Lantau (Chinese: 大嶼山; Pinyin: Dàyǔ shān) is the largest island in Hong Kong and despite having both the airport and Disneyland it offers quiet mountains and villages that seem a world away from the busy pace of life in Kowloon.
With the opening of the Lantau Link, a road and rail connection between the airport and central Hong Kong in 1997, Lantau Island is now firmly connected to the mainland of the Kowloon peninsula. The new airport at Chek Lap Kok has led to the establishment and rapid expansion of a new town, Tung Chung, and the improved transport links have brought further development in the shape of Disneyland, a cable car to Ngong Ping monastery, and an entire new road to southern Lantau. Sizeable sections of Lantau Island are declared country parks, though the island seems poised for more development.
There are four sizeable communities on Lantau:
- Discovery Bay – a resort-style residential district approximately 30 minutes by boat from Central District, 20 minutes by bus from Tung Chung and 10 minutes by bus from the nearest MTR metro station (Sunny Bay). It is home to approximately 15,000 people, including a large portion of expatriates.
- Tung Chung – brand new apartments close to the airport
- Mui Wo – large, quiet village popular with expatriates who are not taken with the sterility of Discovery Bay
- Tai O – traditional fishing village, with most houses on stilts in the river. Very scenic and crowded with tourists on weekends.
From the airport
Lantau Island is adjacent to Hong Kong International Airport, and linked to the airport island by two short bridges. The best ways from the airport are taxi and bus. There is no train service from the airport to Lantau, and it is probably cheaper to take a taxi than to take the Airport Express train to Tsing Yi and come back via the standard MTR.
Blue coloured taxis from the airport to anywhere in Lantau are relatively fast and pleasant, however they can be in short supply on weekends. (You can call a number displayed at the taxi stand to try and get one faster). Red taxis are (only) allowed to take you to Tung Chung and Disneyland on Lantau, although their use for short distances is generally discouraged by the airport staff.
Alternatively, there are frequent buses that travel towards Tung Chung MTR station, including S1 and S64 from the airport terminal. Although you can use the A35/N35 for traveling to Mui Wo directly from the airport, the frequency of this particular route is sparse. It's usually better to change on to local buses at Tung Chung MTR interchange, where you can find buses to most destinations across Lantau island.
It's about a 5km walk from the airport to Tung Chung. The main (northern) bridge is a highway that doesn't allow pedestrians, but there is a nice walkway over the southern bridge. Considering the bus fare is around $4, you shouldn't have to consider this option.'
The Tung Chung MTR line is the fastest way to get to Lantau if you are going to the north of the island. The Tung Chung line also connects with special rail services at Sunny Bay that take visitors directly to Disneyland.
The trip to Tung Chung takes around 25 minutes all the way from Hong Kong station and costs $18-20.50. Children 11 years and under enjoy a 50% discount.
There is a monthly ticket for this line available at the MTR stations, although you would have to use it every day to make much saving from it.
The obvious way of getting to the island is to take a ferry. Ferries depart from the Outlying Islands pier in Central, to the west of the Star Ferry terminal. The largest operator is the New World First Ferry.
- Discovery Bay: Pier 3, $31 (fast only), every 10-30 minutes. Ferry Link
- Mui Wo: Pier 6, $13.00 (slow) / $25.50 (fast), every 40 minutes.
Ferries to the island, as well as buses, impose a 50% surcharge for travel on Sundays and public holidays (with the exception of services to/from/within Discovery Bay, Disneyland and the airport). It's cheaper, and less crowded, to visit during the week or on Saturdays.
Tuen Muen->Tung Chung->Tai O: There is a small ferry that runs between Tuen Muen in the New Territories to Tung Chung on Lantau to the touristic fishing village of Tai O on Lantau every day in the mornings and late afternoons. If you are visiting Tai O then this ferry might be a nice way back to Tung Chung. (The Tung Chung ferry pier is however a long walk from the MTR/Bus station.)
Tung Chung and Discovery Bay have some bus connections to Hong Kong as well, although they are usually a less compelling option than taking the MTR train.
Whilst you can drive your car onto Lantau, the road system is limited and much of the island is zoned as a country park and is off limits to normal vehicles. If you really want to see Lantau you should get out of your car. The Disneyland is however still accessible by car and connected by the Lantau Link expressway.
From Mainland China
- Airport: There are many buses connecting the bus stations in Terminal 2 of Airport to various locations on the mainland, including Shenzhen and Guangzhou
- Tung Chung: There is a frequent direct bus connection between the Citygate Shopping outlet in Tung Chung and the Huanggang border crossing in Shenzhen
There is a ferry between Macau and the Hong Kong International Airport a few times a day, although it appears you can only use this if you are going to board a flight and not to disembark on Lantau itself.
On Lantau seemingly short distances on a map (e.g. Tung Chung to Ngong Ping, less than 6 km by cable car) can take a while by road, due to the twisty mountain roads and their circuitous routes.
The major bus interchange in Lantau locates nearby the Tung Chung MTR Station. New Lantau Bus serves numerous of bus routes which connects to most of famous attraction and villages along the Lantau Island. Some bus routes traveling within south Lantau region, connecting places including Tai O and Mui Wo.
Blue taxis are allowed to take you anywhere on Lantau island. Note that there are not so many of them, so be careful to rely on them during busy times. The fares are slightly cheaper than the red Hong Kong taxis.
Red taxis are allowed to serve only the airport, Tung Chung and Disneyland. They are not allowed anywhere else on Lantau island.
Mui Wo: There is at least one bicycle shop in Mui Wo (just opposite the main bus station), where you can rent bicycles hourly or for the whole day.
Yat Tung: There are a few bicycle shops in Yat Tung (close to Tung Chung) with bikes for rent.
If you are not going too far, there are generally convenient footpaths all over the island. There are paved paths all around Mui Wo to some of the villages, many of which are within a 30 minute walk or less.
Be careful walking too far in summer months since most routes do not have any amenities and it can get very hot! Hiking between June and October is not recommended, although people do it.
Popular routes include:
- Tung Chung -> Mui Wo: 3-4 hours with easy climb through the countryside
- Tung Chung -> Tai O: 4 hours walking around the coastal path. (Note very limited facilities and exit points on the trail itself)
- Discovery Bay -> Mui Wo: 3 hour hike past the Trappist Monastery
- Tung Chung -> Ngong Ping: 4-5 hours. Very difficult climb following the cable car route. Walk past the Yat Tung estate and follow the path to Tai O. The trail directly up the mountain should be obvious and is well signposted.
By cable car
Ngong Ping 360 is a spectacular 5.7 km cable car journey between Tung Chung and Ngong Ping on Lantau Island, which is easily accessible from Tung Chung MTR station.
A single trip costs $94 ($135 round trip) on normal days and more on special days. The cabins glide over the South China Sea and the verdant mountainous terrain of the North Lantau Country Park for 20-25 minutes and provide some of the best panoramic views in Hong Kong, including the Hong Kong International Airport and the Tian Tan Buddha Statue.
This is one of Hong Kong's main tourist attractions, and lines can be very long. Tickets can be pre-purchased online.
Watch out for people trying to sell you tickets outside the station. The latest trend was to sell you a single tour on the cable car and an all-day pass for the Lantau bus system. While it might be nice to take the cable car up to the Buddha (the line for the cable car can be long), and the bus back, the all-day pass for the bus is probably a waste of money.
- Hong Kong Disneyland, ☎ +852 1 830-830. Asia's second Disneyland was opened in September 2005 and features some of the Disney favourites. The park is accessible via the MTR. Change at the Sunny Bay station on the Tung Chung MTR line for the Disneyland Resort Line. It has four themed areas: Main Street USA, Adventureland, Fantasyland and Tomorrowland. On weekdays tickets are $295 for Adults and $210 for children. Being relatively new, there are fewer rides than the other Disney theme parks. A few rides have a slightly different take on them, but there is little unique here. Some rides, such as Buzz Lightyear, are simply identical to other parks. If you get there at opening time on a weekday, it would be possible to do all the rides and shows by mid-afternoon. English speakers are well catered for, with all attractions narrating in both English and Cantonese. The Jungle River Cruise, however, which depends so much on the English language delivery of the guide doesn't fare well. There is a choice of Cantonese and American "cuisine" around the park. The Fantasyland Banquet Hall offering the broadest range of food types and kids meals to keep everyone happy. Meals around $55. There are a plenty of drinking fountains in the park. Bring a water bottle to fill, or pay a bottle in the park. On weekends and holidays the tickets are $350 for adults and $250 for children. Children under 3 are free. Visit on weekdays to avoid the crowds.
