Shizhuo’s Stunning Bamboo Forests, Tea Farms, Sunsets, and Hikes

A classic view of a wooden hiking staircase through a tea farm on Cloud Trail in Shizhuo, Alishan region, Chiayi county

Shizhuo (石桌) is one of my favorite places in all of Taiwan.

This small mountain village on the route between Chiayi city and Alishan is where Alishan High Mountain Tea is grown – Taiwan’s most famous tea.

I’m a tea geek, and Shizhuo is the best place in Taiwan for spending the night on a tea farm. On the mountainside above town, there are some incredible hikes through tea farms and bamboo forests. Gorgeous sunsets and sunrises with seas of clouds and fresh cool air are the finishing touches.

I highly encourage anyone heading to Alishan to spend at least one night in Shizhuo on the way (though other tempting options nearby include Fenqihu and Eryanping!)

In this article, I’ll cover everything you need to know for doing that, including how to get to Shizhuo (with a table of all the bus times), where to stay there, how to find all the hikes and sunset/sunrise viewpoints (with map), and what to eat.

I’ll also provide an itinerary by car or public transportation which includes all four famous places in the area (Shizhuo, Eryanping, Fenqihu, and Alishan).

Shizhuo Introduction

Main street of a small village called Shizhuo in Chiayi, with hill covered in tea farms behind
Shizhuo village with mountainside covered in tea farms behind (north of) it

Shizhuo is a small village in Zhuqi township (竹崎鄉) of Chiayi county (see my Chiayi guide). It is not in but very close to Alishan township. The villages sits at 1300 meters above sea level.

Looking down some tea farms, with a village at the bottom
Looking south down on Shizhuo village from that mountainside

Shizhuo (sometimes incorrectly spelled Shizhao) literally means “stone table”. When Han Chinese first arrived in the area, they noticed that the local aboriginal Tsou people put a flat-top stone altar in front of their guardian deity.

According to this source, locals in the remote Shizhuo area used to grow bamboo and lilies. The Alishan Forest Railway provided the only access to the region – there was no road to Shizhuo or Alishan until 1983!

Looking down on a tea plantation with workers picking tea and mountains in distance
High mountain tea farm in Shizhuo

Around that time, the Taiwan Tea Research and Extension Station was experimenting with growing tea at higher elevations. They encouraged farmers in Shizhuo area (1200 to 1500 meters above sea level) to start growing tea.

It turned out that the region had the perfect combination of sunlight and misty air for growing tea. What’s more, the lower oxygen level seemed to result in a higher concentration of flavor components in the tea. Thus High Mountain Tea (高山茶 or gaoshan cha) was born.

Mist above a tea farm
MIsty air helps tea to grow
Workers picking tea on a misty day in Shizhuo
Workers picking tea on a misty day in Shizhuo

While the tea grown in Shizhuo is typically called Alishan High Mountain Tea, named after the famous mountain resort, Shizhuo is not in Alishan National Forest Recreation Area.

You could say that Shizhuo is in the general Alishan region, and some guesthouses in Shizhuo area even put “Alishan” in their name to entice visitors. As a result, some travelers even make the mistake of booking a room in Shizhuo, thinking that it’s in Alishan!

Compared to the tourist masses at Alishan, Shizhuo is much more off-the-beaten-track (even though every bus to Alishan passes right through Shizhuo!)

A large basket filled with freshly picked tealeaves
Tea harvesting in Shizhuo

The whole village of Shizhuo and area around it revolves around tea. I first fell in love with Shizhuo when I spent a night on a tea farm there with my kids back in 2018.

At that time, here was almost no information available in English about Shizhuo. I could only find information and maps showing Shizhuo’s hikes in Mandarin.

Because I loved it so much, I’ve been promoting Shizhuo pretty hard on my other website and in my Facebook group ever since that first stay. Most of the pics in this article come from a more recent visit at the end of 2023.

Looking down at the front end of a scooter parked on a cement ledge, with Nick Kembel's face reflecting in the left side rearview mirror as he takes the picture, and a gorgeous scene of a tea plantation, temple roof, and mountains in front of the scooter.
That’s me riding a scooter above Shizhuo

Between my websites and Facebook group, my Alishan and Shizhuo content has reached tens of thousands of people. I honestly think that I have inspired many people to visit Shizhuo, and I’ve been seeing more and more visitors including it on their Taiwan travel itinerary!

I actually have a dream to someday open a hostel or guesthouse in the Shizhuo or Alishan region, so watch out for that.

A hand holding a green tea leaf that's still attached to its stem
An Alishan High Mountain Tea leaf

Getting to Shizhuo

Transportation from Chiayi to Shizhuo and Shizhuo to Alishan is relatively easy. However, it can get pretty complicated if you want to also visit Eryanping or Fenqihu, or if you want to work in a ride on the Alishan Forest Railway from Chiayi city.

You also need to be careful about where you stay in Shizhuo (see next section). Some accommodations in Shizhuo area are a long, uphill trek from the bus stops on the highway.

If you have time, consider to visit a few spots or try some famous foods in Chiayi city before you head to Shizhuo – all the info is in my Chiayi guide.

By Car or Scooter

Looking down a narrow, winding road, with a staircase just barely visible descending from the road down into a tea farm, and mountainous vista to the left
A typical winding road around Shizhuo

It’s a lovely but winding one-hour drive from Chiayi HSR station (outside the city center) or Chiayi regular train station (in the city center) to Shizhuo.

See my HSR booking guide, buy discounted HSR tickets to Chiayi, book your car rental here. For the regular train, here’s my guide to booking train tickets in Taiwan.

There are multiple scooter rental shops across the street from Chiayi train station in the city center. I rented mine here. Helmet, rain coat, and mobile phone holder are provided.

Like most scooter rental shops nowadays in Taiwan, they’ll require a Taiwanese license or IDP, and may or may not require that the IDP has an A stamp (motorcycle endorsement) from your home country.

On the drive to Shizhuo, GoogleMaps took me on a fun detour (Highway 130) off the main road (Highway 18). It rejoins the main road before Shizhuo. But if you’re planning to visit Eryanping on the way, stick to Highway 18.

By Bus

A green bus stops at the side of the road to let on some passengers, with two 7-Eleven signs and some shops behind it
Alishan shuttle bus at main bus stop in Shizhuo

Every bus from Chiayi to Alishan passes through Shizhuo on the way. I’ve compiled all the bus times from Chiayi to Shizhuo below.

Bus 7329 or 7329A (also called Alishan Shuttle A) goes from Chiayi HSR station to Alishan via Shizhuo. It takes about 1 hour 25 minutes to reach Shizhuo and another 45 minutes from Shizhuo to Alishan.

There are only 4 buses from the HSR station per day. Only one of them (7329A) will make the 30-minute (return) detour to Fenqihu right after Shizhuo stop. You can see the full bus schedule here (scroll to second page for English) or see the bus time table I created below.

Bus 7322C or 7322D (also called Alishan Shuttle B) goes from Chiayi train station to Alishan via Shizhuo. It also takes about 1 hour and 25 minutes to reach Shizhuo and another 45 minutes from Shizhuo to Alishan.

There are 10 departures per day. Only two of them (7322D) will make the detour to Fenqihu right after Shizhuo stop.

A large white statue of a bear wearing a mask that has a Taiwanese flag on it, with more Taiwanese flags on poles and present boxes around him, and Chiayi train station in the background
Shizhuo & Alishan bus stop in front of Chiayi train station

Bus 7302 also has two departures per day from Chiayi to Fenqihu only, and they stop at Shizhuo stop right before Fenqihu. Fenqihu is a 10-minute drive (or 1 hr uphill walk) off the main Chiayi-to-Alishan highway. See the schedule.

You can swipe EasyCard (see my EasyCard guide) for riding all these buses. This deal on Klook gives you two rides on Alishan Shuttle Bus A & B (7322 and 7329) – it may not be worth the money of you’re only riding to Shizhuo and not all the way to Alishan, though.

It’s also possible to book Chiayi to Alishan bus seats on the FamiPort machine in any FamilyMart (Mandarin only). FamiPort also has an online version called FamiTicket – see my step-by-step guide to reserving your Alishan bus seats online.

At busy times (long weekends, holidays, December high season, cherry blossom season from March to April) the buses can be so full that some people can’t get on. Those with seats booked at FamiPort machines or FamiTicket online get first priority, while those swiping EasyCard or the Klook deal get second priority.

Line up early for the bus in Chiayi for the best chance of getting on. If boarding the bus at a small stop in Shizhuo, make sure to wave your arms for the bus to stop. At smaller stops, always go to the bus stop 10 minutes before the scheduled time, just in case.

Bus Schedule

Here’s a table I’ve compiled showing all the bus times from Chiayi to Shizhuo to Fenqihu to Alishan. An empty space means it doesn’t stop there. I’ve also prepared an even more detailed list of all the buses from Chiayi to Alishan here.

BusChiayi StationChiayi HSRShizhuoFenqihuAlishan
73145:57 (weekdays)7:27
7322C6:057:308:08
73027:058:408:49
7322C7:108:309:08
7322C8:109:3510:13
7322C8:4010:0510:43
7322C9:1010:3511:13
73299:3010:5211:39
7322D9:4011:0511:1712:18
7322C10:1011:3512:13
732910:1011:3412:18
7329A11:0012:2512:3813:45
731411:09 (Sat/Sun)12:40
7322C11:1012:3513:13
7322D12:1013:2513:5314:48
732913:1014:3415:14
7322C14:1015:3516:13
730215:0516:3816:49
731417:0718:55

And here are the bus times going back, from Alishan to Fenqihu to Shizhuo to Chiayi.

BusAlishanFenqihuShizhuoChiayi HSRChiayi Station
73148:24 (weekdays)10:04
73029:009:1010:45
7322D9:109:5810:1011:35
7329A10:1011:0111:2212:56
7322C11:4012:1813:43
7322C12:4013:1814:43
732913:3014:0915:40
7322C13:4014:1815:43
731414:34 (Sat/Sun)16:13
7322D14:1014:5815:2016:45
7322C14:4015:1816:43
732914:4015:2616:56
7322C15:1015:4817:13
7322C15:4016:1817:43
7322C16:1016:4818:13
732916:4017:1918:43
730217:0017:1018:45
7322C17:1017:4819:13
731419:3421:13

Bus Stops at Shizhuo

As I mentioned above, you need to get off the correct bus stop at Shizhuo for reaching your accommodation. None of the guesthouses are right in the town center. They are spread out around the village.

