The Ultimate Guide to Penghu Island, Taiwan
15 Best Things to Do in Penghu + Travel Tips
Penghu (澎湖) is an archipelago of 90 islands and islets in the west of the Taiwan Strait. Although it is a popular vacation destination for Taiwanese, it is not much known to the outside world. Like many of Taiwan’s outlying islands, Penghu is not the most accessible place to explore as foreigners. We are lucky to have a local friend to guide us through this beautiful island and introduce local hot spots. And I’m sharing all of them with you here!
This article includes essential travel tips, top things to do in Penghu, where to stay, what to eat, best souvenirs from Penghu and everything else you need to know to explore Taiwan’s best-kept secret. Don’t forget to check out my three-day itinerary in Penghu to help you plan your trip!
Wait! Before I spill the beans, I want to ask you to be a responsible traveler, please. While I hope more international travelers can enjoy beautiful islands of Taiwan, I hate to see them suffer from pollutions and over-tourism.
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Penghu Island Attractions & Things to Do
Let me start by introducing the best things to do in Penghu and the island’s top attractions because this list will get you excited. Before I got there, I imagined Penghu to be a small, underdeveloped island with some white sandy beaches, fresh seafood and nothing else. I was pleasantly surprised to learn Penghu has many historical places to visit, things to do and see beyond my expectation, so much so that three days won’t be enough to cover everything I wanted to do. But if you’re going to lie down on the beach and do nothing, Penghu is also the place to do just that.
Relax on the Beautiful Beach
Did you ask for a paradise island? You got it! Many Penghu islands feature a gorgeous white sandy beach with emerald water. It might surprise you that they are technically empty. You can be a beach bum and have it all to yourself! But hurry because I don’t think it will stay that way for too long. I heard more and more mainland Chinese and other foreign tourists start coming in as the tourism industry gets developed in Penghu.
Aimen and Lintou are the longest beaches in Penghu. Some other famous Penghu beaches include Shanshui and Peng Peng Beach.
READ MORE >> 12 BEST BEACHES in TAIWAN
Enjoy Snorkeling, Surfing and Windsurfing!
Penghu’s notorious wind makes it an excellent spot for surfing and windsurfing. Because the Penghu beaches are not crowded, you don’t have to fight for your spot. Also, did you know Penghu has the world’s first submarine postbox? [Click here for more information.] You can reach by diving or underwater helmet-walking to send a waterproof postcard to your family or yourself. Awesome! [Click here to book Penghu Underwater Mailbox Snorkeling Experience.]
If you are looking for less adrenaline-driven aquatic sports, Jibei Island in the North Sea is an excellent place for snorkeling and banana boating. Jibei Island is also famous for its beautiful and delicate sand beach with clear blue water worth visiting. Click here to open Google Map for Jibei Sand Trail.
READ MORE >> Would you like to swim or snorkel with sea turtles? Visit this hidden gem vacation island in Taiwan!
Explore the Three Natural Wonders in Penghu
Penghu is composed of lava from volcanic eruptions. Over the centuries, the erosion by wind, rain and wave created today’s geological landscape that is unique to the island.
1. Basalt Columns
When basaltic lava is cooling down from the bottom up, the phenomena called “column jointing” formed incredible hexagonal volcanic rock columns. Tongpanyu (桶盤嶼), also known as Penghu’s Yellowstone Park, is an island surrounded by basalt columns. Its southwestern part is an opening of volcanic lava, which resembles a plate of lotus when the tide ebbs. You can see Tongpanyu afar from a boat ride between Magong and Wangan.
In Magong, Daguoye (大菓葉) is another excellent place to see basalt columns more closely and take photos in front of them. Click here to open Google Map for Daguoye Basalt Columnar.
2. Fenggui Blowholes (風櫃洞)
The pounding waves created a long and hallow cave over time in the columnar basalts on the shore. When the tides come in, the water flows into the cave and soars out to the opening on top of the cliff. It produces the whistling sounds from the blowholes. Occasionally when the south wind blows, water spray out of the pit of the cave creating a spectacular water fountain. Unless you want to get soaked, watch out! Click here to open Google Map for Fenggui Blowholes.
