If you’ve heard of Taiwan, you’ve probably heard of the capital Taipei. Renowned for its 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 checkout 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 a perfect break away from city life.
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Jiufenis adjacent to Jinguashi is 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 there or get the direct 1062 bus from Zhongxiao Fuxing terminal 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 specialties like Xiao Long Bao or sweet potato-boiled soup and wash them down with a TaiwanBeer.
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, Taiwanese style. 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 Jiufenin all its golden lantern glory and allows you to peek into the windows of the shops and opposite teahouses that are shafted together within the narrow village streets.
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 an 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
In the quiet green hillsides of Jinguashi, the Golden Ecological Park is the time-lapse that was Taiwan in the early 1900s. Then, under Japanese occupancy, the park shows restored Japanese-era buildings, brickwork, walkways, and original mining tunnels.
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.
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 here.
Remains of the Thirteen 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 the mall 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.