Fishing boats docked up by covered jetties alongside colourful houses

Lantau Island

With its hodgepodge of Buddhist heritage, fishing villages, high-rise shopping centers and theme parks, Hong Kong’s largest island is a patchwork of a place — but one that’s worth exploring.

Unless you arrive via mainland China, the chances are you’ll first set foot on Hong Kong soil in Lantau. It wasn’t always this way: some of us still remember arriving into Kai Lak Airport in Kowloon, flying so close to the skyscrapers that you could see what people were watching on TV! Now that’s an experience.

Landing at Lantau Airport might be a dull affair by comparison, but the island itself certainly isn’t. It’s as though anything that couldn’t be squeezed in between the skyscrapers has found a home here — whether that’s an airport, Disneyland, a 19th century fort, or the biggest seated bronze Buddha in the world.

In between these eclectic attractions you’ll find that life is surprisingly rural — and often stunningly beautiful. Think water buffalo meandering on quiet beaches, monks chanting in incense-wreathed temples, fishing villages built on stilts above the mudflats, and forested hills concealing waterfalls, hiking trails and (rumor has it) endangered pangolins. All this is just a 25-minute cable-car ride across the water from the mainland (with stupendous views to boot).