Lishan 梨山 is one of Taiwan’s best kept secrets. It is really a hidden paradise as even I, a self-proclaimed Taiwan addict, did not know about Lishan until 2022. Thanks to my lucky stars, I was introduced to Lishan when I collaborated with Taiwan Tourism Administration Singapore and Tri-Mountain National Scenic Area to promote forest bathing in Taiwan.
We organised a virtual travel session “Experience the art of Forest Bathing in Taiwan’s Mountains: Guide to Alishan and Tri-Mountain National Scenic Area” in the spring of 2022 when international borders were still closed and we could only dream of travel.
Finally, when I could visit Taiwan in 2023, I got in touch with Lai Shu-wei, my Malaysian friend who runs the beautiful Garden Life homestay 花田民宿 in Taichung , and she asked, “Do you want to visit Lishan?” And this sparked off my incredible journey to Lishan through the remote Central Cross-Island Highway.
Lishan is very special. I am awed and humbled by Lishan and the people who made my mountain excursion possible. I have been to Alishan two times and yet Lishan has captured my heart. The cinematic drive up the rugged mountain road, the rolling fields crowned with prized tea leaves, the abundance of fruits, and most importantly–the warmth of the mountain and the people have made Lishan truly unforgettable.
I am excited to share the beauty of Lishan with everyone so I have created a comprehensive guide to how you can experience Lishan: how to get to Lishan, what to see, do, and eat in Lishan, and more. Enjoy!
What is Lishan famous for?
Spreading over Heping Township in Taichung, Lishan is an iconic mountain range in central Taiwan. Lishan is part of the Tri-Mountain National Scenic Area 參山國家風景區. Soaring over 2000 metres in altitude, Lishan is famous for its “Switzerland-like” scenery, pristine nature, and hiking trails. Lishan is a perfect place to experience forest bathing and enjoy slow travel. Interested in forest therapy? Check out my Guide to Forest Bathing in Taiwan: Alishan and Tri-Mountain National Scenic Area.
Lishan is home to the indigenous Atayal tribe (泰雅族) and many alluring aspects of their culture, language, and ways of living can be experienced in the mountains. Blessed with cool temperatures, Lishan is synonymous with high quality tea and fruits–Lishan oolong tea, snow pears, honey apples, and peaches are highly sought after.
How to get to Lishan?
Lishan lies on the majestic Central Cross-Island Highway (中部橫貫公路) that was completed in 1960 to much fanfare. It was the first cross-island highway completed under the Republic of China rule and it marked an important milestone in Taiwan’s development of transportation and tourism.
The highway connected remote areas in Yilan, Hualien, and Taichung and boast accessibility and popularity of mountainous regions like Lishan. Lishan flourished when the highway opened and it was the pride of former president Chiang Kai-Shek (蔣介石) who had great affection for the alpine region, built two important guesthouses in Lishan, and frequented them.
Sadly, major parts of the highway were damaged during the 921 Earthquake in 1999 and typhoons over the years. After a long period of time of closure and repairs, this picturesque road is finally open.
A limited number of vehicles, mostly owned by Lishan residents and people who have access permission, can drive through the road. Access to the rugged section of road is controlled and it is open only three time slots for 15 minutes a day at 7:00am, 12:00pm and 4:30pm, which means drivers can only enter the mountain road through designated checkpoints during these short intervals if they want to go up to Lishan.
Domestic and international tourists can experience the route now via public bus services. The journey to Lishan takes about 2-3 hours and the fastest way to travel from Taichung. You can also travel from Hualien side. Here are the ways you can reach this paradise on earth.
Method 1: Public transportation
You can take convenient public transportation (buses) from Taichung City. From Taichung High Speed Train station, take the first bus (2 hours) to Guguan 谷關 and then change to the second bus (Taichung 865) (1 hour and 30 minutes).
A popular itinerary is to take first bus (153) from Taichung City and then spend a day in Guguan to enjoy the hot springs before taking the second bus (865) on the next day.
Here are also other bus services that you can take from Yilan and Hualien to get to Lishan.
- Kuo-Kuang bus: Yilan → Lishan (Bus 1751 via Wuling Farm)
- Fengyuan bus:
- Fengyuan → Guguan → Lishan (Bus 865)
- Fengyuan → Guguan (Bus 207) and take bus 865 from Guguan
- Dongshi → Guguan (Bus 266 or 267) and take bus 865 from Guguan
- Fengyuan → Lishan → Fushoushan Farm → Wuling Farm (Bus 866)
- Taichung High Speed Train Station → Chaoma → Dongshi → Guguan (Bus 153)
- Hualien bus: Hualien → Lishan (Bus 1141)
Make your transportation arrangement in advance and book your buses as there are limited seats and rides per day. Check out the Tri-Mountain National Scenic Area website for more transportation information.
