If Taiwan is the best kept secret in Asia, then Penghu is the best kept secret of the best kept secret in Asia. It has just everything you could possibly want from a tropical island vacation getaway. Less than an hour plane ride from Taipei with multiple flights daily, its also easy to get to. We are sure that a trip to Penghu is one that you will not regret, and there will be more things to do than you could ever have time for.
History of Penghu:
The Penghu Islands were historically an important strategic position for trade and military defense in the area. The Dutch, French, and Japanese all led campaigns against these islands. The Dutch first invaded Penghu in 1622, but soon after retreated to Anping after a treaty was made with the Ming Dynasty.
Konxinga later took control of Penghu and Taiwan after defeating the Dutch in 1661, Later, Kongxinga's kingdom fell to the Qing Dynasty.
In 1885 during the Sino-French war for control of Vietnam, the French sent as fleet to Taiwan, but failed to take the island. Later they attacked the Penghu Islands and occupied them for a short time, before retreating to Vietnam due to the Treaty of Tianjin.
After Japan took control of Korea in 1894, they also attacked and occupied Penghu in 1895, after which the Qing Dynasty ceded the islands to them.
After World War II, the islands were given to the ROC government, who retreated to Taiwan after the Chinese Civil war and still control the islands today under a free democratic government.
How to get there:
By Plane: There are daily flights from Taipei Songshan, Taichung, and Kaohsiung airports to Makung. the flight takes roughly under and hour. Rates can range from around 2200-6000 NT for a round trip.
There are also flights to and from Chiayi, Tainan, Kinmen, and Chimei, with charted flights to Hong Kong starting September 2018.
By Boat: There are daily ferries from Chiayi and Kaohsiung. A one way trip takes about 4 hours from both locations. A one way ferry from Kaohsiung costs about 900 NT for just a reclining seat, and a one way ferry from Chiayi costs about 1000 NT.
When to go there:
Spring to Autumn. Winters are rather miserable.
Map: Please see below:
For our trip to Penghu, we booked the earlier bird discount tickets on Mandarin Airlines for 1131 NT per person one way (2262 NT for the round trip). We arrived at the airport at about 8:00 PM, right before the scooter rental shop at the airport closed. After I called the scooter shop (日昇 Risheng), they came and picked us up, then drove us one minute over to the rental area which is right next to the airport entrance. It was a total of 1200 NT from Friday night to Monday morning. For scooter rental don't let them take your license if you are planning to visit other islands such as Qimei.
We stayed at a brand new hostel that had just opened March. It was nice except that they provided disposable towels, which are crap, and only have the absorbency of a piece of paper.
Guanyin Temple Recreation Area 觀音亭親水遊憩區
The first thing Saturday morning, we explored Guanyin Temple Swimming Area (aka. Guanyinting, Guanyin Temple Leisure Park, and Guanyinting Recreation Area), one of the main tourist attractions in Magong and Penghu. It is a relaxing place to enjoy views of the ocean and the sunset, as well as other activities such as jogging, swimming, parasailing, and fishing. For our full blog on this are, click here.
Magong Ancient City Wall and Duxingshi Village 馬公舊城墻和篤行十村
Next we visited the historic walls of Makung. Among the many historical sights in the city, perhaps some of the most significant are the remains of the ancient wall surrounding the city during the Qing Dynasty, as well as the first military dependents village established by the KMT surrounding these old walls.
Above is a view of the restored Duxingshi Village, which is now open for tourists despite ongoing renovations. For our full blog on this place, click here.
Penghu Trans-Oceanic Bridge （Penghu Great Bridge) 澎湖跨海大橋
One of the most iconic tourist spots in Penghu is the cross-ocean bridge. It is the longest bridge in Penghu, but by no means is it the longest bridge in Taiwan. I was actually kind of disappointed at how short it was. Anyway, everyone takes a selfie here, and so should you.
Next to the bridge is a gift shop, like many in Penghu, selling many knick-knacks that you can send to your relatives back home.
View of the trans-ocean bridge from Siyu Island, just to give you an idea of its length and size. I do not recommend this beach, it was filthy.
Chixi Columnar Basalt 池西柱狀玄武岩
You don't have to go to Chixi or even Siyu Island to see columnar basalt in Penghu, the stuff is everywhere! It has become a major attraction for Taiwanese becuase this geological formation is very rare on the Taiwan mainland. However, coming from the western US I have seen this stuff a million times. Devil's Tower in Wyoming is way more impressive.
