Take a ride on the Alishan Forest Railway

Take a trip through the forests of Alishan National Park on one of the world’s last mountain railways, trundling along a narrow gauge line over wooden bridges and up switchbacks, and rising to witness dawn break over the mountains of Yushan.

What to expect from the Alishan Forest Railway

There are two stages to our Alishan Forest Railway experience - the first is a 2.5 hour train ride through the forested National Park from Chiaya to Fenqihu.

The Alishan National Park region is known for its wilderness landscape, waterfalls, wasabi farms and tea plantations. You won’t be looking out on these for the whole of your trip, though, since you’ll be travelling through a forest, but there are points on the way up where the views open out. You’ll have to wait until you reach the top for the big reveal!

At Fenqihu you’ll meet your guide and hop in a car to reach the mountain resort around Alishan station - the line between Fenqihu and Alishan was damaged by a typhoon and has not yet been repaired due to a legal wrangle. Alishan station itself is more of a jumping off point than a destination in its own right.

There are paved trails through the surrounding forest, which makes for accessible trekking and a chance to get some mountain air in your lungs.

Accommodation here is typically basic, though - our preferred hotel is Alishan House, where you will most likely be staying. A good night’s sleep will be important, since there’s an early start the next day - a 3am call for the second part of your train trip, a 40 minute journey right up to Zhushan station at the end of the line.

The train’s departure depends on the time of year, but will get you to the top in time to see the sun rise over the valley and mountains beyond. Of the two viewpoints at Zhushan, we prefer the one at the top. Tourist crowds gather at the lower one, but if you head a further 500 metres beyond it there’s another big lookout with the same view but much more isolated.

The scene down below as known as the ‘seacloud’, since the deep valley is usually full of vapour. There’s a chance of vapour up above too - cloud obscures the sunrise on a fairly frequent basis, so don’t be too disappointed if you visit on a cloudy morning.

At least you’ll feel like you’ve earned your breakfast! For the lucky ones, scenic glory awaits, as the sun lifts over the mountains of Yushan National Park, across the valley to the east.

Location: Alishan National Park, Taiwan

Duration: 1 - 2 nights

Accommodation: Alishan House

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Karl says...

'A chance to ride on one of the world’s last mountain railways, and in an unusual location that is not on the average rail fan’s list...'

Good to know

A glorious dawn view is not guaranteed, and the view can quite often be cloudy, so take this rail journey for its own sake, not just for the sunrise, as you might be disappointed - especially given the early start! Rail enthusiasts should note that Alishan’s locomotives are diesel-powered, although there are sometimes special runs using the original Shay steam locos.