Kinmen (金門; Jīnmén) oozes old-world (Chinese) charm and if you want to explore traditional villages, ancient pagodas, arches, stelae and temples, there is no better place in Taiwan. On the other hand, the pollution-free islands also boast open fields, sandy beaches, thick forests, landscaped parks and artificial lakes that attract hundreds of species of migratory birds. For cyclists and twitchers alike, it's a small paradise.
And then there is a third side to the islands. Along with Matsu, Kinmen is a small chunk of Fujian province (yes, officially Kinmen is part of Fujian) occupied by Republic of China (ROC) forces and administered from Taiwan. Lying only 2km off the coast of mainland China, the island is an odd remnant from the bitter civil war between communist and Nationalist forces. This struggle is not only a major part of Kinmen's history but of great appeal to travellers.
As a result of its strategic position, Kinmen is a fairly well-developed place. Soldiers have been put to good use planting trees, maintaining roads and restoring the island's old villages, many built during the Ming and Qing dynasties. Roads are wide and well cared for (so they can double as runways, just in case), parks are everywhere, and in general the environment is relaxed. But don't lose sight of the fact that Kinmen remains a military outpost. Restricted areas still exist and more than one beachfront property bears serious land-mine warnings.