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.
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).
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!)
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.
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!
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.
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.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.
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.
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?