13 January 2020.
Hehuanshan had long been earmarked as a place I desperately wanted to visit during my trip to Taiwan.
But as I began planning my escape to the mountains, I quickly realised that actually getting there wasn’t going to be nearly as straightforward as I had anticipated.
After hours of pouring over guide books, online articles and bus timetables to no avail and nearly deciding to scrap it from my itinerary altogether, my wonderful hostel owner in Sun Moon Lake came to the rescue providing me with exactly what I needed.
You see, there used to be a direct bus from Taichung though that no longer exists and while there’s a bunch of information about how to reach Cingjing, there’s next to nothing about how to travel the last stretch into the mountains.
So, here’s exactly how to get to Hehuanshan from just about anywhere in Taiwan.
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Taichung is the easiest major city from which to travel to Hehuanshan but will require you to transfer buses in Puli and Cingjing.
If you’re arriving from Taipei, Hualien or Sun Moon Lake, scroll down for more information.
Taichung To Cingjing via Puli
Now, while Taichung is the best major city to start from, your journey into the mountains will actually start in Puli so, from virtually anywhere in Taiwan (except the east coast), you’ll first need to make your way here.
Thankfully, there are five direct buses that travel from Taichung to Cingjing via Puli.
Bus 6664 departs from Taichung’s Gangcheng Station between 8:20 a.m. and 12:35 p.m. and takes 2.5 hours to reach Cingjing. Check the timetable here.
If you happen to miss these services or are travelling in the afternoon, buses bound for Puli depart Taichung every 20 to 30 minutes between 7:45 a.m. and 4:45 p.m. at which time they become hourly. The trip takes an hour and 15 minutes. Check the timetable here.
From Puli, there are 12 services a day travelling to Cingjing between 6 a.m. and 4:35 p.m. The trip takes an hour and 10 minutes and the scenery as you weave higher into the mountains is simply beautiful. See the timetable here.
If you’re going to have a long wait before your next bus, I’d recommend getting off at Cingjing Guesthouse, not Cingjing Farm as many people recommend. Here you’ll find a well-stocked 7-11 and a spacious courtyard with cafes and food stalls to while away the time. There’s also a small fruit market across the road if you’re after some hiking snacks.
Tickets between Taichung and Cingjing cost $239 (€7) and you can pay using your EasyCard.
Cingjing To Hehuanshan
The final leg from Cingjing to Hehuanshan is the most challenging as there are just 3 departures each day.
As of November 2019, these were at 8:20 a.m., 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. arriving in Hehuanshan an hour later. The return trip from Hehuanshan to Cingjing departs at 9:40 a.m., 12:20 p.m. and 3:50 p.m.
Note that the final stop in Hehuanshan is a short way further than Songsyue Lodge so the buses may arrive around 10 minutes after the actual departure time. It’s also just a small minibus so be ready and waiting to ensure you can fit on.
Given these buses are so infrequent, you might also consider hitchhiking. If you’re visiting around the weekend or during the summer high season the main mountain road receives plenty of traffic and it easy enough to get a ride the rest of the way from Cingjing to Hehuanshan, or at least to Wuling from where it’s just a 1.5km walk downhill or another short car trip.
I very rarely hitchhike but after meeting another traveller on the bus, we decided to give it ago instead of waiting more than an hour for the bus. Within 5 minutes we were picked up by a friendly couple heading to Wuling and, in a true display of Taiwanese hospitality, instead of just dropping us off once we arrived, they ran around the parking lot asking everyone they saw if they were heading in our direction. When that failed they went onto the road and flagged down every single car until they found one with space to take us.
Yes, the Taiwanese are just the loveliest people ever!
I always felt incredibly safe as a solo female in Taiwan, but if you are planning to hitchhike, make sure you’re comfortable with the potential risks that it presents. It also helps greatly having a map to point out exactly where you want to go as just saying ‘Hehuanshan’ which actually refers to the whole area can cause quite a bit of confusion.
If you’re travelling from Taipei to Hehuanshan, you’ll first need to reach Taichung using either the High Speed Rail or local train which both run regular daily services.
