One of the best things to do in Hong Kong is to spend a day exploring Lantau Island all the way from the Big Buddha to Tai O Fishing Village. There is much to be gained from venturing further than just the pretty city scenes around Victoria Harbour and exploring some of the more unusual and unique areas around broader Hong Kong.
Lantau Island is a mountainous island famous for its incredible sunrises. It is also the largest island in Hong Kong.
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Where to stay to visit Lantau Island?
The best part of exploring Lantau island on a day trip is that you are able to base yourself in central Hong Kong without having to shift hotels.
My preference is always to stay on the Kowloon side of Hong Kong as I simply love the street food and night markets that surround Nathan Road.
The best way to explore Lantau Island on a day trip
To explore the main attractions of Lantau Island, the best way to start your journey is to take the Ngong Ping 360 cable car from Hong Kong to Ngong Ping village and the Tian Tan Buddha.
After spending time there, the best thing to do is to go from the Big Buddha to Tai O Fishing Village. There are a few ways to tackle the day.
One such way is to take an inclusive tour that provides tickets to the cable car and transfers from the Big Buddha to Tai O and back as well as 20HKD worth of credit to use at local vendors in the rural fishing village.
The other option is to package up your day trip to Lantau Island yourself, however I believe that following the same itinerary as the inclusive tour is the way to go.
Booking tickets for the Ngong Ping 360 cable car is definitely a good idea as the queues can blow out, however there are no tickets needed to see the Tian Tan Buddha or the Po Lin Monastery.
Then instead of the transfers, you’ll have all the fun of riding the public bus down the mountain to Tai O Fishing Village to explore.
The Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car
The Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car is a fantastic way to see Hong Kong from a different perspective. Located right near the Tung Chung MRT station, this cable way is one of the longest I’ve ever ridden and is in fact the longest bi-cable ropeway in Asia.
As the cable car starts to move, the views over Tung Chung Bay and the architectural genius of the Hong Kong International Airport are breathaking. Then the cable car smoothly glides over the mountainous Lantau Island terrain, which seems pristine and untouched compared to Hong Kong city.
Finally, after a lengthy 25 minute ride, the unmissable sight of the Tian Tan Buddha comes into view, seated atop the mountain serenely inviting you to draw closer.
The Tian Tan Buddha
The Big Buddha, or as it is officially known, the Tian Tan Buddha is seated at the top of 268 steps in Ngong Ping Village with incredible birds eye panoramic views of Lantau Island.
Those who are game to climb to the top will be rewarded with an up-close look at the 34 metre tall bronze statue who sits on a lotus flower, palm raised.
Underneath the Buddha statue complex, there are also three floors, one which is home to the cremated remains of the Guatama Buddha. The Tian Tan Buddha statue represents Buddha Shakyamuni.
Po Lin Monastery
Po Lin Monastery is located in the same complex as the Tian Tan Buddha at Ngong Ping Village. The monastery has been around many years longer than the far more visible Big Buddha, having been first constructed in 1906.
By contrast, the Tian Tan Buddha was only constructed in 1993.
A visit inside the Po Lin Monastery building is fragrant with incense and vibrant with flowers and adornments. It is also possible to buy a vegetarian lunch at the Po Lin Monastery before you brave the 268 steps up to the Buddha.
Getting from the Big Buddha to Tai O Fishing Village
Once you’ve got in touch with your spiritual side, then it is time to go from the Big Buddha to Tai O Village, a rural fishing community that live on the water. To get there, head out to the car park where you’ll see public buses pulling up.
If you’re not sure, just ask the driver collecting the fares if they’re off to Tai O – chances are, they are as it is a pretty major tourist route now.
The bus line you’re looking for to get from the Big Buddha to Tai O is line 21 and a ticket will set you back around 15 HKD.
Be warned, though, these Lantau drivers race around the windy mountain roads – so hold on tight.
Tai O Fishing Village
When you arrive in Tai O, it is hard to believe that this tiny rural village is still part of Hong Kong. Forget the city skyscrapers; stilted houses with barnacled ladders leading up to the front doors are the norm here.
There are companies in Tai O that will offer you a cheap tour by boat, which will take you through the waterways in between the houses to see what life is like on the water.
There are also plenty of local markets to stroll through serving up delicious and fresh seafood delicacies – piping hot steamed cuttlefish, anyone?
Getting back to Hong Kong
Once you’re all done at Tai O, then simply retrace your steps. Jump on the bus or your transfer back to Ngong Ping Village, wave goodbye to the Tian Tan Buddha and jump back into your pod for a trip back to Tung Chung on the Ngong Ping ropeway.
You can also drive or take a bus, but really when there are views like this from up high, the cable way is the way to go.
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