Method 2: Taiwan Tour Bus
For a hassle-free trip, you can book a guided two-day tour “Fushou Mountain, Lishan-Wuling, and the Colourful Four Seasons” with Taiwan Tour Bus. This tour offers a taster of Lishan where you can board the bus from Taichung City and the bus tour will bring you to Wuling, Fushoushan Farm, Tianci, and Lishan Culture Museum, and Lishan Visitor Center.
The tour doesn’t include accommodation so you have to book the tour through Taiwan Tour Bus website and your accommodation separately or book everything via a travel agency. Taiwan Tour Bus is running a special “2 people travel, 1 for free” promotion now till 31 December 2023 and you can book the tour for 2 travellers but just pay for 1!
Method 3: Driving
Driving is the most straightforward way to travel to Lishan. However, driving through the mountain roads require experience and skills. If you are an international driver who is not familiar with driving in Taiwan, it is best to engage a private driver or drive up with a local.
There are various ways to drive up to Lishan depending on where you are before heading to Lishan. If you are in the central region, you can drive through the Hehuanshan (合歡山) route. If you are in north region, you can drive from Yilan (宜蘭). If you are in the east regionl you can drive from Hualien (花蓮). More details below.
1. National Freeway No. 3 (Wufeng System, 214km) → National Freeway No. 6 (drive east 37km to Puli) → Provincial Highway No. 14 (to Wushe) → Provincial Highway No. 14 (to Qingjing Farm) → Mt. Hehuan → Dayuling → Provincial Highway No. 8 (Central Cross-Island Highway) → Lishan
2. National Freeway No. 3 → National Freeway No. 5 (Xueshan Tunnel) → Yilan (Provincial Highway No. 7) → Qilan (Provincial Highway No. 7A) → Siyuan Pass → Wuling Farm → Lishan
3. Hualien (Provincial Highway No. 9) → Taroko (Provincial Highway No.8) → Dayuling → Lishan
How to get around Lishan?
As Lishan has many sights and they are dispersed throughout the area, you would need transportation to get from one spot to another. If you drive, it is easier to move around. If you do not drive, you can make arrangements with your hotel for the transportation options. You can engage a driver for a day or use a combination of public and private transportation.
You can also check out the Lishan Happiness Bus (梨山幸福巴) with the help of your accommodation. A convenient bus service is operated Lishan Community Development Association (梨山社區發展協會), the bus provides shuttle service to different parts of Lishan.
What to do and see in Lishan?
Lishan Visitor Center
This charming Lishan Visitor Center (梨山遊客中心) used to be the Qingxin Pavilion (清心閣) that was part of Lishan Resort Hotel where beverages, films, and souvenirs were sold. This is the place to start your exploration of Lishan as you can get maps, brochures, and the helpful staff are ready to answer your questions.
The center has a mini exhibition showing Lishan’s aboriginal culture and crafts and Lishan’s attractions and agricultural products. There is a commemorative stamp corner where you can “chop” to your heart delight! Also, you can climb up to the observation deck at the center when you can get good views of the surrounding area.
1956 Maple Valley
This “secret garden” 1956 Maple Valley (楓之谷) is decorated with clusters of maple trees at the elevation of 1956 metres. Situated conveniently in front of the Lishan Resort Hotel, the area has a lookout platform where you can see views of the mountains and changing autumn colours in November.
Lishan Cultural Museum
This impressive Lishan Cultural Museum (梨山文物陳列館) is a must-visit as you can learn more about Lishan’s history, culture, and natural ecosystem. The first level has exhibitions sharing the history of the Central Cross-island Highway and the stories of the people who built the highway. You can also learn about the highway’s geology, geography, and the diverse ecosystem features spanning the regions where the highway runs through. There is also a cosy corner where you can experience wearing the traditional outfits of the Atayal tribe and take photos as a memento.
The second floor has extensive exhibitions about the culture and traditions of the Atayal people. Experience how life was like in the past inside a replica of a traditional house. The museum is situated on Fushou road that leads the Fushoushan and the outside area offers great views so remember to stop by the museum on the way to Fushoushan.
Lishan Jesus Church
Lishan Jesus Church (梨山耶穌堂) is famed for being the “highest” church in Taiwan. Towering at one of the highest point of Lishan at an elevation of over 2000 metres above sea level, the church was built in 1969 for the wife of President Chiang Kai-Shek, Soong Mei-ling. She was a Christian and this was their private church. Due to damages caused by the 921 earthquake, the church has undergone extensive repairs and renovation over the years and it has been restored to its former glory.
