The stunning southeast coastal province

A land of misty mountains and sophisticated coastal cities, this southeast Fujian province is one of the most affluent regions in China. Thanks in part to its position as a significant stop on the maritime Silk Road, visitors will find fascinating traces of Western influences in the city architecture and a cosmopolitan outlook in the people.

Yet there are still plenty of elements of traditional Chinese culture to experience, from a thriving tea industry to the folkloric Min Opera and delicious Minnan food, famous for its sour and spicy flavors.

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From mountains to the major cities

Kick off a trip to northwest Fujian with the wonderful Wuyi Mountains, all dense rainforest, thick bamboo groves and wild lotus ponds. This bio-diversity, plus the steep ravines which are overlooked by gravity-defying rock formations have earned the mountains Unesco World Heritage Site status. Wuyi is also synonymous with its tea. Join the aficionados who flock here to sample the finest black and oolong brews China has to offer in the teahouses that crowd Wuyi town. Once fully caffeinated, a hike through the majestic Wuyi National Park is a must.

To the northeast is the capital of the province, Fuzhou. Highlights include taking the cable car to the top of Drum Mountain to enjoy panoramic views; strolling through the classical gardens of West Lake Park; and heading downtown to the Three Lanes and Seven Alleys district. It is a quintessential Fuzhou neighborhood with well-preserved Ming and Qing dynasty architecture: think beautiful waterside pavilions and charming buildings with elaborately wood carved detailing.

South of Fuzhou is Quanzhou, an ancient city with an abundance of modern-day attractions. The Kaiyuan temple (the biggest Buddhist temple in Fujian) has twin stone Song dynasty pagodas featuring Tamil sculpture while out of the city, China’s largest stone carving of the great Taoist sage Laozi stands on Mount Qingyuan. It is also worth popping into the brilliant Maritime Museum, which tells the story of the city’s trading history through a host of treasures.

Heading southeast, the economic boomtown of Xiamen (known in the West as Amoy) is the province’s most international city with sandy beaches, hip cafes and a serious shopping scene (for the latter, head to the department stores on Zhongshan Road). If popular Baicheng beach becomes too crowded, hop on the ferry to Gulanyu Island, known for its sandy stretches, 19th-century European style mansions and the Piano Museum with more than 100 gleaming pianos (this was one of the first places in China where Western classical music was heard and played). Back in the city, eat dinner at Jiali Seafood Restaurant on South Hubin Road – the fresh crab and king prawns are a good bet.

Finally in Fujian’s deepest south, the city of Yongding is home to the Hakka Chinese (Hakka means Guest People, a migrant group from the north). Scattered in the surrounding countryside are the Tulou earth towers, constructed as donut shaped buildings to protect the Hakka population against bandits and wild animals, and typically housing an entire clan. Today Unesco lists these iconic buildings as a world heritage site and many have been renovated for visitors.

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