Best Tours and Excursions in Hong Kong

Best Hong Kong Tours and Excursions: Take a Break from the City

Hong Kong is packed into a mere 400 square miles – and there's a lot to pack. Everyone knows about the gleaming skyscrapers that flank the glistening harbor – but there are islands to explore, markets to fossick through, ancient temples where you can pause for contemplation, and parks where – given a bit of luck – wander all day and hardly see another soul.

The great thing about Hong Kong is that because it's so small, no attraction is much more than an hour's travel time away. And fares on the buses, mass transit railway and ferries are incredibly reasonable. A return trip to Lantau can cost as little as HK$30 (about US$4). Riding the MTR from the central business district all the way up to the border with Mainland China is about the same price. Hong Kong may be expensive in some ways, but certainly not as far as getting around is concerned.

So, with a handful of dollars, the choice is yours, whether you head out to Sai Kung Country Park, or take a boat ride with First Ferry; Wong Tai Sin temple is right next to its own MTR station, while seaside Stanley Market is just a half-hour bus ride from Central.


Kowloon Walled City Park
Photo courtesy of Kowloon Walled City Park

This park was built on what was once a massive tenement block which grew up around an old fortification. The tenements were finally demolished in the 1990s. The Kowloon Walled City was famous for holding a unique distinction – it was the only district in Hong Kong that avoided British rule during the 1840 Qing Dynasty. So who ruled the walled city? No one! It was in a state of lawlessness and ruin until it was turned into an award-winning park in the 20th century. It is home to Bonsai trees, relics from the Qing Dynasty, and a popular giant chessboard.

Recommended for Tours and Excursions because: One of Hong Kong's great civic projects, the park was created out of what was one a high-rise slum.

Ed's expert tip: The remains of the South Gate, dating back up to 1,000 years, are still plainly visible.

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Lantau Island

Massively imposing by day and a twinkling span of lights by night, the Tsing Ma Bridge is an engineering marvel that links Lantau Island to the rest of Hong Kong. The mile-long bridge was opened to traffic in 1997 as part of key infrastructure serving the new airport on Lantau, and has since become a local sightseeing favorite. As the longest suspension bridge with both rail and road traffic in the world, the bridge got its name from the areas at either end: Tsing Yi and Ma Wan. In the event of a particularly severe typhoon hitting Hong Kong and shutting down the bridge's six lanes, the two railway lines and two road lanes enclosed below it can still operate and transfer passengers and their luggage to and from the airport. Visitors should head to the Lantau Link View Point and Visitors Centre located on the small island of Tsing Yi for the best views.

Recommended for Tours and Excursions because: This is without doubt one of the world's most dramatic bridges.

Ed's expert tip: For an unusual view of the bridge, ride the ferry to Park Island, which sails right underneath.

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Wong Tai Sin Temple
Photo courtesy of Wong Tai Sin Temple

This well-known attraction was built in 1973 and is still one of the most active Buddhist temples in the city. The lush gardens, with their waterfalls, ponds and pavilions, inspire numerous photographs. Be sure to wander through the arcade, where a palm reader will tell your fortune – some will even do it in English. Named for a shepherd boy who was said to have mystical healing powers, this temple still has a magical feeling. Wong Tai Sin is deluged at Lunar New Year – usually late January or early February – when large swathes of the population come to worship.

Recommended for Tours and Excursions because: Although it's on the northern fringes of Kowloon, Wong Tai Sin Temple has a real air of calm and peace.

Ed's expert tip: This is one of the easiest temples to visit – it's right next to the MTR station.

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Lantau Island
Po Lin Monastery
Photo courtesy of Hong Kong Tourism Board

Po Lin translates to "precious lotus," and this monastery is one of the most famous of Hong Kong's numerous attractions. In addition to being one of the most opulent and grandest temples in the country, this is also home to the famous "Big Buddha," which measures more than 100 feet high. Made of bronze and seated in the mythical cross-legged repose, this statue is an attraction on its own. The views of the countryside are spectacular, and an excellent vegetarian cuisine is served by monks in the canteen. Most people come here by road or cable car, both exciting journeys in themselves.

Recommended for Tours and Excursions because: Making the ascent to Po Lin Monastery is like a mini pilgrimage.

Ed's expert tip: If you're reasonably fit, it's perfectly possible to hike up here either from Tung Chung or Shek Pik Reservoir.

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Sai Kung Country Park
Photo courtesy of Hong Kong Tourism Board

The New Territories, once home to nothing but pastoral meadowlands, are quickly becoming industrialized and commercialized. However, this park remains a bastion of natural beauty. This unspoiled seaside area of parkland features hiking trails dotted with informative visitor centers. See the area from a watery vantage point by renting a kaido (a small boat) in the town of Sai Kung, which is flanked by protected parks. Locals say eating seafood in this town is a must.The beaches at Tai Long Wan, on the eastern fringe of the park, are the most lovely in Hong Kong and well worth the hike out.

