Lantau Island is surprising because of its size and large country parks. With low mountains that you can hike to the top of, good beaches, and long hiking paths, it is an enjoyable outdoors area. Country parkland covers most of the island. The hiking paths on Lantau are among Hong Kong's best.
Claim to fame: one of Hong Kong's most beautiful and interesting natural areas. The hiking paths are the best after the hiking paths in the eastern New Territories.
Free park and trail maps and pamphlets: The Hong Kong Tourism Board Visitor Centers on Victoria Peak and at the Star Ferry in Tsim Sha Tsui has free pamphlets and maps that provide information about the various trails and country parks.
In the autumn and until about the middle of December, Hong Kong has a relative dry season with sunny dry weather and nice hiking and camping temperatures. It is cooler and drier than the summer, and it is best for hiking and tourism in Lantau Island overall.
Lantau Peak (934 meters, 3,060 feet) is the second highest peak in Hong Kong. Tai Mo Shan north of Kowloon is the highest, but access to the top is barred there. A hike to the top of Lantau Peak is fun and satisfying. There is beautiful scenery, and climbing at the summit gets a little rugged.
The hike up from Po Lin is a steep stair climb mostly. However, the view is not very interesting, being mostly a view of a narrow valley, bushes, and tree limbs. The stairs are roughly hewn rocks, and these are slippery when they are wet. It may even be a dangerous climb if the rocks are slick because there is a possibility you could turn your ankle or slip and fall. At the top, the rocks are also loose.
There are two main ways to access the peak. One is to go up the north side from Po Lin Monastery on Section 3 of the Lantau Trail (about an hour), and the other is to take the Lantau Trail Section 3 from Pak Kung Au from the east and go up from the southern side of the peak (2.5 hours).
Transport to the north side route: Bus 2 from Mui Wo to Ngong Ping. The bus takes you most of the way up the mountain so you'll get to the rocky stair climb. From the big bus station terminus, you can follow the signs that point to the hiking trail that is about a kilometer or a mile from the bus stop.
Transport to the south side route: from Mui Wo take Bus 3M or simply walk the 3 kilometers (2 miles) to the Lantau Trail at the Nam Shan campground. Alternatively, from Tung Chung by taxi to Nam Shan, show the taxi driver: 南山營地. The fare from Tung Chung will be a about 125 HKD.
Sunset Peak is a more scenic hike area than Lantau Peak. It measures 869 meters or 2,851 feet high. It is known for its beautiful sunsets as the sun sets into the sea. The mountain is broader at top with a cluster of several peaks close together, and this provides a greater range for exploring and seeing the scenery in all directions. Lantau Peak in contrast is a single sharp peak.
A hike would take take about 5 hours. For more detailed description of the hike and transportation, see Hiking Sunset Mountain on Lantau Island.
This well-laid hiking path is a major highlight for Hong Kong hikers. There are 12 sections. Most of it is well prepared with dirt track or carved rock steps and stretches in a 70 kilometer circuit from Mui Wo to Tai O. It provides access to excellent hiking and camping areas like the two big peaks and campgrounds around Lantau Peak and Sunset Peak.
There are two Lantau Trail branches that start at Mui O because the whole Lantau Trail is a circuit. One branch starts from the Mui Wo pier and goes east and more northwards into the high hills towards Ngong Ping, Sunset Peak and Lantau Peak. The other starts from Mui Wo pier and branches south and goes along the coast on hillsides overlooking the shore.
You can see some wonderful beaches and ocean scenery. The trail goes to the interesting native fishing town of Tai O on the west coast of the island that was known mainly for the houses on stilts and seafood restaurants. It might be a good place to have a meal at the end of hike there.
Finding this southern route from Mui Wo is a little tricky however since it is not well marked and is out of the way. From the Mui Wo ferry terminal, walk along the shore to the water treatment plant. The trail ascends up the hill from the plant.
Section 7: Leaving Tai O, you have to push your way through private land and badly made trail. But there is beautiful scenery, a white sand beach, and an abandoned village.
