If you’re planning a visit to Hong Kong – the home of Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon – then get ready for island life, but not as you know it. Made up of more than 200 tropical islands, and with an intense metropolitan epicentre home to the world’s largest number of skyscrapers, Hong Kong’s communion of city and natural landscape has the kind of knockout visual appeal that hooks you from the get-go. While best encapsulated by the unforgettable sight of a blinking Victoria Harbour skyline rising up from green, rolling hills, even in the city’s corners and pockets, the spread of nature’s fingers is never far from view. Walk around central neighbourhoods and you’re likely to find stumble across old stone walls whose cracks are snaked with the roots of century-old Chinese banyans, offering shade and shelter to the passers-by below.
From shopping to bar-hopping, Hong Kong’s urban pleasures are plentiful – not least for the world-famous breadth of cuisine, ranging from local offerings such as dim sum, hotpots, buttery pineapple buns, and stinky tofu to the Michelin-starred offerings of glitzy international restaurants. Away from the bustle and glamour of the main island, however, Hongkongers enjoy casual access to the likes of surfing, camping, hiking, cliff jumping, and Dragon Boat racing less than an hour from the city centre. Easy trips to surrounding beaches, mountains, trails, and waterfalls are enabled by efficient transport links, from an island-criss-crossing metro system to minbuses, ferries, cable cars, and faux-vintage trams. Avoid the crowds and make a beeline for some of the territory’s lesser known scenic sites, such as Tai Long Sai Wan beach – only accessible by boat or hike – and the Hong Kong UNESCO Geopark, a stunning natural site forged after the eruption of a supervolcano.
The central business district of Hong Kong is a hubbub of exciting activity, where the city folk truly live up to the 'work hard, play hard' mantra.
The sprawling IFC building dominates the area, with offices, bars and restaurants spilling from its concrete sides. You'll find every shop imaginable within. Stock up on luxury goods inside or head to nearby Cat Street to pick up an antique bargain.
Hungry shoppers looking for a quick bite should visit Mak's Noodle, a traditional wonton restaurant that still evokes old Hong Kong. It's been a local fixture for years, long before the skyscrapers started to spring up in the Wellington area. If you're after fine dining head to Soho, Elgin street, where you'll find a mixture of cuisines cooked to exceptional standards.
Party-goers should visit the infamous Lan Kwai Fong district, where you can drink 'til dawn and mingle with expats and locals alike. For more sedate bars and boutique coffee shops, head along the coast until you find Sheung Wan and Kennedy Town.
No trip to the Central district is complete without travelling on the Central Mid-Levels escalator. It's the longest outdoor covered escalator system in the world, taking commuters from the station all the way up to the Mid-Levels area and beyond.
The traditional tourist haunts are all here and more. Travel from Wan Chai on the Star Ferry and walk the Avenue of Stars, featuring the famous Bruce Lee statue, standing strong over a spectacular view of the harbour. Learn more about Hong Kong's history too in the nearby museums, all crowded into the retail hotspot iSquare.
Nathan Road is the link between touristed Tsim Sha Tsui and electronics hub Sham Shui Po. Thronged with tourists, eager tailors and towering shopping centres, it's easy to see why it was given the post-war nickname 'The Golden Mile'. You can fill an entire day of sightseeing with the variety of things to do here and food is no exception: the road houses a vast mixture of multicultural diners and even several restaurants with a Michelin star.
Further into the mainland you can find Kowloon City, where Hong Kong's Thai population is mostly concentrated, amongst pockets of Korean, Japanese and Indian residents in nearby Hung Hom. This multicultural hotpot is most easily expressed in food; you'll find a diverse amount of delicious cuisine in the old walled city.
For those looking for an adventure away from the city, a trip to the New Territories is something even the most seasoned Hong Kong-ers have overlooked. Pack your walking boots and some sun cream as you’re going to want to spend a long time getting to know this diverse landscape.
A walk around Sai Kung will take you through some of the most stunning coastal scenery Hong Kong has to offer. This world away from the urban bustle is composed of nature's skyscrapers – huge, mountainous reaches with hikes and climbs for all abilities.
A stone's throw from Sha Tin is a 500-metre long, winding path, which leads to the 10,000 Buddhas Monastery. This memorable temple is lined with statues of Buddah in various poses and guises, making for a memorable photo opportunity.
To get there, take a Kowloon Motor Bus from the airport or Kowloon MTR to Tue Mun, Tai Po or Sai Kung.
There are four famous Buddhist landmarks on Lantau island: Po Lin Monastery, Wisdom Path, Ngong Ping Piazza and the man himself, who sits proudly atop Mount Tin Tan, overlooking the people below.
The statue of Buddha Amoghasiddhi is cast entirely in Bronze, charting 34 metres and 12 years in the making. The walk to reach him may leave many breathless – both from the view and the exertion.
The trip to the top is just as fun as the surrounds. The Ngong Ping 360 cable car wobbles up the mountain with a pleasing slowness, allowing for plenty of wide-angled shots by photography enthusiasts.
If you're of a philosophical bent, a walk down Wisdom Path will be a lesson in Confucian, Buddhist and Taoist scripture. Each wooden stele contains verses from the Heart Sutra, arranged in a unique pattern to represent infinity. After a day of soul searching, you'll be able to drink in a stunning view of the South China Sea.
Things to do
Where to try it:
Take bus no. 23, 40 or 40M from Admiralty MTR Station, get off at University of Hong Kong and walk uphill along University Drive.
Where to try it: