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Victoria Peak: The Top of Hong Kong

Victoria Peak, the mountain that looms over the skyscrapers of Hong Kong, is one of Hong Kong’s top tourist attractions. Although I usually prefer the more off-the-beaten-path destinations, I couldn’t resist going up there. I’d been there before and enjoyed the views.

The ride up Victoria Peak

While you could take the bus (cheaper) or hike up (insane in the hot humidity of summer), the classic way up Victoria Peak is to take the Peak Tram, which has been in operation since 1888.

shows the old-fashioned red tram car on Victoria Peak

The tram arriving at the top of Victoria Peak

It’s not indicated anywhere at the ticket window, but you don’t have to pay the HK$83 (about US$11) that is posted. That includes both the tram and entrance to Sky Terrace, a viewing platform that bills itself as the highest viewing platform in Hong Kong. That may well be, but it’s a lot to pay for a view you can get from other free spots. If you ask, you can get a round-trip ticket without the Sky Terrace for HK$40 (US$5).

buildings seen from the tram show how much the tram is tilted as it descends Victoria Peak

This photo gives you an impression of how steep it is. We were going down at the time, so our backs faced downhill.

It’s an exceptionally steep ride, and the ride down is a bit creepy since you ride sitting backwards. At that angle, you feel yourself pressing into the wooden seat back, and you hope the brakes hold. (In reality, it’s not a question of braking as you descend. In fact, both the tram going up and the tram going down are attached to the same cable, so they counterbalance each other. It’s really, then, a question of whether the cable holds!)

very densely-packed buildings in Hong Kong

I took this picture from the tram up.

What’s wonderful is the view going up, going down, and on Victoria Peak. It’s a futuristic view, all shiny in the sun, and the skyscrapers look like toys from up there.

At the top of Victoria Peak

When you get off the tram, you’ll find yourself in a large mall, the Peak Tower: over-the-top, rampant commercialism in action. The escalators whisk you up, floor after floor, past lots more stores. Large windows reveal amazing views, but the mall operators are counting on you continuing upwards to reach the Sky Terrace.

anvil-shaped building with a huge roof on Victoria Peak

The Peak Tower with the Sky Terrace on the roof

The views up there are indeed magnificent. The first time I went, that’s what I did. You can look out at the skyscrapers, or gaze at the lush tropical forests in the other direction.

This visit, though, instead of following the herd of tourists upward past all the shops, I found a door and went outside. Simple as that.

Opposite me was, you guessed it: another mall, called The Peak Galleria. I noticed, though, what looked like a garden on its roof, so I decided to investigate. Sure enough, it has a roof, with a view, and it’s free!

view of Hong Kong skyscrapers, taken from Peak Galleria on Victoria Peak

While the view is partly obstructed by the Peak Tower, there’s still plenty to see.

The Circle Path

My goal in going up Victoria Peak this trip wasn’t the view from the top or the Peak Tram. I wanted to take a walk somewhere less urban. I had heard that there was a path on the Peak.

view down the path, shaded by the forest, with a fence on the left and hill on the right

Doesn’t that look pleasant?

Called the Peak Circle Walk, it is just what it says: a walking path around the top of the mountain.

The beauty of this particular walk is that it’s an easy 2.7 kilometer walk. Paved and mostly level, it can be done at a stroll with minimal effort, and most of it is shaded by the surrounding bamboo and other plant life. Judging by the few other people I passed on the way, locals, including the elderly, enjoy the fresh air, trees, birds, and glorious views. Despite the heat, quite a few joggers passed as well.

the skyscrapers of Hong Kong and Kowloon and the waterway between them, seen from Victoria Peak

A view from the path: Hong Kong with Kowloon in the background

The path is also the beginning of the Hong Kong Trail: at 50 kilometers long, it crosses all of Hong Kong, if you’re feeling very ambitious and have a few days. I believe that only this particular part of the path is so easy to walk.

