Songsyue Lodge (松雪樓 or songxue lou, see official site) is the highest hotel in Taiwan (3150 m/10,335 ft!) and the only one in Hehuanshan area – considered the best place to see snow in Taiwan. The hotel has fantastic views plus some cool history, with the ruins of a former ski resort right behind it.
However, getting a room at Songsyue Lodge is notoriously difficult. In this article. I’m going to describe in detail how I scored a room and what it was like staying overnight there.
Songsyue Lodge Introduction
Sonsyue Lodge was completed in 1966. Its main purpose was to house former president Chiang Kai-shek as he inspected the construction of Highway 14A .
The highway traverses the Central Mountain Range, running from Taichung and Puli in Nantou to Hualien county. There, it meets Highway 8 (the Central Cross Island Highway), which descends down into Taroko Gorge.
The hotel sits on the northern slope of Hehuanshan East Peak, one of the famous mountain’s five peaks, with Mount Qilai towering gracefully beyond it (see the cover image of this article).
Hehuanshan is right on the border between Nantou and Hualien counties and within Taroko National Park. The lodge itself is just inside Hualien county.
Songsyue Lodge actually consists of two buildings: the main lodge (location), which we usually see in pictures is where Chiang Ka-shek used to stay.
Behind it and down a set of stairs (see left side of above photo), there’s a second building which served as a dorm for skiers (location) on the ski hill on Hehuanshan East Peak. You can see the former ski hill just above the main lodge building in the center of the above photo.
In the 1970s, there was more snow at Hehuanshan every winter compared to today. The hill was used not just as a public ski resort but also as a training camp for KMT soldiers, who at that point still planned to take back China someday.
In 1999, the original lodge was in a state of disrepair and was closed. In 2004, it was rebuilt and in 2009 it was reopened as a high mountain tourist lodge. Today, the lodge contains the hotel’s private rooms and restaurant, while the lower ski lodge contains shared dorms.
Both the lodge and dorms are incredibly popular among local trekkers. Because the online booking system is a little tough to navigate, foreign visitors rarely manage to get a spot (I’ll teach you how below!)
Most of foreign visitors end up staying at Cingjing Farm and visiting Hehuanshan by bus (only 3 per day!) or tour.
Songsyue Lodge is only five minutes on foot from the famous Hehuanshan Lookout (location), where most sunrise tours stop to see the sunrise.
In fact, you can even watch the sunrise from the hotel’s parking lot or from your own balcony, if you get one of the more expensive mountain-facing rooms. I’ll cover the best sunset locations around the hotel in more detail below.
How to Make a Booking at Songsyue Lodge
In the not-too-distant past, the Songsyue Lodge official website was in Mandarin only. With its complicated booking process, this made it just about impossible for foreigners to navigate. Foreign tourists were advised to email or call the hotel, but with limited success.
Now the hotel’s official website finally has English, and it is good enough that English speakers can actually understand how to make a booking with the information they provide.
A quick summary is that you’ll need to first sign up, log in, then you’ll be able to book a spot in the dorms or a private room anywhere from 4 to 30 days in advance. There’s a little more to it than that, so I’ll take you through each of these steps in more detail below.
While that may seem relatively simple, the most difficult part is the timing. In my experience, in busier months, all of the rooms and dorms usually sell out within 5 minutes of being released.
So it is critical to be online the moment rooms are released for the date you want, and be ready to book as quickly as possible.
Step 1: Sign Up
Your first step is to sign up for a free membership on the website. I suggest you do this days or weeks before you plan to actually book. This will give you time to study the booking system and practice it before the date you want to actually book.
I also suggest your do this on desktop instead of mobile and make sure your browser isn’t set to translate everything to English, but that’s going to spit out some weird translations. There is enough English on the website to do this without translating the Mandarin parts of the website.
You’ll need to create a username (minimum 6 letters and numbers, must have at least one of both) and password (minimum 8 characters, must have 3 of the following 4 things: upper case letter, lower case letter, number, symbol).
You’ll need to enter a mobile number. My Canada mobile number worked (+ sign and country code first). It will need to be a working number because you need to receive a verification code at the bottom of the sign up form.
You’ll also need to enter an address, and only Taiwan addresses work. The options in the dropdown list are only in Mandarin. You can put any address in Taiwan.
Here’s the address of Star Hostel Taipei Main (my most recommended hostel in Taipei). Feel free to use this example address, even if you aren’t staying at this hostel. It won’t matter. Here’s what to type or choose for each item:
- Zip code: 403
- County: 臺北市 (Taipei City, third item on dropdown list)
- District: 大同區 (Datong district, second item on dropdown list)
- Address: Huayin St. #50, 4F (English will be fine here)
Step 2: Log in and View Calendar
For each day, you’ll see the number of private rooms still available in the lodge (Classic double suite, Scenic double suite, and Large twin suite). These are almost always sold out, so you’ll probably see (0) after each room type (just like in the above screenshot). See a description of these three room types here.
Below that, you’ll also see the number ski hostel (dorm) spaces remaining. These spots don’t sell out as – you can see some are still available on the above screen shot, on Monday to Thursday.
If there are still any available spots in the private rooms or dorms, you’ll see a green available button at the bottom, which you can click to book any of them. If both the private rooms and dorms are sold out for that day, you’ll see a red full button. As you can see in the above screenshot, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are totally sold out.
You may need to click the calendar to the next month (numbers 1-12 for January to December in the drop down menu above the calendar) to see the date you want to book. The page sometimes takes several seconds to refresh to the next month, so just wait.
In busier months, you’ll probably see a red button for every single day. It’s very normal for every day to be sold out.
Step 3: Figure out When to Book
Since all rooms and dorms may sell out within five minutes of being released, it is absolutely essential to figure out exactly what day and what minute your desired room or dorm will be released.
Rooms and dorms are released 30 days in advance at 8 AM Taiwan time. For example, imagine right now I want to book January 10. Looking at any calendar, I count back 30 days, to December 12. I count the date I want to book (Jan 10) as day 1, Jan 9 as day 2, and so on.
Now you need to figure out what time that will be in your location. I am currently in Mountain Time Zone in Canada, which is 15 hours behind Taiwan in winter. So 8 AM on December 12 in Taiwan is actually 5 PM on December 11 in my location. That’s when I need to be online to book.
Note that Taiwan doesn’t have any daylight savings time. So if you are booking from somewhere that does, and the time is going to change soon, make sure to factor that into your calculation.
Step 4: Practice Booking at Least Once
I suggest you practice booking a room at least once before you actually book the date you want. There are many reasons I suggest doing this.
First, this will help you make sure you get the dates right. Practicing it a few days earlier will help you to confirm that you’ll be online on the right day to book your desired stay.
I found it quite easy to get confused about which day I needed to book, especially with the time difference. By practicing one or two days before, and seeing which day that would allow me to book, I was totally confident that I’d be online on the correct day a few days later.
Second, you’ll be able to read all the terms and conditions in advance so you don’t waste time reading them on the actual booking date. These are shown once you start making your booking, but time will be of the essence. Third, it will prepare you for the pages and forms you’ll need to fill out when you actually book.
You can take it as far as you want – you can even actually book a room for the wrong date, then cancel it later for a small fee. Why do this? Well, sometimes Taiwanese websites don’t like certain credit cards. You wouldn’t want to get all the way to the final step then find out your credit card doesn’t work when making the actual booking! I always have two cards handy just in case.
When you log into the calendar in the hours or minutes before a new date opens, the calendar will already show the details for that date before the rooms are released (see Jan 10 in the below screenshot).
All the room types for that day will show maximum availability. But there will be no green or red button yet at the bottom of that date.
At exactly 8 AM Taiwan time, refresh your screen. Now the green button will show. Click the green button and you’re in.
But your spot isn’t secure yet! Scroll down past all the terms and click agree. Now choose the room you want in the table (note weekday vs weekend prices), click 請選擇 (please select), and then the quantity of rooms or dorm spots you want.
Once you hit “confirm room quantity” at the bottom, as long as the room is still available, you’ll be able to proceed. This is the point where you’ve basically got the room! You still need to pay the deposit though, so continue.
