I love driving, mainly a road trip in a foreign country makes my trip more enjoyable because it allows me to go to places out of the way I’ve never been to. In addition, the freedom to stop anywhere and visit places based on my priority and liking brings additional excitement to the experience. During my recent trip to Taipei, Jiufen, Pingxi, and Shifen in Taiwan, I rented a car for a few days and drove around. Actually, the driving experience was great, nothing like what you read on the internet. Roads and highways are well-marked, safe, and even in much better condition than in many developed countries. Thanks to the Apple map, navigation from point A to point B was easy, and an International Driving License issued by AAA (in my case) and a State license were all I needed.

Pingxi Taiwan
A view from the winding zigzag mountain road

Driving to Scenic Village of  Jiufen

About 38 miles (60 km) northeast of Taipei, the mountainside village of Jiufen or Chiufen (Chinese: 九份) is only 2 hours away. Once was the gold mining capital of Taiwan. Still, today it’s a famous tourist destination known for its ancient streets, narrow alleys, exotic street foods, authentic tea houses, surrounding mountains, and the picturesque bird’s eye view of the Pacific Ocean. A place is absolutely worth visiting.

Getting There

I took the winding road # 106 through the mountains passing a few historical towns and stopping at a few interesting ones instead of taking highway 1 straight to Jiufen. It was definitely a breathtaking, fun ride for me, but that may vary depending on individual liking.

The Car I was renting
While on the road for a while I had to stop at Family Mart to get something to eat.

1St. Stop – Pingxi

Even though I felt like exploring every town and every lookout on my way, I could not afford to skip Pingxi District because a trip to the mountain village of Jiufen is not complete without enjoying the famous Sky Lantern in Pingxi Old Street.

Pingxi district in Taiwan
Town of Pingxi on a rainy day.

Old Pingxi Street

After about one hour of driving (18 miles/30 km) came to this beautiful little historical town called Pingxi. Surrounded by green mountains was once a mining town, but it recently became world famous for its annual Sky Lantern Festival.

Old Street of Pingxi, Taiwan
Early Morning View – Old Street of Pingxi, Taiwan

The prominent highlights of Pingxi are releasing a sky lantern along with your wishes into the skies and trying out traditional snacks on both sides of the old street. Walking on the famous railway line built in 1921 and watching a train pull into Pingxi station is also an exotic experience.

Beautiful Pingxi old street

Shifen - Taiwan
Beautiful historical old village of Shifen

Pingxi Sky Lantern

It is simply enchanting to release your fantasies and wishes into the skies of Pingxi Sky and see the glowing lanterns disappearing in the surrounding mountains.

Pingxi Station, Taiwan
The Historical Pingxi Station, Taiwan

Pingxi Train Station

Even though I was driving, I still waited to watch the scene of this arriving train at Pingxi station. The train originated from Ruifang station heading to Shifen.

2nd. Stop – Shifen Old Street

My Second stop was at beautiful Shifen along the Keelung River, also well known for street food and sky lantern like Pingxi. This is another popular stop on the Pingxi Train Line—about 40 km from Taipei.

Jingan Suspension Bridge, Shifen
Jingan Suspension Bridge over the Keelung River at Shifen

The Jingan suspension bridge, located close to Shifen train station, connects people from both sides of the Keelung River—a popular place for photo ops. Many restaurants surround the train station, the best place to grab street food or have lunch there. If you want to release a sky lantern into the skies, just follow the train tracks towards the town, and you will definitely find plenty of action there.

Shifen Old Street
On the train tracks of Shifen Old street.

Visiting Shifen Waterfall

Shifen is also well known for Shifen Waterfall. Only about a 20 – 25 minutes walk from Shifen old street to get to Shifen waterfall. The 40m (131ft) wide and 20 M (66 ft) tall Waterfall is beautiful. The walk itself is scenic along the Keelung River, need to cross over two suspension bridges and one beautiful fall called Guanpu.

