Hong Kong

Hiking Up the Lantau Peak in Hong Kong

“Hong Kong and hiking? You must be kidding”. These is the usual response I get when I tell friends about the time I took a hike to the Lantau peak in Hong Kong. People are still unaware of the fact that Hong Kong has some wonderful natural landscapes. The vision of a swanky city with tall skyscrapers, near-perfect infrastructure, vibrant nightlife and all the characteristics of a major financial hub somehow still overshadows many of the natural attractions this city-state is gifted with.

Lantau island is mostly renowned among tourists for Disneyland and the Big Buddha however, this island has a fascinating mountainous terrain. The highest peak on this island – The Lantau peak – stands at 3000 ft and is also the second highest peak in Hong Kong. Keeping up with my admiration for the mountains in Hong Kong which I had written about earlier, I decided to take the hike up the Lantau peak. That I almost didn’t come back on my legs after the hike, is an entirely different matter. The path up the mountain and the subsequent descend, gives you some awe-inspiring views to remember. Be it the dry winter grassy banks or the majestic range of mountains, you could never get tired of those.

The Start

Lantau Start

Lantau Start2

From Pak Kung Au the start of this trail is well demarcated along with the total distance of the hike and approximate time required to complete it. Though it says 2 hours and 15 minutes, it definitely takes 3 to 4 hours for the entire hike because there will be numerous stops either to catch your breath, rest your legs or enjoy the views. The first few minutes involve climbing a few steps and walking through the forest which forms the base of the hill.

The ascent


The comfortable trail soon paved way to the path ascending up the mountain meandering through dry grassy banks. As I went up the hill, the winter air got even more cooler. This being the winter season and also a very cloudy day, I was spared from the dreaded hot sunny weather. Also, I got the first glimpse of what seemed to me like the peak of the hill covered in the moving clouds. As I continued the ascent, I could feel the normal symptoms of high altitude like a heavy head and shortness of breath. The peak which I saw a few moments back was soon conquered only to uncover a further trail up the mountain.

The mistake


Considering how easy the earlier Dragon’s Back trail was for me, I probably didn’t expect this one to be a bigger challenge. Maybe that’s why I was careless enough not to carry any water or food along with me. When I was up there sitting on the slope of the mountain out of fatigue, thirst and hunger, I realized that I had made the mistake of underestimating the might of nature. My arms and legs were cramping up as I tried to made my way up one big stone slab at a time. Yes, I did get ample opportunities to get some rest but the dark hovering clouds that threatened to pour down any time got me worried as I did not wish to get stuck on this mountain in heavy rain. Somehow gathering my strength, I went on helped by the awesome windy weather.

The summit



On a clear day, I can imagine the views would be scenic as one would get a 360 degree unobstructed look at almost all of Hong Kong. But the day was cloudy and the winter winds had gathered enough strength for me to get a shiver or two. However, surrounded by grey clouds and heavy mist created an entirely enthralling atmosphere. By now, I had forgotten about my screaming legs and arms as if to reserve my pain for later so that I could take in every moment of this experience. In just a few seconds, a bunch of passing clouds and strong winds engulfed the entire area and all I could see was white. Surreal!! Check out the below video.



The descent


This was THE most difficult part of the hike as some portions of the path become steeper than what was encountered till now. People like me who have a serious fear of heights would take some time to get down the big stone slabs. As for me, the cramps made a grand comeback with more vigor, intensity and an added feature of incisive knee pains. Every step I took down felt like me getting closer to getting my legs numb.


A couple of rest stops later, I moved on in with the pain as it was getting dark and the prospects increased of me getting stuck in darkness. Further down the way,a small stream showed up from somewhere and I gulped down the water like one would in a desert. After hundreds of more agonizing steps down the hill coming out of the woods, I finally reached the end point at the Tian Tan Buddha in Ngong Ping village where I just scrambled to the nearest shop and gulped down a bottle of water.

Big Buddha

“Do you regret it?”, a close friend of mine asked me when I narrated the experience to her. My reply,“Going on this hike? No way. Did you not see the pictures?”. Looking back at that day, the only regret I have is not carrying food and water. I remember every step I took and every stop I made on that hike. I remember me lying down on top of a big rock that was perched on the edge of a cliff while those strong cold winter winds flowed around. The pain I endured that day because of my foolishness will not take away from the most scenically surreal experience I have ever had.