The church’s striking architecture has European and Atayal cultural influences. The remarkable roof of the building is made from Taiwan cypress and the pews are constructed using camphor timber. Unique “suspended” marble steps lead to the second level of the church that houses the church’s bronze bell.
The church’s entrance is flanked by 12 camelia trees, 6 trees on each side, that represent the twelve apostles of Jesus. The church is framed by the mountains and the lookout platform at the end of the church offers spectacular views of the Xueshan Range (also Snow Mountain Range) (雪山山脈). Don’t leave without making a wish at the wishing deck and take unforgettable photos of Lishan!
Fun fact: Lishan is a popular wedding destination as the visitors can apply to the church and organise wedding ceremonies in the clouds 雲端上的婚禮!
Mqoyat-Sakura Affinity Hill
Integrated into a parking area, Mqoyat-Sakura Affinity Hill (Mqoyat 日出幸福櫻緣丘) is a recommended spot for viewing sunrise. Watching the sun rays illuminating the Xueshan Range and the Dajia River is an incredible scene. In spring, the cherry blossom trees fill the park with splendid colours.
Fushoushan Farm (福壽山農場) sits on the southern slope of Lishan Mountain and it makes a good day trip. Fushoushan Farm is framed by such breathtaking scenery that photos of the area are usually shown in Taiwan weather reports.
Together with the neighbouring alpine farms Wuling Farm (武陵農場) and Cingjing Farm (清境農場), Fushoushan Farm is nicknamed “Taiwan’s Little Switzerland” because of its picture-perfect location. Like the other farming areas in the region, the farm was originally established by soldiers who helped to build the Central Cross-Island Highway and veterans who eventually settled down in the area.
Fushoushan Farm is a popular destination for both local and international visitors throughout the year as seasonal flowers paint the area in different colours. In spring, you can enjoy cherry blossoms and in autumn, the maple trees and resplendent cosmos.The farm is also known for its premium tea leaves, especially the Fushou Changchun tea (福寿長春茶) and honey apples.
Da Guan Pavilion
An important building in the Fushoushan area, the Da Guan Pavilion (達觀亭) historical two-storey building was a villa built for President Chiang Kai-shek. He had great affection for the area and spent time here with his wife.
The building is now a mini museum with simple furnishing and photographs that captured how it used to be. It is open to visitors who can enter for free to learn about its history and enjoy an unobstructed view of Tianchi 天池, also known as the Sky Pond or Heavenly Pond.
Hiking in Lishan
Hiking is a must-do activity Lishan and there are many hiking trails to choose from.
This 600-metre Siliq Trail (希利克步道) is constructed using environmentally friendly methods. The word “Siliq” is from the Atayal language and it refers to the grey-cheeked fulvetta, a spiritual bird for the Atayal people. Known as the “quiet trail,” Siliq trail showcases the best of nature where you observe how primitive forest and artificially planned forest coexist.
The trail is filled with rich ecology and the rustic and moss-covered vegetation evokes a “Princess Mononoke” atmosphere in the forest. Time seems to slow down as you traverse the forest grounds and cross two suspension bridges.
The hike leads to the Lokah’s Warrior Camp (勇士營地)–this outdoor space is where indigenous communities hold ceremonies.
Range Landscape Pavilion or Lansheng Pavilion (攬勝樓) is a scenic rest stop at the end of the Siliq hiking trail. From the pavilion, you can enjoy panoramic views of the Central Mountain Range, sea of clouds, and even sunset.
Black Forest Trail
Black Forest Trail (黑森林步道) hosts a diverse ecosystem of trees and plants. The forest is so dense that sunlight is blocked by the trees and hence, the trail is called “Black Forest” because it gets dark the deeper you venture into the forest. The forest merges with the Jiayang Tribal Village where you can participate in cultural and eco-friendly activities organised by the local communities.
Lishan Guesthouse Ecology Trail
Lishan Guesthouse ecology trail (梨山生態步道) is easy to access as the starting point is from the Lishan Guesthouse. This 900-metre brings you through stone stairs, railroad tires, wooden planks, and merges with the Siliq trail. If you can like a longer hike, you can walk all the way to Fushoushan Farm.
What to eat in Lishan?
Lishan fruits are famous as the high altitude landscape is perfect for cultivating fruits all year round. The “three treasures of Lishan” are snow pears 雪梨, honey apples 蜜蘋果, and peaches 桃.
Lishan is the top pear production region in Taiwan and their snow pears are known for their sweetness and juiciness. Honey apples are delightedly sweet with very crispy texture and peaches are succulent. You can buy the fruits when they are in season at the stalls in front of the Lishan Resort Hotel. Here’s the fruits and flower calendar.