Jiufen Taiwan
Scenic long walk to Shifen Waterfall
Yanjingdong Falls
The beautiful Yanjingdong Falls on our way to Shifen Waterfalls

There are plenty of stairs to climb, and you’ll get through an area with a few food stalls to boost your energy. Observation decks are usually crowded, but you will get the best views of the falls from there. Once done, I was back on the road again through the winding roads crossing one hill after another towards Jiufen. Only 13 miles (20 km) to cover, but It took me about an hour with few stops at different lookouts.

Final Stop – Jiufen Old Street Scene

After arriving at Jiufen, plenty of paid parking lots were on the lower level along the winding road No. 102. From there had to climb stairs to get to the old street level. Walking through the narrow old street of Jiufen was an experience. I was overwhelmed by seeing the number of souvenir shops and food stalls on both sides. The alleys were crowded with local and foreign tourists alike. I frequently stopped at different food vendors, sometimes to try out mouthwatering local food and sometimes to take photos.

Jiufen Old Street
Jiufen Old Street Scene

Most tourists visit there as part of a day trip; many also like to experience staying overnight at one of those bed and breakfasts and boutique hotels. Most of the attractions are centered alongside the cobblestone steps of Shuqi road of Shuqi Road and a few alleys around that offer a wide variety of souvenir shops, cafes, and restaurants.

Old Street Action in Jiufen, Taiwan
Old Street Action in Jiufen, Taiwan
Old Street Action in Jiufen, Taiwan
Old Street Action in Jiufen, Taiwan

Jiufen Evening Scenery

So make sure to stick around until nightfall when the weather is nice. The sunset can be pretty exceptional and exciting. There is so much to see and enjoy; simply a day trip is not enough. But regardless if you are a day tripper or staying over definitely need to stick around until nightfall when the weather is nice. Experience the beautiful view of the surrounding mountains and the bay at sunset. And experience how the night market transforms into a fabulous place for gathering.

Jiufen Evening Scene
A view of Jiufen in the Evening

A Quick Side Trip To Golden Waterfall From Jiufen

If you are visiting Jiufen Village, then it’s short drive north on county highway 34, or if you are visiting Bitoujiiao and Nanya rock area, it is less than a mile south of Highway 2. You can’t miss this unique-looking waterfall. The water streams cascaded over the golden brown rocks, creating a beautiful view—a great place for photographers.

Golden Waterfall
Golden Waterfall, Photo Credit: Francis Chambers

How To Get There

Alternate to self-driving Rent a Car, there are frequent buses (No. 1062) from MRT Zhongxiao Fuxing Station, Taipei, to Jiufen. The bus ride will take approximately an hour.

Taking a train is also another option. From Taipei Main Station, take the train to Riufang Station. Then take the bus route 827 or 788 to Jiufen Old-street.

Where To Stay in Jiufen

Sunshine B&B, No. 9-12, Qiche Road, Jiufen, Taiwan
Conveniently located and within walking distance from Jiufen Old Street. The hotel Staffs are very friendly and helpful. The rooms are clean and great breakfast.

Sunny Room, No. 56, Shuqi Road, Juufen, Taiwan
Rooms are clean and air-conditioned with wifi. Beautiful view of the bay from the hotel’s front porch. Great place for relaxing as long as you are traveling light, as most of the activities and good hotels require quite a bit of climbing.

Book Your Sightseeing Trip

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    Hasan Mahmud

    Traveler, Blogger, and Travel Photographer!

    This Post Has 3 Comments

    1. E

      Hi! Great post!! I’m thinking to do the same, but am concerned about the parking situation. What was your experience?

      1. Hasan Mahmud

        Hi, Thank you for the comment. Parking was not an issue for me at all. In Shifen there is plenty of free parking available. If you are planning to visit Yanjingdong Falls then there are few parking lots where you can park with a minimum fee (very affordable). While in Jiufen there are a few roads (route 102) side paid parking lots again very reasonable (flat-rate). In Taipei, I always took public transportation or Uber (keeping my car parked at the hotel)

    2. Nabihah

      Beautiful! do you have recommendation for more accessible waterful in Taiwan? Heading there will elderly. Too much stairs might be an issue. Thank you!

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