- Inspiration Lake Recreation Centre (迪欣湖), also called Inspiration Lake. It consists of the largest artificial lake in Hong Kong, also 1500 metre jogging trail. It is situated in Penny's Bay, a 15-minutes walk from Disneyland Resort MTR station.
- Ngong Ping 360. Hong Kong's newest tourist attraction combines a spectacular 5.7 km cable car journey that takes in an impressive cultural themed village and the Tian Tan Buddha. At the themed village there are a couple of attractions. The Walking with Buddha attraction gives an interesting introduction to Buddha, and has different stages, with headphones giving the narration in a variety of languages. The Monkey's Tail is simply a silent animated movie, with a simple moral. A little trivial overall. Combined tickets can be bought to cover all three attractions. There are about 10 restaurants in the village, serving a variety of food, all a little on the expensive side for what they are. There are some other restaurants in the true village, beyond the themed section. The cable car station is adjacent to the Tung Chung MTR. Note that there are often lengthy queues to go up the mountain, especially on weekends - if the queue extends downstairs, expect a two hour wait. To avoid you can take a bus up the mountain and the cable car back (queues are much shorter, especially if buying the Crystal Cabin). Alternatively, buy a guided tour or the Journey to Enlightenment package, both of which bypass most of the queue for the cheaper tickets.
- Tian Tan Buddha (天壇大佛), Ngong Ping. At over 250 tonnes and 34 metres in height, this is the largest, seated, outdoor bronze Buddha statue in the world. Open 10AM to 6PM, access to the Buddha itself is free, although entering the museum inside during busy times requires a meal ticket for the vegetarian restaurant; a snack costs $23 while full meals are $60 (normal) or $100 (deluxe). Less direct alternatives to the cable car are bus #2 from Mui Wo ferry pier or bus #23 from Tung Chung (both $17.20/27 on weekdays/Sundays).
- Po Lin Monastery (寶蓮禪寺), Ngong Ping (Below the Tian Tan Buddha (25 minutes by cable car from Tung Chung)). The monastery was founded in 1906 by three monks from Jiangsu province. The main temple building houses three bronze statues representing the Buddha of the past, present and future.
- Tai O (大澳) (Direct bus from Mui Wo ferry pier or Tung Chung MTR station.). A traditional fishing village with houses built on stilts over the sea. Tai O also called "Eastern Venice".
- Discovery Bay (Direct ferry from Central, or bus from Tung Chung.). As a residential district, Discovery Bay is not really a tourist destination. However, it boasts a 400m beach, a golf and marina club for members and guests, meaning that the area attracts day trippers. It also holds a number of festivals, including most notably, Dragon boat races at the beach in May/June and a multicultural festival in November.
- Mui Wo (traditional Chinese: 梅窩, Pinyin: Méiwō, lit. "plum nest"). a rural town on the eastern coast of Lantau Island. The main beach in Mui Wo is known as Silver Mine Bay (銀礦灣). There are fast and slow ferry services from Central to Mui Wo. Central - Mui Wo Ferry The fast ferry costs $25 and takes 30 minutes. The slow ferry costs $15, takes 50 minutes and you can go outside. The 3M bus takes you from Tung Chung to Mui Wo. There are a number of temples and old buildings. There is also a waterfall, an old mining cave (sealed off) and numerous hiking trails. Close to the Ferry Pier there are three bicycle rent shops where you rent bikes from between $30 to $150. At the beginning of Silver Mine Beach there is also a place to rent bicycles.
