The Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong is known for its dynamic, densely populated urban areas. Modern architectural masterpieces of glass and steel loom over ancient stone temples and 19th-century colonial architectureas old-fashioned trams rumble along busy streets packed with locals and tourists.
But Hong Kong is rich with stunning countryside, as well, dotted with peaceful nature reserves and national parks, unspoiled islands, and green mountain ranges traversed by hiking paths. Some paths are easy to navigate, while others are more challenging, and these fascinating trails lead through towns, villages, woodland, and shorelines. Hikers get an up-close view of Hong Kong’s diverse and sometimes startling flora and fauna, as wild pigs, porcupines, land and water snakes, buffalos, and even the rare pangolin can be found across the territory.
Winter and early spring are the best times for hiking, when the temperature and humidity are lower, and the landscape is less overgrown. Here are our top five routes for a taste of Hong Kong’s superb hiking scene.
Enjoy Hong Kong Island from its most classic viewpoint: The Peak
Ride the historic peak tram from its lower terminus on Garden Road, Central, to its final stop. At the Peak Tower, follow signs for the counter-clockwise circular walk along Lugard Road. This is a short, flat, and easy walk, with sections shaded by gorgeous trees and foliage. Look out for giant colorful butterflies as you enjoy fabulous views over Victoria Harbor and across the water to Kowloon, with its skyscrapers, busy ports, and green mountains. Turn onto Harlech Road and return to the starting point, where you can explore several dining and shopping options before returning to Central on the tram.
Follow the coastline of Hong Kong’s largest island and stop for drinks in a former police station
This coastal hike on Hong Kong’s biggest island, Lantau, takes you from the modern metropolis of Tung Chung to the remote and traditional fishing village of Tai O, with its beautiful stilt houses rising from the sea. It starts at Tung Chung’s historic fort and follows the coastline northwest along an ancient trail. On the way, there are views of Hong Kong airport and glimpses of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau land bridge before the path weaves through mangroves and tiny seaside villages. You might cross paths with a lumbering buffalo, or one of the island’s many wild cows, before descending into Tai O. Take time to explore the narrow streets filled with drying fish and tubs of its famous fish sauce. Pop into the Tai O Heritage Hotel, once the Marine Police Headquarters, for a drink.
Admire the wildlife around a beautiful reservoir
Explore a historic reservoir that dates back to 1937 and is home to many wild monkeys. On the Kowloon side, the Shing Mun Reservoir has a well-marked circular walk, best started and finished at its main dam. Look out for Hong Kong’s highest peak, Tai Mo Shan, as you cross the dam, then take a path that winds around the reservoir’s perimeter, past picnic areas and stunning viewpoints, through paper bark forests and over clear streams. Feel like you’re being watched? You are—by the many macaques that live in the surrounding forests.
Find spiritual nourishment at Hong Kong’s second-highest peak
The tallest mountain on Lantau Island and the second highest in the territory, Lantau Peak offers magnificent views across uninhabited countryside. It’s located close to the famous Po Lin Monastery complex with its astonishing giant statue of Buddha.
Start at Pak Kung Au and follow the signs for stage 3 of the Lantau trail; this section forms part of a 70-kilometer circular island route. Climb a large stone pathway to the summit, where on clear days, panoramic views await. This is a popular route to take at dawn, with intrepid walkers tackling the climb in the dark to enjoy the stunning pink skies and sunrise from the peak.
Descend the marked path, then take a right fork toward Po Lin Monastery. Climb the steps to the big Buddha before exploring the monastery complex with its numerous exhibitions, gift shops, and snack bars.
Go from summit to sea and dine in a gorgeous beachfront restaurant
Back on Hong Kong Island, this stunning hike follows a beautiful ridge dubbed Dragon’s Back because of its undulating shape. It’s a physically demanding hike, with some steep climbs and minimal shade, but the views are extraordinary. The rewards of both Big Wave Bay—a beautiful beach popular with surfers—and the nearby village of Shek O with its excellent local restaurants make this one of the finest trails in the territory.
The walk begins at a set of stairs on Shek O Road that lead to a high ridge over Shek O Peak, a perfect place to admire the view over the southern coast, with its craggy cliffs and islets. Keep an eye out for paragliders, leaping from the hillside before drifting over the beaches under their colorful canopies.
Follow a path down to the service road, which will take you to a small park at Pottinger Gap. Here, a flight of stairs descends through woodland and passes between village houses to reach Big Wave Bay. Stay and explore, or take a short walk to the larger Shek O village, then stop for refreshments at Cococabana, a beautiful beachside restaurant.
Looking for more great hikes? Check out these epic fall hiking routes across the U.S.