Penghu (澎湖 Pénghú in Mandarin, Phîⁿ-ô͘ or Phêⁿ-ô͘ in Minnan), also called the Pescadores is an outlying island archipelago in the Taiwan Straits between Taiwan and China, but much closer to the main island of Tawian. Both the Taiwan and Chinese governments agree that it forms one of the counties of Taiwan (while disagreeing on whether Taiwan as a whole is a separate country from Mainland China). As a strategic location gateway to the main island of Taiwan, it has historically been the site of various battles, and is still today home to several military bases. Tourism is mostly oriented around coastal scenery, seafood, beaches, and watersports.
The Penghu (pronounced "pung hoo") is an archipelago, not a single island. The sea around Penghu is a saturated turquoise and the sand coral, so pack beach footwear if you have it (some beaches though have very soft sand). Formed by ancient volcanic activity, the low-lying islands are famous in Taiwan for their volcanic basalt stone, which forms spectacular columns at many sites along the coast. The wind-scoured landscape is drier than most of Taiwan, with limited farmable land and lots of agave plants and prickly-pear cactuses. Hardy evergreen trees have been planted in many places as windbreaks.
Located to the west of the main island of Taiwan, is composed of 90 islets; most are uninhabited. There are 7 administrative districts, 1 city and 6 townships. The city is Magong (馬公) and the townships are Huxi (湖西), Baisha (白沙), Xiyu (西嶼), Qimei (七美), Wang'an (望安). Magong City, Huxi, Baishia and Xiyu are on Penghu's main islands; Qimei and Wang'an both are isolated islets in the southern sea.
As a rule of thumb, the summer months (April to September) are very hot and humid, usually over 30 degrees, and constitute the high season. The winter months (October to February) are very windy. March and April might be the best reason to visit. The island is much more quiet in winter time (low season), but often at the price of an extremely heavy wind. When the winds come, boats to other islands such as Qi-Mei are often cancelled.
Recorded history of Penghu dates back earlier than that of the main island of Taiwan. According to the documents, some Han Chinese from Southeastern Fujian (福建) sailed to Penghu and established the fishing communities in Song Dynasty (around 9th or 10th century). During the age of Mongol Empire (蒙古帝國), based on more and more people gathering, the ruler began to set an official military unit (巡檢司) in Penghu, Penghu formally became an area of Fujian Province in Mongol Empire.
The next Empire Ming (Ming Dynasty, 1368-1624) ruled Penghu by convention. In the middle of Ming Dynasty, around the 15th Century, the South China Sea became the stage of International commerce among Chinese pirates, Japanese Ronin and European naval fleets. Penghu and Formosa also got involved in the keen competitions. According to the European documents, Penghu was called Pescadores then, meaning "The Island of Fisherman" in Portuguese.
1604, also the age of Discovery, Europeans had many conflicts in Asian area. The VOC (Dutch East India Company/Vereenigde Oostindische Compagie) planned to establish a trading point nearby China/Ming Empire. The Dutch tried to occupy Macau, but were defeated by the Portuguese. The VOC commander Wijbrand van Warwijck (韋麻郎) withdrew to Pescadores for settling down then sent a messenger to the Ming Empire to ask for permission to trade, but their request was refused. Moreover, the Ming Empire sent General Shang Zhouzuo (沈有容, 1557-1628) to expel the VOC fleets from Pescadores. This event was recorded in a stone tablet : 「沈有容諭退紅毛番韋麻郎等」 (It means "Shang Zhouzuo expelled Wijbrant and his people"); you still can see the stone tablet at Tian-hou Temple (天后宮) in the present Magong City.
Another story happened in 1622. That moment, there were many conflicts on Southeastern Sea of Asia for commercial reasons within Europeans. So they would envy Portugal took Macau of China successfully. Coen, the officer of VOC, he heard another competitor Spanish would take over Formosa soon, so he gave Cornelis Reijersen an order : trying to establish a trading point in Pescadores or Formosa if he couldn't take Macau by Force. After lost the battle of Macau, Reijersen turned to stay in Penghu/Pescadores and began to build a fort in the present Fengguei/Fengkuei (風櫃), Magong City. Now the place is a famous scenic spot- Snake Head Hill (蛇頭山).
2 years later (1624), Ming Empire changed a chief administrator of Fujian Province (named 南居益). He thought Penghu belonged to Ming Empire, he didn't allow the foreigner to occupy their territory, so Ming Empire expelled the Dutch fleets from Penghu by force again. Experienced 8 months surrounding war in Fort Fengguei, Reijersen reached agreement with Ming Empire, he was allowed to exploit Formosa (Still no man's land in 17th) but had to destroy their Fort Fengguei in Penghu. Therefore, all the building materials in there were moved to Formosa for building Fort Zeelandia (安平古堡).
|North Penghu (Baisha, Xiyu)|
The largest of the northern islands of Penghu are connected to the main island by bridges, while the smaller ones, known locally as the "North Sea" area, are only accessible by boat.
|Main island (Magong City, Huxi,)|
Penghu’s main island includes the administrative divisions of Magong City and Huxi.
|South Penghu ("South Sea" area) (Wang'an, Qi-mei)|
The smaller islands to the south of the main island group which feature many natural scenic attractions.
- 2 Baisha (白沙鄉). It is located to the north of Penghu Main Island and linked to Xiyu Island by the Penghu Trans-Oceanic Bridge.
- 3 Huxi (湖西鄉). It is located on the western part of the Penghu Main Island and is the largest township in Penghu County.
- 4 Jibei (吉貝嶼). Small northern island known for watersports. To get to Jibei from the main island you take a short boat ride from the North Sea Tourist Centre (北海遊客中心) which is located on Baisha Island (白沙). The boat operators offer package deals that include boat fare, unlimited use of water sports facilities such as wave runners - though someone else does the actual riding - banana boats, snorkeling, water slides, and other forms of water activities and a scooter to use around the island.
- 5 Qimei (七美鄉). Also spelled "Cimei" or "Chi-Mei". To get to Qimei from the main island you take a boat from the South Sea Tourist Centre (南海遊客中心) which is located on reclaimed land down by Magong harbour on Xinying Road. Public transit ferries only leave once a day in each direction, but you can also check with tour desks, which may have package deals at a reasonable price. From Qimei Island you can see the famous double heart stone weir (雙心石滬) which is a large stone traditional fishing trap made in the shape of two hearts. You can also see what is believed to be the site of an old fresh water well which is now a sacred shrine dedicated to the Seven Beauties (七美) from which the island takes its name - women who, according to legend, committed suicide rather than losing their virginity to pirates. The island is walkable if you have a lot of time and energy, but most people rent a scooter. The double heart stone weir is at the opposite end from the ferry pier.
- 6 Wangan (望安嶼). To get to this island you take a boat from nearby the South Sea Tourist Centre. Public transit ferries, which stop here on their way to and from Qimei Island, only leave once a day in each direction, but you can also check with tour desks, which may have package deals at a reasonable price. The main point of interest on Wangan Island is the old courtyard house village ruins that are clustered around several traditional fresh water wells and of course a few temples by the sea. These courtyard houses are believed to be some of the oldest (possibly even the oldest) such ruins in Taiwan. These houses are now overgrown with trees. Hopefully someone will soon recognise their local, national and international architectural, cultural and historical significance and begin restoring them as they would then be an even better tourist attraction particularly as Tea Houses and B & Bs. It is best to rent a motorbike from nearby the Wangan Island ferry terminal which in high Summer should cost between NT$350 and NT$400, but this price is very likely to be cheaper at other times of the year when discounts are likely to be offered.
- 7 Xiyu (西嶼鄉). The major scenic spots include some forts, a lighthouse, coastal villages, and beaches. Some of the historic sites were built or reconstructed in the Qing Dynasty, and are certified as National Relic Sites of Taiwan. Accessible from the main island by bridges, but a bit of a drive/ride from Magong city.
