Beyond Hong Kong's Skyscrapers - Discover Lantau Island

19 November 2017

It’s easy to forget that Hong Kong can be as peaceful as it can be overwhelming. Its iconic city portrait paints a picture of steel and glass skyscrapers so high they skim the clouds – people paling in proportion as they flit from one place to another down below. And it’s true.

But Hong Kong is also the opposite. It’s leafy and green. It’s peaceful and clean. And if you know where to go, there’s an entirely different side of Hong Kong culture to unearth.

As Greer and Alan recently discovered on the 48 Hour Destination, a journey to Hong Kong’s outlying islands proves as much a quintessential must-do on any traveller’s Hong Kong holiday hit-list as navigating the hustle and bustle, heritage and gourmet delights lurking downtown.

As well as hiking the beautiful, remote trails of Lamma Island, Greer and Alan ventured to Lantau Island – Hong Kong’s largest outlying island. You could spend days on end exploring – and still, this is just one of the 260-odd islands making up Hong Kong.

Here’s a guide to the best Lantau Island discoveries to be made in 48 hours.

The Big Budda And Po Lin

Pilgrims from all over Asia flock to glimpse this giant 34-metre-high Buddha.

It’s an undeniable Hong Kong highlight: 250 metric tonnes of statuesque bronze sitting cross-legged in the lush green heights of Lantau Island. For both what it represents and its eye-catching, naturally beautiful location, Tian Tan Buddha – or the Big Buddha – proves wonderfully peaceful.

Big Buddha Hong Kong It's hard to miss the Big Buddha - it's grandiose and alluring.

Admire from afar and up close – after climbing the 268 stairs to the top where you’ll meet “the offerings of the Six Devas” statues; each of the six statues hold up their offerings – flowers (charity), incense (morality), fruit (meditation), music (wisdom), a lamp (patience) and ointments (zeal) – all required to reach enlightenment.

Next door, the Po Lin Monastery offers further insight – the perfect spot to sit down to a vegetarian lunch – and continue on to the culturally-themed Ngong Ping Village for a wander through the shops and restaurants amid misty panoramic mountaintop vistas.

Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car

Getting to Ngong Ping Village and the Big Buddha is half the fun!  At 5.7 kilometres long, the Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car is the longest bi-cable ropeway in Asia – a 25-minute joy ride filled with views all-round as you soar high above the lush mountain scenery below.

Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car The Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car is the best way to get to Ngong Ping.

Why drive when you can practically fly?

Follow Greer’s lead and upgrade to the glass-bottomed Crystal Cabin for unbelievable 360-degree panoramas – for some, it may even prove a tad scary!

Tai O Fishing Village

If it’s a taste of everyday Hong Kong life in the outlying islands that you crave, don’t miss lovely little Tai O. Home to the Tanka people, who make their living from the sea, Tai O is authentic, uncrowded and offers a welcome change of pace.

Tai O in Hong Kong Glimpse Hong Kong far from the skyscrapers at Tai O fishing village.

A charming fishing village set on stilts above the tidal flats of Lantau’s west coast, it’s the perfect spot to enjoy a stroll through this small community on stilts, past local houses and shops, over quaint bridges and no doubt, past many crowded tables filled with locals playing Mahjong while colourfully-painted boats bob on the waters running just below.  

For many, Tai O presents a side of Hong Kong they’d have never been able to imagine.

Lantau Peak

Looking to pack your sneakers? Like outdoors adventures? Lantau Peak is calling.

Not only is it Hong Kong’s second highest summit, at 934 metres, and Lantau Island’s highest point, but it also just so happens to be the best sunrise vantage point in the city. With 360-degree views, prepare to be wowed.

Lantau Peak Hong Kong A beautiful sunrise atop Lantau Peak.

But still, the scenery and journey in itself is worth the sweat at any time of day.  

The most popular route entails a tour-hour trek from Ngong Ping, which winds and weaves its way past the well-known Wisdom Path near the foot of Lantau – where you’ll see a gorgeous collection of 38 timber columns with the Heart Sutra inscriptions – and up to the challenging summit. You can also start at Mui Wo for a longer, more challenging route.

Wisdom Path Stop to along the Wisdom Path not far from the start of the trek.

Either way, the trail to Lantau Peak is remote and beautiful, and gorgeous travel snaps come guaranteed.

Hong Kong Disneyland 

If you’re travelling with kids in tow, there’s no denying they probably won’t let you leave Lantau Island without a trip to Hong Kong Disneyland. While it is the smallest of the Walt Disney parks and resorts, you’ll still be met with a world of magic and happiness perfect for toddlers and children under 10.  

The highlights? Tarzan’s Treehouse, the Cinderella Carousel, Fantasy Gardens, Sleeping Beauty Castle and the Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars – to name just a few of the many rides and attractions.

Plus – there’s the parade, the fireworks and meeting Mickey and all his friends. Hong Kong Disneyland is the perfect family outing for small children.

Tijana Jaksic

Tijana loves new adventures as much as she enjoys reliving old ones. Favourite stops on the map so far include Greece (beyond the islands!), Mexico City (hello ancient ruins and wonderful art), Poland (for the history and off-the-beaten-track finds), Berlin (so artsy and chilled) and Bosnia (ahhh the natural beauty). Choosing is always hard though - that's why her list is so long and she spends her 'real life' time writing about travel until she's out there on the road again.