Located in the heart of Taiwan lies Alishan, well known for its gorgeous sunrise views, tea plantations and nature trails. Contrary to popular belief, Alishan isn’t just a single mountain in Taiwan, but a mountain range containing multiple peaks and nature reserves.
Known as the Alishan National Scenic Area, it’s a scenic respite away from the usual city life. I recently had the chance to explore Alishan and its surrounds, and you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how Muslim-friendly it is! ?
Arriving in Alishan, Taiwan
The best way to get to Alishan is by landing at Kaohsiung International Airport, one of Taiwan’s two major airports. To get a head start on the day, I took a red-eye flight so that I could start my Alishan adventure bright and early!
PS. If you'd like to experience a similar Alishan adventure, let us know here ☺️
Day 1 – Exploring Meishan Township
- Before you make your way to Alishan, you might want to get a SIM card for your data needs.
- Once you collect your bags, head to the Taiwan Mobile counter. As I was spending 4 days in Taiwan, I opted for the 5-day data card (NT$ 300) which gave me unlimited data. Score!
- HHWT Tip: If you don’t want to spend on data, good news for you! Taiwan has free WIFI available all over the country, which you can register for prior to your trip. Find out more here.
Travelling to Alishan (1.5 hours)
- Now it’s time to make my way to Alishan via the MRT! The Kaohsiung International Airport MRT Station is just a few minutes away after exiting the airport.
- At KIA MRT Station, purchase a token for a 30-minute ride to Zuoying MRT Station (NT$ 50).
- It would be advisable to have coins here, as most machines don’t accept cash notes. Two friendly locals helped to pay for my fare as they saw me struggling with the machine ?
- Once you arrive at Zuoying MRT 30 minutes later, return the token and follow the signs leading to the High Speed Rail. The HSR is the best way to travel across Taiwan, as it is connected to most of Taiwan’s major cities ?
- Tickets are sold directly at the station, through the ticketing counter and ticketing machines. If you pre-purchased your tickets online from various ticketing agents, you would still have to redeem them from the ticketing counter.
- HHWT Tip: Look up the train station timings of the HSR so that you can plan your time well!
- Once you’ve purchased your tickets (NT$ 410), enjoy the beautiful view during the 30-minute ride to Chiayi HSR. When you arrive, there are plenty of ways to get directly to Alishan. If you are opting to stay in a homestay, most hosts offer a pickup service. There are also shuttle buses available to ferry you to Alishan’s attractions.
- HHWT Tip: You can also use the Driways app to rent a driver! It’s used by the locals to get to and fro places.
Have a taste of Taiwan’s famous bubble tea (10 mins)
- When in Taiwan, it’s a must to try bubble tea! It was one of the first things I did when I landed.
- The tapioca pearls were so delicious and chewy, different from the ones I’ve tasted back home. I’m personally not a fan of pearls, but I had to try Taiwan’s version and I didn’t regret it a bit. The milk was so filling and sweet too! (NT$ 20-65)
- The bubble tea was from one of Taiwan’s popular bubble tea chains 清心福全 (Chingshin), and you’ll be able to find this almost everywhere.
- Note: The store is not Halal-certified, but we’ve made our checks and there are no alcohol or animal products used in the drinks. We advise you to consume at your own discretion!
Conquer the Taiping Suspension Bridge (20 mins)
- One of Alishan’s top sights, the Taiping Suspension Bridge is 281 metres long and located at an altitude of 1,000 metres above sea level. ? (Entrance fee: NT$ 100)
- The sun shines really brightly here, so don’t forget to pack sunglasses and slather on sunblock!
- If you’re afraid of heights, there’s not much to worry about – the bridge is extremely sturdy ☺️ It’s just like walking on normal ground, but with an amazing view all around you.
- HHWT Tip: As this attraction is located up the mountains, getting here requires a drive along the 36-Turn Cloud Path - so it would be highly advisable to pack motion sickness pills if you are easily carsick (like I was ?)
Explore tea plantation trails (30 mins)
- Once you’ve crossed the bridge, bask in nature by exploring the tea plantations nearby. You’d want proper shoes for this, because you’ll be doing a lot of walking! Fortunately, the walking trails provided are well-paved and easy to follow. ☺️
- If you need to take a break to perform your prayers, there are multiple viewing decks located along the walking trails.
Complete your walk with refreshing desserts (20 mins)
- After all that walking, you’re bound to be tired! Grab some refreshing aiyu jelly (NT $40) to cool down, sold at the shops at the end of the walking trail.
- Aiyu jelly is native to Taiwan, and often consumed during the hot summers. A type of fig seed, it’s made by washing the aiyu seeds in water. The leftover residue forms a jelly and is often mixed with lemon juice and black sugar. This refreshing Muslim-friendly dessert is all you need after a tiring walk ?
