Lantau Island: A Green Escape From Hong Kong

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I first noticed it while walking along the Wisdom Path.

I stopped in my tracks. Just listened.

Despite the fact that Hong Kong was just kilometers away, all I could hear around me was bird song and a light breeze sifting through the trees along the path to Lantau Peak. It was green as far as the eye could see with mostly-haze-free blue skies above, and if I hadn't come from the city just an hour earlier, I would have never believed that it was anywhere nearby.

Lantau Island tree

Wisdom Path on Lantau Island

Welcome to Lantau Island

Hong Kong can be quite an overwhelming place, especially if you're not a fan of huge cities. It's crowded and noisy and smoggy and big. And very, very tall. There ARE some green spaces to be found, just like in any large city, but if you really want to get a taste of “nature” in Hong Kong, you have to put in a little bit of effort.

I had never heard of Lantau Island before arriving in Hong Kong. But then suddenly everyone was telling me to go there to see the Big Buddha — one of the largest sitting buddha statues in the world.

Lantau Island

Why not?

I teamed up with a friend of a friend for the day and hopped on the MTR all the way to the end of the Tung Chung line. From there, we headed to the Ngong Ping 360 gondola station, where we bought tickets for fancy glass-bottomed cable cars that would take us over to Lantau Island.

Ngong Ping 360, Hong Kong

Taking the gondola is not ideal for those afraid of heights, but it's the best way to get to Lantau. The 5.7-kilometer journey takes about 25 minutes, but was over in what felt like seconds.

Ngong Ping 360, Hong Kong

Ngong Ping 360, Hong Kong

Once on the island, you first walk through a little re-created village filled with souvenir shops and restaurants. Once you get through that, though, the island opens up before you. I visited in the morning (before noon) and found the island to be almost empty in comparison to the city I'd just left behind.

Lantau Island

There were three highlights for me on Lantau Island:

The Tian Tan Buddha, reigning over the island atop a hill along with six Devas presenting him with offerings. There are quite a few steps to climb up to see him, but it was worth it.

Tian Tan Buddha, Lantau Island

Tian Tan Buddha, Lantau Island

Devas, Lantau Island

Po Lin Monastery, which was unfortunately undergoing renovations when we were there, but was nonetheless quite peaceful and pretty.

Po Lin Monastery, Lantau Island

Po Lin Monastery, Lantau Island

Po Lin Monastery, Lantau Island

And the Wisdom Path, roughly halfway between the Big Buddha and Po Lin, which is a collection of 38 tall wooden pillars inscribed with verses from the Heart Sutra.

Wisdom Path, Lantau Island, HK

Wisdom Path, Lantau Island

Wisdom Path, Lantau Island

No matter where we were on the island, there was a lovely sense of calm that you won't find in Hong Kong. Yes, Lantau Island is a tourist destination, but there are spots on it (especially if you visit in the morning during the winter months) that are virtually empty.

Lantau Island

Visiting Lantau Island was hands-down my favorite part of my trip to Hong Kong.

 

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GETTING THERE: Hop on the MTR to the end of the Tung Chung (orange) line. From there, I recommend taking the Ngong Ping 360 cable car. A round-trip in a standard cabin costs $150 HKD (about $19 USD), while a round-trip in a “Crystal Cabin” (AKA the glass-bottomed cars) costs $235 HKD (about $30 USD). Once you are on Lantau Island, the major attractions are free to visit, so this is actually a pretty economical day trip.

WHAT TO SEE: Climb up to see the Big Buddha (free, unless you want to go in the museum at the top or have lunch there); walk the Wisdom Path; visit Po Lin Monastery; take a bus to Tai O, a traditional fishing village built on stilts; or even climb Lantau Peak, the highest mountain in Hong Kong.

WHEN TO GO: The earlier in the day, the better. The crowds will arrive on the island around lunchtime, so to beat them there, go in the morning. If you want to expedite your wait time in line at the cable car stop, look into pre-booking your tickets online.

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Would this be on YOUR Hong Kong itinerary?

 

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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44 Comments on “Lantau Island: A Green Escape From Hong Kong

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  1. I loved Lantau Island – you’re right, it’s just so peaceful compared to the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong! You were lucky with the weather too by the looks of it 🙂 When I was there unfortunately the cable car was undergoing renovations so we had to take a cab… after forty minutes I had never been so glad to see the steps up to the Giant Buddha, I was convinced we were going to the middle of nowhere!

      Aww bummer! The cable car was one of the best parts!

    How beautiful! I loved Hong Kong so much and I was bummed that I was not able to visit Lantau Island. Your photos are so beautiful! Thank you for sharing.
    http://liveitinerantly.com/

    Hong Kong is one of the few places in Asia that I actually want to visit, so I am bookmarking this. Looks like a lovely day trip!

    It looks great and would definitely make a perfect day trip! Can’t wait to go there one day soon.

    The Wisdom Path looks fantastic! I’ve always wanted to see the Big Buddha but truly had no idea where it was located. Was it pretty hot or humid? I imagine it would be worthy to plan according to the weather as well.

      The weather was perfect. It’s “winter” in Asia right now, but it wasn’t cold at all (by my standards) in HK. The day we went to Lantau was sunny but cooler – perfect for exploring!

    Lantau is definitely on my list. Love the photos, Amanda!

    I’ve only been to Hong Kong as part of a business trip, so I haven’t really had the chance to travel around to tourist destinations. But Lantau Island is probably the one place I’d definitely spare my time for if I visit there next time, other than visiting Macau.

      Lantau will probably be my top suggestion for anyone traveling to HK from now on!

    I would definitely love to visit here while in Hong Kong. Your photos and description reminds me a lot of Chapultepec Park in Mexico City. Here you have the most populated city in the world but then there is this gorgeous and massive park-so much greenery, so much quiet peacefulness!

      It’s so nice to have places like this in big cities!

    Great article! I visited the Big Buddha at the end of December with my 4 yr old and we both loved it. I arranged cable car tickets in advance via http://www.np360.com.hk/en/ which got us into a shorter ticket line on a busy day. No matter how many times I visit Hong Kong, I am always surprised by the nature that can be found just outside the city.

      Arranging tickets ahead of time is smart! We waited in line quite a while, even though we went early in the morning.

    I had never heard of Lantau island before, but it will certainly be in my top list of attractions to visit if I ever find myself in Hong Kong. I love Buddha statues, big and small!

    Great post. Any photos of that glass-bottom cabin? I’m sure it was exciting (or scary, depending on who’s riding) 😉

      I do have a few photos, but they aren’t great so I didn’t include them in the post. It was really cool to look down over the water and terrain we were passing over though!

    Lantau Island looks so peaceful and relaxing, will definitely check it out if I’m ever in Hong Kong. Sounds like you had a great day out 🙂

      I did! I went here on my first full day in Asia – what a way to start the trip!

    I loved Lantau Island! Though somehow I missed those amazing pillars between the Buddha and Po Lin. Probably because I was in a rush to get to Tai O fishing Village on the other side of the island. I highly recommend visiting that village on your next trip – it was my favorite part of the island!

      Ah, yeah, the Wisdom Path is at the end of a trail that starts about halfway between the Big Buddha and Po Lin. You have to walk along it for maybe 10 minutes or so before you get to the pillars!

      We wanted to go to Tai O, but by the time we did everything else, it was mid-afternoon and the tourist crowds were starting to arrive. We also wanted to be back in the city at a certain time to meet people for dinner, so we decided to skip it. It looks really cool in photos I’ve seen, though!

    That looks so beautiful! I’d love to go to Hong Kong!

    My favourite is the Buddha with the sun shining above! 🙂

    Really excited about going there! I was looking for things to do in HK in my upcoming trip… You’ve convinced me to check out Lantau!

    Great shots! You really were lucky with the weather — now it’s absolutely awful, cold and grey! Looking good!

    […] I love reading about when other people visit Hong Kong. Everyone has such a different opinion on this city, but most everyone agrees it’s good to get away from the city sometimes. Amanda of A Dangerous Business writes about a place I’ve always found really special, Lantau Island: A Green Escape From Hong Kong […]

    This is one interesting green side of Hong Kong that I’d like to experience 🙂

      I highly recommend it! It was so different from the city.

    I love your pictures of Hong Kong. The one with the tree on the house is funny 🙂

    Very nostalgic for me about Lantau. I was here for few months in 1996 and never have the chance to come back, maybe some day. Thank you for the updates about Lantau…that island is totally different in 1996, only a small portion of it developed to house the condominiums…now its kinda being a tourist venue. I still remember that one will had to take the ferry to get to Lantau,that was the only way back in 1996..now there are various ways to get there. I miss the rush going in and out of that ferry hahaha. Though I am happy that the Island is developed, I still wish that some parts will remain as before…reminded me of my effort and strength to scale the hills just to look at the view from above..that time the chep lap kok can be seen as soil and rocks being flattened by heavy machines…I miss that day of me on top of the peak, alone, sitting quietly for few hours. 🙂

      Oh wow, yes, I’m sure it looks a lot different now than it did in ’96!

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