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Uniquely HK

Feature Story

Hong Kong's Amazing Country Parks

Explore and enjoy Hong Kong's many country parks, a hop and a skip from the city!
 
Most visitors’ first impression of Hong Kong is just how crowded it is: the overwhelming density of high rise buildings, the bustling crowds and public transport, and the cacophony of noise on the streets. 
 
And that impression would be entirely correct! At approximately 6,500 people per square kilometre, Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated cities in the world. Yet, paradoxically, Hong Kong is also one of the greenest global cities. In fact, of just over 1100 square kilometres, 75 percent of Hong Kong’s territory is green. Taking urban parks and open spaces and roads out of the remaining, this means more than 7 million people are squeezed into approximately 15 percent of Hong Kong’s landmass, making it incredibly compact.
 
However, a visitor who ventures outside the urban jungle discovers a dramatically different Hong Kong: one of sandy beaches, rocky shores, green valleys, magnificent islands, verdant forests, and steep mountains, often all within sight of each other and the urban centres.
 
The key to preserving Hong Kong’s green space is the network of country parks set up by the Hong Kong Government in the 1970s. Astoundingly, the 24 designated country parks plus eleven outlying areas account for 40 percent of Hong Kong’s total area, with the other 35 percent being agricultural and semi-rural land use.
 
The importance of these country parks to Hong Kong’s well-being cannot be overstated. Collectively, they serve as Hong Kong “lungs” both physically and psychologically. In Hong Kong’s common backyard, residents can take respite from the stress of the city with a visit to these peaceful green areas.
 
What really sets Hong Kong country parks apart though is their easy accessibility. A visitor can be in a country park in as little as 15 minutes from the city, in a world far from the madding crowd. And the parks are well maintained with a full range of facilities and crisscrossed by scores of clearly-marked hiking trails, allowing hikers ready access to all these natural areas have to offer. And oh, they are incredibly safe, of course, just like the rest of Hong Kong.
 
So, be sure to spend a half-day or more in the country side, whether to enjoy a vigorous walk, admire the stunning vistas, or just be at one with nature – you’ll come back re-invigorated, for sure!
 
Here is CityLife’s pick of country parks to visit. Consult your concierge or go to www.afcd.gov.hk for more details.
 
1. Pok Fu Lam Country Park
 
 
What’s there: Literally a short bus ride from the city, and you encounter nature: lush trees, shaded trails (mostly paved), sounds of birds and streams instead of automobiles. It is a sylvan sanctuary! Take the trail adjacent the reservoir which goes around the catchment area and back to the reservoir. Or you can hike up The Peak to enjoy panoramic views of Hong Kong harbour and beyond – perfect for those short of time.
 
How to get there: Take a taxi or a bus to Pok Fu Lam Reservoir Road just off Pok Fu Lam Road. Any of Citybus routes 7, 71 and 970X will do.
 
2. Tai Tam Country Park
 
 
Occupying a fifth of Hong Kong Island, Tai Tam Country Park, together with its Quarry Bay extension, is one of the most scenic parks in the territory, with fantastic views of the city and the South China Sea. There are hiking trails galore throughout the park. Several intersect near the Hong Kong Parkview, a luxury residential estate at the Wong Nai Chung Gap. For sheer diversity, we recommend you hike up Jardine’s Lookout (Hong Kong Trail Stage 5) for unparalleled views of the city. The trail then descends past an abandoned quarry before going back up to Mount Butler with a gorgeous view of Tai Tam Valley and its reservoirs. After another quick decent to a rest area, you can hike back to Parkview along the trail past the reservoirs or take the Quarry Bay Jogging Trail back to the city.
 
How to get there: Take the No. 6 Citybus from Central and get off at the top of Wong Nai Chun Gap Road. Then walk ten minutes up the road to Parkview and to access the various trails.
 
3. Aberdeen Country Park
 
 
Another park just minutes from the city, this one is contiguous to Pok Fu Lam Country Park but larger. The two Aberdeen Reservoirs (Upper and Lower) serve as focal points. There is a large BBQ area with access for all, including users of mobility aids, and a fitness trail that winds around the reservoirs. The intrepid may wish to hike to Wanchai Gap, a moderately strenuous walk that takes you right into the heart of the city, in Wanchai, with stunning vistas along the way.
 
How to get there: Take Citybus No. 7 from Central to Shek Pai Wan and get off before the end at Hoy Au Lau on Yue Kwong Road; it’s just a short uphill walk to the park entrance.
 
4. Kam Shan Country Park
 
 
Another one close to the city, this park offers something different: monkeys! Dubbed Monkey Hill, it is located in western Sha Tin District north of urban Kowloon, and is set around four reservoirs, with the Kowloon Reservoir the largest. Popular with locals and visitors alike, the park is a sanctuary for macaque monkeys, with hundreds roaming around. Besides watching monkeys, the park is rich in flora. A number of moderately easy trails provide vistas of the reservoirs and nearby mountains – but it’s the monkeys that grab the headlines, and anything else they can reach.
 
How to get there: Take Kowloon Motor Bus 81 from Jordan and get off at the Kowloon Reservoir bus stop on Tai Po Road.

 

5. Lantau South Country Park

If you can spend a whole day at a country park – head out to Lantau! You’ll be rewarded with the spectacular beauty of Hong Kong’s great outdoors. South Lantau Country Park, which encircles Lantau Peak and Sunset Peak, two of Hong Kong’s tallest mountains, provides something for everybody: beaches, steep hillsides, streams and waterfalls, villages, flora and wildlife, and of course, scenic views all around. The spine of the park is the 12-stage, 70 km Lantau Trail. You may want to start in Mui Wo or Tung Chung and prepare for an adventurous day in the outdoors. 
 
How to get there: Take the ferry from Central (Pier 6) to Mui Wo and take Bus 1 to one of Lantau Trail’s staging points; or take the MTR to Tung Chung then bus to Ngong Ping to explore around that area.
 
6. Sai Kung East Country Park
 
 
Arguably Hong Kong’s best outdoor area, the Sai Kung Peninsula, most of which lies within Sai Kung East and West Country Parks, will awe and inspire you: fabulous hiking trails, stunning views of reservoirs, unique geological formations, unspoiled white sandy beaches. A day at one of the Sai Kung country parks will make you forget you are in one of the busiest cities in the world. One suggestion is to hike the end of Maclehose Trail Stage 1 then Stage 2 from the East Dam of the High Island Reservoir, ending at Wong Shek Pier. You will pass beautiful beaches including Long Kee and Tai Long Wan and stunning scenic views along the way.
 
How to get there: Take Kowloon Motor Bus 92 from Diamond Hill Kowloon to Sai Kung Town Centre then take KMB bus 94 to Sai Kung East Country Park at Pak Tam Chung. Either take a taxi to the East Dam or hike around 10 km along Maclehose Trail Stage 1, if you are hardy. Take Bus 94 back to Sai Kung from Wong Shek Pier.
 
(Edited on 02/12/2016)

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