Taiwan’s offshore islands are some of my favourite parts of Taiwan, and I finally managed to find my way to Penghu 澎湖. Penghu actually refers to not a single island, but Taiwan’s largest clusters of islands located off its west coast. I visited solo and put together a little Penghu Islands guide for anyone else planning to visit soon.
This post covers more of the Penghu trip planning essential like how to get there, getting around where to stay. There will be more posts on things to do in various parts of Penghu eventually, like this Penghu Hidden Gems post with some alternative sites to the more touristy spots.
- About my Penghu Islands trip
- Where are the Penghu Islands located?
- How to get to the Penghu Islands
- Travelling around the Penghu Islands
- Getting around the Penghu Islands
- Where to stay in the Penghu Islands
- Best time to visit the Penghu Islands
- Other Penghu travel tips
About my Penghu Islands trip
I travelled to the Penghu Islands in May 2023 and visited Xiaoliuqiu and the Matsu Islands as well. I spent 4 nights in Penghu based in the main Magong City and mostly travelled around solo on scooter, and took a day trip to the other offshore islands Wang’an and Qimei. I flew from Kaohsiung to Magong via Mandarin Airlines, and from Magong to Taipei Songshan via Uniair.
Where are the Penghu Islands located?
The Penghu Islands are located off the west coast of Taiwan where Chiayi is located.
Penghu is made up of many islands, some of the main ones to note:
- Magong 馬公 is the main island which is connected by land to Baisha 白沙 and Xiyu 西嶼 to the west and Huxi 湖西 to the right
- South Islands: Tongpan 桶盤, Hujing 虎井, Wang’an 望安, Qimei 七美
- North Islands: Jibei 吉貝
- East Islands
Not all the islands are inhabited, and not all can be visited.
How to get to the Penghu Islands
Flying is the fastest way to reach the Penghu Islands and there are many options to fly to Penghu from around Taiwan, which is why it’s one of the most visited out of all the Taiwan offshore islands. Here are the airports listed in order of flight time needed.
- Tainan Airport (TNN) 臺南 – 30 minutes (3 flights daily)
- Chiayi Airport (CYI) 嘉義 – 35 minutes (1 flight daily)
- Kaohsiung Airport (KHH) 高雄 – 40 minutes (6-7 flights daily)
- Taichung Airport (RMQ) 臺中 – 45 Minutes (4 flights daily)
- Taipei Songshan Airport (TSA) 松山 – 60 minutes (4-5 flights daily)
International visitors: Most likely you’ll arrive at Taoyuan International Airport (TPE) where you will need to take a bus to Taipei Songshan Airport, or take the train/HSR to connect to the other places. There are some international flights that may go to Kaohsiung or Taichung if you want a more direct route.
Most flights land at Penghu Airport (MZG) 澎湖. A 1-way ticket costs around 1,700-2,300 NTD (S$70-$100) depending on where you fly from and the time of your flight.
If you wanted to skip the main Penghu Island (Magong) and fly directly to either Wang’an or Qimei in the southern island cluster, you can fly Daily Air from Kaohsiung Airport.
- Kaohsiung (KHH) to Qimei (CMJ) – 2 flights per day, 40 minutes flight.
- Kaohsiung (KHH) to Wang’an (WOT) – 1 flight on Mondays and 1 flight on Fridays, 45 minutes flight.
Airlines that fly to Penghu Islands
- UNI AIR 立榮航空 (li rong hang kong) flies daily the most flights to and from Penghu – Check out UNI AIR’s website.
- Mandarin Airlines 華信航空 (hua xing hang kong) has flights from Taipei Songshan, Kaohsiung and Taichung – check out Mandarin Airline’s website.
- Daily Air 德安航空 (de an hang kong) has limited flights from Kaohsiung to Magong, Qimei and Wang’an – check out Daily Air’s website (Chinese only).
Some tips for flying to Penghu Islands
- Book your flights as early as possible. The planes to Penghu are generally smaller propeller planes and they get booked out quite quickly. The flights perpetually have a waiting list and during off-season, residents get priority on the wait list.
- Be prepared for delays or cancellations. Penghu Islands can get pretty windy, which affects boats more than planes, but it may result in flight cancellations along with heavy rains. Make sure you have travel insurance and give yourself enough buffer if you need to catch a connection.
- UNI AIR, Mandarin Airlines and Daily Air have a free 10kg checked bag limit, but don’t worry if you exceed because each additional kilo is at maximum 16 NTD (S$0.70) per kg (8-14 NTD for Daily Air!), but just note that you’ll need to pay this fee at the counter when you drop off your bag. In my experience, UNI AIR was pretty strict about charging this fee even if I was just 1kg over the limit because the system was automated, but Mandarin Air did things manually and didn’t bother charging me.
