Say Hong Kong, and the first thing that comes to mind is its bustling urban façade, frenetic energy, and sea of skyscrapers. But there’s a quiet side to this tiny East Asian destination that’s been largely unexplored.
Few travellers realise that more than 70% of Hong Kong consists of pristine natural wonders. There are sandy beaches, verdant hills, awe-inspiring geological formations, and secluded hiking and cycling trails — here, you’re bound to find new adventures at every turn! Hidden beyond the metropolis, charming fishing villages and heritage communities await the off-the-beaten-track explorer.
Ready to look past the city lights? As Hong Kong sheds light on green travel opportunities on its shores, perhaps it’s time to take another trip out to this tropical destination. Keep reading to discover some of the new Hong Kong spots lying out of most tourist radars.
Step foot in Sha Tau Kok, a long-forgotten border town on the northernmost edge of Hong Kong that’s been sealed off from the public for more than 70 years. Straddling Hong Kong and Shenzhen, the rural town falls within the Frontier Closed Area that was fenced away to prevent illegal activity from crossing the border. Swathes of land have been partially open in the last decade, but Sha Tau Kok remains locked away for all intents and purposes.
Now, you can peek into the border town that’s been shuttered away for the better part of the last century. After decades, Sha Tau Kok Pier, the longest pier in Hong Kong, finally opened to the public in June 2022. Vibrant murals adorn the 280-metre pier, while a new outdoor bazaar adds a modern touch to this mysterious village.
Many parts of the town remain restricted to non-residents, but it’s still a treat to visit Sha Tau Kok to see what it feels like after a lifetime of being closed off from the world. Try to get a glimpse of the historic (and still restricted) Chung Ying Street, which separated the Chinese and British territories in town.
This one’s definitely for the thrill seekers who want to chase their adrenaline rush to new heights — literally. Paragliding involves jumping off a high edge, soaring to the skies, and manoeuvring through the air using paraglider wings. If that sounds like a good time, then you’re in luck because Hong Kong is a spectacular setting for this niche sport.
Wind and weather conditions change regularly, so the best place for a flight may vary from day to day. A few spots count as paragliding favourites, though. Ma On Shan in the New Territories is arguably the best place in Hong Kong for paragliding, with spectacular views and gentle eastern winds blowing through the area. Other great spots include Dragon’s Back above Shek O and Sunset Peak on Lantau Island.
Take a leap of faith and see a new Hong Kong perspective from a bird’s eye view. And if you’re a little nervous, don’t fret. Most beginners start by paragliding in tandem with an experienced glider, so at least you won’t be jumping by yourself!
Shing Mun Reservoir
Tucked between Tai Mo Shan and Kam Shan Country Parks, Shing Mun Reservoir is an idyllic destination that almost seems carved into the landscape for nature lovers. The lush forests around the reservoir thrive as a rich habitat for wildlife, such as monkeys, wild pigs, exotic birds, and butterflies. Set off on one of the various trails for the natural and historical gems hidden in this idyll.
Wander through canopies of paperbark trees for the perfect Instagram-worthy setting. Hills frame pristine waters, while sunlight streams through the leafy expanse to create an enchanting atmosphere. Shing Mun is a photographer’s paradise, with famously picturesque spots like Paperbark Tree Corridor, Paperbark Tree Grove, and the Viewing Point giving them their money shot.
The unspoilt Lai Chi Wo, a ferry ride away from Sha Tau Kok Pier, is a 300-year-old walled Hakka village that’s remarkably preserved. It feels worlds away from the frantic energy of Hong Kong most travellers know. Instead of skyscrapers, there are 200-some rustic homes laid out in precise rows. There’s no glitzy Michelin-star fare here; instead, stalls offer fragrant Hakka dishes like salty chicken, braised pork, and congee. Life is slow and deliberate — and we’ll admit the change of pace is refreshing.
Hikers and green travellers will thrive in Lai Chi Wo, a destination that’s part of the Hong Kong UNESCO Global Geopark. Take a stroll at the ancient Feng Shui Forest the original villagers planted to bring good fortune to Lai Chi Wo. Strangely shaped trees populate the woods, such as the century-old Hollow Tree and the gigantic Five-Finger Camphor. If you’ve still got the energy to explore, Bride’s Pool Nature Trail is a good trek that takes you to enchanting Hong Kong gems like the famous Bride’s Pool waterfall and the even taller Mirror Pool.
When it comes to hiking, Hong Kong is a treasure trove. Some trails are short and easy, others are tougher, and all promise incredible sceneries. We’ve already brushed past some of the highlights, like Shing Mun Reservoir and Lai Chi Wo. But that’s the beauty of Hong Kong hiking — you’ll never run out of trails.