- You can also purchase the seeds (NT $100) if you're interested in making your own aiyu jelly.
Watch the beautiful sunset (20 mins)
- As Alishan is popular for their sunrises and sunsets, the sunset view is exceptionally beautiful from the Taiping Suspension Bridge.
- HHWT Tip: Check what time the sun sets as it differs each season. During winter (when I visited), the sun sets earlier at 5:30pm.
Drop by Cloud Cafeteria to fuel up and perform prayers (30 mins)
- Located a walking distance away from the Taiping Suspension Bridge, Cloud Cafeteria is an eatery serving Muslim-friendly meals (such as vegetable and seafood hotpot). They also provide prayer mats and a prayer space especially for Muslims.
- Note: We didn’t manage to have a meal here, but the owner informed us that Muslim-friendly meals are available! They’re prepared using separate cookware and utensils, and cooked in a separate area of the kitchen. Don’t forget to make an advanced reservation (at least 1 week) before you come ?
Checking into Ahan’s Homestay
- It is common to reside in homestays while in Alishan, as most travellers stay one night and travel around for the rest of their journey. They’re usually more affordable than hotels, with the added hospitality and comfort.
- Ahan’s Homestay is one such example! A Muslim-friendly accommodation, they provide Muslim-friendly meals, prayer mats, prayer timings, and the qiblat direction.
- For dinner, I was treated to a sumptuous homecooked meal of beef curry, chicken soup, rice and assorted veggies and fruits (that were grown in the mountains!) ?
- As it’s hard to get Halal meat in the mountains of Alishan, the hosts travelled to the city to purchase Halal meat as I made a reservation in advance ? It was prepared with separate cookware and utensils.
Credit: Ahan’s Homestay on Facebook
- Their rooms are also extremely comfy and luxurious! As most of them are attached to a balcony, you can easily peek your head out to gaze at the stars.
- My favourite part of the room was the toilet – it came with a bathtub, and the toilet bowls have washlets! The seats were also heated, which is a comfort during the cold winter nights.
- If you're planning to come here, do remember to make an advanced reservation of at least 1 week, and request for a Muslim-friendly room.
Day 2 – Alishan Township
Have breakfast with a view (30 mins)
- With plenty of activities lined up for the day, it’s important to fuel up. Luckily, Ahan’s Homestay provides a delicious and nutritious breakfast for their guests. I had fresh fruits, an egg and a bun ?
- The best part is, you’re having breakfast with a breath-taking view. It was almost too hard to leave!
- Eventually, I said goodbye to the Ahan family. Their warm hospitality and courteous consideration to Muslim travellers really made me appreciate my stay ?
Make pit stops to take in the view (20 mins)
- The best part about travelling in Alishan is the endless view of the mountainous scenery ? It doesn’t hurt to stop once in a while to take it all in, and photos too!
Experience a special tea ceremony (1 hour)
- Alishan is abundant with tea plantations, and I had the chance to experience a special tea ceremony right in the middle of a forest.
- The laoshi (teacher) taught me the proper way to appreciate tea:
- Inhale the scent of freshly brewed tea
- Sip 3 times
- Inhale the fragrance of the leftover tea leaves
- The tea served was brewed from high-quality oolong tea leaves produced in Alishan. I was amazed to learn that the usual teas we know today (oolong tea, black tea and green tea) are all made from the same leaf, just processed differently! ?
- It was such a meaningful experience! The laoshi performed gracefully, by pouring the tea and arranging each cup deliberately. She also explained each step she took and the significance behind it. It was unlike anything that I have ever gone through before. ☺️
Have lunch at Alishan House (1 hour)
- For lunch, I headed to Alishan House to have a Halal meal. ? This Muslim-friendly hotel is the most luxurious one located within the Alishan National Forest Recreation Area (ANFRA), and a short walking distance from famous attractions such as the Forest Railway.
- Lunch was at the hotel’s “50s Coffee Shop”, with its Halal-certified meals prepared at a factory and sent to Alishan House. The servings of beef rendang, coconut chicken curry and Xinjiang-style spicy chicken (NT$ 350 each) was really delicious, and reminded me of what I’d eat at home!
- The hotel staff brought me around on a tour after lunch to show me their other amazing facilities, such as the in-house stone spa ?
- When you request for a Muslim-friendly room, you will be provided with prayer mats, prayer timings and the qiblat direction. The big space provided in each room also means that it’s perfect for families and big groups of friends!
- If you’re planning to catch the sunrise from Zhushan (one of Alishan’s top activities to do), I would highly recommend staying here, as it’s very convenient to get there from Alishan House.
Trek to Sacred Tree Station (30 mins)
- After a heavy lunch, it’s time to walk off some calories! There are multiple walking trails (easily accessible from Alishan House) within the ANFRA for you to follow, in the form of boardwalks.