Recommended for Tours and Excursions because: Who would think this is Hong Kong – miles of hiking trail, and beaches that could rival Thailand or Bali?

Ed's expert tip: If you are hiking this park, take enough food and water and there are not many refreshment points.

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Museum of Coastal Defence
Photo courtesy of Museum of Coastal Defence

This site dates back over a century, to when Lei Yue Mun Fort was a strategic part of Hong Kong's defenses. It was the scene of fierce fighting during the Japanese invasion on 1941, and later became a regular barracks. So its current role as a military museum couldn't be more apt. This is a magnificent setting, and the exhibits are both indoors and out, above ground and below. The best way to take it all in is to follow the historical trail which leads visitors around the entire museum. This is probably Hong Kong's largest museum, so allow sufficient time for your visit.

Recommended for Tours and Excursions because: This is a really good use of a historic space, and something of a rarity in Hong Kong where old buildings tend to get demolished.

Ed's expert tip: Don't think this museum is just for military buffs: it's for anyone interested in Hong Kong.

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First Ferry
Photo courtesy of First Ferry

New World First Ferry Services Limited – better known as First Ferry – operates five main inner harbor and outlying island ferry routes in Hong Kong, including North Point-Hung Hom and North Point-Kowloon City, as well as Central-Cheung Chau, Central-Mui Wo and Inter Islands, between Peng Chau, Mui Wo, Chi Ma Wan and Cheung Chau), together with one special ferry route (plying between North Point and Joss House Bay, Sai Kung during Tin Hau Festival only. The most interesting destinations are Mui Wo and Cheung Chau. The Inter-Island ferry makes for a highly varied whole day's sightseeing, as it runs from dawn till nearly midnight.

Recommended for Tours and Excursions because: The fares are inexpensive, and a half-hour trip leads to somewhere totally different from the city.

Ed's expert tip: The triple-decker ferries operate only occasionally, but their outside deck is fabulous even on winter days.

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Victoria Peak

The 552-meter mountain has that classic Hong Kong view. Near the summit at 396 meters high there is an entertainment and viewing complex called Peak Tower where travelers can snap that perfect souvenir photo. In the foreground, a forest of skyscrapers rise in eye-opening density beneath your foot while the sapphire blue Victoria Harbour glitters in distance. Go on a nice day, you can also make out the outlying islands scattering on the South China sea on the 360-degree observation deck. Various modes of transport reach the top but the 1,350-meter-long peak tram is most popular. The 125-year old track is said to be the first railway in Asia and the eight-minute ride can reach as steep as 30 degrees from the ground. The Peak Tower also house a view-fantastic Cantonese restaurant Sky Terrace 428 and a Madame Tussauds Museums featuring Jackie Chan, Jet Li and various other Asian celebrities.

Recommended for Tours and Excursions because: It's easy to see why the Peak is so popular – it looks down over the whole of Hong Kong and beyond.

Ed's expert tip: The lush mountain also provides great hiking opportunities. Hikers can exceed the tourist viewing deck and reach the less crowded summit via several footpaths including the Old Peak Road.

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Stanley Market
Photo courtesy of Hong Kong Tourism Board

Stanley is possibly Hong Kong's best-known market. And with good reason. It's part of a community set by the sea, with plenty of restaurants and cafes so you can pause for refreshment. The goods on sale are fabulously varied, and the traders generally cheery and not averse to bargaining. There's no charge for entry, of course, so visitors are free to wander about and enjoy the spectacle. There's a beach nearby, and Murray House – a Victorian building which was moved here lock, stock and barrel from Central – stands by the shore. One way or another, Stanley is a great day out.

Recommended for Tours and Excursions because: Nobody really planned Stanley Market – it just grew, and that's why it's such fun.

Ed's expert tip: Pace yourself – there's lot to explore here, so build lunch or supper into your itinerary.

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Ocean Park
Photo courtesy of Ocean Park

This massive Chinese wonderland is a combination of amusement park, aquarium and zoo. It has enough activity to keep everyone in the family busy for an entire day. Built around several hills near the South China Sea, the 780,000-square-meter park is divided into two sections: The Headland and The Lowland. They are connected by a 1,400-meter-long cable car system as well. The Lowland houses two giant pandas, a variety of fun animal shows and Dolphin Encounter, 90 minutes of up-close-and-personal time in a pool with the friendly cetaceans. The Headland section is equipped with several thrilling ocean-side scream machines (roller coasters, water rides, etc), a vast aviary with more than 1,000 birds and Marine World, a massive aquarium with a fabulous jellyfish exhibit, a shark tunnel and a gigantic reef tank with some 2,000 fish.

Recommended for Tours and Excursions because: Ocean Park is Hong Kong's home-grown theme park, and embraces a lot of the city's true spirit.

Ed's expert tip: Dolphin Encounter participants must be at least eight years old.

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