Aimen Village (Ai-men) is located walking distance from Magong airport. Just turn left on the road outside the airport and walk down the road for 5 minutes. Aimen Village is walking distance to beautiful Aimen Beach. Just turn right and walk down the little lane as you enter Aimen Village. This lane is easy to locate as it is signposted and is also lined with coral fences. There are a few B & Bs in Aimen Village which are an easy walk to the beach.
Xiyu Island also has several villages such as Erkan Village that are not only worth visiting but also a good place to stay if you are looking for an island get-a-way holiday.
There are hundreds of B & Bs scattered across Penghu both in the Magong city area and dotted across all the inhabited islands of the archipelago.
- 1 South Penghu Marine National Park – one of two marine national parks in Taiwan, best known for its charming Blue Cave. You'll need to join a boat tour or hire a charter to get here.
The common languages are Mandarin Chinese and the Penghu accent of Taiwanese. It is not rare to find people, especially young people, who also speak English and Japanese, but you are definitely best off being prepared to speak some Mandarin or Taiwanese in Penghu.
The main entry point of Penghu is the domestic Magong airport which is located in the middle of the main island, which is not walking distance to Magong city as it is a 20-minute drive from the city of Magong.
Magong Airport, Penghu from at least 6 domestic Taiwanese airports including Taipei (Songshan), Taichung, Jiayi, Tainan, Kaohsiung and Jinmen Island. Uni Air and Mandarin Airlines each provide frequent and convenient flights to Penghu. Both have English booking websites. A few regional international flights are expected to commence in the next few years.
Magong Airport is clean and modern, with cafés and free Wi-Fi. However, very few electric or USB appliances are available in the terminal.
A taxi ride from the airport to the city of Magong should not cost more than NT$300. However, if you are able to telephone and book a taxi ahead of your arrival in Mandarin Chinese the cost drops down to $20). Some taxi numbers: 0937713723; 0931873045. Taxi drivers do not speak English. Also, taxis do not use meters in Penghu, so make sure to ask the cost to your destination before you set off.
Many Penghu B & Bs and Hotels offer (often free) pick-up and drop-off to and from Magong Airport and the Harbour Ferry Terminal.
There are also some flights from Taiwan directly to Qimei Island in southern Penghu (a very small island, with public ferries to other parts of Penghu only once a day - only fly here if you've booked accomodations on the island or have planned the boat schedule very carefully).
There is ferry all year round from Kaohsiung which takes 5 hours and 5 minutes, and arrives at a downtown Magong pier from where you can easily walk along the main street and around the downtown area. However, it is much more frequent in summer than in winter; also expect cancellations due to typhoons (summer) or strong wind (winter). From Kaohsiung to Magong costs NT$860-1700 one way in Summer 2011 (see full details online). Magong to Kaohsiung is slightly cheaper costing from $819-1619. This service may not be available every day and sailing times are subject to change according to the season. There may sometimes also be a ferry directly from Kaohsiung to Qimei Island in southern Penghu.
A smaller ferry sails between Magong Harbour and Putai (Budai) in Taiwan's Chiayi county, only in summer (until mid-October). This journey takes about 90 minutes. The main disadvantage is the Budai terminal is difficult to access by public transportation from other parts of Taiwan.
Distances are generally too far to walk, unless you plan to stay in a certain area the whole time.
Only those who hold either a current Taiwanese driving license or a current IDP (International Driving Permit - Taiwan is listed inside the front cover of this document as accepting the International Driving Permit) may rent vehicles. However, make sure your IDP includes a Chinese translation inside it. The airport is a 15-20 min drive from Magong city's main street, Zhong-Zheng Rd.
There are plenty of gas stations in Magong, but much fewer elsewhere. In addition, many of these close at 5pm (not in Magong though), so make sure you have enough gas when you leave for a trip throughout the main islands.
If you turn right as you walk outside the airport building you will find the public bus stop located on the corner of the airport building. The bus stop is clearly marked and also has a timetable and price list. This is by far the cheapest option.
