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Ten of the Best: Hong Kong Mountaintop City Views

High above the high-rises

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It always surprises people when I mention the fact that the thing I love most about Hong Kong are the mountains and the hiking. “Hong Kong has mountains?” they say. To which I usually reply with something geeky like quoting the number of country parks and wowing them with ratios of urban/rural land usage, just to set them straight.

But as one of the world’s most densely populated metropolises, I guess it doesn’t necessarily follow that around 75% of Hong Kong’s total land is actually countryside. The territory has 24 country parks and 22 special areas covering approximately 440 km², with 130 peaks higher than 300 metres. A handful of these overlook the main urban areas, giving views of the city that are unrivalled almost anywhere else in the world.

Up above the high-rises, with all that chaos raging down below, the whole city stretches out before you in a twinkling of lights, yet it sometimes seems it couldn’t be further away. There are taller mountains in Hong Kong and many other wonderful views, but for cityscapes from on high, the following would be my top ten. So grab your camera, lace up your hiking shoes, and go and explore what makes Hong Kong great.

Lugard Road

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If the view from Lugard Road isn’t one of the best views in Hong Kong, I’d love to hear suggestions for better. It may have become one of the city’s most popular photo spots in recent years as more and more people realise that the view is far more impressive than anything you can see from the Peak Tower, but nothing beats that walk around the mountain as the sun goes down and the lights turn on below, no matter how many people are there taking the same picture.

On a clear night, almost the whole of Hong Kong can be seen, from the skyscrapers of Central, over to Kowloon and the mountains of the New Territories beyond. With the northern length of Hong Kong Island stretching into the distance, following that narrow ribbon of harbour round towards Chai Wan, the boats come and go, the high-rises glow, and the uniqueness of the city is summed up perfectly. You may even stumble across a few spiky surprises if you’re lucky.

How to get there:

  • Take the Peak Tram or Bus 15 to the Peak Tower. Or, take Green Minibus No. 1 from IFC/HK Station. You can then join up with Lugard Road at the Peak Tower and follow it round to the viewing points for about 15 minutes.

Lion Rock (495 m)

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Right up there with the very best Hong Kong mountain views, Lion Rock may not be the tallest Hong Kong mountain on the list (it actually ranks 52nd overall), but for spectacular 360° views, right in the centre of everything, its position is perfect. Located in the middle of the range of hills that separate Kowloon from the New Territories, Lion Rock really does look like a lion when viewed from the correct angle. The views from the top are equally majestic.

Looking south from the summit, the full expanse of the Kowloon peninsula stretches out before you, beyond which, almost the entire length of Hong Kong island – from Sai Wan in the west, to Tai Koo Shing in the east – can be seen. On clear days, Tai Mo Shan, Kam Sham and Ma On Shan are visible to the north, while looking right, the Tsing Yi bridge and Lantau island lie out beyond the sea. In short, you can see almost everything.

How to get there:

  • There are several directions from which Lion Rock can be tackled. Check out my full Lion Rock post for more details.

Jardine’s Lookout (433 m)

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As the first peak along Stage 2 of the Wilson Trail, Jardine’s Lookout gives great cityscape views over Causeway Bay and further west towards the business end of Hong Kong Island. Named after the famous 19th century merchant William Jardine, it is said that this was the peak from which news of approaching ships belonging to the Jardine Matheson Company would be signalled to the shore in order that any important mail could be collected and rushed back to the office before the rest of the market could be informed of the latest news.

Due to its strategic location, the hill and its surroundings was the scene of fierce fighting during the Japanese invasion of Hong Kong in WWII. There are still remains of an old wartime bunker or observation post just past the fence on the summit. Plus, if you’re feeling really adventurous, you can check out some of the old Japanese tunnels that are still accessible up there.

