Shifen’s waterfalls were some of the most beautiful I have seen in a while. Maybe the absolutely torrential June rains helped boost them a bit, but the 40-metre high waterfall was positively pumping when I visited.
Shifen is a small town about an hour outside of Taipei with a unique old town surrounding the railway. The tracks of the old coal train run straight through Shifen and are used today for passenger trains like the one you’ll catch. It’s pretty cool to see a train pass through the town market, and the experience is similar to Maeklong in Thailand.
DAY TRIP OR OVERNIGHT?
I personally would not overnight in Shifen. The township is very small and easily seen in a half-day trip from Taipei or paired with a trip to nearby Jiufen. I stayed in Jiufen overnight, but as explained in my Jiufen article, if I had my time again I would just visit both towns in a day trip from Taipei.
If you want to extend your stay in Jiufen, you can see the accommodation options below:
HOW TO GET TO SHIFEN
There are several options for getting to Shifen which vary in cost. Shifen is conveniently on the Pingxi Line from Ruifang Station, so I found the best and most affordable way to get there was by train.
Taipei to Shifen by Train
First, it is necessary to catch a TRA train from Taipei to Ruifang. These leave frequently from Taipei, every 5 – 20 minutes from Taipei Main Station and cost $49NTD for a local train and $76NTD for an express train each way. The journey takes about 20-40 minutes.
From Ruifang, you can book a seat on the next train to Shifen from Ruifang. On average, they leave every hour, take about 25 minutes, and the ticket costs $19NTD each way. I did not need to book this journey in advance, there were plenty of seats available just rocking up. The journey is really scenic through jungles, mountainous terrain, and past rivers, so you definitely won’t be bored! I also love the trains in Taiwan, especially this one to Shifen, the colours are fantastic and the retro interiors are super cool.
Taipei to Shifen by Tour
There are several tours which operate out of Taipei which take you to Shifen, Jiufen or both. You can check out a variety of tours which are available on Klook. Personally, going by tour isn’t really my style because I like to have reign over my itinerary, but if you just want to relax, then a tour can easily show you to several places in the mountains and take you safely back to Taipei.
READ MORE: Top 10 Things To Do In Taipei, Taiwan
BEST THINGS TO DO IN SHIFEN
SEE SHIFEN WATERFALLS
My number one thing to do in Shifen is to set eyes on the waterfalls. Getting to the waterfalls is super simple and very well signed throughout the town. A gentle 20 minute walk from the town, you eventually reach the waterfall visitor centre. From there, you cross on of Taiwan’s many suspension bridges, walk along the river and then reach the falls.
Shifen Falls are 40m tall and are wide waterfalls, so they’re visually stunning. In fact these falls are well-known to be the best in Taiwan, so they’re definitely worth checking out. Although I wouldn’t recommend visiting them in the torrential downpour like I did (my camera still hasn’t fully healed from the water damage), it would be good to see them after recent rain and in their best form.
WANDER THROUGH THE OLD STREET
The collection of lanes and streets surrounding the railway in Shifen are referred to as the ‘Old Streets’. Buildings are huddled together, home to colourful shops and delicious eateries. Restaurants serving steaming bamboo pots full of fresh dumplings are aplenty, and vendors will tempt you with samples of fried seafood and taro.
As you can see from the photos above, the railway tracks pass right through the Old Streets. There are ushers which pull selfie-stick wielding people off the rails when a train is coming which I found a bit funny (but also concerning). Watching a train squeeze through the stalls of the Old Streets is a pretty cool sight, so you should try and stick around to watch it happen.
A NOTE ON LANTERNS HERE: a tradition and past-time in Shifen is to let of lanterns with your wishes written on them. This is a very popular tourist activity in the township and, I’ll admit, it looks like fun. Unfortunately, most of the places selling these lanterns make them out of cheap plastic to safe cost. These lanterns fly off and end up strewn all through the river and surrounding jungle and don’t break down. I saw about 20 – 30 lanterns in the trees on just the quick walk to the waterfall. If you absolutely must let off a lantern in Shifen, speak to vendors and find ones using traditional, biodegradable materials.
SEE ONE OF THE SUSPENSION BRIDGES
As in most places in Taiwan, there are a number of suspension bridges around Shifen. Jingan Suspension Bridge is closest to the station and is a popular place to visit. With dramatic mountains in the background and moody passing clouds, it is quite a nice view.
PIN FOR LATER AND FOR OTHERS!
WANT MORE TAIWAN GOODNESS? I’VE GOT YOU COVERED BELOW