Famed as the “King of Teas” in Taiwan, Lishan oolong tea is one of Taiwan’s best premium tea. The conducive environment and temperature result in superior quality tea as the tea plantations thrive in the environment and the land is filled with fertile soil. The tea leaves take their time to flourish in the cool climate and the result is light and fragrant tea with aromatic and robust taste. The tea harvesting and production periods are between May to June and September to October.
I had the opportunity to try two types of Lishan oolong tea from KUMY tea plantation (梨山古邁茶園) Trahu tea (德拉戶茶業) and I visited KUMY tea plantation to host the Lishan travel session “Guide to Taiwan’s Lishan: Enjoy hiking, fruits, and tea in the clouds.”
The tea fields in KUMY tea farm are the most beautiful I have ever seen. The tea plantation is nestled in the Black Forest area and the single estate is family owned. The tea shrubs grow deep roots to absorb the Black Forest’s rich nutrients and the spring water flowing from the mountain. The high quality tea is produced through a combination of traditional oolong tea techniques and technology. The tea leaves are meticulously handpicked by skilled artisans. You can order their tea products on their website.
Vegetables are a top produce from Lishan as the climate conditions like temperature and humidity changes mean the vegetables retain more water and taste more succulent. Cabbage from Lishan is popular as they are incredibly crunchy and sweet. It was so fascinating to see cabbage fields and trucks of cabbage in the mountains. Other “alpine vegetables” include spinach and garlic sprouts.
When you are in Lishan, you must try the Aboriginal cuisine (原住民風味套餐) prepared by the Atayal people. The Atayal communities are long term habitants in Lishan and the villages have co-existed peacefully and worked together to preserve the beauty of Lishan. The major villages are Songhe (Kuras) Tribal Village, Lishan Tribal Village, New Jiayang Tribal Village, Songmao Tribal Village, and Huanshan Tribal Village.
I enjoyed a sumptuous Aboriginal cuisine in Sobih 手飛, a cosy restaurant in the Lishan village centre. The modernised Aboriginal cuisine featured fresh ingredients from Lishan, traditional steamed bamboo tube rice, tenderly grilled meat, and delish desserts.
Where to stay in Lishan?
I highly recommend that you spend a few nights in Lishan because the effort and time spent to travel to Lishan. There’s so much to do and see so don’t do rushed trip! I was very lucky to have a chance to stay at the Lishan Resort Hotel. There are other places you can stay like hotels, guesthouses, homestay (minsu) and many other accommodation options including camping spots in the Fushoushan area. Visit the Tri-Mountain National Scenic website for more information.
Lishan Resort Hotel
Located in the heart of Lishan, Lishan Resort Hotel (Lishan Guesthouse) (梨山賓館) is the best accommodation in the mountain. The first hotel to be built in Lishan, this majestic hotel is the highest “palace” hotel in Taiwan and one of the three “palace-style” hotel in Taiwan, together with the Grand Hotel in Taipei and Kaohsiung.
Built in 1965, the hotel comes an illustrious history. It was designed by the renowned architect Yang Cho-cheng (楊卓成) for the use by President Chiang Kai-shek who stayed in the villa when he inspected the construction of the Central Cross-Island Highway. The building was an important reception venue when the President hosted important foreign guests.
Reopened in 2012, the hotel has 97 elegant rooms and it has dedicated a special exhibition room to President Chiang Kai-shek. The President’s room has been preserved in the original simple style and it showcases furniture and photographs showing photographs of the building and its construction in the early days.
Watch this video “Experience the art of Forest Bathing in Taiwan’s Mountains: Guide to Alishan and Tri-Mountain National Scenic Area” to experience! This guide is a supplement to the virtual travel session organised by Taiwan Tourism Administration Singapore, Tri-Mountain National Scenic Area, and whywendywrites.
Tri-Mountain National Scenic Area Resources
Website: Informative website that has a section about Lishan to help you plan your trip!
Travel books and brochures: Download free e-book, brochures, and maps from Tri-Mountain National Scenic Area digital resource page.
Youtube: Check about videos and live cam of Lishan!
Hope this guide has inspired you to visit Lishan! Even though my time in Lishan was a short 48-hour stay, I had such a fulfilling experience because of the generous hospitality and warmth shown by my Lishan hosts and friends. I left Lishan filled with so much gratitude and I am so inspired to return to Lishan to experience more.
“Lokah” in the indigenous Atayal language is a friendly greeting and also an expression of appreciation and encouragement. Lishan lokah! Happiness in Lishan! 幸福在梨山！離不了梨山!
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