Even from the closest stop, it could be a long, uphill walk from the bus stop on the highway to your hotel. Some hotels offer pickup if you ask in advance.

Here’s a list of bus stops around Shizhuo where you might want to get off. They are the order you’ll reach them coming from Chiayi.

  • Yongxing (永興 here): for Alishan Tea Homestay, this is a 25-minute walk from Shizhuo town center
  • Wangfeng (望峰 here): for Hinoki Guesthouse, this is a 10-minute walk from Shizhuo town center
  • Shizhuo (石棹 here): this is the main bus stop in Shizhuo, in front of 7-Eleven and Hilife. The bus times in my table are for this bus stop.
  • Note: for any buses that go to Fenqihu, they will make a 20 to 30-minute detour off the main highway right after Shizhuo stop. Then they will come back and proceed to the next stop:
  • Alishan Medical Treatment Station (阿里山醫療站, here): for Green Incense and Siangting guesthouse, and getting to most of the famous Shizhuo hikes. If you’re coming down from Alishan, and you’re on a bus that’s going to make the detour to Fenqihu, get off here before it does that. Otherwise you’ll have to sit on the bus for another 30 minutes before it gets to Shizhuo stop.
  • Note: Bus 7329 from the HSR station only officially stops at Shizhuo stop in Shizhuo area. If you want to get off at one of the smaller ones above, make sure to inform the driver in advance. 7322 stops at any of them, but you’ll still need to buzz to get off.

By Train

Three women standing between red Alishan Forest Railway trains parked at a train station
My friends with Alishan Forest Railway trains at Fenqihu station

The Alishan Forest Railway does not go to Shizhuo, but it goes to Fenqihu, which is only 10 minutes’ drive (or one hour walk) away. If you walk from Fenqihu to Shizhuo, the walk will mostly be downhill.

Book your Alishan train tickets here up to 15 days in advance (often sells out, so book early!) Note that the booking system is only open 6 AM to midnight, Taiwan time.

The scenic ride from Chiayi station to Fenqihu takes 2.5 hours, so one hour slower than taking the bus. There’s only 1 departure per day (weekdays) and 3 on weekends. See the train times here.

At Fenqihu, you can put your luggage in a locker while you have lunch on the cute Fenqihu Old Street. Then catch any bus (10 minutes) to Shizhuo. Buses are limited, so make sure to check the bus times in the table I shared above. On busy days, it’s smart to line up early for the bus.

Where to Stay in Shizhuo

Guesthouses in Shizhuo are quite spread out. Some of them are a long, uphill walk from the bus stops on the highway, so choose carefully. Some of the furthest ones will pick you up from Fenqihu or Shizhuo bus station if you ask in advance.

Virtually all of these are run by tea farms, but a few don’t actually have views of the farm (even if you see pictures of them on their hotel booking pages!) For each one, I mention which meals are provided.

I’m giving more options and details than usual here because the accommodation you choose in Shizhuo will have a big impact on your visit.

Tea farm run by my hotel (Hinoki B&B) in Shizhuo

Alishan Tea Homestay 新天山茶業 (see on Booking / GoogleMaps): This is one of the first options – it’s quite a ways before Shizhuo town. It’s run by a super friendly, English-speaking couple. If you stay here, it will be a 25-minute walk to reach Shizhuo town center and 35+ minutes to any of the hikes. The highway is dark if you need to walk along it at night.

No meals are served, so this hotel is not the most convenient. However, the owners are usually willing to drive you anywhere nearby. The owners run a tea farm and will let you taste the teas, but the tea farm is NOT on site.

The room quality varies a lot, but ones with balcony have a sunrise view in the morning – the only one I know of in Shizhuo that does. For non-balcony rooms, the owners can tell you how to find a sunrise spot 15-minutes hike away.

This guesthouse is not to be confused with Alishan Tea Garden, which is even further away from Shizhuo but also looks very nice.

Looking down a wooden hallways with wooden doors and wooden sculptures on shelves
Everything made of hinoki (cypress) at Hinoki B&B

Hinoki Guesthouse 找茶人家 (see on Booking / Agoda / GoogleMaps): This is where I stayed on my last visit. It’s a 10-minute walk along the highway before Shizhuo town.

Inside, everything is made of cypress (hinoki) wood, so it smells nice. Only some rooms have balcony/window. They are currently building some new rooms that will be even better.

Although not obvious at first, there is a tea plantation on site – ask the owner to show you! You have to take the elevator to the top floor to access it on the hill behind the guesthouse.

Breakfast is included and there are bathtubs in some room (a little rare in Taiwan). I had trouble finding the guesthouse at first – watch for the purple sign at the far right side of a strip of tea shops on the left side of the highway.

A sign that says Drizzle Tea, some Mandarin characters, and tea field terraces going up behind it
Tea farm views at Drizzle Tea Guesthouse

Drizzle Teahouse 小山霂茗 (see on Booking / Agoda / GoogleMaps): A simple guesthouse at the bottom of a tea plantation and facility called Lin Yuan Tea Factory. It’s a 10-minute walk from Shizhuo town cetner, with the last few minutes going uphill. From the guesthouse, you can walk up some stairs into the tea farm and watch the sunset from there. Dinner and breakfast provided.

