A quaint little mountain region in the Ruifang District, north of Taiwan, Jiufen (also known as Chiufen), demonstrates how the Taiwanese people were able to transform an old decommissioned gold mining town into an exciting thriving tourist hub, attracting people from all corners of the earth to its small alleyways, mountainside tea shops, and endless throngs of food stands.
Whilst its unique offerings and stunning location on the mountains earns it a place on the ‘must-see’ list in Taiwan, it’s usually not an area that most people would spend an entire day exploring. Due to its location in the midst of various other cities, it’s typically combined in a day trip with various parts of Taipei City or Keelung, or on the same day a visit to Shifen. As the saying goes, with Jiufen, it’s usually a case of ‘less is more’.
One of the many reasons why international visitors might consider a visit to Jiufen is because Hayao Miyazaki, famed Japanese film director, producer, and animator, created ‘Spirited Away’, an award-winning anime that draws many similarities between its gorgeously captured scenes and the charming streets of Jiufen. Read on as we explore the many exciting facets of this tiny village.
How To Get To Jiufen?
From Taipei, there are two options to get to Jiufen: via public transport, which is the more popular and affordable option, or via taxi, which is the quicker and more convenient option.
To get there via public transport, from Zhongxiao Fuxing MRT, head outside to the Sogo department store and take bus no. 1062 (Keelung-bound to Jinguashi), and alight at Jiufen. This should take roughly 60-minutes, and will cost around $98 TWD.
To get there via taxi, it will cost you roughly $1,200 TWD and take between 30-40 minutes. If you are traveling in a group of 3-4 people, and you’re not on a tight budget, this might work out to be the best option.
Where To Stay In Jiufen?
Jiufen Taiwan Guesthouse – Chiu Chunt Dint B&B
The Chiu Chunt Dint B&B guesthouse is located right on Jiufen Old Street, making its location its best feature. However, for the price that you are paying, it’s hard to believe that it also offers a private bathroom and free Wi-Fi for all guests.
Not only that, there’s luggage service for those times when you arrive at odd hours, and its location, being only a 12-minute drive away from Ruifang Station, means you can access multiple sightseeing points easily and conveniently. There’s also an in-house restaurant specializing in authentic Chinese cuisine.
Why Guests Love It: “The location is the best in Jiufen. The room is clean and spacious. Worth the money”, “Location was excellent. Breakfast spread was more diverse than expected. I stayed in room with balcony facing the sea. The view was excellent”, “Breakfast sandwich is tasty, minced pork rice even better”, “Wonderful location, just at the main Jiufen Street, great view from the balcony, good breakfast”.
Book It Now: Chiu Chunt Dint B&B
Jiufen Taiwan Hotel/Villa – Formosa Arcadian Villa
Located on an enviable spot on the mountains, Formosa Arcadian Villa offers its guests superior mountain, sea, and sunrise views from its sun terrace. Free Wi-Fi is available in all its spacious rooms, and there is a delicious daily breakfast available, as well as options for set meals for lunch and dinner.
All rooms feature a TV and air-conditioning, and a private bathroom with free toiletries. It’s only a 15-minute drive from Ruifang Station, however, if you are arriving at Jinguashi Nanxinshan Bus Stop, a free shuttle service is available from the property.
Why Guests Love It: “The owners were very friendly and helpful”, “The host was welcoming and the breakfast had a wide variety. The perfect place to watch the sunrise”, “Beautiful view, laid-back, good service”.
Book It Now: Formosa Ardadian Villa
What To Eat In Jiufen?
Sweet Tapioca and Taro Balls Dessert
When it Taiwan, eat taro balls. That’s how it goes right? We may have made that up, but in fact it could not be closer to the truth. The Asian dessert that’s taken the world by storm originated from Taiwan, and the stalls selling them in Jiufen produce some of the softest, sweetest, tastiest bowls we’ve ever eaten. The dessert itself is filled with sweet potato balls, beans, and jelly, and of course, the shining star, freshly hand-made chewy taro balls.