Locals enjoying the geological wonders and ocean views.
If you travel around Penghu for any amount of time, you will notice abandoned houses everywhere. More on that below.
Another view of a filthy beach on Siyu Island. Just because there are lots of sandy beaches on Penghu doesn't mean every beach is clean or safe to walk barefoot on.
Dayi Temple Sea Turtles 大義宮的海龜
Dayi Temple Lies in the northern part of Siyu Island in Penghu County, Taiwan. On the outside, it is a normal Taiwanese Daoist temple like any other, but due to its collection of live endangered sea turtles, whale bones, rare marine specimens, and coral rocks kept in an underground chamber, it has become one of the main tourist attractions on the archipelago.
The morality of keeping these endangered species in the temple chamber has been a topic of debate over the past few years, and it is clear to see that they are not living in an ideal environment. This, including allegations of animal rights violations, is discussed further in our full blog of the temple here.
Also be warned, if you go during the summer, the bottom of Dayi temple was hot as heck.
Siyu East and West Forts 西嶼東臺和西嶼西臺
Siyu East and West Forts are some of the best preserved fortifications in Taiwan dating back to the Ming Dynasty. They provide a rich history of the many invasions of Taiwan throughout the ages. Currently they are open to the public if you can get yourself over to the west side of Penghu. Siyu West Fort (pictured above) is way better, so if you have a choice between the two spend your time there.
A view of Siyu East Fort. This fort is free to visit, but there are no cannons and not much else to see. For our full blog on these forts, click here.
Xitai Fake Cannon 西臺餌砲
Xitai Fake Cannon is an interesting artifact on Siyu Island left over from WWII, used as a decoy by the Japanese to confuse American bomber crews.
The sign reads:
"This fake cannon, located in Xiyu Township's Wai'an Village, was built of cement by Taiwan's Japanese occupiers during World War II. Its purpose was to mislead the crews of American bombers into thinking it was a Japanese "advance to the south" command post, so that they would drop their bombs on it instead of attacking their primary targets. The fake cannon is a witness to the war as well as a reflection of Wai'an's strategic geographic importance during that conflict."
Yuwengdao Lighthouse 漁翁島燈塔
Yuwengdao Lighthouse is another major attraction in Penghu, located on the very western part of Siyu Island. You can't go to top of lighthouse, but you can enjoy the nearby ocean views.
If you go to Penghu in the summer, you will find that people are drying squid in the sun everywhere!
A view of Naian beach on Siyu Island.
Erkan Historical Village is a unique place in Taiwan that preserves nearly 300 years of Southern Min culture. Isolated and cut off from the rest of Taiwan for quite some time on Siyu island of Penghu County, the village is a living museum for visitors. Every home is built in traditional red brick Southern Min style, and offering a unique splice in time. Click here for our full blog on the village.
Tongliang Great Banyan 通梁古榕
In this small village of Tongliang on Pehu Island is an ancient banyan tree that covers almost an entire city block. It is the oldest tree in Penghu, dating back to around 1700 when there was a shipwreck nearby. According to legend, the only thing recovered was a banyan sapling that was later planted and became this huge tree. Near the tree are also some food stands that you can check out if you are hungry.
A view of the tree trunks. In front of the tree is a Taoist temple.
A view from underneath the banyan tree.
Whale Cave is a natural basalt sea cave on the north side of Hsiaomen Island in Penghu (Shomom 小門嶼) , and one of the many tourist attractions in the area. According to some it looks like a whale, but that is not the true origin of its name.
The actual reason for the cave's name "Whale Cave" is that, a long time ago, a whale got stuck in the cave and died. According to local legend, a bone from that whale is now inside Dayi Temple. See more about Whale Cave in our blog here.
Penghu Aquarium 澎湖水族舘
Penghu aquarium was closed for renovations while we were there (closed for 4 years), but it has now re-opened as of August 16th, 2018!
At the aquarium you can see sea turtles, rays, and dolphins. It also includes a glass tunnel underneath the main tank.
Penghu Recreation Area (澎湖休閑園區) is kind of a unique park, but I don't recommend spending time here because its not that special.
