Xiamen’s Best Day Trips or “Discover the Best Day Trips from Xiamen in 2023: Explore Gulangyu Island, Nan Putuo Temple, Huian Tulou Cluster, and Quanzhou”
- Gulangyu Island (鼓浪屿)
- Huian Tulou Cluster (惠安土楼)
- Quanzhou (泉州)
- Spend a day in Xiamen (厦门市)
- Nan Putuo Temple (南普陀寺)
- Local delicacy
- When to go
- How to get to Xiamen
Xiamen(厦门市), located on the southeast coast of China, is a popular tourist destination known for its stunning beaches, vibrant city centre, and rich cultural heritage. If you’re planning a trip to Xiamen, here are Xiamen’s Best Day Trips that you can take from this beautiful city. Whether you’re interested in exploring ancient temples, admiring traditional Chinese architecture, or soaking up the sun on pristine beaches, you’re sure to find something that suits your interests in Xiamen and its surrounding area.
Gulangyu Island (鼓浪屿)
Gulangyu Island is a charming car-free island located just a short ferry ride from Xiamen. This picturesque island is known for its gorgeous colonial architecture, pristine beaches, and laid-back atmosphere. Visitors can stroll through the narrow streets, admire the beautiful colonial buildings, and relax on the beach. Some of the most popular attractions on the island include the Shuzhuang Garden, the Sunlight Rock, and the Organ Museum.
History of Gulangyu Island
Gulangyu Island, also known as Amoy Island and located off the coast of China’s Fujian Province, has a long and rich history dating back to the Tang dynasty when it was an important centre for maritime trade. In the centuries that followed, the island was controlled by various regional powers, including the Ming and Qing dynasties. During the 19th century, the island became a centre of international trade and an important spot for colonial powers due to its strategic location in the Taiwan Strait.
The Treaty of Nanjing signed in 1842 marked the end of the First Opium War between China and Great Britain and forced China to cede Hong Kong to the British and open up several treaty ports to foreign trade, including Xiamen, which included Gulangyu Island. This led to a period of rapid development and modernization on the island with Western-style buildings and infrastructure constructed, reflecting the island’s newfound prosperity.
The early 20th century saw Gulangyu Island thrive as a centre for international trade and cultural exchange, home to a diverse community of Chinese, Western, and Japanese residents.
After the war, the island underwent a period of reconstruction and revitalization, with efforts made to preserve its cultural heritage. Today, Gulangyu Island is a popular tourist destination known for its stunning colonial architecture, pristine beaches, and laid-back atmosphere, reflecting its unique blend of Chinese and Western culture.
The name “Gulangyu” means “Drum Wave Islet” in Chinese, referring to the sound of waves hitting the shore. During the colonial period when Xiamen was under foreign control, the island was officially called “Amoy Island.”
Today, Amoy Island, or Xiamen Island, remains an important centre for tourism and trade in southern China, with Xiamen city being a hub for commerce and industry. Despite its rapid development, the island has managed to preserve much of its history and cultural heritage, including the colonial period, with many of its historic buildings and landmarks preserved. Efforts are ongoing to protect the island’s natural environment, with the city of Xiamen winning numerous awards for its environmental and sustainable development efforts. Overall, Amoy Island remains an important and vibrant centre of culture, commerce, and tourism in China.
Getting to the Gulangyu Island
The ferry ride from Xiamen Cruise Center Xiamen Drum Pier (Ferry Station) (厦门邮轮中心厦鼓码头(轮渡站)) to Gulangyu Island takes approximately 30 minutes and operates daily. However, it is a good idea to book your ferry tickets in advance, as approximately 10 million people visit Gulangyu Island each year.
During my visit to Xiamen in early 2023, which was within the first big wave of the Covid pandemic, I had the island and all the other tourist attractions more or less to myself, which made for a unique and memorable experience.
Huian Tulou Cluster (惠安土楼)
The Huian Tulou Cluster (惠安土楼) in the Huian County of Fujian Province is a unique architectural wonder that dates back to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). The Tulou buildings, made of earth, wood, and stone, were built as a defensive measure against bandit attacks in the region. Today, they are recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and are a must-visit for anyone interested in traditional Chinese architecture and rural life. The cluster consists of over 20 circular and rectangular buildings, ranging from three to five stories high, that were designed to house multiple families and communities. The buildings feature fortified walls, internal courtyards, and basic amenities such as kitchens, toilets, and wells. The Zhencheng Tulou, the Chengqi Tulou, and the Yanxiang Lou are among the most famous Tulou buildings in the cluster.
Getting to the Huian Tulou Cluster
To get to the Huian Tulou Cluster, travellers can take a train to Nanjing Railway Station (南靖站) and then either take a bus or hire a taxi or tourist taxi to the site.
Nanjing Railway Station is located in the town of Nanjing, in the Fujian Province about 20 kilometres north of Huian. From Xiamen, several daily high-speed trains to Nanjing take about 1-2 hours. Once at Nanjing Railway Station, visitors can take a bus from the station to the Huian Tulou Cluster. The journey takes about 30-40 minutes by car or taxi. The advantage of taking a taxi or tourist taxi is that it allows for more flexibility and convenience in terms of travel time and schedule. However, it may be more expensive than taking a bus. Visitors should plan accordingly and choose the option that best fits their needs and budget. Once in Huian, visitors can easily tour the Tulou Cluster on foot or by bicycle.
Quanzhou is a historic port city located a short train ride from Xiamen. This ancient city is known for its well-preserved ancient architecture, temples, and cultural heritage, and is a must-visit for anyone interested in Chinese history and culture. Visitors can explore the city’s many historical sites and museums, such as the Kaiyuan Temple (開元寺) and Quanzhou Maritime Museum, sample the local cuisine, and visit the charming local markets.
