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Gazing at the glassy sky towers and glitzy malls of downtown Central, it’s hard to imagine that Hong Kong offers natural idyll beyond the soaring urban landscape. But more than 40 percent of Hong Kong’s islands are designated as protected green areas, and hill walking is a popular weekend and holiday pastime for locals and expatriates. Jumping on a ferry or taking the subway and bus will enable clients to escape the metropolis and explore Hong Kong’s green hills and island coastlines, which offer leisurely hiking and spectacular views.
A personal favorite is the Hong Kong Global Geopark, located on the beautiful Sai Kung Peninsula in the New Territories. The dramatic landscapes here are worlds apart from the famous Hong Kong skyline, and the High Island Geo Trail is a little known gem. This picturesque walking trail winds around a manmade dam and reservoir, but the eye-catching geological formations were created 140 million years ago by volcanic eruptions.
On a sunny day, the ridges of rare volcanic rock columns and terraces set against a backdrop of small islands and horseshoe bays with white-sand beaches are wonderfully photogenic. The hiking is relatively gentle, too, provided clients wear sturdy shoes. Also don’t forget to carry plenty of water, a hat, sunscreen and a camera to snap the scenery.
Hong Kong’s most famous hike is the aptly named Dragon’s Back trail, which traverses an undulating ridge — said to resemble a dragon’s back — connecting the Wan Cham Shan and Shek O mountain peaks.
The nine-mile hike begins on Shek O Road, near the village of To Tei Wan. Almost immediately, the coastal views are magnificent, particularly the bays and inlets that extend beyond Shek O to the outlying Nine Pins islands. In the distance, the panoramas extend to Stanley and Hong Kong Island.
The looping hike winds up though forested hills and across the Dragon’s Back saddle before sloping down toward the creme-colored sands of Big Wave Bay, a beach that is popular with families and, during wave season, local surfers. From the beach, clients can catch a bus back to the nearest subway station or walk for a further 30 minutes to Shek O, a coastal village with several bars and restaurants — many of which are run by expats.
A third hiking option requires clients to catch a 45-minute ferry from Central to Lamma Island. This laid-back island is dotted with fishing villages, and is famed for its fresh seafood. The ferry delivers clients to the island’s largest village, Yung Shue Wan, where a handful of coffee houses and cafes serve energy-giving, pre-hiking fare. From the village, the two-hour hiking trail leads past beaches and ascends gently to an island peak affording fine views of Hung Shing Yeh beach and Lantau Island.
Once the summit has been reached, the second half of the trek is a slow descent through thickly forested paths with great coastal views. The finishing point is the small village of Sok Kwu Wan, where a strip of seafood restaurants overlooking the bay is a popular refueling point before jumping on the ferry to head back to Central’s urban cityscape.
Hong Kong Global Geoparkwww.geopark.gov.hk
Hong Kong Hikingwww.walkhongkong.com
The best time for hiking is between May and October, though the weather can get very hot so dress and prepare accordingly.