Jiufen is a historic township in the mountainous north of Taiwan. Formerly a prosperous gold mining town, rather than become abandoned like many others, the picturesque town has maintained its place in local and international tourists’ itineraries. Featuring in animated films like Spirited Away have also helped Jiufen’s profile. An easy day trip from Taipei, Jiufen’s stunning heritage buildings, delicious local foods, bright lanterns, and delightfully snaking Old Street, make it a wonderful look into Taiwan’s past.
However, the beauty of this town is not a secret to tourists and Jiufen receives an influx of day-trippers and over-nighters every day. Jiufen is now affectionately referred to as the “Santorini of the East” because of its prime position overlooking the ocean, traditional buildings covering the hillside… and a lot of visitors.
Overall, although the crowds were pretty intense, I would recommend visiting Jiufen as something different from Taipei. Here is my detailed advice on how to get to Jiufen, how long to stay, and what the best things are to do in the town.
READ MORE: Top 10 Things To Do In Taipei, Taiwan
DAY TRIP OR OVERNIGHT IN JIUFEN?
This is a question a few people asked and something I would’ve done differently. Jiufen was described to me as being very touristic and full of visitors during the daylight hours. And yes, this is entirely true. I tried to combat this by overnighting in Jiufen so I could have the late night and early morning to explore without crowds. This worked and there were no crowds… but there was also absolutely nothing open and no atmosphere for most of my stay.
So, what would I recommend?
Jiufen is a beautiful part of Taiwan with some fantastic heritage to explore. To fully see what the town has to offer, you only really need 2 – 3 hours maximum. In terms of crowd size, the tour buses from Taipei start to arrive around 9:30am/10:00am and the crowds get crazy after that. Most shops tend to shut around 7:30pm and the atmosphere is really lessened by 8:00pm-8:30pm, so there isn’t much point sticking around after that. You can also stay overnight like I did, but I would recommend arriving in the evening and leaving the next morning to avoid having too much time.
- Morning: exploring between 9:00 and 12:00 is a great time for optimum small crowd size and shops will be open
- Evening: the beauty of the evening in Jiufen is the lanterns light up and the beautiful sunset over the ocean, but shops begin to shut
- Overnight: arrive in the evening (5:00pm ish) and leave the next morning (9:00am) to another destination or do a day trip to Shifen
Combining Jiufen with Shifen
I would personally recommend pairing a trip to Jiufen with a trip to Shifen as both places only need a half day and are easy to get to. Jiufen and Shifen have very different things to offer and it is a great idea to visit both. Both destinations are connected to the main station at Ruifang so are affordable and convenient to group together, as described below. Jiufen has old-world charm with a lot of heritage buildings and sweeping vistas, whereas Shifen was a natural beauty with impressive waterfalls.
HOW TO GET TO JIUFEN
Jiufen is easily accessible by tour or public transport. Although most people who visit Jiufen come from Taipei, I came from Taroko National Park in Taiwan’s east, and it was no problem at all. There are several ways to get to Jiufen from most parts of Taiwan:
- Private tour: the most expensive option and least independent but it is convenient, there are several tour options so I suggest you check out ones like this Yehliu, Jiufen, and Shifen Day Tour with Taiwanese Pastry Making which will show you several places
- Shuttle bus: you can book a private shuttle bus from Ximen in Taipei to Jiufen through Klook which leaves Ximen in the morning and returns in the evening
- Public bus: cheap but very slow.Alsostopin
- Bus #965 is a new route which leaves every 20 minutes from outside several MRT stations (Fuzhong, Ximen, Banqiao, Beimen) and drops you directly to Old Street in Jiufen. This is the fastest of the public buses (80 minutes vs. 120 minutes) and it costs $90 NTD.
- Bus #1062 (Keelung Bus) from Zhangxiao Fuxing MRT station (Exit 2) which goes through to Jinguashi but you can get off at Jiufen. It takes about an hour and a half, and costs $98 NTD.
- MY RECOMMENDATION Train + bus combination: faster than driving, very affordable, and the most flexibility so I’ll discuss it below.