Penghu's Zhongtun wind turbines (中屯風力園區). These are planned to be moved due to bad fengshui they put off to surrounding grave sites.
Shanshui Beach 山水海灘
Shanshui beach is just about as good a beach as there is in Taiwan. The sand is white, waves are big, and the water is clear and warm. Also it has a place to wash your feet for free, as well as paid showers.
Can I say Shanshui Beach is perfect? I recommend staying at a hostel close to this beach for easy access.
Qimei Island 七美鄉
Qimei is a beautiful island getaway on southernmost end of Penghu County. You can get there by boat or by plane from Makung. The main attractions there are the iconic double heart rock (Twin Hearts Stone Weir), as well as little Taiwan rock. Getting there is not easy, but it is definitely worth the visit. For our full blog on Qimei click here.
Little Taiwan Rock on Qimei Island.
Daily Life in Magong
PX Mart is full to the brim in Makung. I found it interesting that vegetables same price as Taipei, and PX Mart now has three stores in Makung.
A low priced hotpot we ate for dinner.
The historical post office in Makung, being restored into a tourist attraction.
Another thing we tried was the famous purple rice balls sold on the street (picutred above).
Inside is some delicious pork, peanut, and fried bread stick.
There is an alley in Makung that has basically all the breakfast shops in one place.
The price for breakfast is way cheap compared to Taipei!
Did I mention there are abandoned houses everywhere?
What We Missed:
We missed a lot. At the airport I saw a map of Xiji Island, which is literally a ghost island with no humans living there, but there is an abandoned village. To get there, you need to charter your own boat which could be 20,000 NT. I'd love to go there and take some photos.
The inhabitants of Xiji island have been relocated to Dongji Island, because the weather was too harsh and life was too remote on Xiji Island.
Other things we missed:
Aimen Beach 隘門沙灘
Lintou Beach 林投沙灘
Lintou Park 林投公園
Kuibishan Geopark 奎壁山地質公園
Daguoye Columnar Basalt 大菓葉柱狀玄武岩
Zhongyang Street 中央街
Tianhou Temple 天后宮
Magong Jinguitou Fortress 馬公金龜頭礮臺菜園休閑漁業區
Xiaomen Geopark 小門地質舘
Snake Head Mountain Scenic Area 蛇頭山
Fenggui Sea Cave 風櫃洞
Shili Beach 嵵裡沙灘
Penghu Living Museum 澎湖生活博物館
Jibei Island 吉貝嶼
-Jibei Sand Tail 吉貝沙尾
-Jibei Stone heart Wier 吉貝心型石滬
Dongji Island 東吉嶼
-Dongji Lighthouse 東吉燈塔
-The eye of Dongji 東吉之眼
-Qiming Temple 啟明宮
-Japanese Barracks 日軍遺跡
-Tiger Head Mountain 虎頭山
Xiji Island 西吉嶼
Sea Caves on the North Coast 北岸海蝕洞
Basalt cliff 海蝕溝與海崖
Abaondoned village 聚落
-Green Sea Turtle Protection Center 綠蠵龜保育中心
-Tiantai Mountain 天臺山
-Hua Ancient House 花宅古厝
-Wangankou Beach 網按口沙灘
Dongyuping Island 東嶼坪嶼
-Jinlong Pagoda 金龍塔
-Chifu Pagoda 池府廟
-Chifu Temple 池府塔
Xiyuping Island 西嶼坪嶼
-Huaniang Temple 華娘廟
-Sea Stack 海堆
Hujing Island 虎井嶼
Hujing Island Columnar Basalt 虎井柱狀玄武岩
Tongpan Island 桶盤嶼
-Tongpan Island Geopark桶盤嶼地質公園
And also the other 70 or so small Islands and Islets in Penghu. Maybe one day this blog will include them all!
Also, be sure to check out this amazing tourist site map of all the attractions in Penghu!
Check out Penghu County's official tourist website here.
Time eventually ran out on our vacation, but I can't wait to go back to discover even more!
To see more of Taiwan's outer islands, check out our ultimate guide to Kinmen here.
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We are US Expats that have extensive experience living and working in Taiwan. In our day, we had to learn many things about Taiwan the hard way. But we have come to learn that Taiwan is one of the best places in the world for Foreigners to live. Our blog does not represent the opinions of every foreigner in Taiwan. We are just trying to help others learn more about this beautiful country.