- You can make bookings and even select your seat online when you check in, but give yourself a little time to pick up the ticket at the airport because their system is more used to dealing with Chinese names, so longer English names where the surname/name are in different places from Chinese names means you probably can’t use the kiosks to get your ticket. Most of the counter staff made handwritten amendments to my name on the ticket after checking my passport, but I didn’t have any other issues.
You can take the ferry from mainland Taiwan to get to Penghu. Most of the boats leave from Budai Harbour in Chiayi, but you may also be able to get ferries in Kaohsiung and Tainan. The ferries sail to Magong Nanhai Harbour 馬公南海碼頭 aka the main island of Penghu.
Taking the ferry to Penghu is a cheaper option but does also require more time. Standard ferries take about 4 hours journey, though if you get a fast ferry from Chiayi it takes just 1.5 hours.
The one main issue here is that Penghu get REALLY windy. Which means waves can get pretty high, so ferries are way more likely to be cancelled than flights. When I arrived, the ferries were cancelled for the day so other guests at my guesthouse only arrived the following day.
Ferries to Penghu are also season dependent – you have a lot more options in summer, but in winter it seems like the only ferry leaves from Kaohsiung. Do check before you go, but according to a Penghu resident, she says most people don’t even try to visit during winter just because of the weather.
I didn’t take the ferry for myself, but I’m putting down the information here for those of you considering taking the ferries.
Check out the ferry information at Penghu’s Tourism sites in English (has rates) as well as Chinese (more port options are listed). You can also get ferry tickets from Klook [affiliate link] and KKday that sell ferry tickets.
Travelling around the Penghu Islands
To get between the various islands in Penghu, there are several options as well.
Ferry is by far the most common way to get around the Penghu Islands. Most of the boats to the southern islands like Qimei, Wang’an, Hujing and Tongpan leave from Magong Nanhai Harbour 馬公南海碼頭.
I took a boat tour from Nanhai Harbour that brought us to Qimei Island first (2 hours away), and then to Wang’an Island (about an hour away) before heading back to Magong. My tickets were booked via my guesthouse who wrote me a receipt and directed me to a counter at Nanhai Harbour to check in.
My tour also included scooter rental on both Wang’an and Qimei Islands – you have the option to take the tour bus instead if you can’t or don’t want to ride.
Daily Air has a 20 minute flight that goes from Magong to Qimei. This plane is absolutely tiny and has just 4 seats and a 1-way ticket costs about 1,085 NTD (S$47).
Getting around the Penghu Islands
By car / scooter
As a solo traveller, I rented a scooter from my accommodation and used that to get around the islands. The scooter is my favourite mode of transport around Taiwan’s offshore islands because it’s easy for one person, parking is rarely an issue and it’s cheaper too.
You’ll need your International Driver’s Permit (IDP) to rent from authorised scooter rental stores Taiwan, and in my experience they might be a bit strict about you having the right licenses because ultimately they are liable.
One suggestion is to check if your accommodation does scooter rentals – most places have their own scooters which they can package together with the room, or see if there is anyway you can hire an electric scooter instead which doesn’t require a license.
But again if you’re not confident on riding a scooter, don’t do it. Penghu’s roads don’t have that much traffic but it can be quite busy if you’re in the main Magong city area – I wouldn’t advise you to ride in the town area if you aren’t confident.
For package tours on islands like Wang’an and Qimei, there’s barely any traffic at all so you should be fine as long as you stay on the proper roads and don’t venture off along unpaved paths. Note that you may get charged a little extra surcharge for being a single rider, because they calculate it based on 2 pax per bike. I think it’s dumb but that’s just how it is, something for solo travellers to note.
For a more comfortable ride or those in a larger group, you may want to consider driving. Penghu is pretty windy which may be uncomfortable or cold for riding on an exposed motorbike.
Penghu’s main island of Magong has a pretty extensive public bus network which would be the cheapest way for anyone to get around the main island, though as with these rural bus networks there might be long waiting times.
Taiwan Haoxing Tourist Shuttle Bus
Taiwan Tourism has special Taiwan Haoxing 台灣好行 buses that are good options for tourists who don’t want to or can’t self drive. Penghu has bus routes to the North (Xiyu) and East (Huxi) to help tourists see the sights easily. Tours take about 5-6 hours and are a good half-day option.
Where to stay in the Penghu Islands
Penghu accommodation booking tips
I usually book accommodation through booking.com [affiliate link] because of convenience and I do get discounts as a frequent user. As Penghu is fairly large, there are quite a lot of Penghu accommodation options on booking.com for you to browse, and a good range of higher-end hotels like Discovery Hotel [affiliate link] and Four Points by Sheraton Hotel [affiliate link] to cute little guesthouses, homestays and hostels.
One other option you can consider is to use Google maps to find hotels/guesthouses that you like, and then contacting these places via email, LINE or phone if you can speak Chinese. These guesthouses can usually offer you better rates or packages directly.
One practice in Taiwan is usually to transfer a deposit to the guesthouse as a pre-booking fee, but if you tell them you’re not in/from Taiwan, they usually are ok to make a reservation and let you pay on arrival.