Train to Ruifang
Jiufen doesn’t have its own train station, so it is necessary to get a train to the closest town of Ruifang. These trains leave Taipei frequently (every 5 – 20 minutes) and it isn’t necessary to reserve in advance, although you can if it makes you feel more comfortable! Trains also come to Ruifang from further afield destinations, I caught it from Hualien (Taroko National Park‘s closest city) and Taichung on the west coast.
Tickets to Ruifang from Taipei cost $49 NTD (~$2 AUD) for a local train or $76 NTD (~$3AUD) for an express Tze-Chiang train. The journey from Taipei Main Station to Ruifang takes 40mins – 1 hour.
ADDITIONAL NOTE: getting a return train ticket from Ruifang is great if you want to pair your trip to Jiufen with a trip to Shifen, too. Ruifang Station is where the bus to Jiufen leaves, but also where the trains to Shifen leave, so you can treat it as a base. There are cheap baggage storage options available at Ruifang Station too if you have luggage (like I did!).
Bus from Ruifang to Jiufen
There are frequent buses from near Ruifang station straight to Old Street in Jiufen. Once you get to Ruifang Station follow the red signs until you reach the bus stop — it is not the bus stop directly out the front of the station. You need to:
- Exit Ruifang Station
- Walk to the road at the front of the station
- Cross the road
- Turn left
- Walk about 2 blocks/150m until you see a bus stop
The bus journey costs only $15 NTD (~$0.75AUD) and takes about 10 – 15mins. This ride is a lot of corners and the bus drivers can be crazy drivers sometimes, so make sure you have a seat or something to hold onto!
WHERE TO STAY IN JIUFEN
There are a handful of Jiufen accommodation options and, on the whole, they are quite quaint. There are a few hostels and plenty of guest houses available for affordable prices. I stayed at a lovely guest house/hostel called Liu House X Her Hostel. The facilities were great although I happened to be the only one spending the night at the hostel which was a first!
To explore options for Jiufen accommodation, click on the button below:
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THINGS TO DO IN JIUFEN
WANDER THE OLD STREET
The Old Street of Jiufen is the highlight of any trip to the town. The lengthy Old Street is absolutely full of stalls selling local trinkets and delicious food. The stall owners are very friendly and will happily chat with you about the town. There are several local foods which are great to try too, like the peanut ice-cream wrap and taro balls!
WALK PAST A-MEI TEA HOUSE
This is one of the most popular and scenic places in the town of Jiufen, especially because it passes by the popular A-Mei teahouse. The cascading stairs and abundance of red lanterns are incredibly picturesque. The street gets very busy here though so prepare yourself for the crowds, especially in the rain when everyone is armed with umbrellas. Make sure you walk all the way down and look back up to get the best view of the street.
Drinking tea at one of the town’s famous tea houses is a must-do in Jiufen. There are plenty of tea houses to choose from ranging from famous and expensive, to unknown and cheap. At the tea houses you are introduced to a range of different Taiwanese teas and learn how to drink them. These sessions can be quite pricey if you’re looking at going to Jiufen Teahouse or A-Mei, but it is a great learning experience!
WATCH THE SUNSET
When I visited Jiufen, it was some of the heaviest rain I have ever experienced so the sunset wasn’t great. Just my luck! That being said, on a clear day, the sunset would be magnificent. There are dozens of restaurants and viewing platforms facing out towards the water, so you would be able to soak up the sunshine. It’s called the “Santorini of the East” for a reason!
VISIT A TEMPLE
There are several temples in the Jiufen township which are a peaceful escape from the main drag. The colourfully decorated temples are a haven for worshippers and interesting for visitors to learn about the culture. Good temples to visit are Fushan Temple and Xiahai Chenghuang Temple.
HIKE KEELUNG MOUNTAIN
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to do this because of the torrential rain (sad face) but it was on my list and something I will definitely do next time. With the town of Jiufen surrounded by luscious mountains, it looks stunning from a a high vantage point. The best view over the picturesque township is from Keelung Mountain which is 588m high and takes about 2 hours return trip.
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