History of Quanzhou
Quanzhou (泉州) is a city located in Fujian Province, China, with a rich history dating back over a thousand years. In the Tang dynasty (618-907 AD), Quanzhou was an important centre for maritime trade, and it continued to play a major role in international commerce throughout the Song and Yuan dynasties. During this time, many temples and religious institutions were built in the city, including Kaiyuan Temple (开元寺) and Qingjing Mosque (清净寺).
Quanzhou reached its peak during the Ming and Qing dynasties, when it became one of the largest ports in China, attracting traders and merchants from around the world. The city was known for its diverse cultural heritage and was home to many historic buildings and landmarks, including the Maritime Trade Museum (海上丝绸之路博物馆) and the Ancestral Hall of the Chen Family (陈氏宗祠).
Today, Quanzhou remains an important cultural and commercial centre in China, with a thriving tourism industry that attracts visitors from all over the world. Many of the city’s historic buildings and landmarks have been preserved, including Kaiyuan Temple and the nearby West Pagoda (西塔), which is one of the oldest surviving structures in Quanzhou. Other notable sites include the Qingjing Mosque, the Luoyang Bridge (洛阳桥), and the Tumen Street (土门街) historic district.
Getting to Quanzhou
To get to Quanzhou, take a train from Xiamen’s railway station. The journey takes about 1-2 hours by train.
Spend a day in Xiamen (厦门市)
In addition to enjoying Xiamen’s Best Day Trips, it’s well worth spending some time exploring Xiamen itself. Xiamen is known for its stunning beaches and lush gardens, making it a great place to relax and soak up the sun. Some of the best beaches in Xiamen include the Xiamen Haicang Bay Beach and the Xiamen Yunxiao Road Beach. You can also spend some time shopping in the bustling Xiamen commercial district, which is known for its street food and local souvenirs. Visit the beautiful Middle Street, Zhongshan Road Pedestrian Street (中山路步行街) to travel back to a small impression of Europe.
Nan Putuo Temple (南普陀寺)
Nan Putuo Temple is a famous Buddhist temple located on a hill overlooking Xiamen. This historic temple is a popular spot for locals and tourists alike and is a must-visit for anyone interested in Chinese culture and religion. Visitors can admire the stunning architecture, learn about the temple’s history, and enjoy the breathtaking views of the city and the surrounding countryside. To get to Nan Putuo Temple, take a taxi or a bus from Xiamen‘s city centre. The temple is located about 20 minutes from the city centre by car.
During your trip to Xiamen or Quanzhou, you have the opportunity to try the local delicacy known as Sand Worm or Tusun Jelly (土笋冻). This snack has been enjoyed by generations of locals and is considered a must-try when visiting the cities.
To make the jelly, sand worms are boiled in water, and the resulting gel that forms around them is chilled to create a translucent jelly with the worms inside. The flavour of the jelly is mild, savoury, and slightly firm, while the worms themselves have a soft, chewy texture and no taste.
While the dish may not sound particularly appetizing, it is a popular street food and can be found all over Xiamen or Quanzhou. You can sample the jelly at local markets or a street shop. It will offer you an interesting and unique experience, which you will not find outside of this region.
When to Go
Thanks to the subtropical monsoon climate, Xiamen enjoys a mild and pleasant climate all year round. With annual average temperatures of 21 degrees Celsius, any time of year is a good time to visit this charming coastal city, except during the months of July to September when typhoons can affect the weather. Rainfall is frequent during the months of May to August, so visitors should travel with proper equipment during this time.
One of the advantages of visiting Xiamen in winter is the mild climate, with temperatures ranging from 16 to 20 degrees Celsius. Even in the coldest month of January, visitors only need a sweater or light jacket to be comfortable. Summers in Xiamen are also pleasant without having to worry about extreme heat, but light clothing is still recommended in the hottest month of July. Overall, the climate in Xiamen is pleasant and makes the city an ideal destination for those who want to spend a pleasant vacation.
How to get to Xiamen
Xiamen is a popular travel destination in southern China and can be easily reached by air, train, or bus.
Xiamen Gaoqi International Airport (厦门高崎国际机场) is the city’s main airport and is served by both domestic and international flights. It is located on the northeastern side of Xiamen Island and is approximately 12 kilometres from downtown Xiamen.
Another option is to take the high-speed train to Xiamen. The Xiamen North Railway Station (厦门北站) is the city’s main high-speed railway station, which serves several major cities in China. However, it is located approximately 18 kilometres from the city centre, so travellers will need to take a taxi or public transportation to reach their final destination.
For day trips, travellers can also consider taking the train to the Xiamen Railway Station (厦门站), which is located in the city centre and serves several nearby cities. Buses and taxis are also available to take travellers to various destinations in and around Xiamen.
Overall, Xiamen is well-connected to other major cities in China, and travellers have several transportation options to choose from.
Xiamen is a beautiful city with a rich cultural heritage and plenty of amazing day trips to take. Whether you’re interested in exploring ancient temples, admiring traditional Chinese architecture, or soaking up the sun on pristine beaches, you’re sure to find something that suits your interests in Xiamen and its surrounding area. With its stunning scenery, delicious food, and friendly locals, Xiamen is the perfect destination for a relaxing and memorable vacation.
Have you visited Xiamen and did you try Xiamen’s Best Day Trips? Share your thoughts or questions with me on Instagram. Or let me know, how you liked it in Xiamen.