If you’ve heard of Taiwan, you’ve probably heard of the capital Taipei. Known for its tasty bubble tea, historic temples and once the highest building in the world – Taipei 101 – there’s definitely plenty to do in the city.
But if you’re looking for something a little more scenic and out of the way, you should check out Jiufen and Jinguashi in Northern Taiwan.
Epitomised by its golden lanterns lighting up the narrow alleyways, Jiufen is as charming as anywhere in Taiwan. Jinguashi provides remnants of what was a booming mining town controlled by the Japanese.
Both are now popular tourist destinations that are worth spending a few days in and a perfect break away from city life.
How To Get There
Jiufen is adjacent to Jinguashi and it’s about a two-hour journey from Taipei including walking on via train or bus. For the train journey you need to travel to Riufang Train Station. There’s a bus 788 that can take you from then on in. If you want to solely take the bus head to Zhongxiao Fuxing terminal then take the 1062 bus into the Old Street, Jiufen.
To go into Jinguashi after Jiufen, take the 788 bus past Jiufen.
Jiufen Old Street
The first thing visitor’s do when reaching Jiufen is exploring Jiufen Old Street. Wall to wall with restaurants, cafes, souvenir shops and bundles of teahouses, Jiufen Old Street is charming to say the least. Devour Taiwanese specialities like Xiao Long Bao or sweet potato-boiled soup and wash them down with Taiwan Beer (yes that’s the brand name).
If you fancy eating your way around Jiufen’s bubbling food eateries then maybe try your tongue at Steamed Taro Cake, Taiwanese Sausages or Deep-Fried Seafood!
The View from A Mei Teahouse
Jiufen is full of teahouses, all crafted from different leaves and methods, if you like a cup of tea – Taiwanese style – make sure you have one. The most famous teahouse is A-Mei with three floors and stunning views.
If you’ve searched online for photos of Jiufen, you’ve no doubt saw the ‘Instagram’ view from A Mei Teahouse comes up. It’s arguably the best angle to show Jiufen in all its golden lantern glory and allows you to peak into the windows of the shops and opposite teahouses that are shafted together within the narrow village street
Beautifully situated beside the old village, Mount Jilong is lush and luring at the same time. Standing at nearly 600m tall at its peak, Jilong brags of views overlooking Neihu, Taipei City and Keelung. If you’ve had enough of the shopping and bustling crowds, Mount Jilong is extra adventure you can take.
The stone steps that make the trail to the top are often strenuous, with a constant ascending all the way. The hike should usually take about one hour each way.
Golden Ecological Park
Situated in the quite green hillsides of Jinguashi, the Golden Ecological Park is the tangible time-lapse that was Taiwan in the early 1900’s. Then, under Japanese occupancy, the park shows restored Japanese-era buildings, brickwork, walkways and original mining tunnels.
Some parts of the park such as the Beishan Fifth Tunnel allows visitors to get a hint of the conditions back during the mining mayhem. The Gold Museum lets you physically touch the largest gold bar in the world.
Located near the Golden Ecological Park, the Golden Waterfall gets its name because of the heavy metal elements deposited in the riverbed. This produces a golden water flow that has turned into a popular tourist attraction in the area. It’s common for buskers to play by the falls whilst there are hourly buses and regular taxis that pick up from here.
Remains of the 13 Levels
Staying in Jinguashi and just a short walk away from the Golden Waterfall stands the abandoned copper-smelting refinery. Used during the gold rush in this mining town, the ruins are often overlooked by travellers so you’ll likely have them all to yourselves.
If you didn’t know any better, this huge fading industrial complex is a find for urban explorers that could be out of an adventure movie or video game. Facing the Ying Yan Sea, the site has often been used as the backdrop in the video games.