There are public buses that travel all around the main bridge linked islands as far as Waian Village (Wai-an) which is located nearby the far end of Xiyu Island. The main bus terminal building is a large building about two streets over from Jhongjheng Rd walking away from and across the road from McDonald's.
In the main city of Magong major sights include the Tianhou Temple where sailors and fishermen have prayed to the sea goddess Mazu for safe seafaring for centuries. Nearby is the 400-year-old Four Eyes Well a single fresh water well with four holes so it can be used by many people at once. It is on a picturesque old street that has been tastefully restored to its former glory.
Hou Hsiao-Hsien's film The Boys from Fengkuei (風櫃來的人, 1983) was shot in Fengkuei, on the main island.
One night in Magong, then catch a boat to Qi-mei Island and stay in one of several B & Bs for the night. On returning to Magong spend another night in one of the many B & Bs in one of the villages that are scattered about the islands where you can view the ruins of and some restored traditional courtyard houses, particularly in Erkan Village, Xiyu, that are made from coral and local stones
Scooter and cycling around the island
Ride a bicycle from Magong's Rainbow Bridge along the bicycle path beside the seashore is highly recommended. From here you get excellent views across the water to Xiyu Island.
Tourists can take a walk along Shan-shui or Ai-men Beach, (each a NT$200 taxi ride away). Most tourists also like to take a boat ride to see some of the many other islands.
- Magong City:
- Shan-shui (山水): Something of a "sleepy beach town". If you just want to chill out, you can have a self-contained vacation confined mostly to this town. The beach is pretty nice, with soft, golden-brown sand and clear water. A good place to swim if you're a competent swimmer, but other visitors should be warned that the bottom drops off and becomes deep fairly fast (many Taiwanese tourists don't know how to tread water, even if they've had swimming lessons). Many accommodations are within walking distance of the beach, and there are a few decent and reasonably-priced restaurants around the beach area. The beach is separated from the main street by a high dyke, so there's no beach view from the restaurants. The place tends to clear out at night as tourists go back to Magong city, which is a shame, because there a few nice chill-out bars near the beach.
- Shi-li (嵵裡)
- 713 walking trail
- Huxi Township: Lin-tou Park (林投), Ai-men (隘門), Long-Men Rubbish Beach (龍門後灣)
- Baisha Township: Hou-liao (後寮)
- Xiyu Township: Hou-lo (后螺), Nei-an (內垵), Xiao-Chi-Jiao (小池角)
Southern Sea sailing
Take a boat trip to Seven Beauty Island (in Chinese it is called Qi-mei although it is more often Romanised as Ci-mei or Chi-mei) an island to the south, is also highly recommended. The boat trip from the Magong harbourside South Sea Tourist Centre takes about 90 minutes and you get to see several other islands along the way. Qi-mei Island is a great place to stay in a B & B for one night. The island is small but hilly with cliffs falling into the sea on the southern side. Goats may be seen grazing across the island and another interesting feature is the dry stone and/or coral fences. The best way to travel around is on bikes and this should come as part of the B & B package. However, you will need a Taiwanese licence. Perhaps best to travel with some Taiwanese friends as almost no one speaks English here.
Northern Sea sailing
Ji-bei Island, is a short boat trip to the north and has some of the best beaches.
Snorkeling and Watersports
Watersports are popular in Penghu, with Jibei island in the north being the islands' mecca of high-energy water fun, though many options are available on the main island too. Stand-up paddleboard (SUP) is particularly popular right now (as of 2022). Taiwanese tourists almost always do watersports as a part of guided group excursions. These tend to be "try something new" experiences for total beginners, so if you're an experienced sportsperson or explorer, be warned that you may find many of the tours very underwhelming.
