The hike from Mui Wo to the Big Buddha (Ngong Ping) is also the first three stages of the Lantau Trail, which does a loop around the Lantau Island in the New Territories of Hong Kong. Opened in December 1984, the 70km Lantau Trail is the third longest hiking trail in Hong Kong (after the MacLehose Trail and Wilson Trail). I’ve picked the first three stages partly because they are the easiest to access and partly because they represent the best parts of the Lantau Trail. Starting on the coast and traversing Lantau Peak (on Hong Kong’s second-highest mountain), Mui Wo to the Big Buddha offers some spectacular views.
Lantau Trail Stage 1: Mui Wo to Nam Sha (3km)
The Mui Wo to the Big Buddha hike starts with a ferry from Central Pier to Mui Wo, which takes about an hour (40min on a fast ferry).
While the official route follows South Lantai Road, it’s slightly more interesting to follow the Silvermine River canal, crossing it near the end, and then taking the Old Village Path which ascends to Nam Shan.
Whichever route you take, this first section of the Lantau Trail is the least exciting of the walk. But it’s a good warm-up for the next two sections…
Lantau Trail Stage 2: Nam Sha to Pak Kung Au (6.2km)
Nam Sham is where the Lantau Trail really starts, with signage pointing to Sunset Peak. The trail is initially through forest, with some stone steps along the well-made track.
It doesn’t too long before the trail is above the forest line – the rest of the hike is above the trees, through a fairly barren landscape and with very little shade. As the trails ascends relentlessly towards Sunset Peak, a number of stone huts come into view (around distance post L013).
Sometimes referred to as Lantau Mountain Camp, there are about twenty huts scattered across the hillside, built in the 1920s by Christian missionaries from the US and Europe. The huts were intended as an escape from the heat of the city’s summers, and are privately owned. They are pretty basic, with stone walls, concrete roofs and no electricity – but some have water and toilet plumbing. (A pair of cabins is maintained by the Sunset Peak Volunteer Unit, and can be booked as accommodation.)
Looking down from the trail towards the coast is the town of Pui O, an old fishing village and now a a popular destination for holiday camping in Hong Kong.
Directly ahead is Lantau Peak, looming over the trail.
The Lantau Trail goes around the 869-metre high Sunset Peak (Tai Tung Shan); an alternate track goes over the top of the summit to rejoin the Lantau Trai on the other side of the peak. The grass-covered Sunset Peak is the third-highest summit in Hong Kong, and ascending Sunset Peak and Lantau Peak is informally referred to as Hong Kong’s Two Peak Challenge.
Whether or not you ascend Sunset Peak or go around the hill, the Lantau Trail now heads down to Pak Kung Au, the end of Lantau Trail Stage 2. A pass between Sunset Peak and Lantau Peak that connects the north and south sides of Lantau Island, Pak Kung Au bus services to Mui Wo and Tung Chung.
Lantau Trail Stage 3: Pak Kung Au to Ngong Ping / Big Buddha (5.8km)
From the Pak Kung Au pass, it’s an unrelenting climb up to Lantau Peak… Described on one blog as “an insane number of stone steps leading up the hillside”, the stone and compacted earth path zig-zags steeply up the slope. There’s no shade – although today (as is often the case) it’s overcast and humid.
Eventually the path reaches the top of Lantau Peak (Fung Wong Shan or 鳳凰山), which translates to “Phoenix Mountain” in Cantonese. At 934m, Lantau Peak is the highest mountain on Lantau Island, and the second-highest in all of Hong Kong. From the peak you can see most of the route we’ve taken from Mui Wo in the east. Well, on a clear day you could…
With humidity and pollution reducing visibility, the views from the summit are not spectacular. To the east is the less-developed coastline of Lantau Island, including Cheung Sha Beach and Tong Fuk Beach, and the rugged Dog Teeth Range. To the west you can see the airport and Tung Chung.
From here, the only way is down… the path stretches along the long and narrow ridge, as it descends toward Ngong Ping.
As the trail descends, there are great views in almost directions. Coming into view to the south is the Shek Pik Reservoir. built between 1957 and 1963, it’s the third largest reservoir in Hong Kong with a storage capacity of 24 million cubic metres.
Finally, my destination is in sight on the other side of the valley: the Big Buddha at Ngong Ping.
A large bronze statue of Buddha at Ngong Ping Village, the Big Buddha took three years to build. Construction began in 1990, and finished on 29 December 1993, which the Chinese claim is the day of the Buddha’s enlightenment. Located near the Po Lin Monastery, the statue symbolises the harmonious relationship between man and nature, people and faith.
Surrounding the Big Buddha are six smaller bronze statues known as “The Offering of the Six Divas”; they are posed offering flowers, incense, lamp, ointment, fruit, and music to the Buddha.
It’s a nice place to end the hike, with Ngong Ping Village having lots of options to get food and drinks. The Mui Wo to the Big Buddha hike has been about 15km – not particularly long, but I always find hiking in Hong Kong hard work. As with most HK trails they are pretty demanding, with every one of those 15km being either a steep descent, or ascent.
Getting to Mui Wo and the Big Buddha
To get to Mui Wo, there are regular ferries Central (Pier No. 6). These take 35-55min.
From Ngong Ping (Big Buddha), there are a few public transport options:
- Bus Number 23 to Metro to Tung Chung Station then metro (Exit B)
- Bus Number 2 to Mui Wo Ferry Pier
- Ngong Ping 360 cable car to Tung Chung.
Accommodation near the Lantau Trail (Mui Wo to the Big Buddha section)
For accommodation in the stone huts, contact Lantau Camp Volunteer Unit: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The closest accommodation to Lantau Peak if you’re aiming to get there before dawn to see the sunrise from the peak is the YHA Ngong Ping SG Davis Youth Hostel, which has tent sites, beds in shared dormitories and rooms available.
Or stay at the Silvermine Beach Resort in Mui Wo, for a relaxed start (or end) to the hike!
More information on Mui Wo to the Big Buddha hike
- The Independent – Trail of the Unexpected: Hong Kong’s Rural Refuges
- Drone & DSLR – Lantau Peak Hike
- Sun Ferry – Mui Wo Ferry Schedule
- Ngong Ping 360 – information and tickets