3. Whale Cave (鯨魚洞)
Dubbed the “outdoor geology classroom,” Xiaomenyu (小門嶼) is a lava plateau featuring a fascinating geological landscape. The most famous scenic spot here is Whale Cave. Originally a basalt headland, a whale-looking cave was formed by the monsoon and ocean erosion over time. Click here to open Google Map for Whale Cave.
Witness Moses Parts the Sea at Kuibishan Chiyu Geopark
Get the once-in-a-lifetime experience of walking across the sea. Whenever the tides ebb, the approximately 300m path formed by basalt stones is gradually revealed from the bottom of the sea, connecting Kuibishan in Huxi and the uninhabited Chiyu islet. This area is known as “Moses Parts the Sea (摩西分海)” because walking on the path reminds of Moses wading across the Red Sea. Click here to open Google Map for Kuibishan Chiyu Geopark.
Walk the Magong Old Street & Visit Tianhou Temple
Penghu Tianhou Temple (澎湖天后宮) is the oldest Matzu temple in Taiwan. Matzu (媽祖) is the Chinese goddess of the ocean. This ancient temple is elegant and free to enter. It doesn’t take long to take a look. Click here to open Google Map for Tianhou Temple.
Right next to the temple is Magong Old Street (馬公老街). This historical street is now a beautiful area to visit to see the earliest settlement in Penghu such as Four-Eyed Well and Taixiajiao Business Hall. Renovated houses here turned into cute shops and cafes and worth your visit. You can get cactus ice cream and other desserts, and buy small souvenirs here.
Fun Fact: The Old Street is also known as “touching breast alley (摸乳巷)” because it used to be too narrow that there is no other way for two people to pass through but for their chests to meet. But not to worry. It has been widened enough for many people to walk through now.
Get a Glimpse of Traditional Penghu Lifestyle at Penghu Living Museum
The beautiful island of Penghu is not the most comfortable place to inhabit. Mind you the volcanic eruptions and geological formation. The only plant that is strong enough to survive the nature of Penghu is cacti, which is why it’s one of the famous things from the island. Combined with the wind and dangers of the ocean, you can imagine how tough the lives would have been for the early settlers.
I enjoyed my visit to Penghu Living Museum, not only for its impressive architecture but also for its educational value. This new museum offers an excellent exhibit to display Penghu’s history, culture, religion and ecology. Here, you can get a glimpse of the Penghu residents’ lives and their resilient spirit.
Opening Hours: 9 am – 5 pm (closed on Thursdays, Lunar New Year’s Eves and typhoon days) | Admission: 80 NT | Click here to open Google Map for Penghu Living Museum.
Take a Break under the Shade of the Sacred Tongliang Great Banyan (通樑古榕)
A legend has it; only a Banyan tree survived a shipwreck happened near Penghu during the Qing Dynasty. As it got washed up to the shore, a Tongliang villager picked it up and planted in Baoan Temple. The sacred tree grew for more than 300 years to cover the temple ground. Today, it is a great spot to enjoy the shade created by the Banyan tree and see the unusual sight of its 100+ aerial roots. Click here to open Google Map for Tongliang Great Banyan.
Visit the Military Family Housing at Duxingshi Village (篤行十村)
Duxingshi Village is the oldest military housing in Taiwan. The Japanese army established the official residences in this town during the colonial era. In addition to the Japanese-style living quarters, the area houses the childhood homes of two famous Taiwanese singers, Chang Yu-Sheng and Pan An Bang. Their homes have become a space for art exhibits and a memorial museum. Even if you are not familiar with local singers, this village is still worth visiting for its historical background and retro vibes worthy of Instagram photos.
Opening Hours: 8 am – 9:30 pm | Admission: Free. | Click here to open Google Map for Duxingshi Village.
Tour the Ancient Military Fort at Xiyu West Fort
Military enthusiasts might be excited to learn that Penghu has a few ancient military forts. Xiyu West Fort is the most well-conserved centenary fort and a popular tourist attraction. It was built in 1885 during the Qing Dynasty to defend against foreign attacks. The fort is strategically located in a high land to look out the sea. You can also take a look at the old cannons and mortar ammunitions inside altars.
