Depart your downtown Xiamen hotel by private vehicle, and then make the 5-minute ferry crossing to Gulangyu. This traffic-free island sits in the River Egrets off Xiamen, and boasts gardens, beaches, and a colonial-era old town, all packed into 0.7 square miles (2 square kilometers).
One of five ‘treaty’ ports established by the 1842 Treaty of Nanking, Gulangyu was settled by foreign traders during the later 19th century, and is home to many European-style buildings. Its beauty and the fact that many expats brought pianos here have given it the nicknames of ‘Garden on the Sea’ and ‘Piano Island.’
Once ashore, absorb the island’s relaxed atmosphere and discover some of its prettiest spots. Stroll around the seaside Shuzhuang Garden, see the historical instruments at the Piano Museum, and admire the Haitian Tanggou, a complex of classical Chinese-style and Western-inspired villas.
After a lunch break (own expense), return to Xiamen and visit the 19th-century Hulishan Fortress built in Ming and Qing dynasty style. View the clifftop battlements and cannons, including the German-made Krupp Cannon, the largest coastal cannon of its kind in the world.
Finally, scout out souvenirs (own expense) at a market before a hotel drop-off ends your tour.