Ngong Ping 360 and the Big Buddha
The star attraction on Lantau is the 34-metre Tian Tan Buddha, known as simply the Big Buddha, which rests high up on a hilltop. The best way to get there? The Ngong Ping 360 cable car that climbs from Tung Chung to tranquil Ngong Ping Village with stunning views of the Lantau landscape, Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge and the Big Buddha. The 25-minute, air-conditioned ride even has the option of a glass-bottom crystal cabin that offers a novel, unobstructed view straight down! The drop-off is just a 10-minute stroll from the foot of the 268 steps to reach the base of the statue. From the top of the stairs, not only do you get breath-taking views over Lantau’s verdant mountain terrain and across the South China Sea, you also get a bird’s eye view of the century-old Po Lin Monastery and its many colourful murals, which you can visit after descending the steps.[ Remarks: The Big Buddha is currently undergoing renovations. The Big Buddha statue is covered and the halls under the statue and upper part of the steps are closed. All religious ceremonies and events will continue as usual, please check the official website before you visit. ]
Stroll another 10 minutes from the foot of the Big Buddha steps and you’ll find yourself at Wisdom Path, which traces a series of 38 wooden steles (upright monuments) containing verses from the centuries-old Heart Sutra — one of the world’s best-known prayers revered by Confucians, Buddhists and Taoists alike. These steles display the Chinese version of the prayer, based on the calligraphy of famous contemporary scholar Professor Jao Tsung-I, and are arranged in a ∞ pattern, which represents infinity. Professor Jao’s calligraphy and painting masterpieces are incorporated into the design of the commemorative plaque and the site map displaying his biography and academic achievements. Find out more about Professor Jao and his work at Jao Tsung-I Academy.
Tung Chung Fort
This well-preserved fort dates back to 1832, and it has quite a history. When the British took control of Hong Kong in 1898, the fort was abandoned. During World War II, Japanese forces occupied it, after which it served as a police station and then a college. The fort today stands as a relic of a bygone era, complete with six old muzzle-loading cannons and Chinese archways. If you’re really into history, don’t miss the nearby Tung Chung Battery, too.
Cheung Sha Beach and Pui O Beach
When it comes to sandy escapes, the village of Pui O has two top contenders in Cheung Sha Beach and Pui O Beach. Both feature stretches of lesser-trodden shoreline. While Pui O is the more remote of the two, Cheung Sha, with its three kilometres of white sand, is one of the longest beaches in Hong Kong. You can also try your hand at water sports like kayaking, windsurfing and kiteboarding here. Cheung Sha is popular with day trippers and will fill up on weekends and holidays, so get down early to claim the best spot on the sand.
Long a preferred landing spot for expats and families, Discovery Bay, or DB for short, is the beating heart of laid-back Lantau. From watching the regattas in the Discovery Bay Yacht Club sailing across the water, to shopping at the indie craft and traders’ market held every second Sunday of the month in DB Plaza, there are tons of activities here. Or simply wine and dine: D Deck, with its 180-degree views of the water, is the largest al-fresco dining space in Hong Kong, and the vegetarian-friendly Hemingway’s by the Bay is an uber-popular hangout among the DB crowd.
Seventy-kilometre Lantau Trail cuts a path across the island, incorporating some of its most memorable viewpoints and wildest nature. The trail is divided into 12 sections of varying difficulty. Some of them can be pretty gruelling, so it’s no surprise that this trail makes up much of the course for the annual TransLantau ultra-marathon and remains a popular weekend destination for hikers and trail runners. Don’t miss the hike to Sunset Peak; at 869 metres, it’s the third-highest point in Hong Kong. As its name suggests, it offers the best sunset views on the island, if not the whole SAR. Visit in autumn or winter, when the surrounding silvergrass shimmers brightest.
Tai O Fishing Village
With roots tracing all the way back to the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), Tai O Fishing Village oozes history and heritage. Home to the Tanka people, a community of fishermen who traditionally built their homes on stilts above tidal flats, the village is a must-visit for anyone travelling to Lantau. Boats navigate the channel between houses, stirring up the smell of the sea and offering great photo ops. But Tai O has so much more to offer than snaps for your Instagram feed. Some entrepreneurial locals have turned their stilted homes into restaurants and cafes including Solo, which serves a range of teas, speciality coffee and homemade cakes. Tiramisu with a view, anyone?
Tai O Heritage Hotel
One of the few heritage hotels in Hong Kong, this colonial-style landmark occupies the former Tai O Police Station and has a charm that is unparalleled on the island. Perched on top of a small hill near the ferry pier, Tai O Heritage Hotel offers beautiful sea views from its historic arched facade. The entire space is a trip back in time, from the tiled Chinese-style roof to the French windows and fireplaces in the rooms. Those curious about the hotel’s history will enjoy the free daily guided tours the hotel offers.