Green Incense Homestay 綠香茶園民宿 (see on Booking / Agoda / GoogleMaps): Another lovely guesthouse, right at the start of Mist Trail and just a few steps from Dingshizhao Lookout (for sunset view). Run by a tea farm owner, and the tea farm is right next to it. A few rooms have views of it. 20-minute walk from town center, half of which is uphill.

Siangting 頂石桌湘庭民宿 (see on Booking / Agoda / GoogleMaps) and Legendary 傳說民宿 (see on Booking / Agoda / GoogleMaps): two more options even further up the mountain, with tea farm and sunset views. 30-minute uphill walk from town – ask for pickup.

A Taiwanese guesthouse overlooking a tea plantation
I loved our stay at Cuiti B&B

Cuiti B&B 翠堤民宿 (see on Booking / Agoda / GoogleMaps) I had a fantastic stay at this teahouse run by a tea farmer. It’s quite a ways up the mountain, between Shizhuo and Fenqihu, but they picked me up and dropped me off at Fenqihu/Shizhuo.

I brought my own dinner and they served breakfast. It’s close to Cloud Trail and Tea trail, two of the more remote hikes around Shizhuo, but a 45-minute uphill walk from town. It felt like I had this remote corner of Shizhuo all to myself. I saw a lovely sunset from here.

Looking down terraces of tea and a guesthouse
Longyun Leisure Farm

Longyun Leisure Farm (see on Booking / Agoda / GoogleMaps) This is about as far away from town that you can get, so getting a pick-up from either Fenqihu train station or Shizhuo bus stop is the only reasonable way to get here.

But you will be rewarded with a a super quiet, remote location, friendly staff, and gorgeous view of a tea farm. It’s also close to Cloud and Tea trails. Dinner and breakfast are served.

For a truly romantic (but pricier) getaway with sunrise view, try here.

Hiking in Shizhuo

A map of Shizhuo, with hiking trails and sunset/sunrise spots marked
Hiking trails and sunset/sunrise spots in Shizhuo

One of the main reasons to come to Shizhuo is for hiking. On the mountainside just north of town, there are 5 incredible hikes: Mist Trail (dark gray line on map), Sunset Trail (orange line), Sakura Trail (pink line), Tea Trail (green line), and Cloud Trail (white line).

I’ve also marked the sunset spots (more details in next section below): Dingshizhao (beside Mist Trail), three along 培仔桶林到 road, and the sunrise spot on Tea Trail.

All of these hikes include bamboo forests, views over tea plantations, and access to vantage points for watching the sunset.

Just a quick warning: all of these hikes are uphill with lots of stairs. I’ll order them from closest to furthest from Shizhuo town center.

For casual visitors, I recommend doing Mist Trail + Sunset Trail – that will take you 2-3 hours and offer the best views. Sakura Trail is an easy add-on and is a must during cherry blossom season (mid-Feb to mid-Mar). Tea Trail is a longer hike, while Cloud Trail is fairy easy but far from town.

A map of the hiking trails in Shizhuo village
You’ll see maps like this posted at each of the five trails

Mist Trail

A walking path through a misty bamboo forest with one big tree to the left side of the path
Misty bamboo forest on Mist Trail

Mist Trail (霧之道步道, 30 min return) is the closest trail to Shizhuo town center, so I recommend you do it first. From the 7-Eleven and main bus stop, walk along the highway for 10 minutes to this small road.

Follow that small road uphill for 5 minutes to find the trailhead here.

Before doing the hike you might want to walk a few minutes further up the road to Dingshizhao Lookout (here), which has a good view of town and is a sunset spot. But you’ll have another chance to see this lookout on the way back to town.

Hiking trail stairs going up through a tea farm with some trees in the middle
The start of Mist Trail ascends through a tea farm

At the trailhead, don’t walk all the way up the small driveway to Green Incense Guesthouse (this is what I did…) The trailhead is a little hidden in the trees on the right side, right at the start of the driveway.

Right away, the trail starts going uphill through a tea plantation. It doesn’t take long before you’ll have lovely views looking down. Closer to the top, the trail goes through some bamboo forest before reaching 培仔桶林到 road.

Looking into a misty bamboo forest
Bamboo forest on Mist Trail

At that point, if you cross the road and keep going up, the trail turns into Tea Trail. I only recommend Tea Trail for more serious hikers, so I’ll cover it further below. For most visitors, I recommend turning left on 培仔桶林到 road to find the next two hikes.

Sunset Trail

Looking down at terraces of tea fields, with orange temple and some other buildings at the bottom and mountains beyond
View of Shizhuo Mountain & Village from bottom of Sunset Trail

From the top of Mist Trail, instead of going up Tea Trail, turn left and walk down 培仔桶林到 road.

This road offers some of the best views imaginable of Shizhuo village and the mountains beyond. This road is also my most recommended place to watch the sunset in Shizhuo (see the three sunset icons in the map I created above).

