LOCATION: HONG KONG, HONG KONG
Did I just use ‘Hiking’ and ‘Hong Kong’ in the same post title? Yep, you bet I did! It’s almost like this secret outdoors club, complete with crazy handshakes and passwords that no one outside of Hong Kong seems to know about; but let the truth be told, there are some amazing hiking trails to be done in Hong Kong. Whilst spending five weeks in the Territory last December and January, Siu On and I managed to do a tiny amount of the hikes on offer, focusing on islands a short ferry or train ride away. Of all the trails we hiked our favorite four were the Dragon’s Back, Tai O Hike on Lantau Island, the Lamma Island Hike, and the Cheung Chau Loop. Even though nature and the outdoors aren’t things that usually spring to mind when you think of Hong Kong, you should definitely allow some time in your Hong Kong trip to get out of the concrete jungle and into the quieter parts of this territory.
The Shek O Hike
The Dragon’s Back
Hong Kong’s most popular hike is the ominously named Dragon’s Back, and is located at Shek O. Its popularity stems from the ease of the hike, both in terms of the terrain (pretty flat) and the location since you can easily get the MTR subway and a bus here (see directions), and the expansive views on both sides of the trail. The hike itself follows a ridge line between the Shek O Peak and Wan Cham Shan, and most of the trail is exposed so remember to bring a hat, sunscreen and enough water along with you; however, it would be preferable to do this hike on a cloudy and low humidity day if you can as it is a long one (estimated six hours).
Besides passing through some beautiful scrub, the Dragon’s Back Hike ends at a really nice beach at Big Wave Bay, so it’s perfect for a dip in the ocean after your half day hiking (although if you are very fit and not constantly stopping for photographs, you could easily finish this hike in under six hours). There are also a lot of food options around Big Wave Bay with a great Chinese and Thai restaurant which always seemed to be packed, the aptly named ‘Shek O Chinese & Thai Restaurant’. And if you’re not already surprised by the fact that Hong Kong has hundreds of trails and hikes, then he’s another little known fact to blow your mind once you get to the end of the hike at Big Wave Bay – it’s a popular local surf spot. Mind BLOWN.
The Lantau Island Fishing Village Hike
Tung Chung to Tai O
The Tung Chung to Tai O hike is found on Lantau Island where you can take an MTR to the starting point in Tung Chung (see directions), so it’s really easy to get to and means no excuses for not doing this hike! The trail will take you along an old path which historically linked a number of small Lantau Island villages together, many of which are still only accessible using this path, but also led to the demise of many of these villages that have since been left abandoned as people moved closer to the main towns. As you pass through remnants of a time gone by, you’ll also pass the airport (and see many plans taking off and landing) and the new Hong Kong to Macau Bridge being built, and see a lot of elderly men plane spotting or just sitting around talking.
The Lantau Island Fishing Village Hike was my favorite of all the hikes we did because it felt like I’d been taken on a journey through Hong Kong’s history in a day; I passed by high rise housing and huge infrastructure project developments being built and small old villages left to decay as nature reclaimed the wooden housing, ancestral burial jars hidden in the quite bushes, and the last of Hong Kong’s traditional stilt fishing villages. Although this hike can be done in six hours, I recommend that you set aside an entire day to truly do it justice, and spend time not only in the village you pass through, but also to watch the sun set over the ocean (as it’s also the furtherest point west where you can watch an ocean sunset in Hong Kong). In the Tai O village there are a lot of food options and sights including the old Tai O Police Station (now a Heritage listed Boutique Hotel and restaurant), and the Tai O Market Street where you can eat all kinds of local and Chinese food. From here you can take a bus directly back to the MTR station where you arrived and head back into the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong.
The Lamma Island Hike
Sok Kwu Wan to Yung Shue Wan
The Sok Kwu Wan to Yung Shue Wan hiking trail is found on Lamma Island, and came highly recommended by Siu On’s family who felt that this place would show us the start contrasts that are ever present in Hong Kong due to the dual Chinese and European influences. At one end of the hike you have the traditional fishing village of Sok Kwu Wan, which looks similar to the Tai O fishing village (although not built entirely on stilts) and eat at the many Chinese seafood restaurants that line the main road; and at the other end of the hike at Yung Shue Wan, you’ll find yourself somewhere more reminiscent of a Mediterranean fishing village, with it’s new fiberglass boats and western style restaurants and hip cafes, catering to the local expat community.
To get to Lamma Island you need to catch a ferry, however, the slow ferry is a little cheaper and does allow you the chance to soak in the harbor views as you depart and arrive at Central Pier (see directions). Lamma Island is also small in comparison to the other Hong Kong Islands, so it doesn’t matter which end you start (Siu On and I hiked back to our starting point since we had the whole day to spend here), and the hike should take you less than four hours including time spent in both villages. Along the hike you’ll pass some nice beaches, the power station and wind farm, the famous Kamikaze Cave (where Japanese Soldiers would hideout during World War 2), a few traditional temples and the very picturesque pavilion that overlooks both Lantau and Cheung Chau Islands in the distance.
Like the Dragon’s Back Hike, this is another hike that is very exposed so make sure you have a hat, sunscreen and water (although you can easily purchase bottled water along the way on this hike); also, if you’re into your tofu be sure to stop for some ‘Shanshui Tofu Fa’ when you see the long lines of people – apparently it’s the best in Hong Kong!
Cheung Chau Island Loop
This hike is super easy and short as it loops around the tiny Cheung Chau Island, and clocks in at under two hours (including stopping for food) along flat pavement. This is the trail to do if you’re short on time but want to head out to see one of Hong Kong’s many islands, as it’s also a very short ferry ride away from Central Pier (see directions). The Pak Tai Temple is a really cool temple complex that was built in the late 1700s, and has many little side streets around the area for you to explore and are lined with cafes, Dim Sum restaurants and even Western Style Expat Bars. As for beaches on Cheung Chau, Tung Wan and Kwun Yam Beaches are both nice strips of sand adjacent to each other and makes for a great cooling off stop halfway through the Island Loop.
There are heaps of trails besides the ones I’ve highlighted above in Hong Kong to choose from, and EveryTrail is a real gem in helping you navigate some of the more off the beaten track trails. One of the best things about Hong Kong’s trails is that they tend to be very easy to access using public transport, so anyone can get themselves to a trail head without having to butcher the Cantonese language in the process! You’ll also find that trails in Hong Kong are really clean and cleared of any loose rock and debris; although this did take some of the adventure out of the hike but that’s ok, it did save my ankles from being rolled! One thing to be aware of is the humidity, especially during the summer and monsoon months; December and January despite being the colder and wetter months, did make for perfect hiking weather for us as the cloudy days kept us cool and we didn’t mind the odd downpour here and there. Otherwise the basics of hiking still apply here, so remember to wear good shoes and suitable clothing (and no sneaker wedges and hot pants are not good hiking attire as I saw on many of the tourists attempting these hikes), bring lots of water with you and have fun away from the maddening crowds.
Heading to Hong Kong and looking for other things to do and see apart from shopping and skyscrapers? Read my post on Unique Hong Kong Experiences for some inspiration.
Featured Image and first photograph by Auyeung Photography, all others by Jelena Stipanicev.