Peanut Ice Cream Rolls
You might mistaken these for crepes at first glance, but the peanut ice cream rolls are simply just peanut ice cream rolled up in a thin pancake, with additional peanut shavings for taste. When you order one, they’ll roll it up like a burrito and then cut it in half for you. It’s a bit of an odd food, for it’s a dessert, but its sweetness level is not exactly at the typical dessert sugar level. Fans of the peanut flavor will heartily enjoy this one though.
Taiwanese Beef Noodles
How do you visit a famous Taiwanese location without sampling its beef noodle offerings? The simple answer is: you can’t. Along Jiufen Old Street, there are quite a few stalls which sell the typical Taiwanese dish, so it’s a matter of being able to find a spot within those cramped stores and requesting a bowl of their delicious hot soup, simmering away at the front on display for all passerbys to see.
The 6 Best Things To Do In Jiufen, Taiwan
- Eat Your Way Through Jiufen Old Street
- Take a Picture at the Famous Lantern Pathway
- Drink Tea at A-Mei’s Tea House
- Visit the Golden Waterfall
- Stop and Admire the Blue and Yellow Hues of the Yin and Yang Sea
- Release a Lantern and Make a Wish at Pingxi
1. Eat Your Way Through Jiufen Old Street
The absolute number one thing to do whilst in Jiufen is to eat your way through Jiufen Old Street, there’s no doubt about it. Whilst some people are more inclined to explore the streets and let sampling food take the back seat, we simply believe that to truly understand and experience what Jiufen Old Stret has to offer, you pretty much have to eat at every second food stall that you see along the way (we’re jesting, but you’ll find it hard to simply walk past them anyway when you’re there!)
The beginning of Jiufen Old Street is gorgeous, so remember to take a quick snap, and then after that, your food adventure will begin. Most stalls will proudly display their massive pots of boiling beef broth and fish ball soups at the front, whilst other’s will beckon you into their confines to explore the various cakes and sweets you can purchase to bring home as gifts.
Some notable mentions include the glass noodles with tofu and fish balls, run by three small Vietnamese women, the ice cream puffs where you select your flavor of ice cream and it goes right into a puff pastry for you to munch on, the various types of fish balls from the different stalls that offer their own special recipes, and of course, the taro ball desserts.
Whilst the food options at Jiufen are incredibly diverse and you’ll need a second stomach to fit in everything you want to try, don’t forget to spend some exploring the knick-knacks on display, and possibly purchase some little trinkets home as souvenirs. We’re massive fans of the adorable key rings and miniature figurines you can purchase, but the various gorgeously wrapped food items such as tea leaves and sweets and the specialty stores such as the leather goods stores also offer great ideas as souvenirs.
FYI, Jiufen Old Street made our list of the 9 top things to do in Taiwan.
2. Take a Picture at the Famous Lantern Pathway
The lanterns at the Jiufen Old Street are probably the most famous and thus most popular part of the street. During most hours of the day, you will see crowds of people clambering all over the steps and along the pathways to get the best picture of the lanterns and the streets, so if you’re imagining a snap of just you and the gorgeous lanterns lighting up the alleyway, then you might be in for a bit of a surprise!
However, don’t let that deter you. Seeing the lanterns, especially during dusk when they’re illuminated against the night sky, is incredibly breathtaking. You can venture around and find different viewpoints and perspectives. It’s usually quite misty so high up in the mountain, but on a rare clear day, the sunset is stunning, and will leave you entranced.
3. Drink Tea at A-Mei’s Tea House
In Spirited Away, there is a bathhouse that is adorned with lanterns all round the exterior which looks amazingly like A-Mei’s Tea House in Jiufen. You might find that where you seek out the red lanterns to take the iconic Jiufen pictures (like the ones you see all over the Internet) might just be there A-Mei’s Tea House is located!
The entrance of the tea house is a set of wooden stairs, which is how you can also separate yourself from the crowd. Head on up after you’ve spent a few hours exploring Jiufen for a nice cup of tea whilst gazing out at the spectacular mountain and ocean view of the region (if you get a seat in the outdoor area, that is!). The prime spots are on the edge next to the windows, so if you get a spot there, you’re in luck!