A wooden railing with hills covered in tea farms below and mountains in the distance
Tea farms just below Sunset Trail

Here is the bottom trailhead of Sunset Trail (霞之道, 20 minutes return). Sunset Trail starts on 培仔桶林到 road and goes up to another road above it.

You don’t even need to walk Sunset trail for a sunset view. My personal favorite sunset spot was on the road right in front of the trailhead, next to the driveway of this guesthouse (you could park a car there if driving).

From this spot, you’ll be looking over tea fields, the roof of a temple, Shizhuo village below, and mountains beyond. Around sunrise or sunset time, you might also be able to witness sea of clouds from here.

Sometimes, the clouds roll over Shizhuo village and Shizhuo mountain, which looks very cool, too.

A wooden staircase ascends into a forest of bamboo
Start of Sunset Trail

If you’re too early for sunset, then you might as well walk the Sunset Trail first! Opposite the guesthouse I linked to above, the trail goes up through a bamboo forest (see photo above). Before long, the wooden stairs go up through a tea plantation.

The view looking down on that plantation from the upper trailhead is one of the best views in Shizhuo (see image below).

A long staircase shot from the side, with a hill covered in tea terraces behind it and mountains in the distance
The top of Sunset Trail

However, the top of Sunset Trail is not an ideal spot for sunset because the trees of the bamboo forest block the spot where the sun will go down. There, after you enjoy the view, I recommend walking back down the same way.

Alishan Sakura Trail

Some tea bushes with cherry blossoms blooming on either side
Cherry blossoms & tea fields (image by billlushana1 is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

If you’re still too early for sunset, there’s one more hike you can easily check out: Sakura Trail (櫻之道, 15 minutes return). The trail of courses features some cherry blossom trees, so it becomes a major hot spot when they bloom (mid-February to mid-March).

Even if you visit out of cherry blossom season, the trail is worth visiting. Learning more about viewing cherry blossoms in Taiwan here.

Looking down a valley at a village, with a staircase at the bottom right, and mountains in distance
Looking down Sakura trail (staircase on bottom right) to Shizhuo village

If you’re coming from Sunset trail (lower trailhead), follow the car road west and watch for the wooden staircase down through the tea plantation to the left. It will get you down to this spot, where you cross the road and connect to the top of Sakura Trail here.

How far down you go depends on whether you plan to walk back up to Sunset Trail for the sunset or not.

A long staircase with many levels, with tea bushes in foreground and bamboo forest in background
Long staircase between bamboo forest and tea fields

If you don’t plan to return, you can take Sakura Trail down to this road, then follow the road past the temple and all the way down to Dingshizhao Lookout. Enjoy your final view from the lookout (or sunset from here) before you return to town the same way you came.

If you’re coming from town and want to go directly to Sakura Trail, perhaps because it’s cherry blossom season and that’s why you came here, then the fastest way would be to walk up the Shizhuo-to Fenqihu-highway starting here, and find the bottom of Sakura trail here.

It will take about 20 minutes (uphill) to reach the bottom of the trail. The trail itself is relatively short.

The railing of a wooden lookout platform at bottom, with a hill covered in tea fields and a temple beyond it
Dingshizhao Lookout on the way back to town

Trail of Tea

A post on the left that says Tea Trail in English and Mandarin, and staircase going up into the forest on the righ
Start of the Tea Trail

Remember when I said Trail of Tea (茶之道步道, one hour return) is longer and more remote? That’s why I saved it till now.

Trail of Tea is essentially a continuation of Mist Trail. It’s not super difficult or anything, but the stairs just keep going up and up through bamboo forest.

This trail doesn’t have views looking down on town like most of the others do, but it has some lovely views of mountains and tea plantations towards the top.

A staircase going up through a bamboo forest
Bamboo forest on Tea Trail

At the highest point, you reach this spot overlooking a tea plantation. From this spot, it’s possible to watch the sunrise. This is one of the few places in Shizhuo with a direct sunrise view. You could walk to this spot in only about 30 minutes from the bottom of Mist Trail, but it’s uphill stairs for most of it.

With a scooter, you could drive much of the way up to here, then it’s just a short walk to the sunrise spot. Howerver, that may be a little difficult to find in the early morning.

After the sunrise / tea plantation spot, the trail starts going downhill and connects to Cloud Trail.

Cloud Trail

Nick Kembel and his two kids on a hiking trail in a forest. They're standing on wooden stairs and he's holding his daughter up in the air.
Hiking the Cloud Trail with my kids

Cloud Trail (雲之道步道, 30 minutes return) is the furthest away from Shizhuo. If you’re into longer hikes, then you could walk Mist Trail, Tea Trail, Cloud Trail, then all the way back. My guess is that this would take 3-4 hours – that’s with lots of breaks and photo stops.

If you’re connecting from Tea Trail, Cloud Trail will start here. You’ll go downhill a bit then reach a point in the forest when you have the option to stick to the main trail (left) or turn right. I suggest going right, which is a side trail going to Longyun Leisure Farm (this trail is not shown on maps, but you’ll see it).

A young boy and girl posing in front of a tea farm, and boy is holding a cat stuffy
My kids at Longyun Leisure Farm

Longyun Leisure Farm is one of the most remote places to stay in Shizhuo. The guesthouse overlooks a beautiful tea farm.

