How to avoid the crowds in Hong Kong

In 2018 we wrote a blog post on how to avoid the crowds in Hong Kong, for the Escape Travel Blog site. We describe fun ways to get out of the city and into the National Parks, hiking trails, beaches and preserved areas. Although no longer live online, here is the published text:

Hong Kong: How to avoid the crowds … and still have lots of fun!

Typical Hong Kong attractions

Gleaming skyscrapers, bustling ferries, gleaming shopping malls and crowded traditional markets are the images most tourists see when they are researching Hong Kong. These exciting elements are only one aspect of the city: there are quieter places that many visitors overlook.

The ‘other’ Hong Kong

Hong Kong comprises three geographical regions: Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and the New Territories and Outlying Islands, and roughly 260 offshore islands, including the largest, Lantau Island. Surprisingly, less than 25% of Hong Kong’s land area is built-up. The majority is grassland, forests, woodland, and agricultural land. Most of the territory’s urban development is on Kowloon peninsula, in scattered settlements throughout the New Territories and along the northern edge of Hong Kong Island. These are the areas most tourists visit, and in which most of the built attractions are located. 40% of the remaining land area is preserved as country parks and nature reserves.

Getting around Hong Kong, and getting out

Hong Kong has an efficient and highly developed transportation network. Travellers use the MTR Octopus Card, a stored value system, which is widely accepted on buses, trains and ferries. The MTR network also extends into the countryside, and there are regular ferry routes that connect Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and the Outlying Islands.

On Hong Kong Island, the Peak Tram, the first public transport system in Hong Kong, has provided vertical rail transport between Central and Victoria Peak since 1888. The Peak, in the western half of the island, is one of Hong Kong’s most spectacular destinations, and the ascent and descent are breathtaking.

Getting off the beaten track

Hong Kong has beautiful mountains and its long coastline contains many bays, rivers and beaches. There are also many fine walking trails through the forests. The ‘Dragon’s Back’ hike, for example, winds its way along Hong Kong Island’s mountain ridge. In 2004, Time Magazine declared it the Best Urban Hike in Asia, saying the trail is, “the city’s finest and most surprising ramble … you’re so close to the city, but could hardly feel farther away”.

Wetlands and water birds

At the end of another MTR line is an environmentally important site: the Hong Kong Wetland Park and Tsim Bei Tsui. Hong Kong’s rich biodiversity is on display and coastal Deep Bay, a key area of natural wetlands, is nearby. Deep Bay contains lush mangroves, vast mudflats and many water birds. The adjacent Mai Po Inner Deep Bay Ramsar Site, a world-class ecotourism facility, is a perfect hideaway from Hong Kong’s hustle and bustle.

Going across the border

If your idea of getting off the beaten track is to travel to the best bargains, then Shenzhen in Mainland China is the place to go! Goods, such as clothes and food, are cheaper here. Getting to Shenzhen is not difficult using the MTR/KCR transport system from Hong Kong. A five-day visa can be issued at the border for most nationalities.

Get out and about

To enjoy ‘the other’ Hong Kong, catch the MTR to hike a mountain trail, or a ferry to an outlying island. This is a region of contrasts, from neon lights to stunning wildflowers, and fire dragon dances to jeweled dragonflies.