How to get there:

Kowloon Peak (602 m)

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Kowloon Peak, also known as Fei Ngo Shan, is the highest peak in Kowloon and the 18th tallest in Hong Kong overall. Situated in northeastern Kowloon at the southern-most point of Ma On Shan Country Park, both the Wilson Trail and the MacLehose Trail pass within reach of the summit, while the summit itself gives great views over eastern Kowloon all the way to Lantau Island way out west.

Being one of Hong Kong’s tallest mountains, the hike to the top isn’t exactly a Sunday afternoon stroll in the park. Depending on which way you tackle it, it’s either long, steep, or a combination of both. Particularly when approaching the summit after leaving the paved roads, be prepared for a steep, loose-rocked scramble (approaching from the north), or a tiring climb up a narrow, unmaintained stone stairway (approaching from the south), before reaching the long grassy ridge at the top and the wide and windy vistas of Kowloon that will hopefully make the whole thing worthwhile.

How to get there:

Braemar Hill (<200 m)

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Don’t expect to be the only one admiring the view if you visit Braemar Hill. A favourite amongst local photographers thanks to its splendid views and relatively easy access, there’s nothing hidden about this well-known gem. Yet the chance to watch the sunset over Victoria Harbour and the lights turn on down the length of Hong Kong Island, make the occasional battle for tripod space worth it.

Compared to other more illustrious Hong Kong viewpoints, there’s no hour-long ordeal to reach the top of Braemar Hill. Indeed, at under 200 metres tall, there’s not a lot of climbing involved at all, especially when the bus takes you most of the way there anyway. On clear days during the warmer months, the couple of boulders that act as the summit can get pretty crowded with photographers that staked their places hours before. So either get there early, or take a leaf out of my book, and leave the crowds behind with some good, old-fashioned exploring.

How to get there:

  • Take Bus 25 from Central Pier 5. Or, take Bus 25A from the HKCEC in Wanchai.
  • After getting off the bus at Braemar Hill Bus Station (final stop), follow the map to find the viewpoints.

Devil’s Peak (222 m)

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Off the beaten path somewhat and too far round from the city to offer the stunning views of some of the other big hitters, Devil’s Peak is nonetheless a very cool hike with views that, while not 10-out-of-10 spectacular, are worth the sweat and the aching knees. Located at the start of stage 3 of the Wilson Trail, just above Lei Yue Mun in the southeastern corner of Kowloon, Devil’s Peak occupies a strategic position at the gateway to Victoria Harbour, and as such, has acted as an important vantage point at various times throughout Hong Kong’s history.

During the early part of the 20th century especially, the British built several structures intended to defend Hong Kong during its early years of occupation. The redoubt on the summit is still intact enough to give an impression of what it would have been like when first constructed in 1914. The huge Gough Battery too, built in 1898 and located slightly below the redoubt, is still in decent shape despite being overgrown with banyan roots and left unprotected for so long. All of which makes Devil’s Peak a thoroughly worthwhile visit. Plus, when you’re done with the hiking, why not checkout Lei Yue Mun village down below for some of Hong Kong’s best seafood.

How to get there:

  • Yau Tong Station Exit A1, then follow the trail up to the summit from the roundabout.

Kam Shan (369 m)

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If you can avoid the monkeys on the way to the top, Kam Shan (also known as Golden Hill) gives decent enough views over northwest Kowloon and back towards Hong Kong Island, though it isn’t exactly the easiest peak to find. In fact, I’d hesitate to describe the summit of Kam Shan as a peak at all. Sure, you hike a few kilometres and climb a fair few steps to get there (not to mention the bus ride from the city), but compared to the views offered at say, Lion Rock or Kowloon Peak, you may wonder if it wasn’t a whole lot of effort for nothing.

There’s a radar station of some kind at the top, but the great views you were anticipating all the way up are mostly blocked by trees, making reaching the summit itself somewhat of an anticlimax. Yet for those not so easily discouraged, just a little way along from here, a view of some kind can be found. Off the path to the left, the trees thin out towards the end, opening onto a rocky clearing where you can set up your tripod and hopefully get what you came for.