If you didn’t take this little detour, i.e. you turned left, you would soon reach the bottom trailhead of Cloud Trail. From there, you could also walk up the car road to Longyun Leisure Farm, or turn left for waking along the roads back to Shizhuo.

Nick Kembel standing in front of a large tea farm
Me at Longyun Leisure Farm

My first time in Shizhuo, I actually stayed in a lovely guesthouse run by a tea farm called Cuiti Guesthouse. It’s here, only a few minutes’ walk from the bottom trailhead of Cloud Trail.

Me and my kids walk from the guesthouse, up Cloud Trail to the turning point, to Longyun Leisure Farm, and then back to our guesthouse via the car road. This walk was easy enough for my young kids to handle.

A woman standing amidst tea pushes while picking the leaves. She's facing the camera and has a large cone hat on.
Worker picking tea near Cuiti Guesthouse and Cloud Trail

There were some stairs, but not nearly as steep as most of the main hikers closer to Shizhuo. So if you’re visiting with kids, this would be a viable option!

There are no sunset or sunrise views from this trail  – it’s mostly regular forest and bamboo forest. The view from Cuiti guesthose was nice around sunset, with some colors in the sky, but I couldn’t see the sun setting directly.

If you wanted to see sunrise, you could take Cloud Trail and connect to that sunrise spot I mentioned on Tea Trail.

Where to Watch the Sunset and Sunrise

Overall, due to the angle of the town, Shizhuo is famous as a sunset viewing spot and not so much a sunrise spot, but you will still have some sunrise options, too.

Just like the famous Chushan sunrise viewing spot at Alishan, you’ll need some luck to see a good sunset or sunrise here. Often, it’s too cloudy to see anything (this region is famous for its mist and fog, after all).

On the plus side, you won’t be surrounded by masses of people like at Alishan.

Sunset Lookouts

The mountainside just north of Shizhuo village, which is covered in tea farms and several guesthouses and hikes I mentioned, provides the perfect vantage point for sunset.

Here are the two best sunset spots I found. I didn’t get a great sunset when I last visited, so I’ve included a few photos from other photographers.

A sunset scene with a valley full of clouds and village at the bottom of some mountains
Sunset from Dingshizhao (“image by billlushana1 is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Dingshizhao Lookout (石棹觀景臺, here): Even though it doesn’t look that far on the map, this lookout platform is a 20-minute uphill walk from 7-Eleven in the town center.

It’s a great lookout of the town, mountains, tea farms, and sunset.

A row of three mountains enshrouded in clouds, with a strip of color in the sky from the sunset
Best shot I managed to get of the not-so-great sunset I witnessed

Bottom of Sunset Trail (霞之道南口, here) Unsurprisingly, Sunset Trail is a good spot to watch sunset. However, most of the trail doesn’t have a sunset view. You’ll get the best view from the road at the bottom trailhead.

The bottom end of Sunset Trail is on 培仔桶林到 road. From here, you can enjoy what I personally think is the best sunset view in all of Shizhuo. You’ll be looking over tea farms, the roof of this temple, Shizhuo village, mountains, and a valley with possible sea of clouds.

A starry sky, with lit up village below and mountains
View from the road after sunset (image by billlushana1 is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

With a car, you can park in the lot at this guesthouse. Walk or driver further east down 培仔桶林到 road and the epic views don’t stop all the way to Mist Trail and Tea Trail. Simply find your favorite spot along this road and enjoy.

If you hike Sunset Trail, it goes up through a bamboo forest to this spot on the next road above. Although this upper end of the trail has an absolutely stunning view of a tea farm, it’s not the best sunset viewing spot because the bamboo forest blocks the view where the sun will go down.

Any guesthouses on the mountainside just north of Shizhuo have the potential for sunset view. It’s going to boil down to the exact location of the hotel on the hill, whether there are trees in the way, which room you have, etc. It’s best to just scope it out and ask the owner when you get there.

Even if your guesthouse on the mountainside doesn’t have a direct sunset view, you won’t be too far from Sunset Trail.

Looking down a wooden hiking staircase surrounded by farms, with mountain peaks shrouded in mist far below
Sunset from the top of Eryanping trail

Eryanping has a view of both sunset and sunrise. The trail’s top lookout platform faces the sunset and the staircase in the above photo, which is part of Eryanping trail. Both Eryanping Trail and Tea & Mist Trail lead to this platform. You can also drive to this platform with a scooter or small car (15 minutes drive from Shizhuo). Use GoogleMaps to get there.

If you’re staying in Shizhuo, you don’t need to go so far away to Eryanping for sunset when you can enjoy a similarly beautiful sunset in Shizhuo.

However, you might consider traveling to Eryanping for sunrise if you have a car or scooter (more info below).

If Eryanping really appeals to you, then consider to stay in Eryanping instead of Shizhuo. All the buses pass by Eryanping, too. But Eryanping only has a couple hotels and very few restaurants and other services.

Sunrise Spots

As I said above, Shizhuo is not especially known for its sunrises because it doesn’t face the right direction. Most vantage points above town face south or southwest. When the sun rises from the east, there will be some mountains or trees blocking your view at most spots.

Having said that, sunrise and the couple hour right after it is a beautiful time to be at any lookout point in Shizhuo. It’s possible to see sea of clouds from many spots. And once the early morning sun starts shining on the tea farms, they look phenomenal. You also have the best chance of clear weather in the early morning.

