Stretching from the foothills of western Taiwan to the Yushan National Park, the extraordinarily diverse ALISHAN NATIONAL SCENIC AREA (阿里山國家風景區; ālǐshān guójiā fēngjǐngqū) covers some 420 square kilometres of picturesque tea plantations, tranquil homestays and inviting Tsou aboriginal villages. The whole area took a real beating from Typhoon Morakot in 2009. The Tsou villages of Laiji and Shanmei were particularly hard hit, with the Danayigu River Ecological Park effectively destroyed. The spectacular Alishan Forest Railway is expected to reopen at the end of 2013.

Confusingly, there is no single mountain called Alishan; the actual peak that attracts the most sunrise viewers is named Zhushan, the centrepiece of the Alishan Forest Recreation Area, the region’s main tourist hub and what most Taiwanese refer to as just “Alishan”. Ruili and Fenqihu are traditionally stops on the railway line, but also accessible by road, while the other main attractions are close to Highway 18.

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