Don’t miss what is ultimately a great ride. Hong Kong’s funicular is the world’s steepest — it climbs to a staggering 1,805 feet above sea level. On the way up, grab a seat on the right-hand side for the best views of the harbor and mountains. The trams, which look like old-fashioned trolley cars, are hauled all the way up by cables — in a mere seven minutes. At the top, you’ll find a mall with restaurants, shops, and amusements like Madame Tussaud’s wax museum. There’s a viewing platform on the mall’s roof. Between Garden Rd. and Cotton Tree Dr., Central. 2522-0922. HK$20 one-way, HK$30 round-trip. Daily every 15 minutes, 7 a.m.-midnight. www.thepeak.com.kh.
The Chinese name, Tai Ping Shan, means Mountain of Great Peace, and it certainly seems to inspire momentary hushed awe in visitors at the viewing point at the top of the peak. Spread below you is a glittering forest of skyscrapers. Beyond them the harbor and — on a clear day — Kowloon’s eight mountains. On a rainy day, clouds catch on the buildings’ pointy tops; at night both sides of the harbor burst into color. Consider having dinner at one of the restaurants near the Upper Terminus. There are spectacular views in all directions on the Peak Circle Walk, an easy-going 2.2 mi (3.5-km) paved trail that starts at the Upper Tram Terminus. Start by heading north along fern-encroached Lugard Road. There’s another stunning view of Central from the lookout, 20 minutes along, after which the road snakes west to an intersection with Hatton and Harlech roads.
If it’s your first time in the city, you’re all but required to cross the harbor and back on the Star Ferry at least once. It’s a beautiful and relaxing trip on characterful vessels. An evening ride is ideal, when the city’s neon and skyscrapers light up the sky. The ferry’s home is Pier 7 of the Outlying Islands Ferry Piers. There are two classes: a first-class ticket (HK$2.20) gives you a seat on the upper deck, which is air-conditioned. Second-class seats (HK$1.70) are on the lower deck and tend to be noisier. www.starferry.com.hk.
It’s not widely known, but 40% of Hong Kong territory is protected in 23 parks, including three marine parks. Within these confines are plenty of great hiking trails, including Dragon’s Back, which crosses the “rooftop” of Hong Kong Island. Take the Peak Tram from Central up to Victoria Peak, and tackle as much or as little of the range as you want. Surprisingly wild country feels a world away from the urban bustle below, and the panoramas are spectacular. You can follow the trail all the way to the delightful seaside village of Shek O, where you can relax over an evening dinner before returning to the city by minibus or taxi. Take the MTR from Central to Shaukeiwan, then Bus 9. Alight after the first roundabout, near the crematorium. The entire trip takes the better part of an unforgettable day.
Named after a former governor, this 60-mile trail is the grueling course for the annual charity event, the MacLehose Trailwalker. Top teams finish the hike in an astonishing 15 hours. Mere mortals should allow three to four days from beginning to end, or simply tackle one section or another on a day hike or two. The isolated trail through the New Territories starts at Tsak Yue Way, beyond Sai Kung, and circles High Island Reservoir before breaking north. A portion takes you through the Sai Kung Country Park, Hong Kong’s most beloved preserve, and up a mountain called Ma On Shan. Turn south for a high-ridge view, and walk through Ma On Shan Country Park. From here, walk west along the ridges of the mountains known as the Eight Dragons, which gave Kowloon its name. Cross Tai Po Road and follow the path to the summit of Tai Mo Shan (3,140 feet), Hong Kong’s tallest mountain. On a clear day you can see the spire of the Bank of China building. To reach Tsak Yue Way, take the MTR to Choi Hung and then Bus 92 or 96R or Minibus 1 to Sai Kung Town. From Sai Kung Town, take Bus 94 to the country park.
Happy Valley Racetrack
Hong Kong putters are the world’s most avid horse-racing fans, and the beloved track in Happy Valley is one of their headquarters. The joy of the track, even for those who aren’t into horses, is that it’s smack in the middle of the city and surrounded by towering apartment blocks. Indeed, people whose balconies hang over the backstretch often have parties on racing days. The track is a five-minute walk from the Causeway Bay MTR. Hong Kong Jockey Club, 1 Sports Rd., Happy Valley. 2966-8111. www.hkjc.com. HK$10.
Photo Credits: l-r (1) ©Istockphoto/ Billy Chan; (2) Courtesy of Star Ferry