Opening Hours: All Day | Admission: 25 NT on weekdays. 30 NT on holidays. | Click here to open Google Map for Xiyu West Fort.
Soak in the Retro Vibes at Erkan Ancient Residences (二崁古厝)
Erkan is the first folk village in Taiwan. The town used to be the Chen family village during the Qing Dynasty settlement period. The charming houses here feature stonewalls, wooden frames and colorful decorations. If you appreciate ancient architecture, this village is full of cute Instagram spots!
Opening Hours: All Day | Admission: Free | Click here to open Google Map for Erkan Ancient Residences.
Enjoy the Ocean View at Yuwengdao Lighthouse (漁翁島燈塔)
Speaking of Instagram spots, Yuwengdao Lighthouse can’t be missed. Built in 1788, the lighthouse is the first one recorded in Taiwanese history. While it’s no longer functional, Yuwengdao Lighthouse is now a serene place to enjoy the fabulous ocean scenery. You can also take a look at small exhibits in the air-conditioned room (you will appreciate it very much!) or soak all the sun on the grass (which is rare in Taiwan). The Lighthouse is a small area surrounded by a military facility in operation, so be careful not to intrude accidentally.
Opening Hours: 9 am – 6 pm (Closed on Monday) | Admission: Free. | Click here to open Google Map for Yuwengdao Lighthouse.
Join the Penghu International Fireworks Festival
The Penghu International Fireworks Festival is a highly anticipated summer event in Taiwan. This annual event kicks off in mid-April and continues through June. The opening day is the most eventful one with on-stage performances and street market. The Taiwan Air Force also performs an air show over the rainbow bridge (at 6:30 pm), followed by the spectacular fireworks on the bay near the Guanyinting Recreation Center (at 9 pm). During the festival, you can see the fireworks on Monday, Thursday and Saturday at various spots in different Penghu islands.
Dates: April 18, 2019 – June 27, 2019 | Click here to Open Google Map for Guanyinting Recreation Center.
Cross the Ocean Over the Penghu Great Bridge
Penghu Great Bridge is a historic landmark and a great photo spot tourists must visit. In 1970, Penghu Great Bridge was built to connect Baisha and Xiyu. This was the first deep ocean bridge in East Asia. In summer, the piers become the nests of black-naped terns. If you are lucky, you can see them catching fish. Also, stop by a small cactus ice cream shop near the bridge. Click here to open Google Map for Penghu Great Bridge.
Go Island Hopping
With 90 populated and unpopulated outlying islands, Penghu is perfect for island hopping activities. Besides the main island of Magong, Penghu islands can be grouped into the North Sea and South Sea Recreational Systems.
The North Sea islands are more suitable for beach lovers and water sports such as snorkeling and banana boating. The most famous island in the North Sea is Jibei (吉貝). Its impressive Sand Beach Tail is made of coral and shell pieces. You can also go up the hill of Xikanshan to see the Sand Beach Tail from up above. To reach islands in the North Sea, go to Chikan Wharf Ferry Terminal (赤崁碼頭) [Click to open Google Map].
The South Sea Islands boast unique natural scenery. Most likely, you have seen these images in Taiwan tourism advertisement from airports or brochures. The most famous image of all is perhaps Twin-Hearts Stone Weir in Qimei (七美). The stone weirs were initially made with basalt and coral reefs to trap fish, which is one of the traditional fishing methods. Now it has become a tourist hot spot attracting couples with its romantic shapes. See my itinerary suggestion to read about my venture to the South Sea Islands. To reach these islands in the South Sea, go to South Sea Visitor Center [Click to open Google Map]. Book this DISCOUNTED Ferry Tour Tickets here.
Hop on a Deep Sea Fishing Excursion
Before tourism, Penghu is best known for its professional and leisure fishing. In Taiwan, seafood from Penghu is sold at a premium. If you are already in Penghu, why not buy fresh seafood directly from fishers at the Suogang Harbor [Click here to open Google Map]?
Or, better yet, hop on a leisure fishing cruise to discover the Penghu’s marine lives yourself. We did one and had a wonderful time. This 6-hour adventure includes fishing at an offshore farm and in the deep sea, on-island excursions and dinner on a cruise. As part of the island hopping, we got to enjoy a gorgeous beach all to ourselves on an inhabited island and witness a beautiful sunset on a hilltop of Cho-Island. We fished three times at different spots. We also had an incredible multi-course meal made out of our daily catches. But the highlight of the day was me winning the most catch of the evening after catching five fish!