- Chinese White Dolphins. In the waters just off Tung Chung on Lantau Island, live the Chinese White Dolphins . These dolphins are naturally pink and live in the wild, but their status is currently threatened, with it current population estimated to be between 100-200. Take a boat trip with Hong Kong Dolphinwatch to see these pink dolphins, and if you're lucky you can watch them jumping and playing.
- Cheung Sha beach which is about a 20 minute bus ride away has windsurfing and canoe rentals.
- Hikers may wish to try the 70-km Lantau Trail, which does loops around the island. The full route would take several days but is divided into a dozen stages, some of which take less than an hour. There are many other hikes on Lantau, some of which are listed below.
- Mui wo-Discovery bay trail, 1 to 1-1/2 hrs. Crosses several hills and valleys, the tops of which can give views of the Hong Kong skyline on clear days.
- Sunset Peak, 869 metres, 1-1/2 to 2 hrs, approx. 7km. This hike starts at the Nam San base station (approx. 300m altitude), an outdoor area with picnic tables, a vending machine and flushing toilets. Follow the sign for the Nam San tree walk, a relatively flat trail through a forest with signs describing the trees seen along the route. About 5 minutes into this walk, you will come to a junction. Here you can either take the tree walk back to Nam San, or follow the trail marked "Sunset Peak". The trail first follows some switchbacks through the forest, then ascends above the treeline and runs along a ridge. On clear days, the summit offers spectacular views of the whole of Lantau Island and the southwestern new territories. There are cabins at the summit, which can be rented by following the URLs painted on the side.
- Lantau Peak (Most hikers hike to the summit from Ngong Ping (approx. 500m) though more experienced hikers can hike the full elevation, starting at Tung Chung road.). At 934 metres, the second highest point in Hong Kong and the highest point on Lantau Island. You can also stay overnight at the Ngong Ping hostel, and wake up very early to reach the summit in time for the spectacular sunrise. Although not particularly high by international standards, this is a fairly hard climb and you should make full preparations, especially during summer.
- Swim at Silvermine Beach in Mui Wo or at any of the other beaches around the island.
- Have a BBQ on the beach
- Discovery Bay : This expat community has some special events and festivals worth seeing, including Dragonboat races (around May/June), Halloween Festival (October) and the Multi-Cultural Festival (usually in November).
Tung Chung: There is a large mall called CityGate Outlets, next to the MTR Station, that has many 'factory shops' of many famous clothes and fashion brands, such as Adidas, Esprit, Giordano, Levi's, Nike, Quiksilver and Timberland. This mall is very popular with mainland Chinese tourists. The prices are cheaper, although the items for sale may not be the latest. The cheapest prices are during the end-of-season sales. Note that in most shops in City Gate there is no refund policy. Next to CityGate is a more downmarket mall called 'Fu Tong', which has a limited number of local shops, many local restaurants and a Hong Kong style wet market.
Tai O: There are lots of tourist shops selling local food and delicacies.
Mui Wo: There are some novelty and food shops, although generally not a great deal here.
Discovery Bay: At the heart of the community lies the commercial centre, DB Plaza, where residents and visitors gather for socializing or functions. As a residential district, most shops serve residents' needs - including supermarkets, banks and chemists; but there also exist a sizable number of independent and novelty shops. For the tourist there is very little here.
- The Stoep, ☎ +852 2980 2699. 32 Lower Cheung Sha Village. Beachside restaurant with a good western menu and also specializes in serving South African dishes. Although the food is not the main attraction, the location of this restaurant makes it one of the best places to eat and drink in Hong Kong. Booking a table is advisable at weekends and Public Holidays.
- The Po Lin Monastery's vegetarian restaurant is well worth a visit for a taste of Chinese vegetarian food, an art form devoted to turning soybean products into very passable imitations of meat and fish. Meals served from 11AM-4:30PM. A regular meal is $60, a deluxe meal is $100, enquire at the Big Buddha ticket booth.
- High Tide Restaurant, ☎ +852 2980 3002. 35 Lower Cheung Sha Village, open from 11.30am til late every day except Tuesday. Authentic Thai restaurant. Located right on the beach front, you might think you're in Thailand. An ideal place to get refreshments after a lazy day on one of Hong Kong's best beaches.
