Header images courtesy of @fi__sh and @idapslai (via Instagram)
Lantau Island boasts a green-topped topography of dramatic swoops and towering behemoths that lend to gorgeous vistas and exciting hikes. Along one of the stops on the Ngong Ping 360 cable car ride sits Nei Lak Shan (彌勒山; “Buddha Mountain”). Named after the holy being Maitreya, who plays host to this scenic walk, the Nei Lak Shan Country Trail is accessible year-round and makes for a delightful day activity. Follow our guide for how to hike it.
Part of Lantau North Country Park, Nei Lak Shan rises up from the ground in the north of Ngong Ping and the Tian Tan Buddha. Rising up to about 750 metres, it is the eighth-highest peak in all of Hong Kong. Nei Lak Shan offers unobstructed views of the gigantic bronze Buddha, sun-washed in all of its golden glory. Worth visiting during dawn or dusk, it is beautiful even on days with low visibility, as the clouds add whimsy to the sight.
A journey best suited to novice hikers or even families with little ones who are up for physical activity, this looped trail offers up brushes with wild flora and stunning vistas. Expect shaded paths with manageable terrain that has been weathered by constant footsteps. Do note that there are no pit stops in-between for refuelling or “off-loading” so make sure that any accompanying children are in a good state before setting off.
Distance: 5 kilometres approx.
Total ascent: 750 metres
Total time: 2 hours approx.
Your journey to the Nei Lak Shan Country Trail begins at a clearly marked sign beside the Ngong Ping Campsite, a short walk away from the famous Ngong Ping Village that is reachable via public transportation. Since the trail is circular, you will be led back to this area once you have completed your journey.
From Ngong Ping Village, make your way towards the Ngong Ping Fun Walk, a road that branches out of the Lantau Trail Section 4. Simply head straight down the cobblestoned avenue that cuts through the main street of the tourist area. Stay on Ngong Ping Road, continuing on past the carved stone gates of grey.
If you feel like taking an arduous detour around to go and see the Big Buddha up close, the stairway upwards is right in front of the circular arena. However, to get to the entry of the Nei Lak Shan Country Trail, take a left turn at the piazza and head down the Ngong Ping Fun Walk—there is a green crossroad sign marking the way.
Keep to the road, staying on the concrete path straight ahead for another 10 to 15 minutes or so. Several cyclists and dog walkers may even make an appearance beside you! Shrubs and greenery will begin to get thicker around the surroundings, but never overwhelmingly obstructive. In a short while, you will see the starting point of the trail to your left, up the stone steps labelled with an etched wooden sign.
Go up the stairs, and the ground underneath this section is much rockier. Although it requires a smidge more effort to face the incline, the terrain is generally flat. The direction of the route is easy to follow, with forks along the way being clearly distinguished. Due to the windways and altitude, the temperature in the area is known to drop by a degree or two, making for comfortably cool conditions in the summer and strong breezes in the winter.
Interlocking leaves and branches merge into a marquee that hangs over the path, but it is wise to protect your skin with sunscreen despite the shade. The surrounding forestry includes interesting plant varieties that are native to Hong Kong, such as the local Burmannia.
As you make your way up the hillside, enjoy the expanse of greenery before you and the swooping hills of Sunset Peak and Lantau Peak, which have been likened to toppled-over rice bowls. Although it does not require fancy footwork to manoeuvre, the paths can get fairly narrow, so be sure to keep away from the edge.
Approaching the 600-metre point of elevation, you will catch sight of the monstrous antennas and cranes of the Ngong Ping 360 overhead. Those with sensitive hearing may even pick up chatter from the passenger cars that zip by! The contrast of gangly formations of concrete and metal next to the bright natural setting has served as a backdrop to many an Instagram post, so go forth and snap a few shots in the area.
The trail then follows the stone-paved lane on the cliffside. Continue and you will see the mountaintop soon. During the months of October to November, the hillside is peppered with slithers of silvergrass, making for an absolutely gorgeous sight. Simply continue advancing on the path upwards and you will get to the peak.
Awaiting you at the top is a transmission station fenced in by wire. Glancing outwards from this height, the 360-degree panorama encompasses the high-rise towers around the Tung Chung valley, the airport, Lantau’s many monasteries and temples dotted all along the hill, and even the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge. Soak in the undulating ridges around you, and enjoy the wide canvas of Lantau afforded by this prime vantage point.
There are a few exits you can explore from here. If you haven’t had enough of trekking yet, head towards the Nei Lak Shan Angle Station and look for the cobbled Ngong Ping 360 Rescue Trail. This will bring you back to Ngong Ping Village by way of a collection of steep wooden boardwalks that criss-cross their way in the direction of the Big Buddha on the horizon. This is a road that overlaps with a hike of the same moniker.
To head back down to circle around and finish off the Nei Lak Shan Country Trail, tread along the narrow ridge from the right-hand side of the wire netting. Be very careful as the terrain requires a bit of clambering. It should not be a herculean task to find your footing along the cleft, but be warned that you may have to barge through tightly packed clusters of tall grass blades.
You will return to the winding route of the trail at the end of your slope-side descent. Follow the path, and keep straight whenever there are trails that branch out so that you remain on the Nei Lak Shan Country Trail. Eventually, you will be taken back to the grey, tile-topped village buildings of Ngong Ping Village.