Leave Taiwan without actually leaving Taiwan with a trip to the Penghu Islands (澎湖) in the Taiwan Strait. A group of 90 islands/islets, the 141 square-kilometer area, known as Penghu County, is Taiwan’s second smallest county and is the perfect destination for island hopping. Previously occupied by the Japanese and used as a naval base during World War II, the islands were returned to Taiwanese control in 1945 and since then have become one of the top destinations for travelers from Taiwan wanting a convenient getaway. Here’s a guide to the islands you need to visit on your next trip to Penghu. (Read more: The Penghu Pearls – Islands Close to Taiwan’s Heart, Yet a World Away)
The islands you need to visit
– Penghu’s main islands (澎湖本島)
Most flights to Penghu will arrive at Penghu Airport in Magong City (馬公市), so it makes sense to plan to start your trip here. Along with Magong, the main islands include Huxi (湖西), Baisha (白沙), and Xiyu (西嶼). There is much to see on the main islands before you’ve even considered beginning island hopping, including Taiwan’s oldest temple, Penghu Tianhou Temple (澎湖天后宮) built all the way back in 1604. At Duxingshi Village Cultural Park (篤行十村) you can look around and learn about Taiwan’s oldest military housing as well as visiting the former residences of famous singers Pan An-Bang and Zhang Yu-Sheng, which have been converted into a museum and an exhibition space. At Aimen Beach (隘門沙灘) you can enjoy white sands and watersports, while history buffs will get a kick out of Erkan Historical House (二崁古厝聚落), one of the many fine examples of old traditional-style houses found across Penghu’s islands. Also, be sure not to miss snapping a picture by Penghu Great Bridge (澎湖跨海大橋), connecting Baisha to Xiyu, or taking a stroll down Zhongyang Old Street (中央老街), where you can admire more fine examples of Penghu’s architecture.
– Jibei Island (吉貝島)
With its crystal-clear waters and seemingly untouched coastline, Jibei Island in Penghu County’s north is one of Taiwan’s most-favored destinations by lovers of sun, sand, and sea. It is best known for its fantastic naturally-formed white sand beach at the island’s south, while it is also a hotspot for those with a penchant for water-based activities such as snorkeling, banana boating, and glass-bottom boat rides. (Read also: Riding a Scooter in Taiwan (Part two): Best Places to Explore by Scooter)
– Wang’an Island (望安島)
Nicknamed Honeymoon Island due to its beautiful sandy beaches, Wang’an Island has much to offer for those with a diverse range of interests. Architecture enthusiasts will be happy to know Zhongshe Village (花宅聚落) to the island’s west boats a fine collection of impressively well-preserved Qing Dynasty houses, while
animal lovers should take note that Wang’an is also a protected nature preserve area for green sea turtles and they can visit the Green Turtle Tourism and Conservation Center in Dong’an Village. Between May and October, visitors can apply to watch the turtles migrating ashore on Wangankou Beach (網垵口沙灘). (You might also like: 10 reasons to visit Xiao Liuqiu, Taiwan’s Hidden Island Gem)
– Qimei Island (七美島)
Penghu’s southernmost island, Qimei Island is most commonly visited by people wanting to see the Twin Hearts Stone Weir (雙心石滬), a curved stone weird formed by piled up rocks. It is best visited in low tide, so that you can see the iconic heart shape and the fish trapped inside due to the tidal changes, having swam in during high tide. Also, make sure you visit Little Taiwan (小台灣) in Donghu Village, a small abrasion platform formed due to years of erosion that is shaped like the main island of Taiwan.
– South Penghu Marine National Park (澎湖南方四島國家公園)
Consisting of several islands, including Dongyuping Island, Xiyuping Island, Dongji Island, and Xiji Island, South Penghu Marine National Park was established in 2008 in an effort to support local marine life. Here you may be lucky enough to spot dolphins and whales, while its surrounding coral reefs being home to in excess of 240 species of fish. The whole park is only home to around 50 people, due to lack of jobs etc., but is still worth visiting to see sites such as Dongji Lighthouse.
Penghu is an ideal destination for lovers of getting in the water, offering a range of watersports activities across its many islands. Head to Penghu Surf Club on Magong’s Shanshui Beach, where you can rent a board and even book surf lessons, or go further along to Huxi and Longmen Beach for a much more peaceful and secluded experience. Huxi is also a popular spot for kitesurfing, which can be done at Sunrise B&B, while you can also get your kite fix at Liquid Sports Resort in Qingluo Village, Xuxi. And, as previously mentioned, had to Jibei for all kinds of watersports, notably jet skiing and banana boating. (Read also: Go Deeper: A Guide to Diving in Taiwan)
How to Get there and When to visit
The most common way to get to Penghu is by flying to Magong from Taipei or Taichung. You can also get there by ferry from both Chiayi and Kaohsiung. Try not to visit between October and March due to strong winds and lower temperatures making watersports and traveling between the islands by boat absolutely no fun at all. Book your trip from April onwards and it’ll be a way more worthwhile experience.