Should You Visit Penghu or Kinmen?

Should You Visit Penghu or Kinmen?

First of all, I want to congratulate you. Yes, you! Very few foreign tourists make it off Taiwan’s mainland; the fact that you are even considering a trip to Penghu and/or Kinmen speaks to what an intrepid traveler you are. Go you!

As I explained in my post dedicated to Kinmen, I didn’t begin exploring Taiwan’s outlying islands completely on my own volition. Taiwan’s covid restrictions stranded me in the country; I dug deep here because I literally couldn’t move freely about Asia, as I’d previously done.

The good news is that this has given me deep insight into destinations that are truly off the beaten path. I challenge you to find a Penghu vs Kinmen comparison like this, in English, anywhere else on the internet!

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Why I (Finally) Visited Taiwan’s Outlying Islands

For me in mid-2020, it wasn’t so much a question of Penghu or Kinmen as it was “where can I go without leaving Taiwan that will feel like leaving Taiwan?” I ended up choosing Kinmen first—and I can’t remember why, if I’m being perfectly honestly—but upon gazing down at Penghu on the flight back to Songshan Airport, I quickly decided it would be next.

I don’t know if I ever would’ve made it to Kinmen or Penghu had pandemic-era restrictions not “trapped” me in Taiwan. Well, maybe “ever” is dramatic—I’ll be headed to Lanyu and Lyudao later this year, after all, and covid-19 is far in the rearview mirror by now. But there’s certainly a possibility that I would’ve remained incurious about destinations off Taiwan’s mainland for many more years.


Ways to Compare Penghu with Kinmen

Getting there

Not surprisingly, you will need to fly to both Penghu and Kinmen. Well, not need to—you can travel by ferry, if you have time. But nonstop flights from Taipei’s Songshan airport are the most convenient way to reach both of these islands groups. They are identical in this regard.

Getting around

Likewise, the best way to see both Penghu and Kinmen is to rent a car once you get there. This is slightly more important in Penghu, since there is more to see on each of its islands (Kinmen is really just the main island); I also had a minor car accident in Penghu, however, so I’m sore about that.

Things to do

While Penghu has better beaches (though in truth, neither of these destinations is going to win any prizes in that category), I find Kinmen a lot more interesting. More for its Southern Min-style architecture than for its military-themed attractions, but for culture nonetheless.

Natural beauty

Indeed, if I’m perfectly frank, then there isn’t much competition for Kinmen vs Penghu in this arena either. Both islands are “nice,” but with the exception of an isthmus whose chain of rocks has been arranged in the shape of a heart (on Penghu), there isn’t a whole lot of outstanding natural beauty on either island.

Food and drink

As I’m writing this post, I feel like I am not giving either island much credit, like I am complaining and criticizing, but not really praising. I wish I could say this was different in the food and drink department. Unfortunately, however, unless you really like seafood, neither of these islands delivers.


How Long Do You Need in Kinmen? What About Penghu?

As is the case with Taiwan as a whole, both Kinmen and Penghu are larger than they look. Penghu especially—it’s an archipelago, after all; unlike in the case of Kinmen, there are worthwhile things to do on multiple islands. At the same time, the reality is that most travelers spend only a week or two (at most) in Taiwan. It isn’t realistic to expect them to spend longer than a day or two on any given island.

This is part of why it’s usually a matter of choosing Kinmen or Penghu, and not (really) a possibility of visiting both. If you want to do that, you either need to be planning a long trip to Taiwan, or living there as I did. And even then, there’s the reality that you might want to prioritize other destinations in Taiwan;

Other FAQ About Visiting Kinmen and Penghu

Is Kinmen part of China or Taiwan?

The Kinmen Islands are politically part of Taiwan, and I’d say that most citizens there are patriotically Taiwanese. Ironically, however, I’d also say they are much less fearful of China and of a Chinese invasion than those in Taipei, in spite of the islands’ turbulent history.

Who owns Penghu island?

Penghu Island belongs to the Republic of China, aka Taiwan. However, it wouldn’t be inaccurate to speculate that it might be among the first territories targeted by China (the PRC), in the event that it attempts to invade Taiwan at some point in the future.

What is Kinmen famous for?

Among tourists (to the extent that tourists go there, this is), the Kinmen Islands are famous for being the closest Taiwanese territory to China, and for being home to some of the oldest authentic Chinese (in this case, Southern Min) architecture in the country. Historically, the islands have seen some of the fiercest battles (so far) between China and Taiwan play out.

The Bottom Line

That you are even having the Penghu vs Kinmen debate reflects well on you. You truly understand what it means to go “off the beaten path”—in Taiwan, this requires more than riding the high-speed train from Taipei to Kaohsiung for the day. Now, when it comes to these islands, they’re very different. In general, I’d say that Kinmen is more culturally interesting, while Penghu has more to offer nature lovers, though as you’ll see if you read my entire post it’s not quite this simple. Want to outsource all the complication to someone else? Consider hiring me to plan your Taiwan trip!


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