Scroll further down on the same page, confirm all the details, and then click “online swipe” for paying the deposit by credit card (like many hotels in Taiwan, you’ll pay the rest in cash or credit card when you arrive at the hotel).
If you live in Taiwan and have a local bank account, you can also choose “money transfer” for doing an ATM transfer to their account.
You’ll then see an order summary and you’ll need to click “swipe” on the far right. After you complete the credit card payment, your order is complete and the room is booked!
On another day, I also logged in to the system around the time a new day was being released. I was just curious how fast the private rooms and dorms would sell out. All I did was keep hitting refresh every minute after the rooms were released, to see how fast they were selling.
Basically I found that all the private rooms sold out within 2-3 minutes and all the dorms sold out within 5 minutes.
This was for an October booking, which is not really high or low season for Hehuanshan. High season would be summer (July and August) and winter (January and February, around Lunar New Year, or when it’s possible to see snow).
In some other months, I’ve noticed the rooms don’t go quite so fast, especially the dorm rooms. But never take a chance, as large hiking groups sometimes fill up the entire dorm! Weekends are also higher demand than weekdays.
Step 5: Actually Book
Now that you’ve practiced the system, you should be confident to quickly navigate those pages on the day you actually need to book.
After I successfully booked my room following the steps in the previous section, I was able to see my booking under “Member Area” and “Order Data”. Under “order status”, it showed “paid”.
This is also where I went to cancel my earlier practice order.
If you mess up and don’t get a room on the date you want, you can always try checking back again and again, in case anyone else cancels their spot.
Please note that if you want to stay at Songsyue Lodge for two nights, you’ll have to book each night separately in the same way. Not many people stay for two nights.
A Note about Altitude Sickness
Hehuanshan and Songsyue Lodge are high enough to experience symptoms of altitude sickness (AMS or Acute Mountain Sickness), especially if you’re coming directly from sea level, like Taipei or Taichung city.
Earlier this year, I flew into and slept in a city in Peru that is just under 3000 meters, or lower than Songsyue Lodge. Even though I got a Diamox prescription from my doctor (Diamox helps to prevent or relieve symptoms of altitude sickness), I still felt like crap for my first two days there.
I expected to experience the same thing at Songsyue Lodge, but somehow I didn’t. I honestly think that staying at Cingjing Farm (1748 m) for one night help my body to acclimatize to lower oxygen the day before and that made a big difference!
Even though I didn’t love Cingjing Farm (here are my reasons why and here’s my general guide to Cingjing Farm), I still think it’s a good idea to stay there for one night first for acclimatizing to the altitude.
Even if you don’t experience altitude sickness, you will notice that hiking is more difficult at Hehuanshan’s elevation. Even though several of the hikes around Songsyue Lodge are relatively easy, you might feel more tired than you’d expect, or that it’s noticeably harder to breather, due to the altitude.
In case of emergency, there is oxygen available for guests at Songsyue Lodge.
My Experience Staying at Songsyue Lodge
I had a fantastic night on Songsyue Lodge, mainly thanks to the amazing sunset and sunrise I got to witness there. You can read all about those in my Hehuanshan guide. In this article, I’ll focus mainly on the hotel itself.
Getting to Songsyue Lodge
I started by taking the High Speed Rail from Taipei to Taichung (order discount HSR tickets here). I rented a car here with pickup at Taichung HSR station. I highly recommend starting at the HSR station because it’s outside the city.
It was a very winding but stunningly beautiful drive, especially the section from Cingjing Farm to Hehuanshan.
As I mentioned above, I stayed at Cingjing Farm for one night on the way. The drive from Cingjing Farm to Hehuanshan area is only 45 minutes.
But since there are multiple stops, lookout platforms, and hikes on the way and around Songsyue Lodge, it’s entirely possible you could spend half or even a full day before you actually check in to the lodge.
I describe all the possible stops and hikes in great detail in my Hehuanshan guide.
By bus, there is only one possible bus departure per day from Taichung to Hehuanshan, and you’ll need to switch buses in Puli and Cingjing Farm on the way. You’ll leave Taichung’s Gancheng Station or HSR station at 8:30/8:50 AM and arrive at Songsyue Lodge at noon.
