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The best hikes with history in Hong Kong

Learn a little about our home’s history on these hikes with history in Hong Kong.

With over 75 percent of Hong Kong being greenery, it’s hard to keep track of all the mountains and reservoirs and peaks this stunning city has to offer. Take a trip back in time, far away from flashier new building to delve into the past with these heritage trails, declared monuments and historical sights.

Ping Shan Heritage Trail

The very first of its kind in Hong Kong, this heritage trail is in the Ping Shan area of Yuen Long. It passes through historical sights dating as far back as the 12th century when the Tang Clan (one of the Five Great Clans of the New Territories) settled in the area. The 1993-inaugurated trail features walled villages, ancestral halls with courtyards, and declared protected monuments and buildings. Keep your eye out for the Hung Shing Temple, built by the Tang Clan during the Qianlong reign of the Qing Dynasty, and the Tsui Sing Lau Pagoda, built over 600 years ago – the only ancient pagoda in Hong Kong.

Take the MTR to Tin Shui Wai Station, exit E3. Go any day except Tuesday and make sure to start early, sites close by 5pm. Find out more here and here.

Distance: 1.6km (0.9mi) | Duration: Under an hour | Difficulty: Beginner

Cape D’Aguilar

A #hkig favourite, this truly scenic trek has everything from rock formations to a pre-war lighthouse, surreal caves and relics. It’s an easy 8km walk (round trip) that comes with stunning views. Make time for this – you’re sure to make plenty of detours and take photos. Pass through the tiny Hok Tsui Village, walk around the PCCW Radio Transmitting station, and visit sights including the Cape D’Aguilar Lighthouse, the Cape D’Aguilar Marine Reserve, the Crab Cave, beach, and (of course!) the Thunder Cave. The Cape D’Aguilar Lighthouse, also known as the Hok Tsui Beacon, is the oldest in Hong Kong – it’s one of five pre-war surviving lighthouses and began service in 1875.

You can make your way to Cape D’Aguilar by catching a number 9 (NWFB) bus at Shau Kei Wan MTR station, Exit A3. Make sure to find a bus that clearly says Cape D’Aguilar, either “via” or “terminating at” – other number 9 buses skip the stop entirely.

Distance: 4-8km (2.5-5mi) | Duration: 1-3 hours | Difficulty: Beginner

Tai Tam Waterworks Heritage Trail

This stunning reservoir offers a brilliant trek through one of Hong Kong’s six pre-war reservoirs. Full of waterworks heritage, 22 out of Hong Kong’s 41 historic waterworks structures fall along the Tai Tam Waterworks Heritage Trail. Go on a blue-sky sunny (but not too hot!) day for the best experience: this hike has masonry bridges over crystal clear water, and aqueducts and reservoir dams all shrouded in beautiful green – some dating as far back as 1883.

You can take public transport to Wong Nai Chung Gap near Hong Kong Parkview or to the junction of Tai Tam Road and Tai Tam Reservoir Road where the trail is located.

Distance: 5km (3.1mi) | Duration: 2 hours | Difficulty: Moderate

Pinewood Battery Heritage Trail

Pinewood Battery Heritage Trail, Heritage Trail, Pinewood Battery, Military Site Hike, Peak Hikes

Just a walk away from the Peak, this trail is centred around a historic military site within the Lung Fu Shan Country Park. Dating back to 1901, it was built as a fort and later used as an air defence battery – the highest coastal defence in Hong Kong, at 307 metres above sea level. During the Battle of Hong Kong, the battery came under repeated air raids and was severely damaged by the Japanese. The site features ruins, all heavily shelled, and on a clear day, you’ll be able to spot the Pok Fu Lam Reservoir and even Lamma Island.

You can go to the Peak and walk to where Lugard Road intersects with Harlech Road, then turn on to Hatton Road and either follow along the road or take the Lung Fu Shan Fitness Trail up to Mount High West until Pinewood Battery. Including this walk, the trek is about 2.3 to 2.5km.

Distance: 0.45-2.5km (1.5mi) | Duration: 20-40 minutes | Difficulty: Beginner

Shing Mun War Relics Trail

The shortest part of the MacLehose Trail, this is a great way to have a go at the famous 100km hiking trail and get your dose of history in one. This 250-metre section is on the slope of Smuggler’s Ridge of Shing Mun and Kam Shan Country Parks. As the name suggests, this is full of relics from the second world war. Part of the British military defensive Gin Drinker’s Line, it features marker stones, pillboxes, and underground tunnels named after streets in London. You’ll be able to find embedded bullets and even carvings made by Japanese soldiers who captured the redoubt. For a longer hike – just follow along and join the rest of the MacLehose Trail.

