PINGXI (平溪; píngxī) is the seventh stop on the Pingxi Branch Rail Line and one of the valley’s most atmospheric villages, though there’s not much to see unless you visit during the Lantern Festival (Jan or Feb) – the village (along with Shifen) is home to one of Taiwan’s most enchanting spectacles, the release of hundreds of “heavenly lanterns”, or tiāndēng. At other times you can buy and launch individual lanterns from shops that line the main road towards Jingtong – try no. 67 or 68.
Pingxi is also surrounded by tantalizing hiking trails. Walk through the village and across the river to the main road – turn left here and in a few metres you should pass a signposted trail on the right leading to Putuo Mountain (普陀山; pŭtuóshān; 450m) and Xiaozi Mountain (孝子山; xiàozǐshān; 360m), both just 1km away (allow 2hr round-trip). The summit of the latter is one of the most dramatic on the island; a steep tower of rock scaled by steel ladders – the views are impressive, but don’t try the climb on a wet day.