After several days in Hong Kong, I was feeling desperate for a little peace and quiet, and I found it on Victoria Peak. The city still roared in the background, but it was a duller roar than down there in the thick of things, so it was easy to ignore. I could actually hear the birds and insects clearly in the dense tropical vegetation.

spider with a fly on Victoria Peak

A very large local inhabitant I met along the way, enjoying a picnic

The few houses I passed along the way must be phenomenally expensive, given the housing prices in general in Hong Kong. At one point in the residential section, activists were collecting signatures to prevent one of the houses from being converted into an exclusive hotel, fearing that the traffic ferrying the guests up and down the mountain would ruin the enjoyment of those who use the path regularly. If the plan goes ahead, the walk might not be so quiet and pleasant anymore.

forest-covered hills with the sea in the background, as seen from the Circle Path on Victoria Peak

a different view from the path. A lot of Hong Kong is covered in forest.

If you go there in the summer, be warned: it’s hot. The day I walked the path it was 33 degrees Celsius (91 degrees Fahrenheit) and very humid. Bring water and a hat and take it slow!

Where do you go when you’ve had enough of the hustle and bustle of the city?

This image is perfect for Pinterest!

This image is perfect for Pinterest!

This post is part of the Weekend Travel Inspiration linkup, Travel Photo Monday and the Weekly Postcard linkup.

As We Saw It photo travel blog

 

32 Comments

  • Sand In My Suitcase

    July 10, 2015 at 5:59 pm

    Of course you have to take the tram up Victoria Peak when you visit Hong Kong! It’s an iconic attraction 🙂 First-time visitors may not know that Hong Kong actually has oodles of green spaces to get away from it all. Half of Hong Kong is protected by 23 country parks (more than 70% of the territory’s land mass is made up of mountains, forests and islands). We’ve done some hiking on Lantau Island, and it feels a world away from the nearby skyscrapers

    Reply
    • Rachel

      July 10, 2015 at 11:45 pm

      The reason I went back to Hong Kong was that I saw all that greenery from Victoria Peak but didn’t have time to check any of it out!

      I visited Lantau Island too and have two posts coming up about it. And Lamma Island as well.

      Reply
  • Jeff Barrons

    July 11, 2015 at 1:14 am

    How did you get down? The walk down is far easier than the walk up and lots of fun. I have never noticed, or thought of looking up at, the top of the mall and looking for another viewpoint. I think I am always a little disappointed that there is a mall in the first place.

    Kelly and I hiked most of the Hong Kong Trail at CNY this year and it is a great trek. We started at the peak and over three days walked most of it, only skipping a small section in the middle. I highly recommend it.

    Reply
  • Rachel

    July 11, 2015 at 7:01 am

    I took the tram down as well. If it hadn’t been quite so hot and humid, I would have saved the money and walked down, but I just couldn’t face it! I’d enjoy doing more of the trail on some future trip, but preferably another time of the year, when it’s cooler!

    Reply
  • Shobha

    July 12, 2015 at 3:51 am

    Good for you! Walking in that heat. I’d be in a darkened room with a migraine probably. The path and the views looked divine. Love the photo of the spider and his fly snack.

    Reply
    • Rachel

      July 12, 2015 at 11:59 am

      I don’t know where “here” is for you, but I know what you mean! There’s plenty of green in Holland, where I live, but you couldn’t ever see so much because it’s flat as a pancake!

      Reply
  • Michele {Malaysian Meanders}

    July 13, 2015 at 6:58 am

    I wish I had known that money saving tip when I took the Peak Tram. We ended up spending so much time in the Sky Terrace and Peak Tower that we ran out of time to do that nice little walk that you did. In hindsight, doing it your way is much better. Thanks for linking up with #WkendTravelInspiration.

    Reply
    • Rachel

      July 13, 2015 at 7:04 am

      They don’t post any other options anywhere! You have to ask, and of course none of the tourists who go there know that there are any other options besides what’s on the sign. Not cool, in my book, to mislead that way!

