What if we told you that, in the heart of one of the world’s most densely populated cities, the great outdoors is just a short walk, taxi or ferry ride away? When you holiday in Hong Kong, that is exactly how it is – just a stone’s throw beyond the gleaming skyscrapers and bright lights, there’s a whole other, much greener world waiting. It’s one of the city’s hidden treasures and something that many visitors didn’t even realise was there.
Considered an ultimate urban destination, behind the concrete and steel, Hong Kong has adventures for all. Consisting of a peninsula and 263 islands (which you can explore with one of our excellent Hong Kong itineraries), 70% of the city is green space and boasts a remarkable diversity of landscapes, from wetlands and woodlands to grassland and mountains. Now that you know it’s there, the question is how to explore it. Well, there are plenty of wonderful ways to do that – parks and nature reserves can be hiked and cycled, coastlines can be kayaked and jet skied and marine parks snorkelled or scuba dived.
It turns out the place we all considered to be an urban wonderland is also a glorious natural playground – and it’s crying out to be explored.
Across the unspoiled nature of its many islands, parks and nature reserves, Hong Kong boasts some truly excellent hiking trails, with something suitable for all walking abilities, whether you want a little escape from the bustle of urbanity or something that will really challenge the legs!
One of the best-known of these trails is Dragon’s Back. Considered intermediate in terms of difficulty, it traverses an undulating ridge (from which it takes its name) between Shek O and Big Wave Bay on Hong Kong Island, with magnificent panoramas throughout, perfect for pausing to catch your breath.
For something more challenging, hop on a ferry or train to Hong Kong’s largest island, Lantau, best known for its Big Buddha. Criss-crossed with many trails, the steep but rewarding Sunset Peak is one not to miss. Part of the 70km long Lantau Trail that loops the whole island, this section takes you up the city’s third-highest mountain for spectacular views of the ocean and surrounding islands. Other gorgeous options include Tai Mo Shan Country Park, where you’ll find Hong Kong’s highest peak and sweeping views over the New Territories, and Plover Cove Country Park, a wonderfully untouched stretch of nature where you can walk to the famous Bride’s Pool.
If walking isn’t really your thing, then consider cycling or trail running as alternative ways to experience some of Hong Kong’s glorious nature.
From urban beaches to hidden island coves, the waters around Hong Kong are swimmable all year round, perfect for a cooling dip after spending a day exploring. But sunbathing and ocean swims are by no means the only ways to discover the city’s astounding array of seascapes.
Whether you like things serene or packed full of adrenaline, there are plenty of water sports available. What better way to escape a busy sandy beach than to discover the coastline on a paddleboard or kayak? There is also the option to head into Hong Kong’s underwater world in one of the four protected marine parks on a snorkelling or scuba diving trip or to add a touch of thrill to your explorations on a jet ski or super-fast rib boat – really the opportunities are endless.
Hong Kong’s most spectacular seascape has to be the Hong Kong UNESCO Global Geopark. Stretching 150 km² across the eastern and north-eastern New Territories, here you’ll find volcanic rock formations and unique geological features that are not only magnificent to look at but tell the whole geological heritage of the region, which you can discover as you explore beaches, islands and sea caves.
The city of Hong Kong that we know today was founded in 1841, but settlements have thrived among the islands here for centuries. Taking the time to explore the great outdoors that still surrounds the city opens the door to experiencing what life was like here before Hong Kong’s existence.
For those who look for them, traditional villages and old temples offer a great opportunity to find a taste of authentic culture. A great and easily accessible example of this is Tai O fishing village, best known for its houses built on stilts, on Lantau Island where you can visit an old market and see traditional products being made, like shrimp paste and dried fish.
Alternatively, on the outer limits of the city, you can still find traditional walled villages built during the Ming Dynasty, home to historical communities that have withstood the urbanisation of the surrounding area. Kat Hing Wai and Tsang Tai Uk are just two examples of villages, easily reached by the MTR (Hong Kong’s efficient train network).
Perhaps the most surprising of all the revelations surrounding Hong Kong’s great outdoors, is how biodiverse it is. With countryside, mountains and grassland, all of which remain relatively untouched and 40 % of which are protected as country parks and reserves, flora and fauna are still able to flourish here.
For anyone who loves to birdwatch, Mai Po Nature Reserve and the Hong Kong Wetland Park are the places to head with your binoculars for a huge variety of migratory waterbirds, and in the wetlands, the chance to spot the black-faced spoonbill.
Kam Shan Country Park is famous for its huge population of macaques, easily spottable among the trees and around the park’s four reservoirs, while Tai Lam Country Park on Lantau is a hotspot for beautiful butterflies.
While our three-day Hong Kong extension itinerary and four-day Hong Kong extension itinerary focus on the city sights, there is free time on each on which you could take the time to enjoy some of the city’s spectacular nature. Alternatively, add on an extra day to go hiking or to explore those seascapes, or even talk to us about building your own adventure that includes all the great outdoors that you could ever want.
Hong Kong in Focus
Fully Inclusive of Tour & Flights
Victoria Peak - Stanley Market - Lantau Island