- China Beach Club, 18 Tung Wan Pau Road. Silvermine Bay (Mui Wo). Head for the beach in the bay and then carry on walking. Serves great food and drinks to the colonial crowd and locals alike. This is a doggie paradise in Hong Kong.
- The China Bear, 3 Ngan Wan Road. Mui Wo. Walk off the ferry and turn left and you will see a cafe/bar next to the sea. If you are looking for a "full English" breakfast, or some western beer, then you have found the right place.
- Bombay Cafe, Mui Wo. Great Curries at a reasonable price.
- Deli France. Near the MTR
- Pizza Hut. Near the MTR
- Food Republic (Third floor of the CityGate shopping mall.). A large food court that is incredibly busy at lunch and dinner times on weekends with a lot of mainlanders hungry after a hard day of shopping.
- Olea, 51 Man Tung Rd, Tung Chung (Lobby of Novotel hotel in Ciygate Mall), ☎ +852-3602-8818. 12:00AM-2:30PM, 8-10PM daily. With floor-to-ceiling glass windows of 7 meters looking out to a man-made water and bamboo feature. Olea is a casual fine dining restaurant in the hotel and features an open Mediterranean kitchen, with a pizza oven and an array of various classic tapas and mezze dishes. Start from $170 + 10% service charge.
- Essence, 51 Man Tung Rd, Tung Chung (Lobby of Novotel hotel in Ciygate Mall), ☎ +852-3602-8808. 6:30AM-11PM daily. Located on the lobby level, Essence was designed by a world famous interior designer Yasumichi Morita.It is the main dining venue in the hotel and features international cuisine through buffet and a la carte offerings. Start from $130 + 10% service charge.
- 360 Forest Grill & Restaurant Bar - Overlooking the cable car, 360 Forest Grill & Restaurant Bar offers alfresco dining in a peaceful, garden setting; only moments away from the hustle of Tung Chung. 360 Forest’s cuisine features a wide range of a-la-cart grilled meats and fresh sea foods, three course buffet sets, and standard Asian and European dishes. Happy hour starts daily at 3.00. To make a booking, phone: 2109 4360. Email: email@example.com
- China Bear, G/F, Mui Wo Ctr, Mui Wo. $41-$100.
- Mcsorley's Ale House, Shop G11A, G/F, D Deck, Discovery Bay.
- Starz, CityGate, Tung Chung. There are few bar options in Tung Chung, and this is probably the best you are going to find.
There are some guesthouses (a few of which call themselves hotels) and two hostels on Lantau. Lantau also has 10 campsites. When you get off the ferry pier in Mui Wo, there are some booths were you can rent apartments for the weekend. There are several small cabins for hikers at Sunset Peak which go for $300 per cabin/night (sleeps about six people, but very old). There is also accommodation at Disneyland, at the Disneyland Hotel, and the Disney Hollywood Hotel.
- Novotel Citygate Hong Kong (諾富特東薈城酒店), 51 Man Tung Rd, Tung Chung, ☎ +852-3602-8888, toll-free: +800 93 8768, fax: +852-3602-8899, e-mail: H6239@accor.com. Check-in: noon, check-out: 11am. Novotel Citygate Hong Kong is only 5 minutes from Hong Kong International Airport with free shuttle service. With direct access to mass transit railway (MTR), it takes only 28 minutes to the city centre and Hong Kong Disneyland is 2 stops away. HKD 900-2500.
- Silver Mine Bay Hotel (From the ferry turn right and continue along the water.). Swimming pool, sauna, beach side. Breakfast included. 128 room hotel and resort. from $1180.
- Ngong Ping SG Davis Hostel at the Po Lin Monastery, ☎ +852 2985 5610. Reservations made are not always acknowledged upon arrival, but sometimes when you're told they're booked solid you can still get a bunk. You needed to be a member of a Youth Hostel Association in order to get the best rates. Membership is available online. Dorm: $110-150, Double: $400.
Take the ferry back to Central. There are also inter-island ferries to Peng Chau and Chung Chau.