(taiwan.net.tw) The Penghu Archipelago, a group of islands situated in the Taiwan Strait, which separates the island of Taiwan from mainland China, is a popular offshore-island destination for cruise liners such as the Sun Princess, based in Keelung Port. Following is a short overview of places to visit during a short stay on the islands.
Magong is your port of call when arriving by cruise liner or by ferry from mainland Taiwan. Visitors who take an airplane will touch ground at Penghu’s airport, about 3km away from the small city and its harbor. The archipelago’s only city, Magong is the administrative, cultural, and business center of the islands. It’s easy to explore on foot, with many of its tourist attractions in close proximity to the harbor. For sights elsewhere on the three main islands that make up the core of Penghu, which are connected by bridge, you have the option of hiring a taxi, taking a bus, or renting a scooter (international driver’s license required). Bicycling is only an option if you have packed plenty of time and are prepared for the sometimes strong headwinds (during the winter months) and relentless sunshine (during the warmer months). To reach the smaller islands you need to take a ferry, leaving Magong Harbor for islands to the south, Baisha Harbor for those to the north, and Qitou Harbor for islands to the east of Baisha Island, one of the three interconnected main islands.
Sights in Magong
Magong is an old city with a rich history. Wander through the quaint lanes and alleys in the city’s center to experience its old-time charm. Among the highlights are narrow Zhongyang Street, lined with beautifully restored shophouses; the Tianhou Temple, Taiwan’s oldest temple dedicated to Mazu, the Goddess of the Sea; and the Four-Eyed Well, which in the past supplied Magong residents with drinking water. Head southwest of the city center, following Zhongshan Road, to come to the snow-white Shuncheng Gate, part of Magong’s old city wall. Walk further west past the gate and you’ll soon enter the Magong Cultural Center area, a great place to learn more about the city’s history and take photos in front of old walls and beautifully restored residences from Taiwan’s oldest former military-housing community.
If you have time for just one beach during your time in Penghu, make it Shanshui Beach on the southern coast of Penghu, the main island on which Magong is located. This wide golden-sand beach is very popular with tourists. You can play by and in the water (swim, surf, and snorkel), or just simply take in the great turquoise-water and golden-sand scenery. A connected pair of two other popular sandy beaches can be found just to the east of Penghu’s airport, Aimen and Lintou. Like many beaches in the archipelago, the fine sand here is of exceptional quality, and the beaches are, surprisingly, very quiet on most days of the year.
Basalt Rocks, Old Villages, and a Lighthouse
When looking at tourist brochures of Penghu, you’ll most likely see beautiful images of columnar-basalt rock formations. The most popular location for an up-close look at an impressive and photo-friendly wall of the basalt rock is the Daguoye Columnar Basalt on Xiyu Island, the westernmost main island. When visiting Xiyu (accessed via Baisha Island and the Penghu Great Bridge), be sure to also check out three other tourists sites: the Whale Cave, a sea-holed rocky promontory at the northernmost tip of the island; the Erkan Village, a dense collection of heritage houses in the island’s center; and the Yuwengdao Lighthouse, built in 1778 close to the island’s southwest end.
Penghu consists of a total of 90 islands and islets, of which 20 are inhabited. The ones tourists are most likely to visit are Qimei, Wang’an, Huayu, Hujing, and Tongpan, to the south of Penghu’s main three islands, Jibei in the north, and Yuanbei and Niaoyu in the east. Taking the ferry from Magong to Wang’an and Qimei is highly recommended. Both islands are scenic and easy to explore (on e-scooters available for rent at the harbors). Qimei is best known for its iconic Twin Hearts Stone Weir.