Regarded amongst locals as one of Taiwan’s greatest national parks, the region of Alishan boasts dramatic landscapes, misty climates and in the case of Fenqihu, charming mountain villages worthy of being on any itinerary.
Becoming prominent during the peak of the Alishan Forest Railway, the little logging village of Fenqihu is looking back at a time when Japanese colonialism and a blossoming tourist industry were created. Quaint streets lined with traditional teahouses, old wooden buildings, and shops selling local handicrafts.
This little hidden gem is the perfect stop on your way to Alishan National Park, providing a delightful escape from the bustling cities and provides an opportunity to lose oneself in the breathtaking natural beauty.
So in that case, here’s the perfect itinerary for exploring Fenqihu.
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Table of Contents
A Brief History of Fenqihu
The region’s history can be traced back to the late 19th century when the dense forest was once settled by one of the Tsou indigenous tribes that still inhabit parts of the island today.
Following the arrival of Japanese colonialism in 1895, the area flourished with the opening of the Alishan Forest Railway which was built to service the booming logging industry. The railway line connected the village of Fenqihu with the rest of Chiayi County.
A rise in the tea industry brought prosperity to the region with Fenqihu becoming a vital hub for trading and processing. The Japanese even established a tea research station in the village which brought with it new tea cultivation techniques. To this day, the region still has a stellar reputation for its high-mountain oolong tea.
Sadly the market gradually declined, though in its place came a stream of tourists keen to marvel at the miraculous natural beauty of the township. To accommodate the arriving travellers, an influx of tea houses and humble hotels were established along with everything a weary traveller might need.
Since then, the tiny mountain village has been frozen in time holding dear to their traditional ways. It’s also for that reason that Alishan is put alongside Sun Moon Lake and Taroko National Park as Taiwan’s most popular tourist attraction!
Where Is Fenqihu?
The township itself is mostly made up of thick forests, streams of tea plantations and numerous peaks averaging 2500m. The township also includes the small logging village of Fenqihu and also the small village and tea fields of Shizhuo further south.
Getting to Fenqihu
Sadly, transport options towards Fenqihu are few and far between. Regardless, all roads to Fenqihu lead through one city – Chiayi.
Getting to Chiayi
You can access Chiayi from every major city across the west coast, be it by bus, regular trains or the High Speed (HSR) variety.
Once you arrive at Chiayi, you can enter Alishan via one of two destinations; Fenqihu or Shizhuo.
|Leaving From||Regular Train||HSR Train||Bus|
|Taipei||2 hr 34 min – 5 hrs 21 min||NT$385-598||1 hr 30 min||NT$1080||3 hr 30 min||NT$375-525|
|Tainan||15 – 27 min||NT$33-52||18 min||NT$280||30 min||NT$60|
|Taichung||54 min – 2 hrs 6 min||NT$144-224||30 min||NT$380||1 hr 40 min||NT$165-200|
|Kaohsiung||1 hr 56 min – 2 hrs 11 min||NT$148||31 min||NT$410||1 hr 40 min||NT$175-240|
Getting To Fenqihu
Getting To Fenqihu by Train
Going to Fenqihu by train is not only the easiest way of getting there, but it’s also the most fitting way of getting to Alishan. As the mountain railway played a vital role in the area’s history, you may as well consider it as your first attraction!
It takes 2 ½ hours, costs NT$384 and only runs 3 times a day.
Getting To Fenqihu by Bus
It’s also possible to access Fenqihu by bus, however, it’s not recommended. Buses are few and far between. They are also notoriously unreliable and may not even show up on time!
When Should You Visit Alishan?
Due to its high altitude and protective mountain borders, the climate remains relatively cool year-round and is usually 10 degrees cooler than the rest of the country. Even in the heat of summer, the mountains are often shrouded with a cooling mist that keeps things on an even keel.
The mountains can also fall victim to the seasons as it gets quite humid during the summer, unbearably cold in the winter and can get very wet during the rainy season from April to September.
By far the best time to visit is at the end of Spring (late March to early April), so you can enjoy the cherry blossoms in full bloom and the temperature is a manageable 20 – 25°C. Just be sure to book your hotel way in advance, as all accommodation books out fast!
On the other end of the scale, late October to November is also a great time to visit Alishan as the temperature is cooler and the views are much clearer.
Your itinerary should have more than just Fenqihu!