      Reply
  • Betsy Wuebker | PassingThru

    July 13, 2015 at 7:36 am

    Great money-saving tip! Like you, I tend to be overstimulated after a point so your photo of the beginning of the walking path really spoke to me. (So “verdant,” yes? hahaha) The city views would have been the cherry on the sundae. Glad you had such a lovely day.

    Reply
    • Rachel

      July 13, 2015 at 9:03 am

      For other people reading this, the word “verdant” showed up on a list of words that travel writers shouldn’t use. I objected, because sometimes that’s just the right word, as in this case! It’s verdant, isn’t it!

      Yes, Betsy, I seem to need a lot of nature breaks on this trip, and I’m usually not drawn to get out into natural environments. I suppose it’s because I’m traveling by myself and in a place where I not only don’t speak the language, but I can’t read the lettering enough to recognize, for example, a place name. I start feeling overwhelmed.

      Reply
  • Yasha Langford

    July 13, 2015 at 3:12 pm

    I always love reading about green spaces in cities. The tips about the fare, the second mall with a free rooftop garden terrace and the walking track all tempt me to go to Hong Kong just to enjoy them. Your description and photos make it all very inviting.
    But, the wide open spaces beckon me more than cities at this point in life.

    Reply
    • Rachel

      July 13, 2015 at 9:58 pm

      There are plenty of non-city places to visit in Hong Kong! I’ll post about two of them soon: Lantau Island and Lamma Island. Or you could walk the Hong Kong trail, which I understand goes mostly through forest.

      Reply
  • noel

    July 13, 2015 at 4:13 pm

    I loved that tram ride, it really is a fun way to go up to the peak and I think your spot on with not going to the observation area since the views are stunning everywhere else including the sunset views to the west which was quite nice when I was there.

    Reply
    • Rachel

      July 13, 2015 at 9:58 pm

      There are plenty of non-city places to visit in Hong Kong! I’ll post about two of them soon: Lantau Island and Lamma Island. Or you could walk the Hong Kong trail, which I understand goes mostly through forest.

      Reply
    • Rachel

      July 13, 2015 at 10:01 pm

      Oops, that reply below was meant to be for Yasha above! No idea how that happened! Anyway, I didn’t stay for the sunset; it didn’t even occur to me. Oh well, maybe next time I’m there!

      Reply
  • Shelley

    July 13, 2015 at 5:48 pm

    The views and green pathways look lovely! We unfortunately missed this altogether on our trip to Hong Kong. We made the mistake of saving it until the end of our trip, then it was closed due to a typhoon! One more reason to return to this amazing city.

    Reply
  • Johanna

    July 16, 2015 at 3:11 am

    Thank you for writing so eloquently about a place I remember very fondly. Victoria Peak was a place I visited often with my children when they were little and we were living on Lantau Island in Hong Kong. How we all loved the train trip and escaping the frenzy of Hong Kong city in that cool and temperate hill top enclave.

    Reply
  • Anita

    July 16, 2015 at 12:05 pm

    Love, love the Peak Tram in HK! Unfortunately, I did not have time while in Hong Kong to do the hiking route, or visit the “garden”islands. Next time, for sure!

    Reply
  • Victoria@ The British Berliner

    July 23, 2015 at 11:30 am

    Love the post Rachel! I too took the tram when I went to Hong Kong all-so-many-years ago LOL! The tram ride was great and so was the view. I wasn’t in the least surprised that HK is green. Most islands are! Hong Kong is soooo one of my favourite cities in the world. At one point, I even wanted to live there….!

    Reply
    • Rachel

      July 23, 2015 at 10:21 pm

      Yes, I loved it too! I wouldn’t mind living there for a while because of the food, first of all! I LOVE dim sum!

      I think every visitor takes that tram ride!

      Reply
  • Camille

    July 24, 2015 at 12:51 pm

    I got bad food poisoning in Hong Kong but I was determined to make it to Victoria Peak anyway, so I gathered all my strength, got out of bed, threw myself into a taxi to the top of the mountain, took some photos, walked some of the Circle Path, and jumped into another taxi back home! I wish I’d had a more leisurely visit, taking the tram and all…but oh well, I still loved it!

    Reply

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