Looking up at terraces of a tea farm in early morning light with bamboo forest and blue sky at the top
Tea farm bathed in early morning light

A few guesthouses before Shizhuo village are on hills facing east and the sunrise. Balcony rooms at Alishan Tea Homestay have sunrise views. For guests in non-balcony rooms, the owner can tell you how to walk 15 minutes to small sunrise viewpoint near the hotel.

You can also see the sunrise from H& Alishan Sunrise B&B, but it’s in a remote location 10 minutes’ drive south of Shizhuo.

The wooden railing of a lookout platform with a wide mountain vista beyond
Dingshizhao Lookout a few hours after sunrise. You might be able to see sea of clouds in this valley at sunrise

Even though they’re better for sunset, Dingshizhao Lookout and the bottom and top of Sunset Trail would also be lovely at sunrise.

Since they face directly south, the sun will be rising to your far left. You may not be able to see the sun as it comes up on the horizon (this may also depend on the time of year), but the vista before you will be stunning as the sun lights it up.

There’s a chance of see the sea of clouds.

A green ridge with tea field on it and mountains behind
Lookout from Shizhuo town (note the tea field)

For the easiest view, there’s a small lookout platform right here in town. Again, it’s looking straight south, so the sunrise will be from your far left, with a mountain possibly blocking it. The mountain view from here is lovely (see above photo), though as good as the ones I mentioned above. It may be possible to see a sea of clouds from here, but you’d have to be lucky.

There is a remote sunrise spot on the Tea Trail where you can see the sunrise over a tea field. It’s called “Seeing the Sun Platform” (觀日平台) on GoogleMaps.

It would be a one-hour uphill walk from town (take the Mist Trail up, which turns into Tea Trail). It’s stairs the whole way. I’ve never tried it, so if you do, please let me know in the comments whether it’s a good spot!

A sun rising above a line of mountains with blue sky and layers of white clouds above
Sunrise from Eryanping Trail

Eryanping is the most famous sunrise spot in the area. You can actually drive right up to the viewing platform – the road is very narrow, so only scooters or a small car like Toyota Yarris (common rental vehicle) will fit. It’s a 15-minute drive from Shizhuo to the lookout platform.

The platform actually faces sunset, but when I visited at sunrise time, the view over the staircase and sea of clouds was phenomenal. To watch the sunrise directly, you just have to walk 5 minutes down the car road – it goes around a curve and then faces the right direction.

Without a vehicle, it’s a 45 min to 1 hr uphill hike from here (Eryanping Trail) or here (Tea Mist trail) to the sunrise/sunset spot. If you’re staying in Shizhuo and don’t have a vehicle, there’s no viable way to get to these trails before sunrise.

Sunrise above mountains, with tree and grass in the foreground
Alishan sunrise is too far away to reach from Shizhuo

Alishan is too far away to easily get there for sunrise from Shizhuo, unless you have a car. Even with a car, you’ll need to drive 45-minutes, pay the entrance fee (the gate is open 24 hrs), park your car, and ride the Alishan Forest Railway or hike 1 hour up to sunrise viewpoints at Duigaoyue, Chushan, or Xiaoliyuanshan. Cars are not allowed to drive up to sunrise viewpoints.

For all the trouble, you’re much better off going to Eryanping, where there will be few or no tourists.

Itinerary for Shizhuo, Eryanping, Fenqihu, and Alishan

Looking down a hiking trail with narrow tea garden beside it and a village far below
Hiking trail above Shizhuo

If you only want to visit Shizhuo and Alishan, that will be very simple. However, if you want to visit all four famous places in the area (Shizhuo, Eryanping, Fenqihu, and Alishan), that will become more complicated.

With your own vehicle, you can easily visit all four places in two nights. Coming from Chiayi, on day one, drive 10 minutes past Shizhuo to Fenqihu for lunch (it has the best food options). Return to Shizhuo, check in to hotel, and follow my below hiking and sunset viewing guide.

The next morning, drive to Eryanping viewpoint for sunrise. Hike parts of Eryanping and Tea Mist Trail before leaving. Return to Shizhuo for breakfast and check out of the hotel. Proceed to Alishan for a full day of exploring there and sunrise at Chushan the next morning.

Looking down a wooden staircase and is turns through a tea plantation
Cloud Trail

By public transportation, it will become more complicated to see all of the above in only two nights. There are many factors to consider, including the fact that staying near Eryanping is the only way to hike Eryanping for sunrise, and there are only lockers for luggage storage at Fenqihu and Alishan.

Here’s the best way I can think of to do it, and it involves sleeping one night at Eryanping and one night at Alishan.

On Day 1, take an early bus from Chiayi to Eryanping and leave your luggage at the hotel (make sure to inform hotel beforehand). Catch a bus to Shizhuo and do a few hours of hiking there. Return to Eryanping and hike Eryanping or Tea Mist Trail for sunset (both go to the same sunset viewing platform).

Some baskets stacked up and filled with tealeaves
Tealeaves in Shizhuo

On Day 2, wake up early and hike to the same viewpoint for sunrise (it will look very different than sunset). Return to hotel, check out, and ride the 8:20 AM bus to Fenqihu (direct) or 10:26 AM bus (requires a transfer in Shizhuo).