How to get there:

  • From Kowloon, take Bus 81 anywhere along Nathan Road from Jordan Road onwards. Or, Bus 72 from Cheung Sha Wan.
  • Get off at the Shek Lei Pui Reservoir stop just before the bridge and follow either of the routes to the top.

High West (494 m)

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The shorter sibling of Hong Kong’s most famous mountain, High West stands on the left shoulder of Victoria Peak in the north-west corner of Pok Fu Lam country park. Approached from either the steps by the side of the rest area at the Lugard Road/Hatton Road junction on the Victoria Peak side, or the steep scramble that is the “treacherous trail” accessed via the picnic site at the western end of Harlech Road, High West is an often overlooked but rewarding Hong Kong Island hike.

Admittedly, the views of the city from High West are not nearly as spectacular as some of the others on this list. Victoria Peak hogs most of the glory for itself by shielding the majority of Hong Kong Island from view. Yet on clear days, the mountains of Kowloon, and the New Territories can be seen, as well as the islands of Lantau, Lamma, Peng Chau, and Cheung Chau out in the western waters. High West may not, in itself, be your go-to mountain for blockbuster views, but as a warm-up or add-on to a Victoria Peak/Lugard Road trip, it makes for a worthwhile bonus.

How to get there:

  • Take Bus 3 from IFC or 3A from City Hall to Hatton Road and walk up the path to the start of the steps to the summit.
  • Or, take Bus 15 to the Peak Bus Terminus and follow Harlech Road to the start of the steps.

Beacon Hill (457 m)

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For me, Beacon Hill is the Hong Kong view that got away. On the few occasions I’ve hiked up there, the visibility has been so poor as to leave me unable to make out much more than the vague shadow of buildings in the distance, masked by a disappointing grey haze. It’s a pity, because with a viewpoint looking out over a panorama of the whole of Kowloon, the view, on a clear day, should be just as magnificent as that of its slightly taller neighbour Lion Rock, and I have no doubt that it is.

It may only be the 65th highest hill in Hong Kong, but due to its location in the middle of Lion Rock Country Park, it can be a long old hike up there from whichever direction you approach it. The easiest way is probably to approach from the south off Lung Cheung Road close to CityU. From here you can follow Lung Yan Road all the way to the top via a brief MacLehose Trail short cut. The best viewing spot is slightly down from the receiving mast as you approach from Lung Yan Road.

How to get there:

  • Approaching from the south, take the MTR to Prince Edward/Shek Kip Mei Station, then Bus 87B to Lung Cheung Road.

Shek O Peak (284 m)

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Okay, so this last one isn’t a city view. But it’s a cool hike with great views nonetheless. Located a kilometre or so along one of Hong Kong’s most popular trails, Shek O Peak is the high point, both literally and figuratively, of the Dragon’s Back hike on Stage 8 of the Hong Kong trail. Looking down on gorgeous coastal scenery from the hills above Shek O, the peak gives views of Big Wave Bay in one direction and Shek O in the other, as green hills slither off into the distance.

A favourite spot not only for hikers, but for local paragliding enthusiasts too, you’ll most likely find yourself buzzed by the odd adrenaline junkie as you make your way along the ridge in search of photo opportunities. In order to save you the trouble, the best two spots are at the Shek O Peak viewing point, and the rocky area just off to the right of the main path as you reach the top of the initial steps from Shek O Road.

How to get there:

  • Shau Kei Wan Station Exit A3, then take Bus 9 towards Shek O, getting off at To Tei Wan on Shek O Road.

Related Posts: For more on Hong Kong’s great outdoors, see tag: hong kong outdoors
Get Involved: Are there any Hong Kong mountain views I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments below.

One comment

  1. I’m going to be visiting China in a few weeks (final stop, Hong Kong) with photography being my foremost ambition, so I greatly appreciate your very well detailed tips on how to find these spots. Can’t wait!

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