Lion Rock and Dragon’s Back are both iconic, but hikers looking to escape the tourist circuit can head to some of the lesser-known trails that are just as alluring. Head to Pat Sin Leng Country Park for a gorgeous display of nature aroundLau Shui Heung Reservoir and Hok Tau Reservoir, home to rare butterflies, dragonflies, and damselflies. Fall in love with the serenity of Lau Shui Heung, known as the “mirror of the sky” for its deep and glassy waters. The landscape is especially magnificent in the autumn months when the trees on the reservoir’s banks light up with the fiery colours of fall.
Small and laidback, Peng Chau is a quaint stop less than an hour-long ferry ride away from the Hong Kong central business district. It used to be an industrial centre, but now the sleepy island is an ideal day trip destination featuring stunning temples, scenic trails, and sumptuous seafood.
Fun-sized it may be, but Peng Chau is a charming spectacle that deserves a spot on your new Hong Kong itinerary. Take in the sweeping views after an easy hike up Finger Hill, where Ngan Chau Tsai Pavilion lies at the top. And if temples are your thing, you’ll have plenty to visit: Lung Mo Temple beside Tung Wan Beach and the 18th-century Tin Hau Temple are two of the island’s highlights.
In recent years, a vibrant arts scene has also emerged from this sleepy island. Fook Yuen Leather Factory, once a functioning factory, has been transformed into an artsy “secret garden” filled with colourful graffiti and upcycled art installations. And when it’s time to grab a bite, head to Wing On Street near the pier for fresh seafood and unique island specialities. Deep-fried shrimp toast, anyone? (It’s yummier than it sounds!)
Biking enthusiasts will find the new Hong Kong perfect for cycling pursuits, with its abundance of scenic routes that range from leisurely to pretty intense. Pedal the New Territories Cycle Network, a six-hour journey across 55km of lovely views, cultural attractions, and seascapes.
Not keen on taking on this behemoth of a route? Pick a section of the network to bike instead. Scenic, quick, and car-free, the Sha Tin–Tai Mei Tuk route is a good option for novice or leisure cyclists. Travellers who want an even faster journey may try the Sha Tin–Wu Kai Sha trail instead. Meanwhile, the easy Yuen Long–Butterfly Beach route will take you on a leisurely ride through heritage spots, ancient temples, and tranquil countryside vistas before ending at the sandy Butterfly Beach.
Hong Kong’s idyllic islands offer even more possibilities for cycling adventures. Experienced riders can chase their rush at Lantau Island’s Chi Ma Wan trail, a tricky mountain bike loop through forests, rocky terrain, and sharp descents. It’s definitely a challenge, but you’ll get one of the best views of the sea as a reward.
No matter what kind of adventure you’re in the mood for, there’s a cycling trail in Hong Kong for every kind of rider.
If you’ve never ventured beyond Hong Kong’s city centre, we’re telling you: Sai Kung Volcanic Rock Region should be one of your first stops. The jaw-dropping region is home to ancient volcanic hexagonal rock columns rising from the sea to the skies. A part of the vast Hong Kong UNESCO Global Geopark, these astonishing rock formations lie across the various islands around the region: Sharp Island, High Island, the Ung Kong Group, and the Ninepin Group.
As remnants of multiple volcanic explosions millions of years ago, a cruise through the Sai Kung Volcanic Rock Region feels like a blast from the ancient past. Trek on the High Island Geo Trail for the best close-up views of the towering rock columns, with all their twists, turns, and jagged peaks. For a natural spectacle, head to the High Island Reservoir East Dam during sunrise for early morning views that will take your breath away.
Gorgeous beaches make Sharp Island a great stop when exploring the Sai Kung Peninsula. Sail through uncharted waters in the Ung Kong and Ninepin isles, where you’ll drift past majestic sea caves, unique rock columns, and wild uninhabited shores. Here, sun-seekers can make the most of kayaking, scuba diving, and snorkelling opportunities.
This is only a slice of the natural and cultural wonders hidden beyond Hong Kong’s dazzling urban centre. Hundreds of pristine islands, endless hills and mountains, and quiet villages — they’re all waiting. For now, there’s nothing left to say but welcome to your new Hong Kong!
Everyone wants to travel, but at what cost? Money, of course. As a frequent Muslim budget traveller myself, I’m often being asked, “Where do you get the money?” The somewhat disappointing truth is I don’t have a stack of cash stashed away. Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t take a lot of money to travel. […]