Alishan Forest Railway is one of the most iconic and best preserved historical mountain railways in the world. Starting at the center of Chiayi City, it passes through tropical forests, subtropical hills, and rising into the temperate forests in the mountains, originally ending up at Alishan. It is definitely something you should experience while you are in Taiwan.
The Alishan forest railway was opened in 1912 during the Japanese occupation of Taiwan. Originally it was built to transport lumber from mountain areas in Chiayi County, especially cypress and Taiwania wood. The railway consists of narrow gauge track, and has 50 tunnels and70 wooden bridges.
After the Alishan highway was completed in 1982 and logging in Taiwan was banned, passengers along the railway dropped considerably. However, the railway has become popular again in recent years due to its unique and historic preservation. Before the railway from Fenqihu to Zhuqi station was opened, passengers had to disembark at Fenqihu to take a bus to Alishan.
In recent years, many parts of the railway have been damaged by floods and landslides, closing parts of the railway for days or even years. Currently the railway from Shizilu to Alishan is still impassible, but hopefully will open soon.
The railway is known as one of the most beautiful mountain railways in the world. It is also the highest narrow-gage railway in Asia at 2,451 meters (Chushan Station). Currently the railway attracts visitors from all over the world and is one of the most popular attractions in Taiwan.
Chiayi to Shizilu:
First train leaves Chiayi at 8:30 AM
Last train leaves Chiayi at 9:00 AM
Trains return to Chiayi at around 3:00 PM - 4PM
A one way trip takes about two and a half hours.
Zhushan: 30 minutes (sunrise train)
Shenmu: 7 minutes
Zhaoping Line: 6 minutes
384 NT one way from Chiayi to Fenqihu, 459 NT one way from Chiayi to Shizilu
Zhushan Line: 150 NT per ride
Shenmu Line: 100 NT per ride
Zhaoping Line: 100 NT per ride
How to Buy Tickets:
In person: Go to Chiayi Station in person for the Chiayi-Shizilu portion, or Alishan Station for the Zhushan, Shenmu, and Zhaoping lines. The counter to buy tickets is on the right of the main entrance. This is the best way to buy tickets.
Online: You can use the online system to buy tickets here.
However the online system does not show all tickets and routes available, so if possible it is better to buy in person instead.
You can purchase a tickets through a tour agency such as My Taiwan Tour or a similar website.
Where to sit:
The best views going up are on the right of the train, and coming down on the left of the train.
When to go:
Any season. Spring is special because of Cherry blossoms. In the summer (May-October), rock falls due to heavy rains or Typhoons can stop the train for a few days. Make sure to check the train is still running before you go in the summer.
We will cover the following stations in this blog:
Chiayi Station 嘉義車站
First Switch 第一分道
Second Switch 第二分道
Mian Yue/Tashan Line 眠月線/塔山線
Dongpu Line 東埔線
Shuishan Line 水山線
How to get there:
Most passengers board from Chiayi TRA Station or the nearby Beimen TRA Station.
Got to Alishan Station for the Zhushan, Shenmu, and Zhaoping lines.
Please see a map of all the stations below:
We are US Expats that have extensive experience living, working, and travelling in Taiwan. In our day, we had to learn many things about Taiwan the hard way. But we have come to learn that Taiwan is one of the best places in the world for Foreigners to live. Our blog does not represent the opinions of every foreigner in Taiwan. We are just trying to help others learn more about this beautiful country.