Why Visit Shifen in Taiwan?
Recently, we had the opportunity to explore Shifen, known for its historic streets, picturesque waterfalls, and the enchanting tradition of sky lanterns.
In this blog post, we share our key takeaways from visiting Shifen, why it’s a must-see destination, the best things to see and how to get there. Plus, we’ll give you a sneak peek into other nearby attractions.
We made a stop to Shifen, during our trip around Taiwan. We started from Taipei (with a rental vehicle), stopped at Jingtong, Pingxi Station, and then Shifen. After Shifen, we continued to Houtong Cat Village and finally Jiufen where we spent the night.
Best Things to See in Shifen
Shifen Old Street
Walking through Shifen Old Street is like stepping back in time. The narrow street, lined with quaint shops and food stalls, buzzes with life.
The highlight here is watching the sky lanterns ascend into the sky, carrying wishes and messages.
However, note that the lanterns are not all made out of sustainable materials… Every days hundreds of lanterns end up in the forest nearby, creating serious environment issue!
While this is for sure one of the main draw in Shifen, be considerate and buy the slightly more expensive sustainable lanterns to reduce the environmental impact.
A short walk from Shifen Old Street leads to the Shifen Waterfall, a breathtaking sight often referred to as Taiwan’s Niagara Falls (well, it’s not as big nor as impressive, but it’s still quite nice!)
The waterfall, cascading over a wide cliff into a serene pool, creates a stunning misty spectacle. We were mesmerized by the powerful sound of the water and the peaceful surrounding greenery.
Jingan Suspension Bridge
For a panoramic view of the area, we recommend a stroll across the Jingan Suspension Bridge. It offers a perfect vantage point to see the trains passing through Shifen and the lush landscapes that surround the town.
How to Get to Shifen from Taipei?
Option 1: By Train
- Start at Taipei Main Station and purchase a train ticket to Ruifang Station.
- This can be done at the ticket counters, vending machines, or using an EasyCard (a rechargeable smart card for transportation in Taipei).
- Board the northbound train towards Ruifang. The journey typically takes about 30 to 40 minutes.
- At Ruifang Station, exit the main train and transfer to the Pingxi Line.
- You can purchase a Pingxi Line day pass or a single-journey ticket to Shifen. The day pass is ideal if you plan to hop on and off at different stations along the Pingxi Line.
- The journey from Ruifang to Shifen takes about 15-20 minutes.
- Once you arrive at Shifen Station, you’ll find yourself almost directly on Shifen Old Street, the heart of the town.
Option 2: Guided Tour
There are several guided tours available from Taipei that include Shifen as part of their itinerary. These tours often combine visits to Shifen with other nearby attractions such as Jiufen. See below:Klook.com
Option 3: Private Car (that’s what we chose)
As we started our 2 weeks roadtrip around Taiwan, we decided to rent a car. We chose Klook and it was super smooth!
It’s super easy to drive in Taiwan, and gave us this extra flexibility which we always like during our travels…
Our Tips about a visit to Shifen
Avoid the Crowd
Like in Jiufen, Shifen can be extremely crowded at times. Even though we visited during a weekday and with heavy rain, it was still packed!
So Start Early or Come Late Afternoon to enjoy your visit to Shifen without the crowd.
Try to local street food!
- Try out local street food. Taiwanese snacks are famous for their variety and flavor.
- There are also a few restaurants and cafes in Shifen. We were there around noon, and enjoyed some fresh noodle in one of the restaurants on the back street.
Shop for Souvenirs
The Old Street is lined with quaint shops selling a range of souvenirs, from handmade crafts to local teas.
Other Places to See Nearby
Along the Pingxi Train Line there are many great stops!
- Sky Lantern Hub: Pingxi station is another key spot on the Pingxi Line, also known for its Old Street and Sky.
- Scenic Views: The town is surrounded by lush hills, a river and offers a more tranquil and less touristy experience compared to Shifen.
- Historical Insights: The furthest station on the Pingxi Line, Jingtong, is a small town with a rich history in coal mining. Its old streets and railway memorabilia provide a glimpse into Taiwan’s past.
- Photogenic Spots: Jingtong’s nostalgic atmosphere, with its wooden station and old-school shops, is perfect for photography enthusiasts.
Houtong Cat Village
- Paradise for Cat Lovers: Once a coal mining village, Houtong is now better known as the “Cat Village.” This unique spot is home to hundreds of cats, cared for by the local community.
- Cultural Quirkiness: The village has cat-themed cafes, shops, and art, making it a quirky and fun stop.
- Historic Charm: This former gold mining town, located on the mountainside overlooking the ocean, is famous for its narrow, winding streets and traditional teahouses.
- Local Delights: Enjoy the local snacks and tea while taking in the stunning views of the Pacific Ocean.
- Nighttime Beauty: Jiufen’s lantern-lit streets at night offer a magical experience, transforming the town into a scene straight out of a fairy tale.
- Getting there: You’ll need to catch a bus to get there! The Pingxi Train Line doesn’t stop there. Bus 965, 788, 825 will get you there in 1h from Shifen.
Is Shifen Worth the Visit?
Our answer is a resounding yes, BUT!
Shifen just like Jiufen, can only be truly enjoyed without the crowd. We were glad we decided to spend a night in Jiufen, as we experienced the place almost to ourselves! Which would be impossible during the day.
Unfortunately we went to Shifen at midday and during a rainy day, so we couldn’t enjoy it as much. But we definitely see why this place attracts lots of visitors. It’s very charming nonetheless.
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