So far I haven’t found any method of making transfers to Taiwanese accounts in NTD easily, which is more due to Taiwan’s rather closed banking system – multi currency sites like Revolut and Wise don’t let you create NTD wallets, and the transfers to Taiwan are in USD for some reason as well.
Magong: Catt Leya B&B Hotel
I chose to stay in a quieter area outside of the main downtown Magong district known as Siwei Village, about 10 minutes drive north of Magong City where the Nanhai Harbour is located.
Siwei seems like a residential area with not much around in terms of facilities, but there are lots of guesthouses and apartment blocks around here and it’s away from the busy downtown area.
Catt Leya is a guesthouse run by a family with a really friendly host. We chitchatted several times and she gave me many tips on things to see around Penghu and even invited me to join in her own conversations with her friends at night. They can also make other arrangements for you like scooter rental and booking my day tour to Wang’an/Qimei.
The townhouse is a 4-story walkup – no lifts so if you want a room on the lower floor, let them know early. I was up on the 3rd floor but I really enjoyed this room because it was very spacious. Probably the largest room in my entire trip! I didn’t have a balcony but I had a nice sitting area to sprawl out on.
Animal alert: they do have resident cat and dog pets which is a good/bad thing depending on how much you like animals, but the animals typically stay on the ground floor and don’t go into the guest rooms.
Check out Cattleya on Booking.com (Catt Leya B&B Hotel) [affiliate link]
Other Magong accommodation options
Some other accommodation options in Magong that I was considering [booking.com affiliate links]:
- Starrywhale Hostel is in the same neighbourhood as Catt Leya in Siwei
- Calamari has a really central location near Duxingshi Village
- Penghu Sunsea Hall is such a pretty homestay that’s still a little bit out of Magong City
- Day Time Travel B&B is an option down south near Shili Beach
- Color Coral Boutique Hotel has such a beautiful interior not far from Magong City
You could also consider staying further afield in Baisha, Xiyu, Huxi or even on Qimei if you have your own transport and want somewhere quieter and away from the crowds.
Best time to visit the Penghu Islands
For cooler weather, spring and autumn are good times to visit Penghu, but if you want to hit the beaches and partake in water activities then summer is of course your best option. I visited in May and it was already fairly warm.
Winter is when you should avoid Penghu largely because it gets super windy there even in the other seasons, but things get really blustery and wet in the winter months. Generally this is the low season and flights/ferries get cancelled a lot – it’s mostly only the locals travelling back and forth during this period.
Some windy mornings in Penghu in the early summer already had me feeling quite blown about so I imagine it’d be much worse with cold piercing winter winds!
Penghu Fireworks Festival
Summer is when Penghu is at its busiest, largely because of the famous Penghu Fireworks Festival 澎湖花火節 that typically takes place from May to July. The show usually happens every Monday and Thursday evening at the Guanyinting in Magong City. There is a stage at the park, some booths and lots of people gather to witness the show which typically involves fireworks and drone action that lasts about 30 minutes.
In May 2023 I timed my trip so I would be able to catch the fireworks 2x and a good thing I did. The first time around the winds were so strong that the Disney themed drone show (to celebrate 100 years of Disney) was cancelled and we only got to see about 10 minutes worth of fireworks instead. The weather was much better on my 2nd trip so I got to see the full show.
I recorded both my fireworks festival shows for Taiwan Tourism SG, and even livestreamed one of them! Check them out on Facebook: the first show (me livestreaming Q&A + fireworks) and the second show (drones + fireworks)
See the latest Penghu Fireworks Festival updates on Facebook.
Other Penghu travel tips
Have extra TWD on hand
Here’s the thing about island life in Taiwan, even on larger islands such as Penghu: ATMs are few and far between, and even if you do find an ATM, there’s a high chance that it doesn’t take foreign cards. Luckily I had enough cash on hand in Penghu so that wasn’t an issue (I nearly had some real problems in Matsu!).
Use the ATMs at the airports on Taiwan’s mainland before flying over – Songshan Airport had plenty of ATMs options that didn’t charge additional fees.
Cover up from the sun and wind
You will find that there is not a lot of shelter when you are driving around the Penghu Islands, especially if you are getting around by scooter. Because of the strong winds, there are few tall trees and not a lot of canopy cover, so make sure you are sufficiently protected from the sun – I recommend long sleeves or an airism jacket.
A tip if you are riding, cycling or sitting on the outdoor deck of the ferry – make sure your sleeves are long enough to cover your fingers because you might end up with really brown fingers even though everything else was covered up.
If you are riding, make sure your helmet has a face shield or have a pair of sunglasses on hand to protect your eyes. I sometimes used a buff/mask to cover my nose/mouth as well from the dust while riding.
Have you been to the Penghu Islands or are planning to go there? Let me know in the comments if you have any questions. In the meantime check out other Taiwan offshore islands that I have visited: