The Tian Tan Buddha and Po Lin Monastery
The Tian Tan Buddha and Po Lin Monastery are two spectacular sites worth visiting at Ngong Ping Plateau, Lantau Island, Hong Kong. A visit makes a great nature escape from the concrete hustle and bustle of Hong Kong city.
- The Tian Tan Buddha is a gigantic bronze statue reached by hundreds of steps leading up to its base. From there you can bask in 360-degree views of the jungle foliage and mountains.
- Po Lin Monastery is a short walk away. It is an active Buddhist community featuring leafy courtyards and captivating architecture containing statues, scriptures, and other holy items. It is one of Hong Kong's most popular Buddhist temples.
- The Ngong Ping Plateau is situated at an altitude of about 520 meters (1,706 feet). On a clear day it's possible to see miles of amazing island views!
Reasons to Visit
- Photogenic surroundings, meditative ambience.
- Exceptional views, especially from the base platform of Big Buddha, inside the cable car, and on the hiking trails.
- Home to one of the world's largest bronze statues of the sitting Buddha.
- Love hiking? Follow the Wisdom Path up to a trailhead that ascends to Lantau Peak, the highest point on the island and the second-highest mountain in Hong Kong. There are also other connecting trails that wind through the heartland of the island.
Things to See and Do
- Ascend the steps to the Tian Tan Buddha for great views, photos, and calm environment.
- Discover the architecture of Po Lin Monastery and savor tasty vegetarian food at its kitchen.
- Visit Ngong Ping Village: You'll find restaurants, cafés, a minimart, and shops selling souvenirs. Public toilets are available. Ngong Ping Village is the terminus of the 360 cable car from Tung Chung.
Lantau Island Hiking
- Climb Lantau Peak (about 1–2 hours from Po Lin) or hike partway up and then turn back. It's one of Hong Kong's most popular hikes. At 934 meters (3,064 feet) it's a wonderful spot to view the sunrise. If you go, take water and exercise caution.
- Descend the Lantau Trail to Pak Kung Au (2–3 hours), about halfway between Lantau Peak and Sunset Peak, the third-highest mountain in Hong Kong.
- From Pak Kung Au up to Sunset Peak and back down again (about 3–5 hours) for sunset views.
- The Lantau Trail, a 70-kilometer looping footpath that starts and ends in Mui Wo. It connects to other trails. You'll often be amazed by the magical views of sandy beaches and mountains.
Tian Tan Buddha
Also called Big Buddha, the Tian Tan Buddha (天坛大佛) sits on a small hill of lush vegetation a couple of hundred meters southwest of the monastery. The cast figure is one of the world's biggest outdoor bronze statues of the Buddha in a sitting position. It is considered a symbol of the immutability of Hong Kong, the prosperity of China, and earthly peace.
Inspiration for the design and construction of the Tian Tan Buddha came from Po Lin's monks' visits to Japan, Taiwan, and Mainland China in the 1970s. The size and grandeur of the Buddhist statues there - particularly those at the Longmen Grottoes and Mogao Caves in China - left an indelible impression. The monks also believed the statue would be a source of spiritual comfort to the people of Hong Kong.
Construction began in 1981, the last piece was welded in place in 1989, and the opening ceremony took place in late-1993. In 2000, the Tian Tan Buddha placed fourth on the list of 10 Engineering Wonders of Hong Kong.
The statue's skeleton is made of steel. Two hundred and two bronze plates form the "skin," which is resistant to fading from corrosion. The face of the Buddha was cast in a single piece and weighs a whopping 5,000 kilograms (11,000 pounds)! All the physical features of the statue have significant Buddhist symbolic meaning.
The Tian Tan Buddha is 34 meters (111 feet) tall and faces northeast towards Beijing. The statue was so named because its base resembles that of the Temple of Heaven in China's capital.
Nearly 300 steps lead up to the base. You can walk around the entire statue and enjoy panoramic views of leafy Lantau Island and the sea.
It is curious to note that during the last two decades, enormous bronze statues of Buddha have been erected in several sites in Asia, partly to attract tourists.
Po Lin Monastery
Po Lin, or 'Precious Lotus', Monastery (宝莲禅寺) was originally built by monks from Jiangsu Province in the early decades of the 20th century. Its original name was "The Big Hut" and was made of stone and thatch. Buddhist devotees from across Asia and the world regularly make pilgrimages to the site.
In the main temple you'll find bronze statues of the Buddha (past, present, and future lives) along with a number of sacred scripts.
Notable buildings worth checking out include:
- Grand Hall of Ten Thousand Buddhas
- Main Shrine Hall of Buddha
- Hall of Bodhisattva Skanda
Please bear in mind that Po Lin is an active monastery, so be respectful and dress appropriately.
Fresh breezes often blow though the spacious courtyards and gardens, mingling with wafts of incense and the songs of birds, making these areas a serene spot to take a break.
Delicious, multi-course vegetarian meals and snacks are available at the monastery's kitchen and adjacent snack shop.