I recommend it for anyone, but especially for a family with children because it was fun and educational. Keep in mind this tour is mainly for Taiwanese; however, I think it is doable without the Chinese language skill as long as you understand the safety guideline. The excursion boat leaves Qitou Wharf in Baisha [Click here to open Google Map for Qitou Wharf] around 2:00 pm daily and returns around 8:30 pm. Book Penghu Fishing & Seafood Tour here.
If you are more interested in serious deep sea fishing, I know just the right guy who can arrange the trip for you. He can speak some English. Contact Ryan at (09) 8901-2397.
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What to Eat in Penghu
Like many other places in Taiwan, Penghu is full of delicious food and snacks to chow down. I listed out a few below. I honestly don’t know the names of many dishes I ate because there was no English translation. So, make sure to check out my itinerary for restaurant recommendations and more photos.
Squid Vermicelli (小管麵線)
If one thing you must eat in Penghu, that is seafood. Lots of ‘em! Particularly, squid vermicelli is one dish you want to try here. Many restaurants near the Whale Cave serve squid vermicelli and other small eats.
Pumpkin Rice Noodle (金瓜麵猴)
Pumpkin rice noodle is another local specialty and traditional Penghu dish. I liked the chewy texture of noodle and sweet flavor of pumpkin.
Scallion Cake (蔥油餅)
While Scallion Cakes are favorite snack food available everywhere in Taiwan, Penghu’s is slightly different from the rest. Instead of mixing scallion into the flour batter, the fluffy pancake wraps scallions and other vegetables. Try it at the most famous Post Office Scallion Cake.
Cactus Ice Cream
When you go around Penghu, you will spot many cactus dessert shops. Cacti can grow everywhere on this barren island. Try ice cream, slush or shaved ice. It’s the best treat in Penghu’s heat.
Penghu peanuts are famous although they are not produced in a great quantity. You can purchase flavored peanuts. But handmade peanut candies are my favorite snack from Taiwan.
Best Souvenirs from Penghu
Decorated Stone Figures
I love this set of decorated stone figures made out of Penghu rocks (see above photo). I bought them at a small gift shop at Erkan Historical Residences.
Handmade Peanut Candy (花生酥)
As mentioned above, I love Penghu’s handmade peanut candies. It eats like toffee and tastes like peanut butter. My mom loves them. All my American friends love them, too. It makes a great souvenir from Penghu. Although you can call to order delivery to Taiwan, it’s best to buy fresh ones in Penghu because of its short shelf life. (The peanut oil will ooze out after two weeks.) I like the one from here.
From basil to Sichuan spicy, you can purchase a variety of flavored peanuts in a plastic bottle. Although it’s not the best way to protect the environment, it is super easy to eat without dirtying fingers. Just chug ‘em.
When I got off the plane from Penghu, the endless ice boxes came out on the conveyor belt. It seemed to me every single Taiwanese bought some seafood. You, too, can purchase kingfish, shrimp, squid and other seafood; the seller will help you package it iced and sealed for the flight.
If you are on the go and can’t cook fresh seafood, opt for dried seafood. My favorite one from Penghu is dried squid (小捲片). The Penghu one is slightly different from what I can buy from Korea or Japan. This savory snack pairs well with beer. Go to this shop: 新臺澎海產總匯.
Penghu Travel Tips
Best Time to Visit Penghu Island
In general, April through September is the best time to visit Penghu. It is the perfect time to enjoy Penghu’s white sandy beach because the weather is mostly sunny with the lowest of 20°C (68°F) to slightly over 30°C (86°F). (But I have to tell you, it felt much hotter and humid on sunny days.) The annual International Fireworks Festival also starts in mid-April and ends in June. However, be on the lookout for occasional typhoons around July through September.
In October, a strong wind from the ocean starts to hit Penghu through March. It is a difficult time for outdoor activities. Even the local population gets halved during this time as they move out of the island to another city.
Pro tip: Regardless of the season, Penghu has strong sunshine and wind all year round, compared to the main island of Taiwan. I strongly recommend wearing long sleeves or windbreaker after thoroughly applying sunscreen, especially if you plan to ride a scooter.
How to Get to Penghu
Penghu is easily accessible by flights from Taipei (Songshan Airport), Taichung, Chiayi, Tainan, Kaohsiung, and Kinmen. Eva Air operates domestic Uni Airways in these routes to Penghu’s main Magong Airport (MGZ). I recommend taking a flight as it is more efficient and reliable transportation means while being affordable. Book your flight directly on Uni Air website here.
Taipei to Penghu: Note that the domestic flight flies from the Songshan Airport in the Taipei city. It only takes about 45 minutes.
Kaohsiung to Penghu: In mid-April, I paid about $3,000 NT (roughly USD 100) for a round trip ticket. It’s a short 35 min ride from Kaohsiung Airport.
If you prefer to take a ferry, you can use two ports: Kaohsiung or Chiayi (Budai Harbor). The service can be canceled any time depending on the weather condition. In winter, only Taihwa Boat on the Kaohsiung – Penghu route is in operation. One way trip takes about four hours. For more info, click here.
How to Get Around in Penghu
Once arriving on the Island, it’s best to rent a scooter. You have to bring an international driver’s license specifically for the motorcycle. Or, you can rent a car. If you are opting for a scooter, be sure to get a helmet for your safety (usually comes free). I used this scooter rental service [click here for Google map] and recommend it for offering exceptional service and reasonably new scooters.
Many homestays and hotels in Penghu provide complimentary airport shuttle services (see my Penghu Hotel recommendations below), and assist you with rental services. Contact your accommodation to ask in advance.
Where to Stay in Penghu
Penghu is undergoing a developing phase now; I witnessed lots of construction sites to build new hotels and bed & breakfast inns. You will have no problem finding newly constructed – or renovated – accommodations without breaking your bank. Many family-owned properties in Penghu are excellent choices; however, a lot of them are not star-rated. Don’t disregard just because a particular rental home has no stars on booking websites. (But do read reviews!)
Being on the main island of Penghu, Magong City (馬公市), Huxi (湖西鄉), Baisha (白沙鄉) and Xiyu (西嶼鄉) townships are all connected. Magong City is a popular area to stay on the Penghu Islands as it is the central place where the tourist services are concentrated. Many properties in Magong also feature the desirable harbor or ocean views.
Penghu Hotels in Magong
Discovery Hotel (5*): New affordable luxury hotel with the harbor view from spacious, clean rooms and an outdoor swimming pool. Excellent location. Great for family and couple. Complimentary airport shuttle service and bike rentals. Check the availability and rates here: Booking & Agoda
Four Points by Sheraton Penghu (*5): Another five-star hotel with the harbor view. Family-friendly resort with an outdoor swimming pool and children’s playground. Complimentary airport shuttle service. Check the availability and rates here: Booking & Agoda
Laguna Villas & Resorts: Secluded villa with the beach view from a sun terrace and private bath. Perfect romantic getaway spot for couples. Complimentary airport shuttle service and breakfast. Check the availability and rates here: Booking & Agoda
Jia Li Li Hai Homestay: Well-decorated cozy bed & breakfast in Magong. Some units with a cute terrace. Complimentary airport shuttle and breakfast. Check the availability and rates here: Booking & Agoda
Sea View Villa Penghu: Excellent location on the Shanshui beach. Modern, clean room with the sandy beach view. Complimentary airport shuttle service and breakfast. Check the availability and rates here: Booking & Agoda
Does Penghu excite you but overwhelm you at the same time? Check out my sample itinerary for three perfect days in Penghu. Hope this helps you plan your dream trip!
Also, don’t forget to check out my recommendations for other islands in Taiwan:
>> Xiaoliuqiu Island: Swim with Sea Turtles
>> Orchid Island: A Diver’s Paradise with Unique Tao Indigenous Culture
>> Kinmen Island: Taiwan’s off-the-beaten destination with Military History, Kaoliang Liquor and Ancient Architecture
>> Best Beaches in Taiwan: Thinking of a beach vacation? Check out my list of the most beautiful and unusual beaches.
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