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Why You Need to Visit Lantau Island in Hong Kong

Why You Need to Visit Lantau Island in Hong Kong

Lantau Island is a complete contrast to the bustling and over-populated Hong Kong and Kowloon. Golden sands merge with the azure South China Sea, and forested mountains offer hiking trails and enchanting peak views.

Lantau’s centrepiece is the bronze Buddha that sits atop the hillside and casts an ethereal gaze over the Po Lin monastery. Indeed no Hong Kong itinerary can be complete without a visit to this fascinating island.

How to Get to Lantau Island

Public transport or an organised tour can whisk you to Lantau in 40 minutes. I usually like to travel independently, but with only a few days in Hong Kong, I let someone else act as my guide and booked a day trip to Lantau Island, complete with sightseeing and lunch.

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Best Things to See on Lantau Island

Tsing Ma Bridge

Maybe not the most exciting part of the day, but the Tsing Ma Bridge is the longest road/rail suspension bridge in the world.

We stopped at this iconic structure’s viewing platform before crossing to Lantau Island.

It only opened in 1997; until then, the only way to get to Lantau was by boat.

The local people welcomed the bridge’s construction, and now rail and road vehicles can travel back and forth easily, greatly reducing journey times.

the tsing ma bridge from Hong Kong to Lantau island

After crossing the bridge, our next stop was at Hong Kong’s longest beach, Cheung Sha. It was more a convenience break than a chance to strip down to our swimming costumes and dip a toe in the South China Sea, but feeling sand between my toes in such a beautiful location was still lovely.

If you are coming to Lantau Island without a tour, allow yourself some time to spend on this 3km stretch of beach. There are two areas to it, the lower part, where restaurants, cafes and watersport rentals are located and the upper part, where we stopped, offering more of a remote vibe.

It was also scorching, so ensure you have all the protection you need for a beach day in the Hong Kong sunshine, or you may return looking like an overcooked noodle!

Angela on the Lantau beach

Tai O Fishing Village

Walking through Tai O Fishing Village was a real experience and one of Hong Kong’s hidden gems.

Traditional shops, mainly selling dried fish of every shape and size, lined the maze of small streets, and at every street corner, we noticed a tiny religious shrine.

Some of the “delicacies” on offer were quite curious, such as the fermented egg yolks that the children gobbled up like sweets, but it was a fascinating insight into the local Chinese culture.

We joined a tour boat and were shown around the small waterway for a closer look at daily life in Tai O Village.  

Seeing fishing junks tied up alongside stilted wooden houses and local people going about their everyday routines was fascinating. This culture and lifestyle are a million miles away from my own, but to be part of it for a while was a privilege and an experience we thoroughly enjoyed.

A Dried Fish Shop in Tai O village
Tai O fishing village in Lantau
Local fisherman and boat in Tai O village
Local Stilted houses in Tai O village

Po Lin Monastery

Back on the coach, we meandered through the scenic countryside and made our way to Po Lin Monastery, home of the world’s largest outdoor seated bronze Buddha.

The Buddha was to be the highlight of the trip, and as we rounded the corner and saw the Buddha serenely gracing the skyline and looking down over the monastery, it was everything we hoped it would be.

There were 268 steps to reach Tian Tan, the official name for the Big Buddha, but we got lucky, and our coach took us straight to the top, so there were no stairs to climb!

Po Lin Monastery

Big Buddha

When you stand beneath the Buddha, you realise just how enormous the statue is and the remarkable feat of engineering involved in creating it.

The swastika on the Buddha’s chest is a Buddhist symbol of peace and spirituality dating back 5000 years, much like the cross represents the Christian religion.

The Buddha’s right hand is raised, representing the removal of affliction, while the left rests open on his lap in a gesture of generosity. The lotus flower the Buddha sits upon represents purity.

Big Buddha at Lantau monastery
Front View of Big Buddha Hong Kong
The Bronze Statue of Big Buddha

Surrounding the Buddha stand six other statues called the Bodhisattvas, representing deities on their way to enlightenment.