- Although I had a train to catch, I couldn’t resist stopping to take photos of the beautiful forest. Some of the trees are at least 2,000 years old!
Hop aboard the Forest Railway to Alishan Station (10 minutes)
- Once you’ve reached Sacred Tree Station, you’ll be greeted by the iconic Forest Railway ?
- During the Japanese occupation, the Forest Railway was used to transport Taiwan cypress trees. Today, it transports locals and tourists alike looking to travel within the ANFRA!
- The ride (NT$ 100) from Sacred Tree Station to Alishan Station took about 10 minutes, and I spent it by viewing the beautiful forest from the windows. ?
Grab a bite at Fenqihu Station (1 hour)
- Fenqihu Station played an important role during the Japanese occupation, being one of the major stops to load and unload Taiwan cypress trees. Today, it is filled with eateries and shops selling souvenirs and local produce!
- One of the must-try items while at Fenqihu Station is the Fenqihu donut! It’s light, crispy and sweet, reminding me of a cronut (but better!). Lines are always long, and there are plenty of shops selling this mouth-watering pastry.
- Note: Although the Fenqihu donut is not Halal-certified, we’ve checked that the ingredients do not contain alcohol or animal products. We advise you to consume at your own discretion.
- Located near the train station, Wooden Wonderland is a Muslim-friendly café serving speciality coffee and desserts.
- We tried the cypress-infused coffee (an endangered wood that is native to Taiwan), and aiyu jelly topped with tapioca pearls and whipped cream. ?
Shop for souvenirs at Fenqihu Station (30 mins)
- Once you’ve replenished your energy, look out for souvenirs to bring back home for loved ones! If you’re planning to get some postcards, be sure to use decorate them with ink stamp illustrations of Alishan’s top sights provided at most stores!
Turn in for the night at Sheng Li Farm
- After such a fun-filled day, it’s time to have dinner and rest at the next accommodation – Sheng Li Farm.
- The hosts of the homestay prepared a really delicious Taiwanese-style dinner, using separate and cookware and utensils. ? Do remember to book an advanced reservation (at least 1 week), and highlight your dietary preference.
- The rooms were really clean and cosy, and the windows opened up to a view of Sheng Li Farms’ beautiful tea plantations ?
PS. If you're interested in experiencing Alishan the same way I did, let us know here! ?
Day 3 – Alishan & Siraya
Try a local Taiwanese breakfast
- Sheng Li Farm offers an extensive breakfast menu for their guests, and I opted for milk tea, noodles, and a fried egg.
- The noodles were a little special! Other than soy sauce, the noodles were also mixed together with camellia oil, a tree oil that’s produced in Taiwan.
Tea Tasting at Alishanwin (30 mins)
- Right after breakfast, I took a short stroll next door to a tea house called Alishanwin.
- The tea house provides a tea tasting experience, and I got to try a range of their teas - from flavours such as oolong rose to black tea.
- Tea tastings and competitions are a frequent occurrence in Alishan, with tea farmers winning awards for their tea. Alishanwin won 3 awards in 2017!
Have a go at making aiyu jelly (30 mins)
- I enjoyed the aiyu jelly I tried the previous day a lot, and I wanted to try to make it on my own! The seeds are easily available for purchase everywhere, such as at Alishan’s attractions (NT$ 100).
- The simple dessert only requires 4 ingredients, and all I had to do was wash the aiyu seeds in water so that the jelly could form.
- After 10 minutes of washing, and 10 minutes of letting the jelly form, I broke up the jelly and mixed in ice, lemon juice and black sugar. It was really tasty!
Visit Niupuzai Grassland (30 mins)
- Want to take some Insta-worthy photos? Niupuzai Grassland offers plenty of landscape views and unique structures perfect for photo opportunities ?
- There’s also a cafe located in the area, good for when you’d like to take a break with Muslim-friendly pineapple cakes and tea.
- HHWT Tip: If you’re interested in finding out more resources and information about exploring Alishan, the Alishan National Scenic Area Administration Visitor Center is a short 5-minute drive away.
Have Lunch at Tsou Ma Lai Farm (30 mins)
- All the exploring in the morning calls for a hearty lunch and you can find it at Tsou Ma Lai Farm. Located in Siraya, it is a recreational farm with accommodations and activities of all ages!
- The Halal-certified meals are prepared in a factory and sent to the farm.
Cool down with shaved mango ice for dessert (20 mins)
- Taiwan is famed for its mangos, so you can’t leave without trying the highly raved mango shaved ice.
- I tried this at a store in Yujing district, Taiwan’s biggest producer of mangoes! You can find many stalls selling mango shaved ice here.