The ultimate guide for visiting one of Taiwan’s most iconic attractions, Alishan National Forest Park and its surroundings
The Fenqihu Itinerary
This small little logging village may be the last stop in the middle of nowhere, but this quaint little spot has plenty to keep you occupied for a day!
Throughout history, the purpose of Fenqihu purpose has remained the same; to be the perfect stop-off on your itinerary to take a break, refuel and trade before continuing the journey further into the mountains.
Alishan Forest Railway
Whether you got here by train or arrived in Fenqihu through another means, riding along the iconic railway is a must for any itinerary!
The railway spans a distance of around 71 kilometres, winding its way through lush forests made up of cypress trees, misty valleys, and towering mountains. You might also catch glimpses of the terraced tea plantations that brought the area such recognition.
Fenqihu Train Station
Welcome ladies and gentlemen to the wonder of Fenqihu. If you (wisely) choose to arrive by train, you’ll be walking in the footsteps of visitors centuries before you. You’ll be pulling up at the cultural, financial and historical centre of the settlement!
As the station doesn’t see heavy traffic, and the train typically arrives at a slow crawl, visitors are allowed to walk freely across the tracks!
Fenqihu Train Museum
The train tracks also lead to a small locomotive museum that houses two old steam engines that were imported from the US in the early 1900s. The museum also gives a little deeper look into the role this humble little station once played on this mountain!
For Westerners, the word lunchbox brings back memories of lacklustre ham sandwiches packed in flimsy plastic boxes with Thomas the Tank decals. Here in Fenqihu, they’re on a whole new level!
This Bento box is a meal that includes all the staple elements of local Far Eastern cuisine. In Taiwan, these culinary wonders usually consist of rice topped with a mouthwatering pork chop or a tantalizing chicken drumstick, accompanied by a marinated egg and pickled vegetables. They’re so popular that you can find them everywhere, even in 7/11s! But none are more iconic than those in Fenqihu!
As weary travellers step off the trains after a long voyage, local railways provided these culinary masterpieces as an efficient way to refuel. There are plenty of places that sell them, but the iconic spot that deserves a place on everyone’s itinerary is the one sold at the Fenqihu Hotel!
Fenqihu Old Street
As the logging industry continued to blossom, the demands of tourists began to grow. Though that was no problem for Fenqihu as the town took joy in serving its beloved tourists! Little wonder it’s been called “the Jiufen of Alishan!“
Numerous restaurants and street food vendors began sprouting like mushrooms and have remained a staple of its old street for decades! Tantalising treats like Aiyu jelly and wasabi-flavoured snacks provide a culinary treat along with your regular fare of Taiwanese delights.
Worried about eating street food? Check out 15 Tips for Eating Street Food Safely.
The region of Alishan is world-renowned for its high-mountain Oolong tea. The unique combination of fertile soil, high elevation and perfect climate creates the optimal conditions for cultivating tea.
Though walking amongst the snaking plantations is certainly a must, why not go all the way and spend the night in one? Even for day-trippers, no visit is complete without indulging in a tea-tasting session. Many tea houses and shops in the area offer visitors the chance to sample a wide range of teas, and even purchase their favourite teas to bring back home!
Fenqihu Hiking Trails
The immense mountain ranges that surround Fenqihu provide ample opportunities for your itinerary! They range from pleasant little strolls to day-long treks to some of the Taiwan’s highest peaks.
Two of the best include the Fenqihu Forest Trail and the Fenrui Historic (or Shizhuo Ancient) Trail which can be joined from the centre of the village.
For hikes further out of town, The Trail of Tea and Eryanping Trail are some of the all-time best which take you through lush green fields of tea, offering picturesque views and a serene atmosphere.
Once the sun goes down, Fenqihu even more natural wonders come to life. Amongst the forests that surround the town are an army of bioluminescent fireflies!
Each year from May to June, the forests light up with a magical spectacle as the fireflies attempt to attract each other during mating season.
Add Extra Time To Your Trip to Fenqihu
You can’t go all the way to Fenqihu without visiting the iconic Alishan National Park! It’s within easy reach via a few bus routes that run to the park’s entrance, and it could easily be seen on a day trip!
Alishan National Park is considered one of the greatest national wonders in Taiwan and one of Asia’s most beautiful national parks.
Though theoretically you could explore Alishan and hit all the hotspots in Fenqihu, it would all be quite rushed and have to rely on the notoriously unreliable and infrequent bus routes. So while in the area, I would highly recommend adding at least an extra day to explore Alishan properly!
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