WHERE ARE SHIFEN AND JIUFEN?
Shifen is a mountain village about 30 km from Taipei, in northern Taiwan. Known for being the place where lanterns are released into the sky, it offers some short and easy surrounding hikes among rivers and waterfalls. It is also located along the Pingxi Railway Line, which passes through several characteristic towns between the mountains and the sea.
Jiufen is an ancient town that grew quickly during the gold rush in the early 1900s. Today it is famous for its narrow streets where you can taste various typical products and drink Taiwanese oolong tea. It’s located slightly further up, towards the northern coast of Formosa. In the evening Jiufen reaches its maximum splendour, when the colourful lights of lanterns and buildings create a magical atmosphere.
Since both are relatively close to Taipei, it makes sense to visit them in a single day.
It’s better visiting Shifen Waterfall before it gets too hot, thus we suggest going to Shifen in the morning. Leave Jiufen for the late afternoon, when it becomes even more evocative with the lights on.
Getting to this area is easy, but there are different ways to do it, including by direct bus, by train + bus, by taxi or with daily tours.
WHAT TO SEE IN NORTHERN TAIWAN – MAP
It’s also logical to visit Shifen and Јіufеn together with other popular destinations in the area. For example Ноutоng Саt Vіllаgе, Pingxi, Badouzi, Јіnguаѕhі Gоld Есоlоgісаl Раrk, Gоldеn Wаtеrfаll, Кееlung Cіtу, Miaokou Nіght Маrkеt and Yеhlіu Gеораrk.
Seeing all these places is impossible without your own vehicle. We recommend combining Shifen and Jiufen with a maximum of two attractions of your choice if traveling by public transport.
Alternatively choose one of the recommended tours below to see multiple locations with a guide and transportation included.
DAY TOURS TO SHIFEN AND JIUFEN BY BUS OR CAR
There are several good-rated bus tours available, allowing you to easily visit Shifen and Jiufen plus other places in a single day without hassle. After practicing for a few days with transporation in town, we felt confident doing it on our own. However, for those who have less time available in Taipei, we recommend the following tours:
- From Taipei: Group Tour to Yehliu, Jiufen and Pingxi (Shifen)
- Northern Taiwan: Customized Tour with Private Driver from Taipei
- Private tour (max. 6 people) to Shifen, Jiufen and Yehliu
RENT A CAR WITH DRIVER
For various reasons you may want to hire a driver for the day. Definitely a convenient solution for those traveling as a family with children or elderly people, who don’t want to worry about bus and train timetables, or wish to see as many places as possible.
We found this deal which offers a car + driver for 8 hours, more than enough to plan your own personalised trip between Shifen, Jiufen and the surrounding areas.
BY TAXI TO SHIFEN AND JIUFEN
A taxi can be a temporary solution when buses or trains are too crowded, or you are in a hurry to reach the next destination. You’ll always see them available in tourist areas.
Taxi drivers in Taiwan are generally honest and accurate, they always use the meter.
Expect to pay between 150 and 300NT$ (5-10€) for a 10km ride, or around 1000-1200NT$ (30-40€) for the whole Taipei-Jiufen journey (50 minutes).
SHIFEN AND JIUFEN ON A DAY-TRIP FROM TAIPEI
Below we give you the details on how to get to Ѕhіfеn and Jiufen from Taipei, and how to combine it all into a day trip from Taiwan’s capital.
- Take an early train from Taipei to Ruifang (45 minutes).
- Change at Ruifang and board the Pingxi Line towards Shifen (30 minutes) to visit Shifen Village and nearby Shifen Waterfall.
- Optionally, from Shifen go up to Pingxi or down to the seaside terminus of Badouzi (20-40 minutes).
- In the early afternoon, return by train to Ruifang (30 minutes) and take the bus to Jiufen (15 minutes).
- Explore Jiufen and its surroundings until the evening, or take bus 788 down from Jiufen Old Street to Keelung Station (50 minutes), to enjoy dinner at the Keelung Night Market.
- Return by train or bus from Ruifang or Keelung to Taipei (45 minutes).
BY TRAIN FROM TAIPEI TO SHIFEN
Shifen can be reached from Taipei by train with one change. First you have to take one of the frequent trains from Taipei to Ruifang (30-60 minutes, $50-80TWD), starting at 6 in the morning.
If your hotel in Taipei is near Taipei Main Station or one of the other train stations, such as Banqiao, Wanhua, Songshan or Nangang, even better, you can get on the train to Ruifang from there too.
The train has different travel times depending on whether it is “Express” or “Limited” type. There are dozens of trains a day, so don’t worry too much. They are particularly frequent in the morning. Nevertheless, you can visit the Taiwan Railways website to plan as best as possible.
You can pay for train and bus journeys with the Easy Card. Remember to always tap it when you get on and off. When in Taiwan we got used to topping up our Easy Card in the evening, so as to always have $150-200 just in case. It’s easy to top up at the station or at any 7-Eleven.
PINGXI RAILWAY LINE
Once in Ruifang, change trains and buy your ticket for the Pingxi line, which usually leaves from platform 3. This is a mountain train that runs through a scenic valley. A single ride costs between $15-30 TWD. If you plan to make more than 3 trips, purchase the Pingxi day pass for $80 (€2.50), for unlimited travel on the train.
The train goes from Ruifang to Shifen in about 20 minutes. It only leaves once an hour, check Google Maps or the Taiwan Railways website for times in order to find a good connection.
SHIFEN – WHAT TO SEE&DO
Shifen is the village where lanterns are released into the sky along the railway tracks that cut through town. This is now a super touristy activity and available at any time of the day, starting from €8-10 per lantern. Although the manufacturers guarantee the biodegradability of the lanterns, we have read several articles about the potential harm (lanterns can get stuck in the forest trees nearby, in some cases wildfires have started), therefore we preferred to give it a miss.
Having said that, there is no denying that the spectacle must be impressive in the evening, especially during the famous Pingxi Lantern Festival held every year in February.
Not far from the village, a 15-minute walk gets you to stunning Shifen Waterfall, the widest waterfall in Taiwan. Allow 2-3 hours for the complete visit around Shifen area.
The aforementioned popular spots are always included in tours like this one, along with round-trip transportation from Taipei.
BY TRAIN FROM PINGXI TO BADOUZI
After enjoying some snacks by the tracks, return to Shifen station. Remember to check the Pingxi Line timetable so you don’t waste too much time waiting. From here you can choose whether to continue climbing up the valley, or descend towards the sea. Inland, as mentioned, Pingxi is the best-known place where the actual festival is celebrated, although it is very quiet the rest of the year. At Lingjiao and Wanggu stops, some nice trails lead to more beautiful waterfalls.
Heading down, cat lovers love stopping at Hutong Cat Village, a cute cat-themed town! Finally, the train spectacularly emerges onto the East China Sea, where the recently renovated Badouzi terminus offers splendid views of Taiwan’s coastline. Take a maximum of 1-2 hours for one of these stages.
Be mindful because unfortunately it’s complicated to travel independently from Badouzi. We took a long walk to Elephant Trunk Rock, as we couldn’t find any buses with convenient times. In total we were around Badouzi for almost 3 hours, having to get around on foot.
Alternatively, look for a taxi or anticipate your visit to Keelung or Jiufen by getting off the train at Ruifang, which is served much better by buses.
Since it’s not possible to see all these places by relying solely on trains and buses, we recommend choosing what inspires you most, calculating the travel times. You could definitely travel faster by taxi or private car between Ruifang, Shifen, Jiufen and Keelung.
UPDATE, JAN 2024: Sadly, the front part of the Elephant Trunk Rock has collapsed due to erosion last December. The area is still safe to explore and constantly under control by officials, the rock and the most exposed area were already fenced off for safety concerns.
BY TRAIN + BUS TO JIUFEN
To reach Jiufen, return by train to Ruifang junction. From here you need to take a bus to go up the mountain.
With Ruifang Station behind you, cross the street in front and walk about 300 metres left along Mingdeng St. to the bus stop, just past the police station. Make sure you take the bus from the police station side. The opposite stop is for buses from Ruifang to Taipei.
There are several buses, such as no.827, 856, 788, 825, 965 which usually show the writing Jiufen/Jinguashi also in English. Double check with the driver if they go to Jiufen, the answer will most likely be positive. Alternatively, follow the crowds and ask, chances are everybody is going to Jiufen. The bus ride costs 15-20$ (0.50€ cents!) and takes 20 minutes from Ruifang to Jiufen. Hold on tight if you are standing because there are quite a few hairpin bends.
Once in Jiufen, we again recommend following the flow of people to find your stop, it’s hard to get lost. The most popular stop is Jiufen Old Street, and basically everyone gets off here. A few steps further up, next to a 7-Eleven, is the entrance to the narrow street of Jiufen Old Street.
DIRECT BUS TAIPEI-JIUFEN
There is also the option of traveling by direct bus from Taipei to Jiufen. This solution may be more convenient given that it does not require changes, but personally it’s not our favourite. We really enjoyed the train journeys throughout Taiwan and hated the few forced bus journeys, especially along those roads with many hairpins and sharp curves in the mountains. Better to sit in a train when possible.
Anyways, here’s how to catch the direct bus.
There are two possible bus choices from Taipei to Jiufen: No.965 and No.1062. No.965 is included in the Taipei Unlimited Fun Pass, whereas 1062 isn’t. The pass is in fact valid for Taipei/New Taipei buses that have 1 to 3 digits, but not for 4-digit buses.
Otherwise, a one-way ticket costs $NT90, around €3. Buses generally run between 6am and 8pm, and take around 1h15.
Bus No.965 from Taipei to Jiufen stops at Banqiao (Exit 2), Ximen (Exit 2), and Beimen (Exit 2) MRT Stations in the capital city.
No.1062 leaves from Zhongxiao Fuxing (exit 2), where you’ll probably see a line of people waiting for the bus to Jiufen.
If you choose this option and then want to reach Shifen afterwards, follow our itinerary in reverse.
JIUFEN – WHAT TO SEE&DO
The town of Jiufen sits perched on the mountainside. It is characteristic for its alleys and stairways decorated with lights, lanterns and shops selling local delicacies. From sunset onwards the sights are enchanting, you can even enjoy ocean views from up there. But be mindful of proper human traffic jams that will block the streets in the most famous corners.
Take refuge in the less frequented side streets instead, or look for a table at Jiufen Tea House, the most famous tea house in the country. A cup of oolong tea here will cost you dearly (from 800TWD per serving, around €20, but that’s actually enough for 6 cups per person), this is because it includes excellent quality and table service with demonstration by the staff.
The tea ritual in peaceful Jiufen Tea House overlooking the mountains was a special moment. Plus you can still keep the tea leaves you paid for as souvenir, a few leaves are enough for a cup and you won’t consume all the amount purchased on site.
Other popular tea houses are Amei Tea House and Skyline Tea House, in the historic town centre as well.
ALSO READ: Sunrise, train, and oolong tea in the Alishan forest
JINGUASHI GOLD ECOLOGICAL GEOPARK
If you are a bit agoraphobic, and we assure you that it’s understandable to be overwhelmed by the crowds in Jiufen, you could escape the chaos and visit the Jiufen Goldore Museum (see map). The area around Jiufen is in fact historically known for having been a gold mining area. Or you can head to Jinguashi by bus (10 minutes), taxi, or one of the tours that include it.
Once there, Jinguashi Gold Ecological Geopark offers walks with sea views, such as the Teapot Mountain Trail, and outdoor routes where ancient gold mines once stood. The Golden Waterfall is a cool attraction that owes its name to the unique water colour given by the deposit of metals in the river bed.
When you’re ready to leave from Jiufen and return to Ruifang, the bus stop is in a different location. From the Old Street entrance, walk about 100 meters up the main road to reach it. Look for signs for Ruifang and Taipei.
Back at Ruifang train station, if you have saved your time and energy, you can take bus no.788 to Keelung. Alternatively, take the train back to Taipei (about 45 minutes), which are quite frequent even in the evening until 9.
BUS TO KEELUNG
Keelung is a lively port city, known in particular for its night market, an evening destination for Taipei residents.
If you have skipped other points and arrive in Keelung in the early afternoon, you can combine your visit with the interesting Yehliu Geopark or with Heping Island Park. Both natural parks offer peculiar rock formations along the coast, an ideal excursion by the Taiwanese sea on a nice sunny day. We recommend these destinations to those traveling by car, taxi, or with one of these tours with a private driver, as relying on buses takes significantly longer in this area.
Close the evening by venturing to the Keelung street market, also known as Miaokou Night Market. This market has had a boom in global notoriety over the years, thanks to the visit of well-known chef Anthony Bourdain.
One of its highlights is the fact that the expansion of the stalls has practically incorporated Dianji Temple, creating a picturesque setting. Among the infinite dishes to taste, we recommend those based on fish given the harbour town location, like crab soup, fried crab, fish tempura; also try Taro Cake or Gua Bao for other Taiwanese specialties.
BACK TO TAIPEI
From Keelung, trains to Taipei run throughout the evening and take between 40-50 minutes. Some buses are even faster, such as no.2088 which leaves from the Erxin Xunhuan Station stop near the night market, and gets to Taipei MRT City Hall Station in about half an hour (see map).
This concludes our guide on how to visit Shifen and Jiufen in a day from Taipei.
Read our related articles on other excursions to do from Taipei, such as Taroko Gorge, Alishan, and what to do and see in 3 days in Taipei.
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