Make sure to wave arms for driver to stop. The buses could be very full on weekends or peak season, so prepare to squeeze on. At Fenqihu, there are lockers for luggage storage.

After exploring Fenqihu and having lunch there, ride a bus to Alishan (check the times carefully!) Catch the sunset at Alishan and sunrise the next morning, with a few more hours of hiking before checkout.

If you also hope to include a ride on the Alishan Forest Railway between Chiayi and Fenqihu in your trip, then I suggest to do that on the way back. Take the bus from Alishan to Fenqihu, then ride the train from Fenqihu back to Chiayi. If you do this, then you can omit visiting Fenqihu the day before, and go directly from Eryanping to Alishan, which has more frequent buses that Eryanping to Fenqihu.

There are many other ways you could plan this, but that’s just one suggested itinerary for you!

Where to Eat in Shizhuo

Because it’s such a tiny village, food options are limited in Shizhuo. First, make sure to check whether your accommodation offers, breakfast, dinner and breakfast, or neither.

Also keep in mind how long it will take to walk from your hotel to the town center if you need to go get food, and remember that the highways get quite dark at night.

For a sit-down meal, there are a handful of simple quick fry restaurants in the small Shizhuo town center. They have a variety of rice, noodle, and fried meat & vegetable dishes. Try here, here, here, or here. There’s also this spot with lamb hot pot. These restaurants are best if you have a small group, so you can share several dishes.

Looking into a white paper bag at some fried food items with a small stick poking into one of them
My dinner of take-away fried foods at Shizhuo

On my own, I had a delicious (but not so healthy) dinner of deep fried foods from The Best Fried Chicken Ever (that’s literally what it’s called).

This is a take-away food stall next to HiLife, where you choose from the Mandarin menu or simply point at whatever items you want and they will deep fry them for you. There are lots of vegetarian options (here’s how to ask for vegetarian food).

A collage of two pics, left side shows Nick Kembel holding a beer, and right side shows same beer with a wooden sign behind him with Mandarin characters
Finishing my day with a beer in Hilife (sign says “Shizhuo Tea Making House”)

There’s no shame in convenience store dining, either. In Shizhuo town center, you’ve got the choice of HiLife and 7-Eleven, open 24 hours and just a few steps apart. There’s a lovely seating area in the HiLife, which is where I washed down my fried foods with some cold beer.

A short drive or 10-minute walk south of town, close to Hinoki Guesthouse, Jiejiao Yongfu Bitter Tea Oil Chicken (街角永富苦茶油雞, here) is one of the top local restaurants in the area. They have boar dishes, tofu with fresh Alishan wasabi (yummy!), and a few dishes made with tea oil.

A metal steamer filled with breakfast buns and Mandarin sign beside it
Steamed buns for sale next to HiLife in Shizhuo

In the morning, there are some simple local breakfast shops here next to HiLife, here, and here across from the lookout just east of town on the way to Alishan.

Buying Tea and Tea Farm Tours in Shizhuo

An elderly Taiwanese man sitting down and brewing some tea using various tea equipment on a large wooden tea tray
Cuiti guesthouse owner (and tea farmer) brewing tea for me

After hiking through all those tea farms, you may want to actually buy some tea! One great place to start would be your guesthouse. Since almost every guesthouse in Shizhuo is run by a tea farming family, most of them also operate small teashops from their guesthouse.

I had a lovely tea tasting and buying experience when I stayed at Cuiti. The farmer brewed some teas up for me (traditional gongfu-style of course). Most places will be willing to brew some tea for you before you buy.

Besides the classic Alishan High Mountain Oolong Tea which most of them produce, also watch out for the much rarer but very delicious Alishan Black Tea. Learn more about Taiwanese teas here.

A Taiwanese man dropping some tealeaves onto a stack of baskets with some tea drying equipment beside him
A worker putting tealeaves on drying baskets in Hinoki guesthouse’s tea factory

When I stayed at Hinoki Guesthouse, the owner also took me upstairs to their small processing facility (photo above) and beautiful tea farm behind the guesthouse.

I was also lucky to see workers picking tealeaves when the farmer showed me his farm at Cuiti Guesthouse (photo below).

Around 10 workers picking tealeaves and a large basket resting onto of the tea bushes at the front
Workers picking tea near Cuiti guesthouse and Cloud Trail

If you aren’t spending the night, or your guesthouse doesn’t sell tea, you can taste and buy it from at least a dozen shops in the Shizhuo town center, such as here, here, here, here, or here.

Unfortunately there are no official tea plantation tours in Shizhuo (or anywhere in Taiwan, as far as I know).

Three large tea rolling machines and a man at the back shot from behind, standing in front of some tea drying racks
Peering into Lin Yuan Tea Factory

The closest thing I know of is Lin Yuan Tea Factory (林園製茶, here). If you show up and the owner happens to be around (he wasn’t when I went), then he’ll give you a quick tour of the small tea processing room, and you are free to walk (uphill) into the tea farm if you wish. If you have a group of people and want a more thorough tour, contact the farm to arrange it before you go.

On most of the hikes I described, you can walk right by or through tea farms on your own.

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