The start of the trail is through the memorial arch that leads to section six of the MacLehose Trail. You can take the green 82 minibus from Tsuen Wan Shiu Wo Street and get off at the Ho Fung College bus stop near the Shing Mun Reservoir/Shing Mun Country Park Visitor Centre. Go from the Pineapple Dam to Barbecue Site No. 5 up to the MacLehose Trail Memorial Arch. Find out more here – make sure to hit ‘Eng’ at the top!

Distance: 0.25km (0.1mi) | Duration: Over half an hour | Difficulty: Beginner

Devil’s Peak

An easy and relatively short trek, this is the perfect scenic hike for beginners. Named for the pirates that captured the area during the Ming Dynasty, the hill was later seized by the British who built military stations, including gun batteries. Gough Battery, built in 1898, was bombarded by a Japanese unit during the Battle of Hong Kong. Keep an eye for ruins of the Pottinger Battery (mostly lost to vegetation) as well as sweeping scenes of Junk Bay and more – for the best view, go before sunset.

Make your way to Yau Tong Station and take exit A1 into Domain Mall. Take the escalators to the mall’s ground floor and exit from the back (next to Tai Hing Restaurant) and get on to Ko Chiu Road. Walk past Lei Yue Mun Estate, take a right and walk uphill towards Tseung Kwan O Permanent Cemetery until you see the Wilson Trail ‘Pau Tai Shan’ (Devil’s Peak) entrance.

Distance: 3-4.4km (1.8-2.7mi) | Duration: 1-2 hours | Difficulty: Beginner

Wong Nai Chung Gap Trail

Wong Nai Chung Gap Trail, Wong Nai Chung Historial Trail, anti-aircraft gun ammunition magazines, historical trail

This relatively peaceful trail actually marks the terrain of battle: the Battle of Wong Nai Chung Gap – when Japanese forces overran British troops, leading them to surrender on Christmas Day of 1941. This hike marks key moments from the day – stop at every station to explore abandoned world war two ruins including old bunkers, pillboxes lost to vegetation, and anti-aircraft batteries.

Take any bus to Wong Nai Chung Reservoir and walk towards Parkview. The Wong Nai Chung Gap Trail entrance is opposite Parkview, next to the entrance for Wilson Trail to Jardine’s Lookout.

Distance: 3km (1.8mi) | Duration: 1-2 hours | Difficulty: Moderate

Tung O Ancient Trail

Also known as the Tung Tai Trail, this heritage trail takes you from Tung Chung to Tai O village. Before the development of the residential Tung Chung area, this used to be the main route between villages, dating as far back as the Song Dynasty. You’ll find old Chinese settlements along the way, ending at probably the most famous (and the very last) fishing village in Hong Kong: Tai O. Keep an eye out for traditional shrines amongst the greenery and mangroves, as well as the beautiful waterways and houses on stilts in Tai O.

Take exit A at the Tung Chung MTR station and make your way to the Hau Wong Temple (it was built in 1756!), where you can start the trail.

Distance: 15km (9.3mi) | Duration: 4-5 hours | Difficulty: Moderate

Dr Sun Yat-sen Historical Trail

This list wouldn’t be complete with at least one urban walk. Technically not a green hike – the Dr Sun Yat-sen Historical Trail is still a lovely trek with a lot of history. The walking tour follows Dr Sun’s education in Hong Kong, schools he attended, places he lived at, as well as the sites of revolutionary activities. Revitalised by the government, this heritage trail is full of beautiful art installations and plaques – perfect for photo-ops. Find out more here.

Distance: 3.3km (mi) | Duration: 2 hours | Difficulty: Beginner

(Hero image courtesy of Chingleung via Wikimedia Commons, featured image courtesy of Sakina Abidi, image 4 courtesy of Wishva de Silva via Wikimedia Commons, image 7 courtesy of Starcopter via Wikimedia Commons)

The best hikes with history in Hong Kong

History graduate and poetry person, Sakina is a recovering journalism student currently in editorial. You are most likely to find her hunting down new eats on Instagram (halal please!) and lusting after Korean skincare drops.

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