Penghu: Shining Pearl of the Taiwan Strait

My husband’s grandfather was a Marine in the Taiwanese military, which means my mother-in-law spent her childhood in Penghu (澎湖縣). This archipelago falls within the Taiwanese territory and serves as a unique island getaway for locals and tourists alike. Summers offer a relaxing summer getaway, but in winter months it has some of the highest winds in the northern hemisphere, making it a hotbed for wind sports.1

The First Island: Culture of Penghu

Yes, Penghu was the first officially recognized island of the Taiwan province during the Yuan Dynasty while still under Mainland Chinese control. But Penghu has been under the control of many a country, much like Taiwan’s main island, and thus displays influences from Chinese, Dutch, and Japanese occupations.2

Fishing is the primary economic drive for the island as the flat, barren lands and windy atmosphere make for poor agricultural growth.2  Laver, a type of edible seaweed, is also picked around the island which doubles as a tourist activity.3

Penghu has close ties to the sea goddess Mazu(媽祖), with the Tienhou Temple (天后宮) being a must-see for visitors. A great deal of festivities also take place around the temple.  

Stone protectors are common in Penghu, with their custom being rooted in keeping away evil spirits. There is a strong belief in ghosts amongst the people of Penghu, who also hold ghost food-giving festivals. This is largely due to the number of people who die from accidental deaths due to their lives on the sea. 

There are a number of craftsman on the island, including those creating stone protectors, coral crafts, other stone crafts, bamboo weavings, and folklore crafts.4

Food of Penghu

Naturally, seafood is quite common in Penghu. Sea cucumber, balloon fish, shellfish ,and other sea fish are common specialties of the region. 

In addition, the area produces a number of unique dishes such as melon rice flour, laver bean noodles, fried jujube, and many more. Peanut snacks and specialty cakes like rice cake and squash cakes are other delicious treats. 

Looking to cool down on a hot day? Ice cream in Penghu comes in a variety of unique flavors like cactus fruit, flower flavors, aloe, and hami melon. 4

If you are looking to eat out while visiting, the Penghu Tourism Bureau has a number of excellent recommendations on their website as well. There a too many great options to list here, but I will (eventually) create a guide to Penghu with even more delicious selections.

Penghu’s Scenic Highlights

Penghu is a truly unique archipelago. With it being a largely flat landmass which funnels through heavy winds and harsh waters as well as seismic activity, the landscape has been formed through an unusual combination of erosion and eruption. Tectonic movement has allowed hot lava to bubble to the surface before hardening into rock, while harsh waves brush through, taking rock sediment with them to create some incredible scenery.5

The results of these natural phenomena create some of the most beautiful places in Penghu, from the Columnous Daguoye Basalt (大菓葉柱狀玄武岩) to its most famous site: the Twin Hearts Stone Weir (七美雙心石滬). These are far from the only scenic locations the islands have to offer as well, with the flowers of Neian Recreation Area (澎湖國家風景區), The Wale Cave of Xiaomen Islet (澎湖逍遙遊), and the white sands of Shihli Beach (蒔裡沙灘) being only a few more of the natural landmarks that make Penghu an ideal location for the scenic traveler.

Landmarks of Penghu

The fantastic views aren’t the only things Penghu has to offer. If you are looking for more things to do, why not visit the Penghu Tianhou Temple for a spiritual experience? While you are in the main city of Magong (馬公), you may also want to visit a museum, or two, such as the Penghu Living Museum (澎湖生活博物館) or the Ocean Resources Museum. Make sure you leave time to stroll through Zhongyang Old Street (中央老街) for some local snacks and souvenirs. 

Looking for a historic experience? There are forts scattered throughout Penghu that can feed your interest in the area’s background. Take a trip to Siyu East Fort (西嶼東臺) Military Historic Park to see the living quarters of officers and soldiers in the late 1800s and visit the Siyu West Fort (西嶼西臺) to understand how the island was defended. Other military history sites include Nanyu Castle (南嶼城) and Military Dependents Village Cultural Park (Duxingshi Village 篤行十村). 

Jhongshe Historical house (中社村) and Tongliang Great Banyan (通梁古榕) are two more must-sees in Penghu. Both landmarks have local legends surrounding them, and are homages to the area’s culture and history. 

On your next visit to Taiwan, take a few days to visit this incredible archipelago of culture and history. Enjoy the local treats and see some of the most beautiful natural land formations Taiwan has to offer.  

If you are planning a trip to Taiwan, consider booking with me, and I will help make your trip unforgettable. 