Snorkeling tours are no exception - don't count on them to lead you to the best spots. If you have your own equipment and are an experienced snorkeler though, there are many good places to jump in the water and look around, often with good varieties of tropical fish and decent coral cover. Hangwan cove (杭灣) east of Shanshui is a popular place for snorkel tours that show tourists a few fish in the deep middle of the bay, but experienced snorkelers can find much better spots closer to the sides if they look around on their own. Another popular and relatively safe spot for independent snorkeling (many locals go here to hunt for sea urchins to eat) is the Humuhu (虎目滬) area in Xiyu, a shallow bay with small coral heads and lots of sealife that you can access either from the heart-shaped stone weir that tourists take photos on or from the sandy beach halfway around the cove. The best snorkeling in Penghu is said to be in the Four Southern Islands Marine National Park, which you'll need a tour or private charter boat to get to. You're also free to explore and find your own spots around the islands - just be very careful of currents and surge, just like you would be anywhere in the world (snorkel at your own risk).
Penghu is one of the best places in Taiwan to seabirds in the tern family, mainly in the summer, when various species nest on the outlying islets. Skilled birders will be able to find most species just by walking coastal roads, but for the real experience you need to take a tour or charter boat to the isolated rocky nesting colonies, such as Dinggouyu (釘鉤嶼) in the northeast and Maoyu (貓嶼) in the southwest, or Pengpeng Sandbar (澎澎灘) in the north. Each has different combinations of species nesting there.
Penghu can also be good for shorebirds any time of year, and for all kinds of interesting and rare birds during spring migration, since it sits in the middle of the East Asian Flyway and offers a tempting place to rest for birds flying long distances over the ocean. Resident birdlife is limited, but there are some specialties like Eurasian Skylark (the official county bird) and Zitting Cisticola, which both can also be found on the main island of Taiwan, but are especially common here.
Old Magong Castle walking tour
English guide, introduction of Mazu Temple, Central old street or any other else if you mail to firstname.lastname@example.org (Roxie).
Penghu is known for seafood, as well as drinks and deserts made from the red-purple fruit of the local prickly-pear cactus. Many restaurants offer top-notch fresh seafood, including local delicacies like turban snails, "sea mushrooms" (actually a kind of sea slug), and pufferfish skin, although this tends to be quite expensive. One of the more affordable local seafood specialties is a kind of small squid called xiaoguan (小管), which is added to soups and noodles and can also be fried or barbecued (but shouldn't be mistaken with the larger xiaojuan (小卷) squid-on-a-stick, which are also tasty but mostly imported from Argentina).
The best place for western style bread, cake, coffee and tea is Donutes which is on a main road corner down the hill from McDonald's.
Brown Sugar Cake (黑糖糕) can be ordered from several shops along the alley way down from the old well where you can also find Grass Jelly (仙草凍刨冰) and Pink Cactus Fruit Sorbet Ice Cream (仙人掌冰) which is widely available in Magong or on Wangan Island.
Spicy Red Oil Wontons (四川紅油抄手) can be found at 四川席炒手馬公市仁愛路25號 in Magong City Tel +886-6-9272899 Western food in Penghu is not only limited to McDonald's. The 5-star Pescadores Hotel offers western style food as does the "He-tian" M Hotel which is at No. 2, MínQuán Rd, Magong, Tel +886 6 926 3936 which is an easy walk from the main street.
There are a few bars scattered around Magong mostly near the centre of the city. There are also a few cute outdoor bars in the Shanshui beach area.
There are a lot of ATMs in Magong, but fewer elsewhere. Most shops only accept cash. You might search for ATMs by Bank of Taiwan (臺灣銀行) or Bank of Yushan (玉山銀行) in downtown for withdrawing cash.
Most hotels have free Wi-Fi. The 4G is available virtually everywhere on the main islands of the archipelago.
As everywhere (or even more than elsewhere) in Taiwan, Penghu is very safe: virtually no thefts, and a population always willing to help.
Typhoons are common in this part of the world during the summer months so remember to keep an eye on weather forecasts as flights may be delayed or cancelled when there is a typhoon.
In winter, Penghu is also well known for very strong winds, so if you drive a motorbike, make sure to drive carefully. Frequent "strong wind" road signs will remind you anyway.
Be careful swimming at beaches, especially if you're not an experienced swimmer. The gaps between the islands can sometimes have tidal currents, and the water at most beaches isn't shallow enough to wade far out from land (but tend to be safe places for competent swimmers to go swimming).
- Kinmen island