The HSR takes around 1 hour with tickets from $700 (€21). Reserve your seat in advance here to receive a discounted ticket.
Local trains are much slower taking between 2 and 3.5 hours with tickets starting from $240 (€7). Check timetable and fare information here.
Get an early start and plan your connections carefully if you intend to reach Hehuanshan in one day.
Did you know that Hehuanshan actually falls within Taroko National Park? Yes, the same place as that wildly impressive gorge you probably already visited way on the other side of the island.
Yet, despite being just a few hours drive away, there’s, rather frustratingly, no regular public transport between the two areas.
From Hualien, there is a single daily bus that goes as far as Lishan that can drop you at Dayuling, some 9km from Hehuanshan, but from there you’ll either need to walk uphill along the road or hitchhike. See the timetable here.
The only other options from Hualien to Hehuanshan are to hire a taxi or private driver or rent your own car or scooter. The drive through the mountains is stunning but expect to pay at least $5,000 (€120) for a driver to make the trip.
This tour brings you to Cingjing and makes it a full-day experience, including Taroko Gorge and numerous stops en route. Otherwise, consider discussing your plans with your hostel or hotel in Hualien who may be able to recommend a driver.
Sun Moon Lake sits just 30 minutes from Puli making it a perfect jumping off point for Hehuanshan without having to backtrack to Taichung.
Buses depart Sun Moon Lake for Puli at least every hour between at 7:25 a.m. and 7:25 p.m. Check the timetable here.
Once in Puli, simply follow the steps outlined in the ‘Taichung to Hehuanshan’ section.
It’s also possible to take a direct shuttle from Sun Moon Lake to Cingjing which will save you the hassle of changing buses too many times. Choose between a shared transfer which has two set pick-up times each day and requires a minimum of two passengers, or a private transfer that allows you to allocate your pick-up time and charges per car making it a great option for families or groups.
Alishan may be home to Taiwan’s most famous sunrise, but Hehuanshan certainly gives it a run for its money.
Watching the soft dawn glow spill across the endless peaks was nothing short of magical and one of my most memorable moments from Taiwan.
If you’re keen to have a similar experience but not able to stay overnight, a Hehuanshan Sunrise Tour is a great alternative.
Stargazing And Sunrise Experience | This tour departs from Cingjing in the wee hours and pairs the magnificent star-studded night sky with a beautiful sunrise over Hehuanshan. See rates and availability here.
Both tours have Chinese-speaking guides only, but this isn’t the kind of experience that will require a lot of explanation. They’re also very affordable at around $500 (€15) per person.
1 | At over 3,000m, Hehuanshan is a high altitude area and one of few places in Taiwan that experiences snow over winter.
Aside from the swarms of visitors who flock here on snow days for the rare chance to experience a white winter, this can seriously disrupt transport in the area. Private transfers, in particular, may cease to run during this period or request a surcharge. Snow generally falls between December and February but it can be chilly up here at any time of year so be sure to bring the appropriate clothing.
2 | Can you reach Hehuanshan in one day? If you plan your trip well, absolutely!
If you leave early enough, it’s certainly possible to reach Hehuanshan in one day from any of the destinations listed in this guide, but unless you’re starting your day in Cingjing or have organised private transportation, I wouldn’t recommend trying to visit the area as a day trip, especially if you plan on doing any hiking.
3 | The mountain roads are slow and windy and you’ll be spending a great deal of time on the bus, so if you’re someone who gets motion sickness, consider taking precautions before climbing on board.
4 | Bus tickets between Taichung and Hehuanshan add up to around $400 (€12) each way so be sure to load up your EasyCard with enough funds for the return journey. You’ll find a 7-11 at Cingjing if you need a last-minute top up. Haven’t arrived yet? Purchase your EasyCard here.
5 | Planning to stay overnight in Hehuanshan? Excellent idea! Read this comprehensive Hehuanshan guide for everything you need to know about hiking, accommodation and planning your itinerary.