If you’re thinking it’ll be a nice and quiet spot to reflect on your day, you may be a little mistaken. The place is always buzzing with tourists, and their excitement at experiencing a location that may have inspired one of the most iconic anime films in history can be felt permeating through the air. However, you will find that it is probably one of the best places in Jiufen to wind down – the view definitely helps!
4. Visit the Golden Waterfall
On the way to Jiufen, many people make the pit-stop to the Golden Waterfall. Just as people would travel far and wide to see the gorgeous cascades of Niagra Falls, the plummeting golden-hue waters of the Golden Waterfall draws crowds from all over Taiwan to view its wholesome landscape.
Whilst the waterfall itself does not release gold-speckled water down its cascades (that would be too good to be true), the gold-coloured water itself is produced by the regular regional rainfall combined with the abundance of heavy metal elements on the rock formations and mountainside. It contrasts spectacularly with the luscious greenery that’s always present surrounding it, and thus is a gorgeous display of nature working in harmony to show its true and honest beauty.
The Golden Waterfall is one of the most popular pit-stops along the way up the mountainside to Jiufen. During peak hours, there is usually quite a crowd, so we recommend heading there in the morning, or afternoon after lunch time.
Access: Firstly, you will need to catch a train from Taipei MRT to Riufang. From Riufang, you will then need to hop onto a Taiwan Tourist Shuttle bus (which goes along the Gold Fulong Route), which leaves Ruifang every 30-minutes on weekdays and 60-minutes on weekends. It will cost roughly $50 TWD per person. Alight at the Golden Waterfall stop.
5. Stop and Admire the Blue and Yellow Hues of the Yin and Yang Sea
Along the route to Jiufen, there is actually plenty of natural landscape to stop and admire. Nearby to the aforementioned Golden Waterfall is the Yin and Yang Sea, an attraction that is quite unusual in Asia. Imagine a gorgeous sea that is neither azure blue nor coral green, but rather, it’s a mix of contrasting yellow and blue. It is believed that the unique colouring of the water is due to the heavy amount of pyrite found in the water, and it is also due to this that it is highly recommended to avoid swimming in this sea.
In most cases, tour buses and self-guided visitors will park at the car-park nearby and walk across to stand atop the road which overlooks the sea to snap some pictures and admire the sea from afar. Again, like the Golden Waterfall, this is not something that takes a few hours out of your day, so it’s usually combined in the same itinerary as Jiufen. It’s very close to the Golden Waterfall, and so if you are taking a taxi or driving, it is recommended you view both in the same sitting.
6. Release a Lantern and Make a Wish at Pingxi
Next Jiufen is Pingxi, a tiny village that’s become an absolute madhouse for tourists hoping to make a wish during their visit to Taiwan by writing it down onto a massive paper lantern and then burning it up and letting it float away into the air. As you can imagine, the scene is quite magical when it unfolds before your eyes.
The lanterns are massive, and are made with paper instead of iron wires and bamboo laths in order to completely burn out before hitting the ground again. The activity takes part right next to the old railway tracks that run through the village, giving the setting quite a nostalgic feel, although you’ll have to try and ignore the hoards of crowds there to really get into the nostalgic mood.
All you need to do is flag down someone and request for a lantern. You’ll be giving four sides to write whatever you want on with a paintbrush, and once you’re done, you can let them know and they’ll take you to the middle of the railway to take some photos and then burn it up to be released into the sky.
As tacky and gimmicky as it may read, releasing burning lanterns was first introduced in Taiwan in the 19th century as a method of prayer for the coming year, and it is for this reason that many Asian tourists make the trek here to wish for good luck for their family and friends back home.
- Address: Pingxi Street, Pingxi District, New Taipei City, Taiwan 226
- Access: From Taipei Main Station, take a north-bound train towards Ruifang, and alight there to transfer to the Pingxi line. You will need to purchase separate One-Day ticket for the Pingxi line.
Jiufen is an absolute charming little town. Most people to visit this place come away with the knowledge that they’ve managed to not only peak into a village that’s retain the historical beauty of olden-day Taiwan, but to also experience a place that inspired one of the biggest anime films in history is no small feat! All this coupled with the fact that Jiufen is a tiny but dynamic food mecca in its own right, and you’ve got yourself an unforgettable day of adventuring.