Hong Kong From Above the Clouds


It was while flying to a dramatic Bollywood wedding in Bali (congrats Karan and Manju) that I had the privilege of photographing some equally dramatic views of my beloved Hong Kong from high up amongst the clouds.

One of the things I realized profoundly as I got older is that I never really had a good grasp of where things were geographically. I knew Hong Kong only by MTR stops and bus routes, but with no context of how any of the city's iconic districts fit together - especially further out in the New Territories.

That was when I sought out hiking as a way to climb to high points in the city and understand more about Hong Kong's incredible and complex geography.

Well, getting on a flight let me really come to terms with the city in a totally new way. I was able to see how so many of my favorite hiking trails all meld together and now also have a greater appreciation of where my favorite haunts are in relation to one another.

Hong Kong Island from above

When people think of Hong Kong, they often conjure up images of Victoria Harbour with the famous Hong Kong skyline in the background. The typical impression of Hong Kong is that it's a city made up entirely of swathes of concrete, glass and chaos.

So then what gives? How can the first of the above two images of Hong Kong Island be so green?

That's one of the best-kept secrets of Hong Kong. According to an article by the BBC, 40% of Hong Kong is actually green public space. That includes plenty of stunning hiking trails.

In the above images, you can see that most of the buildings are concentrated in the upper portion of the island, while the rest is either green, mountainous jungle or small collections of coastal properties.

If you're curious about how Hong Kong Island was defended during World War 2, check out the Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defence.

Kowloon From Above

Kowloon is where a lot of Hong Kong's urban jungle vibe comes from. In the images above, Kowloon is pretty much everything on the coast directly opposite Hong Kong Island.

Meaning 'nine dragons', you'll find a lot of buildings packed into a small area in Kowloon. A range of mountains stands directly behind Kowloon's forest of skyscrapers and separates it from the green tranquility of the New Territories.

Making up the majority of Hong Kong's landmass, the New Territories is the part of Hong Kong that was leased to the British later on, when Hong Kong's population began to balloon beyond what Hong Kong Island and Kowloon could bear.

In one of the above images, you can also see Kwai Chung, one of the main container shipping hubs of Hong Kong - where goods from China leave for the rest of the world.

The New Territories From Above

The New Territories makes up the largest portion of Hong Kong's landmass by a huge margin - up to 90% of the city's entire area. This is where you'll find the city's best hiking spots like Tai Mo Shan, Hong Kong's tallest mountain and Ma On Shan, one of the best ridge hikes in the city. The New Territories also boasts Hong Kong's cleanest beaches, coolest wildlife and craziest outdoor adventures.

Sai Kung, which you can just about make out at the bottom of one of the photos above, is one of my favorite districts in Hong Kong because of its abundance of outdoor activities - from kayaking to hiking.

Much of Hong Kong's drinking water is also drawn in from the New Territories, which has many of the city's reservoirs.

Lantau From Above

Lantau Island is where Hong Kong International Airport is located and is often people's first point of contact with Hong Kong. The sad thing is, besides visiting the airport, tourists and many locals never really travel to Lantau.

The island is actually home to some of Hong Kong's tallest mountains as well as gorgeous coastal communities, beaches and stellar hikes.

Oh, and water buffalos!

Outlying Islands From Above

Hong Kong actually has over 250 islands as part of its territory. Some of them have great hiking trails, local culture and even dark histories.

Lamma Island, for example, is one of Hong Kong's most relaxing places to live and feels almost like its own community away from the city. It even has small hiking paths, relaxing beaches and a power station that provides energy to Hong Kong Island!

Ma Wan, meanwhile, is located very close to the city and is purely residential. It once had a cool local village as part of the island, but that's being eliminated now to build more vertical housing.

Hei Ling Chau is probably the darkest of all the outlying islands in Hong Kong. To learn more about its history, check out the article below!

To find hikes in any of the places mentioned, simply input the district you're interested in, pick the type of hike you'd like to embark on and select the difficulty directly on this site. It's a great way to discover great adventures near you, no matter where in Hong Kong you might be!