How to Spend 3 Days in Xiamen
From its beaches and gardens to its historic architecture and distinct local culture, the Chinese island of Xiamen is a gem with a lot to offer visitors. With three days to spend, you’ll get a feel for life on the island through its historic sights and cuisine and still have time left over to unwind. Here are some tips for how to spend your time.
Day 1: Get Oriented
Xiamen is a relatively large island with areas where very little English is spoken. With an English-speaking guide to lead the way, start off with a short boat trip to Gulangyu Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and former concession known for its European architecture, hip cafés, sandy beaches, and the impressive Chinese gardens of Shuzhuang. After lunch, continue your explorations on Xiamen Island itself, visiting such highlights as the always busy Zhongshan Walking Street, Tang dynasty Nanputuo Temple, and the 19th-century Hulishan Fortress. If time permits, walk along the Island Ring Road for views of the beach and the islands of Taiwan in the distance. In the evening, enjoy an entertaining crash course in local Minnan culture during a performance of the Minnan Magic stage show.
Day 2: Relax and Unwind
Start things off this morning with a visit to the serene Xiamen Botanical Garden, a massive outdoor space that’s often overlooked by tourists to the city. A network of footpaths connects several temples and themed gardens, including a bamboo forest, bonsai collection, orchid house, and a large lake. After lunch, head north of the city for an afternoon of rest and relaxation at the Riyuegu Hot Spring, a series of baths and pools in a tropical garden setting. Cut out the stress completely by booking your spa entrance and round-trip hotel transfer ahead of time. After the sun goes down, board a boat for a leisurely cruise to see Xiamen and Gulangyu illuminated at night. You’ll pass three famous bridges—Yanwu, Haicang, and Xinglin—along the way.
Day 3: Rural Explorations
Head into the countryside to the Fujian tulou, clusters of traditional roundhouses where local Hakka communities have lived for centuries and today a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Another option is the city of Quanzhou, an important stop on the Silk Road that still maintains its ancient stone streets and atmospheric temples. Those interested in Chinese tea culture might opt for a day trip to the verdant Anxi region, known for its rolling hills blanketed in Oolong tea trees. No matter what you decide to do during the day, plan to dedicate your evening to some local cuisine. Head to Zhongshan Walking Street and wander the network of surrounding alleys and backstreets packed with restaurants serving local favorites, such as oyster omelets, glass noodles, peanut soup, and dumplings.