Experience a living history of China’s Han people and their fortresses, and the fascinating settlements made by European colonies on the quaint island of Gulangyu.


8 Days 7 Nights     From US$2390 per Person

This concise and educational ’Fortresses, Modern History & The Hakka’ tour takes you to discover some of the rich history of China. Along the way of this cultural adventure, you’ll learn the fascinating tale of the migration of the Han people to Yongding, and subsequent construction of their incredible walled Hakka fortresses, also known as tulou.

The fortresses are vast, unique, self-contained villages built with high walls and strong defenses, often integrating on-site wells, food storage areas, temples and schools within the construction. Many are now listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and this unique tour actually grants you the opportunity to not only visit several tolou, but also to spend the night in one of these incredible fortresses.

The three-day, two-night tour also takes you to visit Gulangyu, a quaint, peaceful island off the coast of Xiamen in the Fujian Province in Eastern China, which was home to European and Japanese merchants, and subsequently contains some fascinating and unique Art Deco and baroque-style architecture.

Experiencing the pedestrianized island of Gulangyu and the tulou of Yongding will enrich your knowledge of this fascinating region of China while offering you respite from the action-packed, bustling areas of this exciting, busy nation.

Each of our itineraries can be tailored to your requirements, allowing us to create the perfect holiday just for you. Contact us with your holiday ideas, no matter how big or small, and our destination based teams will start planning a unique and personalized trip.

The Backyard Travel Team,


Experience the real life of the Han people by spending the night in a tulou, a self-contained compound similar to a fortress
Learn the fascinating history of the Han people and the former colonies that called Gulangyu Island home
Discover the art of penjing at the Shuzhuang Garden
Take time to meander the pedestrianized alleyways of Gulangyu and take a closer look at the fascinating blend of colonial architecture, or spend time on one of the island’s quaint beaches

Daily Itinerary

Daily Itinerary

  • Start
  • Day 1: Xiamen - Gulangyu

    Ni Hao and welcome to the colonial history of China! Your journey will begin in China’s ‘Garden Island’, Xiamen, also known as Amoy, which is the capital of Fujian Province.

    On arrival you will be met by your local expert guide who will take you to the pier to cross a narrow stretch of water to Gulangyu Island, a small but charming island which hosts some decadent colonial architecture. Gulangyu literally translates as ‘drum islet’, a name that was coined by the first pioneers to inhabit the island who were unsettled by, what they thought, were eerie drum beats in the distance. It turned out that the ghostly drumming was caused by the tide as it surged through a hollow rock on the southwest corner of the island.

    Xiamen was once a major trade port for the south of the country and because of this, the island of Gulangyu also attracted a swathe of sea-faring foreigners, such as the Portuguese, British, French and Dutch, who all saw the commercial potential of the isle. Despite their attempts to colonize the quiet islet, it wasn’t until after the Opium Wars in the 19th century that Xiamen was developed further to cater for international trade, and Gulangyu became the base for European and Japanese merchants. This combination has given the island a delightful architectural fusion still evident today.

    Indeed, touches of distant lands can be felt all around the 1.78-square-meter island. A charming maze of narrow roads, shaded alleys dotted with banyan trees, and around 1,000 baroque villas and cluster of traditional Chinese houses create a unique blend of cultural treats to explore and discover.

    As well as its picturesque charms, the quaint island offers an atmosphere that will make you think you’ve journeyed a world away from the hectic Chinese mainland and is also a popular escape for local tourists. There are plenty of ‘lesser-known’ hideaways though, which our native guides with their insider knowledge will help you discover.

    After settling into your hotel, you’ll take a walk on the island to see some of the many former foreign consulates, churches and Art Deco style buildings. You’ll also have the chance to admire the view from Sunlight Rock, commonly known as ‘Dragon Head Hill’, which dominates the entire island, and rests high above the peaceful isle providing a wonderful venue for photographers to snap away.

    An islet of many monikers, in China Gulangyu is also known as ‘Piano Island’ due to the interest of the locals in this instrument, which was taught in the schools established by the Europeans. The island is the birthplace of many talented musicians, such as the highly acclaimed conductor Chen Zuohuang and Yin Chengzong, who the New York Times dubbed ‘one of China’s most accomplished pianists’.

    Your day will continue with a visit to the delightful Shuzhuang Garden. Once the private residence of a wealthy Taiwanese businessman, in these meticulously manicured gardens you can find several iconic Chinese style pavilions, and see the art of pengjing which literally means ‘countryside in a flowerpot’ (better known as bonsai), in all its glory.

    You are then free to spend your evening as you please, even relaxing on the beach, or perhaps take a moonlit stroll about the quiet island and enjoy the serenity of this island sanctuary.

    Optional: In the evening we suggest sampling the local seafood specialty and taste the famous ‘Xiamen Pie’ - your in-the-know guide can advise you of a perfect place to enjoy this regional specialty. Electric buggies are also available for hire to navigate the island; please consult us for more details.