From Cingjing Farm, there are three buses daily, departing at 8:20, 11:10, and 2:30, arriving at Songsyue Lodge at 9:10, noon, or 3:20.
The bus stop you’ll want to get off at is called Songsyue Lodge bus stop. It’s one stop and only a few minutes’ drive after Wuling Pass, the highest pass in Taiwan. You’ll maybe want to consider getting off at Wuling Pass just to see it, as it has an incredible view and access to Hehuanshan Main Peak trail. Then you can hike (20 minutes) down the road to the hotel.
When you get off the bus at Songsyue Lodge bus stop, there’s a visitor’s center on the left side of the road which sells some snacks and hot drinks. The famous sunrise lookout platform is opposite the center, on the right side of the road.
You can see Songsyue Lodge from the bus stop. In fact, the view of the lodge from there is one of the classic views of Hehuanshan area. And it’s very easy to see the small road you need to walk along to get to the hotel. Cars have to buzz the front desk to have the gate opened, but pedestrians can just walk right in, even if you aren’t staying there.
A different road provides access to the lower ski lodge (you can see it in the above photo). If you’re staying at the ski lodge, you should check in at the main lodge first. Then you can drive out and back in to the lower road. If you’re walking in, you can follow a staircase behind the main lodge down to the ski lodge.
Rooms and Facilities
I stayed in a private room in the main lodge. I chose the cheapest one (see the three options here), which is the classic double. The room felt a little dated in terms of color and design. But overall it was a very typical, generic, mid-range hotel room for Taiwan.
The room is clean, heated, and the shower is large and hot, so that’s what mattered most to me. You can’t control the heat, so the hotel staff told me that I should open the balcony door a little if I get too hot. Completely typical for Taiwan, the bed was a little hard.
My balcony faced the forest behind the hotel, which is why it was a cheaper one. The more expensive double rooms face the mountains and sunrise.
My room came with hot water kettle, coffee, and tea. It did NOT come with a towel, so you must bring your own or rent one from the front desk. It also did not come with all those free disposable toiletries that most hotels in Taiwan provide. The hotel is understandably trying to limit water use and waste.
All the rooms are on the second or third floors, with elevator access. On the first floor, there’s the check-in desk, a small waiting area, a room with emergency oxygen supply, and the dining hall.
In the shared rooms in the sky lodge, you’ll basically get a mattress on the floor, with blanket and pillow.
You’ll be in a room with some strangers (male and female mixed), who will mostly be Taiwanese hikers (and most likely very friendly!) Showers, bathrooms, and hot water will be available outside the room, but you’ll have to hike up to the main lodge for dinner and breakfast.
Outside the Lodge
The view from the parking lot just outside Songsyue Lodge is fantastic. You could even watch sunrise right from the parking lot or mountain-facing room balconies, though you’ll get an slightly better angle if you walk to Hehuanshan Lookout on the highway (which is usually crowded in the morning).
Or you can get the best view if you climb Shimenshan (20 minutes, my most recommended) or Hehuanshan East Peak (1 hour).
There’s a set of stairs from the main lodge going down to the Songsyue Ski Lodge. If you’re staying at the main lodge, you can visit but not enter the ski lodge.
For sunrise, the view from the ski lodge isn’t quite as good. You’ll probably want to at least walk up to Songsyue Lodge, walk down the ski lodge’s access road to reach Hehuanshan Lookout or Shimenshan, or climb Hehuanshan East Mountain.
Just past the ski lodge, there’s a cool stone sign with the characters 奇萊山登山口, or “Mount Qilai hiking entrance”. This is the trailhead for the 2-day hike to Mount Qilai, the towering mountain visible east of Songsyue Lodge. The hike requires a permit.
Both buildings of Songsyue Lodge are on the northern slope of Hehuanshan East Peak. The slopes above the hotel were the original Hehuanshan ski resort.
I highly recommend walking at least halfway up this peak to see the remains of the old ski lift. But even if you don’t, you can see one of the small towers of the old ski lift in the forest just behind the main lodge.
Sunset, Sunrise, and Hikes I did around the Lodge
While driving from Cingjing Farm to Songsyue Lodge, I stopped at Yuanfang Lookout (famous stargazing spot at night but also nice view in daytime), Kunyang Parking Lot (access to Hehuanshan South Peak, which is a good sunset viewing spot), and Wuling Pass.
