Whether you’re off on a sneaky visa run, visiting your much richer mates, chasing the sun and the clear air, or just fancy a weekend getaway, it’s likely you’ll be heading for Hong Kong. There’s much to see off the main island though, which can feel duly suffocating as one of the most densely packed areas in the world, beating even Beijing in the busyness stakes. Head to the hinterlands and there’s abundant nature to be found – beaches, hiking, camping, tropical life: all are just a short journey away from the buzzing metropolis.
One of the most popular hiking routes in Hong Kong, with good reason, is the MacLehose Trail, a 100km route that traverses the sprawling New Territories area. The epic route is divided into ten stages of various lengths; stages one and two are in Sai Kung, a sleepy and picturesque peninsula town to the northeast of Hong Kong Island in the New Territories region.
If you want to do both stages one and two in a day, set out early as the first is seven miles and the second closer to nine. Stage one takes you through rolling hills and mountain views, with open-water swimming and cliff jumping to boot; stage two boasts magnificent coastline views, steep climbs and some of Hong Kong’s best beaches, which are in Tai Long Wan bay.
Most also have tents for rent if you feel like some seaside camping or don’t leave enough time to make it home before sunset. If you do make it back to Sai Kung, though, check out the live music and balmy atmosphere at Momentai restaurant and bar on the waterfront.
Kiosk 1, Wai Man Road, Sai Kung (852 2792 8991).
Getting there Various buses go from Hong Kong Island or Kowloon to Sai Kung Town. From there, get the 94 bus to Pak Tam Chung for stage one, or to Pak Tam Au for stage two. It’s worth planning ahead as bus services can be irregular, and depending on the weather and sunset, you may need to get a boat from the end of your hike back to Sai Kung. Not a bad way to travel, really.
For a more low key tropical expedition, take the 20-minute ferry from Central Pier 4 to Lamma Island, an historic fishing town whose charm has been carefully preserved; buildings higher than three stories are prohibited, as are most automobiles. The result is a tranquil, relaxed island whose mood belies its ranking as Hong Kong’s third biggest. Spend the day exploring pagodas and dilapidated shacks for the perfect antidote to any urban woes.
Where to stay
offers luxury accommodation on the island, at a cheaper rate than other high-end hotels in Hong Kong. Rooms start at 1,286RMB per night for a double. 508 Queens Road West, Hong Kong (852 2974 1234).