Lantau Info

Hong Kong

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Hiking Up the Lantau Peak in Hong Kong
Hong Kong

Taking the off beaten path in Hong Kong

Tall skyscrapers, swanky structures, bustling city crowd and a seductive nightlife – these were the first and only bells to ring in my head everytime I heard or visualized Hong Kong. Why not? Afterall Hong Kong, like Singapore, is one of the significant financial hubs in Southeast Asia and along with that reputation, comes all the above aspects that are supposed to be. However, my urge to explore the relatively uncharted aspects of any place during my trips led me to experience a completely different and beautiful face of Hong Kong. A mountain hike, losing my way in the hilly terrain, a delightful beach and an hour of surfing – I got all I could ask for, although it was pleasantly unexpected.


How did I get the urge for a mountain hike?

I was on an AirAsia flight to Bali in June and I came across an article in the in-flight magazine. This guy had apparently traveled to one of the most remote parts of Hong Kong where he had to trek his way through jungles and hills before finally setting up camp at an isolated beach under the open sky. That is when I decided to add this to my bucket list for Hong Kong. Alas, it was my bad that I did not remember the name of that place by the time I started planning the next trip. But I was convinced enough to be adamant in finding that place if not a similar trek/hike.


What was it?

The Dragon’s back trail located across a ridge in South Eastern part of Hong Kong is a path connecting two mountain peaks that seemingly look like a Dragon’s back, hence the name. It was once voted as the best urban hiking trail by TIME Asia. Starting from Shek-O country park, the trail meanders along the slopes of Shek O peak with few occasional but short steep climbs and thick vegetation. As one ascends towards the peak, plenty of viewpoints (designated or otherwise) are to be found that displays the far-reaching views across South China sea and the scattered islands of the rest of Hong Kong.


While the two peaks are not that high – Wan Cham Shan at 226 m and Shek O Peak at 284 m – and the ascent time would be around an hour and half, like any trek/hike it does get tiring due to the heat and humidity. Yet, all that would be forgotten once you reach to the top and get a 360 degree view across the mountain range, the ocean and the beaches of Shek O and Tei Wan.

Shek o


The trail continues as you descend (again a couple of occasional steep ones) and approach towards Tai Long Wan village that also is the gateway to the lovingly named “Big Wave Bay”. I personally was quite impressed with this sleepy and pleasant little town Tai Long Wan. There is a relaxed laid back rustic vibe and with the mostly blue-white colored houses gives a charming look to the place. And of course the beautiful beach nestled within the hills is a perfect place to unwind (even better with a Corona) after hours of exhausting walk through the rough terrain. The waters are safe enough to have a swim and also the waves at the eastern side of the beach are big enough to interest scores of surfers. This beach seemed to be the perfect go to place over the weekend for most expats living in Hong Kong. Groups of friends , families, couples or solo travelers – everybody were to be seen out there having fun.



Some useful Information

There aren’t many location indicators on this trail, hence it would be quite easy to lose way and go the wrong path, which obviously doesn’t worry me. As a traveler who is always looking to explore the unknown, I would be doing it wrong if I didn’t lose my way. Yes, I did take a wrong turn after which I lost sight of my companions whom I had just met on the way to this hike. Probably that made the duration of this trail longer than it actually could be for me. Following the exact path would  take around 3-4 hours for the entire trail – it took 6 hours for me due to my unintended detour. Also, once on the trail, there are no places or shops for refreshments, so it is sensible to stock up on a few bottles of water/juices/energy drinks.

Climb1   Climb2

The paths are often rough and rocky with very few bits of well-made steps thrown in. That was the last I saw of those people too.

How to get there and back?

A short train ride to Shau Kei Wan MTR station followed by a 40 minute bus ride to Tei Wan leads to the start of this trail at Shek O country park. While returning back, the bus from Shek O to Shau Kei Wan is the most convenient way unless you prefer to hail a cab (which would need longer wait time).


There is a really fantastic website that provides each and every detail of not only this trail but anything about Hong Kong. You can get the most useful information about Hong Kong here. Here is a map of this particular hiking trail taken from



There are places to be seen everywhere that are not the most popular but are equally beautiful and provide a fulfilling experience. Against many suggestions from people for my Hong Kong trip, I skipped Disneyland and instead went for a nature trail which was one of the most wonderful experiences I have had. Yes, I did soak in the city life which I will write about in my next post, but being on those hills and finding my way through the jungles, that is what is going to stay with me longer from this trip.

creating a

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Taking the off beaten path in Hong Kong