At Wuling Pass, I did the two hour-return hike to Hehuanshan Main Peak, which was well worth it. After that, I drove another few minutes and checked into Songsyue Lodge.
After checking in, I relaxed for a bit, but more eager visitors could consider hiking up Hehuanshan East Peak, which is right behind the lodge, for sunset.
Other options could include driving to and hiking Hehuanshan Main Peak or South Peak for sunset. Depending on the time of year, you should be able to get back down before dinnertime ends at 7:30 PM – but plan carefully so you don’t miss it.
I tried to catch a view of sunset from the parking lot in front of the lodge, but unfortunately you can’t see the sunset directly from Songsyue Lodge. It will be behind you, with a mountain and some trees in the way.
However, I was still lucky enough to see a gorgeous sea of clouds in the valley looking out from Songsyue Lodge (the same direction I’d be watching the sunrise the next day).
For sunrise, I debated between hiking up Hehuanshan East Peak (steep 1 hour climb to summit) or Shimenshan (an easy 20-minute trail). In the end I went for Shimenshan for several reasons.
First, the hotel recommended it. Second, it’s only a 20-minute, much easier walk instead of 1 hour. And third, Shimenshan actually has a more direct view of the sunrise.
Even though Hehuanshan East Peak is higher, when you view the sunrise from up there, a mountain will be partially blocking the way.
In other words, looking at the below photo (shot from Shimenshan), if you were on Hehuanshan East Peak, you’d be standing on a peak at the far right of the photo. So you wouldn’t be able to see all of that lovely valley filled with clouds in my picture. That mountain just under the sun in my picture will be blocking part of that valley.
If you’re booked on a trip with a sunrise at Hehuanshan East Peak included (I know some hiking-focused tour operators do that), don’t worry, you’ll still have the chance to see a fantastic sunrise! The extra elevation means you’ll have a better view looking in all directions.
Shimenshan is an easy climb. But if you can’t or don’t want to walk 20 minutes, you can literally watch the sunrise from the parking lot in front of Songsyue Hotel. Or you can walk 5 minutes to Hehuanshan Lookout next to the highway and bus stop, which is where most sunrise tours take their guests.
If you have the ability, though, I highly recommend Shimenshan, as it is less busy, more natural, and offers a slightly better vantage point than Hehuanshan Lookout.
After sunrise, I returned to the hotel for breakfast as soon as it started at 7 AM. Then I immediately climbed Hehuanshan East Peak to see the remains of the old ski lift. The remains are here about halfway up, so it only took me one hour return to see them. You can do the peak in two hours return.
After that, I was easily able to leave before check out time (10 AM), and proceeded to drive back to Taichung.
A buffet-style dinner and breakfast is included for all guests. There were no major surprises with the food.
My dinner included options like rice, noodles, Taiwanese/Japanese curry, steamed vegetables, tofu, and so on. There were at least a few vegetarian options.
Dinner is served from 5 to 7:30 PM, so keep that in mind if you’re planning to climb a nearby peak for sunset.
After dinner, the restaurant staff gave me a snack box. Even though I was alone, they insisted on giving me two boxes because I was staying in a room meant for two people.
The snack box included a tetra pack milk tea, a pineapple cake, a red bean pancake, and a sun cake. Honestly even one box was more than I needed.
But these came in very handy as a pre-breakfast snack for the next morning, as most guests wake up super early for sunrise, but breakfast is not served until 7-9:30 AM.
Breakfast was also local style, with congee (the standard breakfast item in hotels across Taiwan), fried white radish cakes (these were a winner, as they were crispier than usual!), braised wintermelon, steamed cabbage, noodles, and tea/coffee.
For me, the food provided by the hotel was more than enough. I didn’t need to being any additional food or snacks for my stay. But if you plan to do some hiking before checking in, make sure you bring enough drinking water and food for lunch.
The Hehuanshan Visitor Center sells a few snacks like tea eggs, rice dumplings (粽子 or zongzi), and coffee. iI is just across thehighway from Songsyue Lodge and Hehuanshan Lookout.