads of ways to travel between Chiayi and Alishan, no matter your traveling style or budget!
While each of the options listed above has its pros and cons, I hope this guide has helped you figure out the best way to travel from Chiayi to Alishan for you. If you want the fastest route, take one of the express buses from Chiayi. And if you prefer slow travel and want to experience one of Taiwan’s most scenic train rides, then the Alishan Forest Railway is for you! Happy travels!
So, there you have it – exactly how to get to Alishan! If you think I’ve missed anything, please let me know in the comments below so that I can keep this Alishan transport guide updated!
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