Lion Head Mountain (獅頭山, also called Shitoushan or Shishan) has been a sacred spot for Buddhists since the Ching Dynasty, and is a favourite countryside escape for thousands, who flock during the weekends from Taipei and beyond. During the week, however, it retains much more of its classic secluded Buddhist retreat feel, and is a far cry from the bustling streets of Taipei.
Over the centuries the mountain has since grown into a network of Buddhist and Taoist temples, ranging from large and elaborate to humble Budhhist nunneries. Many are built into natural caves. But Lion Head Mountain is more than Buddhism and temples: the scenery makes for a great day's hike, or better still a weekend getaway from Hsinchu or Taipei.But it's perhaps not the place for one with a spider (or other insect) phobia.
AccommodationTo really experience the tranquillity of this sacred spot, I recommend staying overnight at the Chanhuatang (also Cyanhua) Temple, especially if you are travelling by public transport. Being a Buddhist institution, the rooms are clean and simple, and feel perfectly appropriate for the location. I'm not aware of any online or English booking service, but while it should be possible to turn up and get a room early on a weekday, it's important to arrive early enough and know when the last bus out is in case you can't (and don't forget to take into account the uphill hike back to the visitors centre to catch it). Rooms cost around NT1,000 and include breakfast and lunch.
|Changhua Tang Hotel, Lion Head Mountain
SunriseThe early sunrise over the pagoda is indescribable, so be sure to go to bed early and get up to enjoy it. I made it my header image.
|Sunrise over the pagoda arrives early and doesn't last long.
Visitor's CentreBuses generally go to the Lion Head Mountain Visitors Centre, which offers (free) English maps and guidance, and nearby is a charming tea house. From there it's a pleasant hike to the Changhua Tang temple (for accommodation), and the visitor's carpark, which comes alive with small markets during the weekend but is almost deserted during the week.
Address (for Google Maps): 新竹縣峨眉鄉七星村六寮60-8號
The top right marker is the Visitor's Centre and cafe, where the bus stops. The bottom right marker is the Changhuatang Temple, Visitor' Carpark etc.
View Lion Head Mountain in a larger map