Trams and buses running alongside each other on street in Hong Kong

Hong Kong Island

Picture that iconic skyline: bristling with skyscrapers; backed by green mountains; the waters of Victoria Harbor glittering just below. You’re picturing Hong Kong Island.

The first patch of land ceded to the British in 1842, Hong Kong Island is now the beating heart of one of the world’s most important financial centers and home to the largest concentration of ultra-high-net-worth individuals in the world. You could be forgiven for mistaking it for somewhere like Singapore or Kuala Lumpur — but only for a second.

For a start, there’s the topography. Sprawling up a mountainside, it’ll certainly keep your calves toned — that is, unless you stick to the outdoor covered escalators the city is famous for. There are no escalators to assist with the stunning Dragon’s Back Hike (Asia’s best according to Time) — but a funicular tram will whisk you to the top of Victoria Peak for the pièce de resistance: a view over the island’s skyscrapers, Victoria Harbor, Kowloon and beyond.

One of the fascinating things about Hong Kong Island is how it has updated its Chinese heritage for the 21st century. It’s not just the double-decker trams or the markets selling old Bruce Lee movie posters and Chairman Mao statues. It’s the highrises built with giant holes to allow mountain dragons to reach the ocean, and the skyscrapers fitted with cannons to defend against bad feng shui. This is Chinese tradition 2.0.

Come to stand among the world’s densest area of skyscrapers; stay to drink beer out of rice bowls, hike through fields of azaleas and discover fishing villages where thousands of people still live on junk boats. Hong Kong Island has more to it than you might expect.