National Geographic-endorsed hiking trails next to Michelin Star restaurants:This city is truly unique
When people think of Hong Kong the first thing that comes in mind is glossy skyscrapers, breathtaking high-rises and the asian organised chaos that makes the city truly unique and irresistible. But more and more people have come to see that Hong Kong is more than an urban jungle. With almost half of the city designated as protected green areas, it is home to a literal jungle too, that encompasses untouched countryside and a biodiverse ecosystem.
Hong Kong’s fascinating vertical cityscape cannot be easily replicated, as it was built and harmonically integrated into its natural mountainous and rugged scenery. Construction was restricted around the harbour instead of spreading uphill, and therefore altering the natural landscape of Hong Kong Island was kept well under control. Nature is extremely important to the Hong Kong people, and thus the city boasts a number of lush country parks, well-kept hiking trails, a world-class ecotourism conservation park, clean white sand beaches and the most scenic views a nature lover could hope for.
Trekking and hiking in Hong Kong have quickly developed into a fad, but don’t let that put you off. With MacLehose Trail declared as East Asia’s only National Geographic Dream Trail, the interest in Hong Kong outdoors is certainly on the rise. The ten-section 100km MacLehose Trail itself is not for the faint-hearted, but the magnificent views of the ocean coastline, valleys, mountains, emerald green hills and secluded villages are worth the pain. Among its highlights are Tai Mo Shan, Hong Kong’s highest peak, as well as the famous camping spot Tai Long Wan Beach, which is an hour long hike on the section 2 of the trail. Gear for surfing, kayaking and paddle boarding are also available for hire on this gorgeous white sand beach.
The Lion Rock Country Park, is one of the eight Country Parks that the MacLehose trail links, and offers one of the most famous and intense hikes to Lion Rock, where on a clear day hikers can enjoy panoramic views of Kowloon and Hong Kong Island. The 495 meter rock itself, which is naturally shaped like a crouching lion, has been a popular culture symbol that has emotional value for the people of Hong Kong as the emblem of the “Lion Rock Spirit”. For many, the spirit stands for the working-class values of hard work and persistence, as these values were shaped in the 1970s and 1980s, and which became the foundations upon the city’s prosperity and cosmopolitan character was built.
The Dragon’s Back Trail: Every self-respecting hiker in Hong Kong has walked the Dragon’s Back Trail, the most classic and popular urban trail on Hong Kong Island. Dragon’s Back is something like an introduction to hiking in Hong Kong, but do not underestimate its beauty as it goes through truly dramatic vistas. Its name derives from the ups and downs of the mountain ridge that allegedly resembles the spine of a dragon. From its famous Shek O Peak it offers grand panoramic coastal views of the South China Sea and the surrounding breathtaking green hills. It is located in Shek O Country Park and winds down to the gorgeous golden sand Big Wave Bay Beach and Shek O Beach, which are hotspots for local surfers. Views of the exclusive members-only Shek O Golf and Country Club can also be enjoyed on this relatively easy, family-friendly trail.
Hong Kong’s biggest country park, the Lantau South Country Park is located on the lush Lantau Island, which is also home to important cultural attractions such as the giant Tian Tan Buddha, the Buddhist Po Lin Monastery and the traditional Tai O stilt-house fishing village. The 70 km long well-preserved Lantau Trail walks you through some of the island’s most magnificent unspoilt nature, including gorgeous beaches, and scenic mountain peaks. If you are aiming high, Lantau Peak is the highest peak on the island and the second highest in Hong Kong. The views from the summit are magnificent and on a clear day you may also see Macau. A tough but truly rewarding hike is the one to the romantic Sunset Peak, which is known for jaw-dropping sunset views from its summit. The trail’s rich vegetation and jungle make it for some the most exciting hike on the island. Other important highlights of the Lantau Trail include the Wisdom Path, the medieval style Catholic Trappist Haven Monastery between Mui Wo and Discovery Bay, and dramatic coastlines such as Cheung Sha Beach, which is also popular with windsurfers.
The Wan Chai Green Trail: If you are only looking for a short intensive hike away from all the hustle and bustle of the city, the Wan Chai Green Trail on Hong Kong Island offers the perfect escape. Easily accessed on foot and a short walk away from the heart of the busy city centre, it is a great example of the city’s unique quirkiness and multifaceted character. This is a steep fitness hike that walks you through some important historical landmarks in one of Hong Kong’s oldest neighbourhoods that used to be home to wealthy European merchants. It is home to the city’s most spectacular secret green areas where one can admire century old banyan trees with roots spreading through the cracks of stone. Begin your hike from Wan Chai Gap Road and move uphill to Middle Gap Road that leads to Mount Cameron, where the tranquil native evergreen trees typically attract local residents, local dog walkers and joggers, and where you will truly see Hong Kong like a local.