  • Day 2: Gulangyu - Xiamen - Yongding

    The next morning you will return to Xiamen by boat and then be chauffeured four hours to Yongding, a region scattered with spectacular Hakka fortresses, known locally as tulou.

    Hakka literally means ‘guest families’ and refers to a branch of Han people who originate from the central plains of China, whose numbers today stand at more than 80 million people. The emigration of the Hakka people from the center of China to the southern provinces started in earnest due to the pressure exerted from the north by the Manchu during the Ming Dynasty. Fleeing the center of China, the integration of the Hakka into the lands where they took refuge proved difficult and quickly descended into battles with local communities, who viewed the appearance of these ‘guests’ with great suspicion.

    The architectural style of the tulou is the materialization of these historical conflicts. Made principally of clay and round or square in shape, the tulou are vast, impressive fortresses that sometimes housed many hundreds of people. Isolated, virtually self-contained microcosms of the outside world, tulou often feature a temple for ancestor worship and a school in the center. Its wells, kitchens, and supply areas make the Hakka fortresses almost autonomous entities and remain some of the most interesting architectural and sociological sites of China.

    The tulou, some of which are listed as UNESCO’s World Heritage sites, can be found all over the Fujian and Guangdong provinces, but it’s close to the town of Yongding that most can be found. The structure of the fortresses and the building materials used allow a pleasant room temperature to be maintained whatever the season. There are still thousands of fortresses in existence and a large number of them are still inhabited.

    You will start your discovery of the fascinating structures with a trip to the Hongkeng fortresses, where you will discover the following tolou: Zhencheng Lou, the construction of which dates back to the start of the 20th century, and Kuiju Lou, which is a square style tulou, letting you appreciate the two principal architectural forms of these rare constructions. You will also have the chance to see Rusheng Lou, a smaller tolou which provides a fascinating opportunity to closely observe the Hakka community.

    Your visit will end with what is considered as the ‘King of Tulou’, Chengqi Lou in Gaobei Village. This tulou is notable for its size, with 400 rooms and a history dating back to the start of the 18th century.

    This unique visit will include a traditional family dinner and night in a tulou to further understand and appreciate this unique lifestyle. Accommodation and facilities in the tulou are basic but clean - please consult us if you would like to discuss upgrading to a hotel option outside the tolou*.*Please note: you overnight location will be determined by your accommodation preference, and is also dependent upon which tulou is available.

  • Day 3: Xiamen

    Depending where you choose to spend the second night of your tour, after breakfast you will undertake the four-hour return journey to Xiamen and visit the Tianluokeng Tulou Cluster, nicknamed ‘si cai yi tang’ (which translates as ‘four dishes with a soup’). The cluster comprises five fortresses, three of which are round and one oval which surround a central square tulou. The cluster is famous for the incredible views it provides of the hills close to Ruiyun Lou and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.After visiting the Tianluokeng Tulou Cluster you’ll then be transferred to the airport in Xiamen in time for your flight to your next destination.

All of our Tours can be Tailored, Just Ask!

Tour Details

All of our itineraries can be tailored to your requirements, allowing us to create the perfect holiday just for you. Contact us with your holiday ideas, no matter how big or small, and we’ll start planning your unique personalized trip!

Tour prices are a guideline only, and are based on two persons travelling together, sharing a double or twin room in luxury accommodation. Each tour price and can be adjusted depending on budget, activities included and standard of accommodation desired.

Tour and airfare prices include all applicable taxes and are subject to change without prior notice until services are booked.

You, your holiday and booking direct: Backyard Travel are on the ground year-round in Asia, which means you are booking direct with a local travel company, allowing you to save on the cost of your holiday. Our tailor-made tours are designed by local Travel Specialists who investigate every aspect of the trip themselves, giving you a unique view of each destination.

 Included in this Backyard Travel tour:

Accommodation with daily breakfast at selected hotels
Private tours, transfers and all services as mentioned in the itinerary
Services of a private driver and air-conditioned vehicles
Service of English speaking guides in every location
Entrance fees for all mentioned sights visited
Meals as mentioned in the itinerary

 Not included in this Backyard Travel tour:

Domestic and international flights
Departure taxes if applicable
Meals other than those mentioned in the itinerary
Early check-in and late check-out at hotels
Personal expenses (such as laundry, telephone, drinks, etc.)
Tips for guides and drivers
Personal travel insurance
Visa fees (contact us for further information)

Why Backyard Travel?

Our experienced travel specialists possess years of local insider knowledge, because they live here.
We have offices in all of our destinations in asia, fully staffed and open all year-round.
With backyard travel you are booking direct, allowing you to save and benefit local residents.

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With in-country travel specialists based all over the continent, our advantage lies in having local expertise to create unique bespoke tours. Whether you're looking to cruise down Asia's tranquil rivers, bike the peaceful rural roads, or eat at bustling night markets, Backyard Travel can plan your ideal trip based on your personal preferences. Send us a message about your ideas, and we'll get back to you promptly with suggestions for the path you choose.

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