Picture of K. Straub-Kuo

K. Straub-Kuo

K has been writing since she was in middle school. She has always loved telling stories and loves to do research on topics that fascinate her even more. K developed an interest in cultures at an early age, but it wasn't until high school that she became fascinated with East Asia's rich cultural heritage that blends seamlessly with the rapid advancements that cause their cities to thrive. Her interest only grew more when she met her Taiwanese-Native husband, whose expansive travel experiences have encouraged her wanderlust. She takes every opportunity presented to her to try something new and is always thrilled to share her experiences with her readers.
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11 Day Back roads of Japan Tour with Project Expedition

***Note: meals are largely excluded on this tour and are the responsibility of tour members***

Days 1-2: Tokyo

There is no itinerary upon arrival until the welcome meeting which will take place in the evening. The first day will consist of learning more about your tour and meeting your guides. Day two is a walking tour of the fashion district of Harajuku. This eclectic district is popular for its eccentric fashion and youth culture. In the afternoon you will get a chance to visit Sensoji Temple, Meiji Shrine, and the surrounding attractions. 

Day 3: Nagano

You will take Japan’s famed bullet train to Nagano before checking into your accommodations. The highlight of this trip is the Jigokudani Monkey Park, where you will get to observe Japan’s bathing snow monkeys enjoying a bath in the natural hot springs.

Day 4: Matsumoto/Nagano

Enjoy a day trip to visit one of Japan’s most beloved castles: Matsumoto Castle. Afterwards, return to Nagano to venture off to Zenkoji Temple, one of Japan’s last standing pilgrimage sties. 

Day 5: Ōtsu 

Travel in the morning to Ōtsu for some stunning views of Japan’s largest lake: Lake Biwa. Top off the night with a delicious ramen dinner. 

Day 6-7: Hagi

Enjoy a quick breakfast before an extended drive to Hagi. You will then check into your local homestay. Pack for two nights as your remaining luggage will be sent to the next destination by your tour company. Make sure you pack comfortably for outdoor activities. This is a chance to experience life like a local as you meet your host family and take part in a welcome ceremony and dinner. 

Day two is an active day as you take a guided cycle tour around Hagi Castle. Afterward, you will have time to participate in seasonal activities with the locals. You will enjoy a homecooked dinner with your host family.

Day 8-9: Tottori

After breakfast with your host family, take a scenic trip by train on your way to Mihomisumi. There, enjoy learning the art of Washi paper making before hopping on another train to Tottori. 

In the morning, explore the unusual Tottori Sand Dunes along the Sea of Japan’s coastline. After that, make your way to the local fish market for some fantastic seafood lunch options. End the day with a trip to Kyoto to check in to your accommodations. 

Days 10-11: Kyoto

Take a morning trip to the well-known Fushimi Inari-Taisha, one of Kyoto’s many beautiful local shrines. This is where you will find the mystical  trail of torii gates along its trails. After this, you will have free time to explore what Kyoto has to offer. Recommended sites include a walk through the geisha district of Gion, exploration of Kinkaku-ji Golden Pavilion, and a visit to Kiyomizu Temple. 

The next day marks the end of the tour. Public transit is available to the airport, or you can speak to your guide to help find accommodations if you wish to extend your stay. 

Sample of an 11-Day Intrepid Tour

Days 1-2: Taipei City

Take the first day to relax and unwind after your travels before joining your group for dinner. After a good night’s sleep, enjoy learning about Taiwan’s love of sweet potatoes at Sweet Potato Mama for some spud-filled activities. Check out Shilin Night Market to enjoy Taipei’s variable food culture.

Days 2-3: Hualien

Enjoy nature at Danong Dafu Forest Park before spending the evening enjoying even more street food at the local night markets (you may have noticed a trend). Visit Qingshui cliff before venturing off to the famous Taroko Gorge.

Day 5: Yilan

Visit one of Yilan’s well-known onion farms to learn about the agriculture behind them before learning to make a Taiwanese favorite: scallion pancakes!

Day 6: Turtle Island and Jiufen

Set out on a 3-hour cruise around Turtle Island before travelling off to Jiufen, famed by Hayao Miyazaki as the inspiration for Spirited Away. You will be able to explore Old Street on your own. My suggestion: Eat everything ,try lots of samples, and make time for tea at the famous Teahouse.

Days 7-8: Sun Moon Lake

You’ll get to hike from the base of the mountainous area through the trails that snake up the mountain. You can then climb the Pagoda which marks the end of your trek for some incredible views. The next day you will get to explore the Chung Tai Chan Monastery for a unique, cross-cultural experience.

Day 9: Taichung

Visit Taiwan’s “Breadbasket”, where you can go oyster picking, bird watching, and exploring the water-life of the area. Try some incredible seafood and maybe even go out after returning to you accommodations near — Oh look, it’s near another night market!

Days 10-11: Taipei

Visit the Rainbow Village before heading back to the city you started in. You’ll get to see the massive collection of traditional art and artifacts contained within the National Palace Museum before taking the evening for yourself. After breakfast in the morning,  Your tour will end.