Alishan Township, Chiayi County 605, Taiwan (R.O.C.)
The five wonders of Alishan include the railway, the forest, the sea of clouds, the sunrise and the sunset. In 1895, the Treaty of Shimonoseki (馬關條約) was signed and followed by the Japanese rule of Taiwan. The Japanese soon discovered the rich forests of precious trees in Alishan. From 1906 on, the Japanese colonial government started to build extremely difficult mountain railway routes to facilitate logging. By the year of 1920, the Alishan Forest Railway could be used to transport logs out from the forest and have been serving as a passenger train as well. The nostalgic train takes you all the way to Zhushan Station (祝山站) at an altitude of 2,451 meters above sea level – the highest point in the Taiwanese railway system.
When train travels to Dulishan (獨立山), there will be a long climb, and the corkscrewing starts from here. To adapt to the environment, the train has to spiral up around the mountain in order to reach the top. As there is no possibility for another loop due to the lack of space on the mountain top, the train finishes the Dulishan section in a figure-eight loop. However, a zigzag alignment will be necessary to ascend very steep gradients where there is no enough space for spirals as up on Dulishan, so the train must reverse direction in order to continue. In other words, the train can actually go backwards! This is the so-called “Alishan Switchback.”
Today, the trains no longer carry timber from the forests; instead, they ferry holidaymakers to and fro. From Alishan Station, you will be travelling on the nostalgic train while being surrounded by the misty forests in a mild temperature. Once you reach Zhaoping Station (沼平站), Zhaoping Park with an altitude of 2,274 meters will welcome you with the spectacular view of Alishan. You could even head to the most acclaimed highlight of Alishan — Giant Tree Trail (巨木群棧道), where the millennia-old trees like cypress, yellow cedar and spruce dominate the sacred forests.