3 statues of the Big Buddhas Deities.
Bodhivista Statue

Twelve Divine Generals

At the bottom of the stairs, we continued to make our way towards the monastery, where we were to be given a vegetarian lunch both prepared and served by monks.

We walked through the enormous white entrance gate and along the pathway flanked by the Twelve Divine Generals who guard the Buddha, each symbolising an animal from the Chinese Zodiac armed with a particular weapon. They also represent different times of the day.

White Monastery Gates with Chinese gold inscriptions

General Sandira represents the horse in the Chinese zodiac and holds a conch shell.  He represents the hours of 11 am-1 pm.

A statue representing a Chinese Zodiac Deity

General Kimnara represents the tiger of the Chinese Zodiac and holds a rope, though it looks very much like a bat and ball to me! He represents the hours of 3-5 am.

We came face-to-face with several sacred cows wandering along the paths, which were fun to see.

Tourists from certain countries seemed fascinated with capturing a selfie with a holy being and posed and pouted with them for ages!

Sacred Cow standing in the street

Giant Incense Sticks

In the monastery complex, there are several other religious buildings, and as it is a large area, you do need to give yourself a few hours to see everything at your own pace.

Incense sticks are sold in all the stalls that line the pathways, and these ceremonial sticks were probably the biggest I had ever seen. They are so big that ladders are required to get up to the top and light them so I’m not sure they would have fitted in my suitcase!

Giant Incense Sticks

Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car

The final part of our trip was to descend the mountain on the Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car, the world’s longest cable car at 5.7km.

The journey takes 25 minutes from the start at Ngong Ping to finish at Tung Chung, and the 360-degree scenery en route is spectacular.

Being wary of heights, I wasn’t sure about upgrading to a crystal cabin with a transparent floor, but let’s face it, this was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to push me out of my comfort zone, so we just went for it.

I managed to last the journey and can report that it wasn’t as scary as I thought.

cable car descending over water
View from the cable car
Glass Floored Cable Car

We jumped back on our tour coach at the bottom of the cable car ride and returned to our hotel, The Royal Garden in Kowloon.

We had seen all the highlights of Lantau Island and were ready to kick off our shoes and relax. Visiting Po Lin monastery and Big Buddha was very inspirational, and our organised trip allowed us a marvellous insight into the more serene side of Hong Kong.

Follow me on the next stop on my Round the World Trip:  Hanoi in Vietnam.



Saturday 28th of March 2020

What a great looking place. I’d definitely get some of the incense


Tuesday 26th of May 2020

I brought some home with me. A wonderful memory of a great trip.


Saturday 28th of March 2020

Looks like such a fun day trip, the statues are so beautiful. Thanks for sharing this spot on guide, pinning for my next trip to HK!


Saturday 28th of March 2020

Glad you enjoyed it. It is definitely something you must do if visiting HK, a very different experience to the hustle and bustle of the city.

Brooke of Passport Couture

Monday 3rd of February 2020

What a fascinating location! The statues are beautiful and you can see the craftsmanship it took to bring them to life. I'm glad I found your post to get some inspiration of other places to see near Hong Kong!


Monday 3rd of February 2020

I'm glad you found the blog interesting. I loved Lantau Island, very different from Hong Kong.

Erin Foster

Friday 31st of January 2020

That cable car is beautiful and terrifying at the same time! I've never been anywhere in Asia but I'll add this to my list! :)


Friday 31st of January 2020

I can’t believe I did it with the glass floor cabin ! If you have never been to Asia then I would say put Vietnam at the top of your list. I’ve travelled extensively but that is my favourite country 😍


Friday 31st of January 2020

I have been here nine years ago! It was a foggy day unfortunately and my pictures of the big Buddha are like silouettes!! I loved walking through the fishing village. Yes, it is definitely more interesting than the hustle and bustle of mainland Hongkong and Kowloon. Thanks for this lovely blog post that evoked my nostalgia!:-)


Friday 31st of January 2020

You are welcome Jan. Its a shame how the weather affects visiting a destination. Beautiful blue skies always make things look better