ALISHAN SERIES: WHERE TO STAY IN ALISHAN? (Part 2/4)
I don’t know about you, but when I started my research on where to stay in Alishan, it was incredibly confusing… SHAN is mountain in Chinese and I thought I would be watching the famous Alishan sunrise on Ali Mountain, but that’s actually not true – the most popular spot to watch the sunrise is to watch it at Zhushan/Chushan (sometimes the way they spell things is not consistent), so apparently there’s another mountain. So, it turns out Alishan is a mountain range. Also, if you search on TripAdvisor, any hostels/hotels in Chiayi also advertise themselves as Alishan hotels because Alishan is in Chiayi County, but it’s a big area and you need to make sure you stay in the most convenient place so you can get your butt up to see the sunrise.
So… where should one stay in Alishan if you want to watch the sunrise?
Alishan National Scenic Area and the Alishan Forest Recreational Area are 2 different things. The Alishan National Scenic Area is quite big and encompasses some parts of Fenqihu as well. The Alishan Forest Recreational Area is within the Alishan National Scenic Area and is the main “Alishan” area with all the forest trails and this is where people stay so they can catch the train to Zhushan to watch the sunrise in the morning.
THE COMMON PATH TRAVELLED
The simple answer to this in terms of geographic location is to stay in the Alishan Forest Recreational Area or very close to it. If you want to watch the sunrise at Zhushan, which is literally the #1 purpose of going and then staying overnight in Alishan, then do not stay in outside of Alishan Town even if the hotel advertises themselves with Alishan in their hotel/hostel name. The reason is because Chiayi County is big. I’ve written a detailed post on “How to get to Alishan”, which you can read here so you can further understand that Chiayi is almost 2 hours away from Alishan. Here’s a link to Lonely Planet with Hotels advertised as being located in the Alishan National Scenic Area.
We looked for cheaper options, but a lot of places were already sold out because we travelled to Alishan during prime Cherry Blossom season. We finally managed to book a room, but it was at the most expensive hotel in all of the Alishan Forest Recreation Area, which is the Alishan Hotel. If my memory serves me correct, it was about $300USD for that night… Ouch. Dinner and breakfast were included and Alishan Hotel it is definitely the most extravagant hotel on Alishan (if that’s what you’re looking for).
If the hotel or hostel you’re interested in is sold out on a third party vendor site, it doesn’t hurt to email the hotel directly because that’s what we did with Alishan Hotel. The hotel was marked sold out on Expedia and other sites, but I managed to book directly with the hotel via email.
I wouldn’t recommend staying at Alishan Hotel because whilst the atmosphere was quite grand, and the rooms felt quite dated, and most importantly, you’ll be getting up around 2am to go out to watch the sunrise, so you won’t really be staying a very long time in your room… Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see the sunrise that morning because it was too foggy. Here’s my picture:
But Alishan is known for their beautiful sunrises, so here’s a photo I found on the Internet:
THE PATH LESS TRAVELLED
Now, if you would like to escape the hustle and bustle of the Alishan Forest Recreation Area because it does get very crowded during prime season, as does Zhushan for the viewing of the sunrise, you can also view the sunrise at the Xiding Viewpoint, which is located in Fenqihu, which is located within the Alishan National Scenic Area near the tea plantation. Please note that this is not the “Alishan” main area, but about an hour’s drive away from the main “Alishan” area and the main viewing platform for the sunrise is Zhushan.
There is a homestay at Fenqihu called 53.1 Homestay that has pretty good reviews on Tripadvisor and the sunrise viewing lookout point Xiding is 5 minutes from the homestay. Afterwards, if you still want to visit the Alishan Forest Recreation Area (main area) with the forest trails, you can catch the public bus outside of the homestay that can take you to the Alishan Forest Recreation Area, which is about a hour’s drive away. If you stay in Fenqihu, it will definitely be much quieter and tranquil. In addition, near the 53.1 Homestay, they have a hiking trail that leads to a lookout point for you to see the sunset with the famous Alishan “cloud sea”.
If you’re interested in this route, I came across a blog called Eatprayflying that took this route (but come back after because there are more posts to the Alishan Series), which you can check out here.
WHICH ROUTE SHOULD YOU TAKE?
That would depend on yourself. For me personally, I preferred the common path, because I’m a huge bucket list person and I want to be able to stay at the main area close to all the forest trails and to be able to explore the main area with more ease. In addition, I personally would like to take the train to Zhushan in the morning so I can view the sunrise at the main viewing platform, but that’s just me.
If you are more of a tranquil person and you don’t care about ticking things off your bucket list – staying at Fenqihu would be more preferable as it is much more quiet.
So, short post, but next up, Things to do in Alishan!