Make wagashi at Hatta Yoichi Memorial Park (40 mins)
- Hatta Yoichi was a Japanese engineer who stayed in Taiwan after the war ended, and contributed significantly to Taiwan’s agricultural development. The park was constructed to honour his memory and his contributions ?
- At the park, I had the opportunity to try and make wagashi, a traditional (vegan) Japanese candy while dressed in a kimono. It was really fun to make, and quite yummy! The dessert didn’t require any baking.
Catch the sunset at Wushantou Reservoir (20 mins)
- The Wushantou Reservoir was one of the structures built by Hatta Yoichi, and located a short 5-minute drive away from the memorial park. It’s also one of the best places to catch the sunset.
Have dinner and stay at Jianshanpi Jiangnan Resort
- Jianshanpi Jiangnan Resort is a Muslim-friendly resort which has a Halal-menu prepared specially for Muslim travellers. The best part is, there’s a wide variety to suit different tastes! Meals are prepared with separate cookware and utensils.
- I got to try a little bit of everything, and my favourite was the milkfish belly (commonly prepared in Taiwanese meals) ?
- Other items on the Halal-menu includes sea bass, yellow curry, fried noodles, and a seafood hot pot with sugarcane as a soup base. It was really tasty, especially because of the fresh veggies and seafood.
- This was my last night in Taiwan, and Jianshanpi Jiangnan Resort offers comfortable and Muslim-friendly rooms ?
- It was a breeze performing my prayers as there was ample space in my room! Prayer mats, timings, and qiblat directions are also provided when you request for a Muslim-friendly room.
- If you feel peckish, each room comes equipped with Halal-certified snacks! You can also find more sold at the hotel lobby.
Day 4 – Last day in Taiwan!
Spend an exciting morning exploring the resort (1 hour)
- After breakfast, I hopped on a boat ride that goes around the Jianshanpi Reservoir, and got to see the other facilities and activities offered in the resort.
- There are experiences for all kind of travellers – from camping, to staying at a luxurious villa, and walking on the nature trails.
Hang out at the peak of a mountain (1.5 hours)
- I made my way to Fairy Lake Leisure Farm next. A self-sustainable farm with tea plantations, accommodation, cafes, free-roaming chickens, and even an infinity pool located on top of a mountain, Fairy Lake Leisure Farm is definitely a place you would want to spend your time at.
- I attempted some fruit picking, and picked juicy and sweet tangerines which were organic ?
- The infinity pool on the peak of the mountain is definitely the highlight of Fairy Lake. There’s also a café where you can enjoy a cold cup of longan flower milk tea – a specialty at Fairy Lake.
- It’s time for lunch! The hosts prepared milkfish belly, mackerel and assorted veggies and fruits. The ingredients are picked fresh from the farm ? It was really delicious, and a nice meal to end my trip. The meal was prepared using separate utensils and cookware, and at a separate part of the kitchen.
- Do let the hosts know of your dietary preferences at least 1 week in advance so that they can prepare accordingly.
- Halal status: Halal ingredients are used, but do note that the eatery serves alcohol. We advise you dine at your own discretion.
Have a quick coffee break with a view (20 mins)
- Wu Long Coffee serves fresh coffee produced from their plantations, with a view! You can also enjoy the Muslim-friendly pineapple cakes at the same time.
- Note: Some desserts may contain animal products (such as the pudding), but we've checked that the pineapple cake is free of alcohol and animal products. We advise you to dine at your own discretion.
Witness fire and water coexist (20 mins)
- Located in Guanziling, the Water and Fire Cave is a strange geological phenomenon where both fire and water emerges from the same cave at the same time ? It was discovered 300 years ago by a monk, and definitely not a sight to be missed. It’s also really hot!
Soak in a hot spring (1 hour)
- For my last activity in Taiwan, I visited Reikei Hot Spring Resort to take a dip in their indoor hot spring. Each room in the resort is has a hot spring attached, which makes it perfect for Muslim travellers! Prayer mats, timings and the qiblat direction are also provided in each room. ☺️
- The best way to enjoy a hot spring and reap its benefits is by spending 10 minutes in the hot spring, followed by a minute in cold water, and repeat. I felt really refreshed after!
With such a wonderful 4 days in Taiwan, it was hard to say goodbye ? I already miss the gorgeous views that are at every turn, and the warmth of the locals. The establishments I visited made really great efforts at making Alishan and its surrounds Muslim-friendly, which I appreciate! Travelling as a Muslim was also manageable, as I didn’t have to worry about finding Muslim-friendly and Halal meals even in the mountains. ☺️
Are you excited to explore the beauty of Alishan too? Let us know here so that we can contact you! ?
This article is brought to you by the Alishan National Scenic Area Administration, Taiwan Tourism Bureau.