Hong Kong consists of the Kowloon Peninsula and 261 islands, of which, Lantau Island is the largest (Hong Kong Island is the second largest).  Since we were only in Hong Kong for 2 days, we had strategically decided to stay at the Peninsula Hong Kong which is centrally located on the Kowloon Peninsula.  We had easy access to Hong Kong Island (by a quick ride on the Star Ferry) and Lantau Island for the airport and Big Buddha!

Getting to Lantau Island

By MTR

Right outside our hotel was the entrance to the Tsim Sha Tsui MTR station (subway).  We caught the Tung Chung line to the end.  The ride was super easy and took about 30 minutes one way.  On the way, we passed Hong Kong Disneyland.  I was hoping the kids wouldn’t notice, but of course, they did and they wanted to go.  It didn’t fit into our itinerary on this trip.  Next time!

Riding the MTR in Hong Kong
Riding the MTR in Hong Kong

Ngong Ping Cable Car

If you plan to take the cable car (which I highly recommend!) my #1 tip is to go early!  We went on our second morning in Hong Kong when we were still adjusting to the time change and were up early which worked in our favor.  Once we arrived at the Tung Chung station we followed the well-marked signs about 5 minutes to the Ngong Ping cable car entrance.  We had pre-purchased cable car vouchers from our hotel concierge in the hopes of avoiding long lines.  We arrived at the cable car by 9am on Sunday and there was virtually no line at the ticket window.  In fact, there were 2 people ahead of us in the voucher line and no one in the regular line!  Still, I think it was worth it to have pre-purchased because you just never know.  Once we got our tickets, we still had to wait in a line to actually get our cabin.

There are two cabin options for the cable car. Standard Cabin – a cabin which has a 360 degree view (this is what I chose).  Crystal Cabin – a cabin with a glass bottom (this is what the kids wished I had chosen).  There are not as many Crystal cabins so the wait time for these could be longer.  We waited about 10 minutes to board our cabin.

The cable car is 5.7km one way and takes approximately 25 minutes.  The ride went really fast because the views are just so amazing!  We were lucky to have a sunny clear day with virtually no wind.  We loved watching airplanes land & take off at the airport, ships in the water, and hikers on the trails below us.

Note that you can also take New Lantau Bus 23 from the Tung Chung City Center which takes about 45 minutes to Big Buddha, but I highly recommend the cable car as it alone was an adventure!

Views of Lantau Island from the Ngong Ping cable car
Views of Lantau Island from the Ngong Ping cable car
Great views of the airport from the cable car!
Great views of the airport from the cable car!

And finally, as we crested the top of the mountain and turned a corner, Big Buddha came into view – and it was quite spectacular!

First glimpse of Big Buddha from the cable car
First glimpse of Big Buddha from the cable car

When we returned to Tung Chung on the cable car around 1 pm, the line for the cable car was really long.  It weaved through set up barriers, down walkways all the way to the entrance where there was a line of people to get into line.  I suspect those people would have been in line for at least an hour just to get their tickets. Even the voucher line was relatively long.  So again, if you can….go early!

Ngong Ping Village

From the cable car, it’s about a 10 minute walk to the base of Big Buddha.  We first walked through Ngong Ping Village which had lots of shops & restaurants.  We returned here on our way out for lunch & ice cream before heading back down on the cable car.  There is also a short film, Walking With Buddha, that’s available for viewing in the village.  The film follows the life of Siddhartha Guatama, the man who became Buddha, and his path to enlightenment.  After our long journey, the kids were anxious to get to Big Buddha and didn’t want to make an extra stop so we skipped the film.  But in hindsight, it probably would have given them a little more perspective and understanding about Buddha and why we were there.

Walking through Ngong Ping Village to Big Buddha
Walking through Ngong Ping Village to Big Buddha
Walking towards Tian Tan Buddha on Lantau Island
Walking towards Tian Tan Buddha on Lantau Island (that’s Po Lin Monastery to the left)

Tian Tan Buddha (Big Buddha)

Finally we reached the base of Big Buddha! Then we only had 268 steps to climb!

The steps to Tian Tan Buddha
The steps to Tian Tan Buddha

We didn’t spend too much time at the top.  We went inside the small museum that details the history of how and why this Buddha was built. This is one of five large Buddha statues in China (standing 34 meters or 112 feet tall) and it symbolizes the harmonious relationship between man and nature, people and faith.  Construction began in 1990 and was completed in December 1993.

Big Buddha on Lantau Island, Hong Kong. Tian Tan Buddha
Big Buddha on Lantau Island, Hong Kong
Big Buddha
Big Buddha

The views from the top were pretty great. I could have spent more time enjoying them, but it was really hot & humid and we were losing the kids quickly, especially our 8-year-old.  So we headed over to the shaded path that led to the Wisdom Path.

The view from Big Buddha
The view from Big Buddha

Wisdom Path

It was about a 15 minute walk from the base of Big Buddha to the actual Wisdom Path.  Despite heavy crowds in Ngong Ping Village and Big Buddha, we pretty much had this path all to ourselves.  It was shaded on the way there and was a relatively easy walk.

Walking towards the Wisdom Path on Lantau Island
Walking towards the Wisdom Path on Lantau Island

The Wisdom Path consists of 38 wooden columns carved with calligraphy representing the Heart Sutra, a treasured text revered by Confucians, Buddhists and Taoists alike.  The columns are planted in a figure eight configuration symbolizing infinity.  The column at the very top is left blank to suggest the concept of “emptiness” a key theme in the Heart Sutra.

These wood columns are arranged in a figure eight to represent infinity.
These wood columns along the Wisdom Path are arranged in a figure eight to represent infinity.
Views of Lantau Island from the Wisdom Path
Heading down from the top of the Wisdom Path
On the Wisdom Path
So much greenery on Lantau Island

Hiking on Lantau Island

The greenery and openness of Lantau Island is a stark contrast to Hong Kong Island.  It would have been fun to take one of the many hiking trails leading all over the island.  If we come back we will be sure to plan for some hiking!

All 5 of us on the Wisdom Path
All 5 of us on the Wisdom Path

Po Lin Monastery

Because we were still dealing with significant jet lag and getting used to the heat & humidity, we decided to skip the Monastery.  However, I would try to fit this in if you can.  And while we didn’t eat at the Monastery, I imagine it would be a much more authentic experience than eating at one of the cafes in the village as we did.

What We Spent

The MTR from Tsim Sha Tsui cost $5 round trip (adult) and $2.50 (child).  The Ngong Ping cable car for a roundtrip in a standard cabin cost $27 roundtrip (adult) and $13 (child 3-11).  There is no cost to visit Big Buddha or walk along the Wisdom Path.

Read about our entire time in Hong Kong here.

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Visiting Tian Tan Buddha, or more commonly known as