If you're looking for a peaceful stroll, the nearby Wisdom Path winds through the woods, eventually connecting with hiking trails. The path is lined with 38 wooden pillars engraved with the ancient prayer of the Heart Sutra. You can walk the Wisdom Path for a distance and then turn back if you don't want to continue on to the longer trails.
Do you love artisanal jewelry? Po Lin Monastery makes handcrafted wooden bracelets. These, and other souvenirs, are available for purchase near the foot of the Tian Tan Buddha.
Consider spending half a day at the Tian Tan Buddha, Po Lin Monastery, Ngong Ping Village, and Wisdom Path. This should also give you enough time to climb at least partway up Lantau Peak should you be inclined.
Our suggested itinerary assumes taking a roundtrip 360 cable car from Tung Chung Station to Ngong Ping Village, about a 25-minute ride. This is an excellent option for families, hikers, and those on foot. (See the section below, How to Get There, to learn about all transport options to Ngong Ping.)
Cable car tickets: If possible, buy tickets in advance online, via an agent, or through your accommodation. Doing so avoids long lines at the counter.
Food and drink: Available at Ngong Ping Village and at the monastery's restaurant. You can also bring your own. In fact, if you're planning on hiking, it's essential to pack your own provisions; none are available on the mountains or trails.
Toilets: Clean and free toilets are available in Ngong Ping Village and about mid-way between the monastery and the Tian Tan Buddha. There are no toilets on the walking/hiking trails.
Arrival time: Try to leave your place of origin after 8:30 am to avoid rush hour traffic and crowds. Aim to arrive at the cable car entrance gates at 10 am on weekdays (9 am on weekends and holidays), when it opens - or even a little earlier. Bear in mind that Chinese tourists arrive around 11 am; lines can get very long, very quickly!
1. Ngong Ping Village
- Time needed: About 1–1.5 hours
The cable car stops at Ngong Ping, a modern tourist village with restaurants and shops. Clean and free public toilets are here, so now would be a good time to take advantage of this.
If you're craving a caffeinated beverage or a snack, try:
- Li-Nong Tea House
Browse the gift shops for a souvenir; you can always pick it up on the way back to avoid carrying it with you on your walkabout. There are a few shops, including Chiufen Souvenir and Fortune Cat Store, that stock a number of memorable items. Familiarize yourself with the life of the Buddha: A short film, "Walking With Buddha," plays regularly.
2. Po Lin Monastery and Lunch
- Time needed: About 1–2 hours
From the Village walk about 15 minutes to Po Lin Monastery. The monastery is home to monks and regular worshipers, so dress appropriately (no sleeveless shirts, no short skirts).
Marvel at the stunning architecture and ancient objects including the Grand Hall of Ten Thousand Buddhas and the Main Shrine Hall of Buddha, which houses bronze statues. Buildings are situated close to one another, making it fairly easy to pop in and out.
Buy some incense sticks to light and offer in the temple's urns. Take a break in the airy courtyards, fabulous spots to enjoy a packed lunch. Vegetarian food is available for purchase at the monastery's kitchen and snack shop. Food is also plentiful back in the nearby Village:
- Honeymoon Dessert serves pancakes, sweet dessert soups, and other hot and cold mango treats
- Tofu Garden has vegetarian dishes
- Ebeneezer's Kebabs and Pizzeria dishes up pizza and Middle Eastern fare including falafel, lamb kebab, and hummus
- Subway sandwiches and soups
3. Tian Tan Buddha
- Time needed: About 1 hour
It's roughly 10 minutes' walk to Tian Tan Buddha from either Po Lin Monastery or the Village. You'll be glad you fueled up on lunch; to reach the base platform you'll need to climb nearly 300 steps, the price of admission, so to speak, for the excellent 360-degree views. Take photos of the landscape and admire the expert craftsmanship that went into building the Big Buddha. Descend the steps and, if you need to, make use of the toilet facilities located halfway to the Wisdom Path.
4. Wisdom Path
- Time needed: About 30 minutes
Walk the Wisdom Path to cool down your legs after tackling the steps of the Big Buddha. The well-marked and well-trodden path begins a few hundred meters from the giant statue, about a 15-minute walk away. You don't want to miss the astonishing sea views and serenity.
5. (Optional) Lantau Peak
- Time needed: About 1–2.5 hours to the top
Climb Lantau Peak if you're in really good shape, have proper footwear, and your legs are still cooperating. You don't have to go all the way to the top to experience the pretty views: Climb partway and turn back. The trail to the peak is accessed from the Wisdom Path. Use common sense: Be aware of your energy levels and the time of day. It can get incredibly hot in the early afternoon. Respect the elements. Rocks are slippery when wet and the weather can change suddenly.
There is a network of trails nearby, but hiking further inland (or further skyward) requires more time, daylight, and energy than you'll probably have on a half-day tour. We recommend returning to the Village.
Finish up at the Village to catch the cable car back down to Tung Chung Station. The last car down leaves in the early evening. Don't forget your souvenirs!
Our 1-Day Seat-in-Coach Tour includes Po Lin Monastery and Lantau Island.
- Tian Tan Buddha: 10 am – 5:30 pm daily
- Po Lin Monastery: 8 am – 6 pm
- Vegetarian cafeteria at the monastery: Mon–Fri except public holidays 11:30 am – 4:30 pm; Sat, Sun, and public holidays 11:30 am – 7 pm
- Ngong Ping Village: about 10 am – 6 pm daily
- Ngong Ping cable car: weekdays 10 am – 6 pm; weekends and public holidays 9 am – 6:30 pm
How to Get There
From Ngong Ping Village, it's only about a 10–15 minute walk to the Tian Tan Buddha and Po Lin Monastery.
You can get to Ngong Ping Village a number of ways, but riding a cable car up is perhaps the most satisfying. It is an especially good choice for families with children. And if you opt for a glass-bottom car (the Crystal Cabin) you'll enjoy better views and shorter lineups.
The 360 cable car's origin is near Tung Chung Station; its terminus is at Ngong Ping. Not a village in the traditional sense, Ngong Ping is more of a purpose-built tourist area with restaurants, cafés, and small shops.
Potentially long lineups at busy weekends and holidays mean that it might be better to take a bus, taxi, or hike up to Ngong Ping Plateau, explore, and then ride the cable car down. Glass-bottom cars are popular with foreign tourists despite being slightly pricier. You can purchase both roundtrip and single journey tickets.
- By ferry: Boats travel to Mui Wo Pier on Lantau Island from Central Pier on Hong Kong Island, taking between 40 minutes and 1 hour, depending on the speed of the ferry. From Mui Wo, you can catch a bus (New Lantau Bus Company) to Ngong Ping Village.
- By road and rail: You can also get to Ngong Ping by road or rail to Tung Chung, a new town that developed concurrently with Hong Kong International Airport on neighboring Chek Lap Kok Island. Note that most private vehicles are banned on Lantau. If you're coming from the international airport, we recommend taking a taxi to Tung Chung Station. The ride will take mere minutes and cost less than 10 USD. If coming from Hong Kong Island, you can take the MRT (rail rapid transit) from Hong Kong Station to Tung Chung Station, about 20 km west. From there it's about a 5-minute walk to the cable car; alternatively, take a taxi up to Ngong Ping.
- By bus: New Lantau Bus Company provides the following buses to Ngong Ping: from Mui Wo ferry pier (Bus 2), from Tung Chung Station (Bus 23), from Tai O (Bus 21). Buses to Ngong Ping and the Big Buddha from Tung Chung depart from the bus station behind the Citygate shopping centre on Tat Tung Road. The bus station is also next to the escalator leading to a footbridge and the Ngong Ping 360 cable car.
- Hike up: Hike the Tei Tong Tsai Country Trail in about 2 or 3 hours. This is a fine option if the weather is nice and your fitness level is excellent. The path crosses streams with frogs and fish, and the scenery is beautiful. The route starts at Shek Mun Kap Road, about 2 kilometers south of the Tung Chung Station. Walk south on Yu Tung Road or take a taxi to reach the starting point. Keep in mind: If you're planning on hiking the peaks around Po Lin Monastery, you might not want to expend your energy on a trek to get up there!
When to Go
October–December sees warm/cool, dry weather and is the best time to visit. From January, rain and fog roll in and can potentially obstruct the views. Summertime brings hot temperatures, sunny skies, and occasional tropical storms.
Lantau Island is Hong Kong's second biggest island. Its other main attractions include Hong Kong Disneyland and Tai O.
Hong Kong Disneyland follows the format of other world Disneylands, though it's the smallest of Disney's theme parks.
Tai O, meanwhile, is a small town on the northwestern shore of Lantau Island, about 7 kilometers from the monastery area along Tai O Road. There are houses on wooden stilts that seem out of place and out of time. In the town is the Taoist Yeung Hau Temple that has a history dating to 1699 and is a "Grade 1" preserved building. (A "Grade 1" building is considered among the most important to preserve.) There is also the "Grade 3" Old Tai O Police Station. You'll find hiking trails in the area.
Over half of Lantau Island is park and jungle, and you can hike freely on the trails. There are no large animals, but you can find some solitude. The island is an ideal place for hikes along the sea, on the beaches, or on the small mountains. You can find campsites, hostels, and uncrowded beaches.
See the Tian Tan Buddha and Po Lin Monastery with Us
Our travel advisors can help with tour arrangements and private transport. We can facilitate a tour of Lantau Island and the region or accommodate you in assisting your Hong Kong visit in other ways according to your plans. We take care of the tickets and transportation saving you the potential headache of missed connections and waiting in long lines. You need only relax and enjoy the experience!
- Explore our range of Hong Kong tours.
- Let us know your interests and we can tailor-make a Hong Kong tour for you that includes the Giant Buddha and Po Lin Monastery.