Sections 8 and 9: This part of the trail by the large Shek Pik reservoir to Tai O is rugged because some of Stage 9 is badly prepared and you have to push through bushes. On the positive side though, the area of the lake is beautiful, and Section 8 is paved.
The easiest way to start the trail from Tsim Sha Tsui or Central is simply to take the ferry to Mui Wo from the Star Ferry Terminal in Tsim Sha Tsui. There is a half hour fast ferry or an hour slow ferry.
Alternatively, you could take the rapid transit to Tung Chung, take the 3M bus to Pak Kung Au stop, and access the trail there for Sections 2 and 3. The 3M continues on to the Nam Shan campsite area for another place you can access the trail. To get to Nam Shan by taxi, show the taxi driver: 南山營地. The fare from Tung Chung will be a about 125 HKD.
Tung Chung to Tai O: For a big change of scenery compared to the mountains and coast of the Lantau Trail, you can hike the hiking and biker route between Tung Chung and Tai O. It is actually a nice afternoon hike, and you'll see the contrast between modern Chinese shopping and residential complexes at Tung Chung and little villages such as Tai O. You can finish up with dinner at Tai O.
Olympic Trail: This short scenic route is mainly through the natural hills in eastern Lantau. The path is well paved, and dirt paths lead off it.
It is difficult to walk off the main trails in most of Lantau Island because the hills are steep and the vegetation is thick, and squatter huts, farms, and legal construction block the way. An exception to this is the area immediately above Discovery Bay walking northeast.
The vegetation there is dry and sparse for some reason, maybe due to the run off and sandy soil, and is reminiscent of a high desert area. Going off the main developed trails and exploring the little valleys and hills can be really fun there. There is also an artificial lake in that area.
There are two notable big campsites that hikers could use for overnight camping or for rest and refreshment. Both of these have public bathrooms and cold showers.
This offers quick access for a hike to Sunset Peak and Lantau Peak. The beach is broad, sandy and quite long with no rocks, so it's safer for surfing. When the waves are right, it is one of the best surfing beaches. Kayaks and surfboards can be rented.
There is both a free government-run campsite that is first come first serve and a private sandy camping area behind Ooh La La. The company rents tents and bicycles. Pui O is close enough to walk to for food and drinks, but the beach café offers Western food such as grilled hamburgers, fries and beer.
Directions: It is quite easy to reach this campground by public transport, taxi, or a China Highlights driver from Tung Chung or Mui Wo. Show the taxi driver: 大嶼山貝澳露營區. The fare from Tung Chung is 93 HKD.
To go by public transport: First take a subway or bus to Tung Chung Station and take Bus 3M to Pui O (30 minutes). Or take a ferry to Mui O, and take any bus to Pui O (15 minutes). Then walk down Chi Ma Wan Road.
Several campgrounds are spread out over over a large area on Nam Shan. You can find a scores of tent sites. This campground is on South Lantau Road.
Major problems: Construction of an apartment complex right next to the camp area brings a lot of noise and destruction of country park environment. There is much overcrowding as the place has become a popular night drinking party area for noisy and often rude mainlanders and a place for mainland tour groups to stay overnight. It is best to avoid weekends and holidays.
Bird calls: While hiking and camping, you’ll hear birds. There is an amazing species of bird in southern China that makes a loud hooting sound at dawn. The sound seems amazingly loud, so people might think it is a kind of monkey. There is another kind of bird that makes an amazing jackhammer chatter as it flies interspersed with some sweet notes of birdsong. That is unusual too. You may hear a lot of other birds chirp and sing too.
Health and safety suggestions: Tap water is freely available at Nam Shan, but it isn't potable. So filter it or boil it. In the last few years, more Chinese have been squatting in the hills and staying in the campgrounds for long periods of time. Crime and harassment is increasing. Be on guard with your belongings and especially after dark.
To go by public transport: First take a subway or bus to Tung Chung Station and take Bus 3M to Nam Shan (35 minutes). Or take a ferry to Mui O, and take any bus to Nam Shan (10 minutes). By taxi, show the taxi driver: 南山營地. The fare from Tung Chung will be a about 125 HKD.
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