Before I started planning a holiday to Taiwan, I had no idea that the Penghu islands existed.
An archipelago of 90 islands and islets on the south-west of the Taiwan Strait makes up the Penghu Township.
It is popular with local holiday-makers but not so well known to foreigners.
But, if you make the short trip out from Taiwan’s mainland, you’ll be rewarded with history, beautiful beaches, geological marvels and, of course, temples!
I visited with Theo in October 2016, in the low season, so there weren’t many people around. But in the summer it is proving to be slowly gaining popularity!
Here are some of my favourite things to do in Penghu.
There are regular flights to Penghu from mainland Taiwan.
You can fly from Taipei, Taichung, Tainan, Chiayi and Kaohsiung, plus there also is a charter service from Kinmen.
If you fly from Taipei, as we did, be aware that the flights depart from the domestic terminal at Songshan.
Alternatively, you can catch a ferry from Chiayi and Kaohsiung.
The largest of the Penghu Islands is called Magong, and this is where we booked our accommodation.
Magong City is located on the western side of the island and is a good place to start your trip.
There are many attractions on this island and I recommend that you rent a scooter or a car to get around, or you will find yourself stuck in the main town.
We asked at our hotel and were directed to a nearby scooter rental place, where we easily rented one with our UK driving licences.
If you’ve never rented a scooter before, check out this article for some tips!
Xiying Rainbow Bridge
A short walk away from our hotel was the Xiying Bridge; a long, blue footbridge over the bay opposite the Guanyinting Recreation Area.
It’s nice to climb the bridge to look out over the water and back over to the city, but the real attraction happens after the sun has gone down.
Every night, the bridge is lit up with multiple colours, hence the name Rainbow Bridge.
There are so many temples in Taiwan, and Penghu is no exception.
The most popular temple is Tianhou Temple, in Magong City. It is dedicated to the Chinese sea goddess, Mazu, and is said to be the oldest temple in Taiwan.
The decorations are beautiful and it is well worth a visit.
Once we’d rented our scooter, we drove around the main island of Magong and stopped at almost every temple we saw. It was a beautiful drive and some of the temples were stunning.
Magong Old Town
Before you leave the main city to explore the rest of the island, make sure you check out Magong’s Old Town.
Zhongyang Street is a beautiful, narrow street hung with lanterns. Most of the old buildings are now cute little shops and cafes with gorgeous wooden fronts, and benches and scooters outside.
You can also see the Four-Eyed Well in this area; the four smaller holes were made to stop children from falling into the water.
There are some lovely beaches in Penghu, including Shanshui Beach and Shili Beach on Magong Island.
As we visited in the low season, we had the beaches to ourselves and it was even warm enough to go for a swim!
At Shili Beach, there are also some impressive breakwaters. We enjoyed watching the waves crash against them over and over again.
If you take some time to explore the different islands, you’ll find some other lesser known but just as lovely beaches.
There are so many opportunities to find some delicious food on Magong.
From fresh seafood, to barbecues, to cactus ice cream, there are lots of things to try.
Theo and I were walking down a dark road one night, when we came across a large open area filled with tables and people eating.
We decided to check it out and found that it was an all-you-can-eat barbecue!
You pay a set amount upfront and then you can help yourself to as much food as you like from the buffet, which you then cook on the barbecues on the table.
It was a very similar concept to the Korean Barbecue restaurants I’ve visited before, but cheaper and out in the open. Theo was in his element!
I also recommend finding some cactus ice cream. We were skeptical at first but it was absolutely delicious!
We decided to take a boat trip from Magong City to see a few sites in the area as part of a tour.
The first stop was at Xiyu Island and we then carried on to Hujing Island.
It is also possible to drive to Xiyu Island across a series of bridges, including the Penghu Great Bridge, which I’ll get to later.
Erkan Old Village
Our first stop of the tour was Erkan Old Village.
This traditional village of red tiles and coral stonewalls is still inhabited today by many residents with the surname Chen.
The village has stayed in the same family for generations and is now visited by many tourists.
Most of the houses have adapted to this by offering some form of refreshment or souvenir to visitors. This is a great place to try something new!
We were told that the number of vertical stone bars in the windows used to show how wealthy the owner was: five bars meant wealthy, any less than three showed little wealth.
There are many examples of basalt columns in Penghu, including on Xiyu Island.
The Penghu Islands are largely made from volcanic activity; basalt lava rises up from beneath the ocean and rapidly cools, forming pentagonal or hexagonal columns.
You can see some of the columns up close by travelling a short distance south from the Erkan village. We saw some pretty impressive columns from our boat.
Right at the northern tip of Xiyu Island is a bridge that crosses over onto the tiny island of Xiaomen.
On the north of this little island is a geological formation known as the Whale Cave.
It is not actually a cave, but a hole which has been eroded from the basalt rock right through to the other side.
It is called Whale Cave because the hole is supposed to be shaped like a whale, although I can’t see it. What do you think? Am I missing something?
Nearby the whale cave is Xiaomenyu Lighthouse, which is located on a lovely lookout point over the ocean.
We got here as the sun was starting to get low in the sky and it looked gorgeous.
There is a pathway from the road to reach the lighthouse and you will pass some old stone walls in the fields below you.
It can get pretty windy on the headland so be careful near the cliffs.
Baisha is situated between Magong and Xiyu and a road runs between all three islands. So you don’t need to take a boat trip to see them.
Tongliang Banyan Tree
The legend of this 300 year old tree in the village of Tonglian is that it was the only survivor of a shipwreck just off the coast.
Locals planted it in front of the Bao’an Temple and it now covers an area of more than 660 square metres!
You can walk underneath its aerial roots to reach the temple, and there are plenty of food stalls around.
In an area where there is not much tree growth due to inhospitable conditions, it is a wonder that this tree has thrived in this way.
Penghu Great Bridge
Sometimes known as the Penghu Trans-Oceanic Bridge, this impressive road crosses the ocean to connect Baisha and Xiyu islands together.
The bridge was built because the currents between the two islands can be too strong to sail across.
It is 2,494 metres long and 13 metres wide, and it is a completely exhilarating experience to ride across it on a scooter!
While the wind didn’t feel too strong on the island, as soon as our scooter passed under the arch and onto the bridge it was suddenly like being in a wind tunnel! So be careful if you’re not used to riding a scooter.
Hujing Island was another stop on our boat tour.
The Tropic of Cancer crosses the southern end of the island and there are some sculptures here to mark the spot.
Two sets of upward-facing hands have been set at each end of a blue line on the ground. This is where the Tropic of Cancer passes through.
From here there is a lovely view of the town below, and there were some cute little goats hanging around too.
Further back along the same road is a Japanese bomb shelter from WWII, which is interesting to have a quick look into.
I absolutely loved my trip to the Penghu Islands; it seems like a completely different world compared to the bustle of Taipei.
I would love to explore more of Taiwan, but I’m glad I discovered one of the country’s best-kept secrets first and I would definitely go back!
Had you heard of the Penghu Islands before this? Where else in Taiwan would you like to explore? Let me know in the comments! 🙂
Want more like this? Check out these articles:
- 6 useful tips for scooter rental in Asia
- How to spend 24 hours in Taipei
- Hong Kong: escaping the chaos
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