The city of Hong Kong cuts a sexy profile: a gleaming harborside metropolis of glass skyscrapers, its sidewalks teeming with fast-paced cosmopolitan life. This is the Hong Kong of hustle and bustle, a place of high finance, hot fashions, and well-heeled travelers clicking through the lobbies of five-star hotels.
But if New York is the city that never sleeps, Hong Kong at least knows how to slow down. Just beyond its centers of global commerce, the densely packed buildings give way to greenery, and the city shows its softer side. This is the Hong Kong of scenic open spaces, lush river valleys, and dramatic peaks - a paradise for hikers, both hard-core and casual, eager for an outdoor escape.
Some 40 percent of Hong Kong's land has been set aside for conservation, and much of it is crisscrossed with trails. Coastal trails. Valley trails. Mountain trails. Tree-lined trails. Trails that wind past ancient villages whose residents adhere to the rhythms of a quieter life.
Best of all, a great number of trailheads lie within easy striking distance of Hong Kong's urban core, accessible by bus or a short taxi ride. So you can sit through a business meeting over breakfast and still hike to a pastoral picnic by noon - with a view of the hubbub you left behind.
Hiking options in Hong Kong are close to countless. The territory consists of a collection of islands with hundreds of miles of trails. Travelers pressed for time should stick to day hikes on the main island, but the treks in neighboring areas, such as Lamma Island and the Sai Kung peninsula, are well worth the trip.
No matter what route you choose, a few musts to remember: Bring plenty of water and a map (which you can often get at your hotel). Most hiking trails are clearly marked and well maintained, but if you come across a trailhead that isn't noted on your map, don't take it. It may be out of use or overgrown. In the often sweltering summer months, you'll want a hat and sunscreen.