I mentioned Victoria Peak in passing in a recent post about places to see the Hong Kong skyline: now for the full story.
Most people take the Peak Tram to reach the top: unfortunately the lower station is a fair way from the Star Ferry or the MTR: you can either catch one of the various buses that serve the tram station (more details here), or take a 15 or so minute walk uphill from Admiralty station on the MTR. Once at the Peak Tram, the ticket office usually has a long line snaking out of the door, but if you have an Octopus Card, you can skip it and just scan your card at the ticket barriers.
Unfortunately you don’t get to jump the queue for the tram itself, but once inside the gates there isn’t much room for a line to form.
Inside the tram the seats all face one way – uphill: if they didn’t you would slip out as soon as you started to head up the incline!
Once out of the station, the scenery isn’t that scenic – passing under a highway overpass…
Then looking into what passes for a Hong Kong backyard.
One interesting bit is the old tram shed is beside the tracks: today one of the old green trams is stored in the disconnected siding track.
The incline continues on, but the famous view is still blocked by trees. It isn’t until you reach the passing loop, then make a right hand turn, that you get your first glance of the Hong Kong skyline.
Along the final section of track the trees clear, with the city spreading out beneath you.
Only a minute or two later the top station at Victoria Peak is reached, and it’s time to get out. The exit of the station leads straight into the Peak Tower shopping centre: a rabbit warren of overpriced shops and restaurants all angling for the tourist dollar.
Another way up to The Peak is by bus – route 15 operated by New World First Bus is the most popular. This route starts at the Star Ferry pier in Central, wanders through the busy districts of Admiralty and Wan Chai, then turns into the hills, winding up towards The Peak where it terminates in the basement of the Peak Galleria shopping centre. The bus takes around 40 minutes end-to-end, including a pointless deviation along a dead end road halfway up the mountain. The bus does get busy at times: I caught it of an evening and there was a long queue waiting for the next bus back down the hill.
Once at the top there are more things to do than just checking out the view: a visitors centre is located in a 1950s-era Peak Tram across the road from the Peak Tower.
The Peak Tower is the building with what looks like a rice bowl on top the Peak Tram arrives in the basement, while the bus arrives across the road.
If you step inside then zig and zag through a half dozen escalators you can get almost to the top of the building, but admission to the ‘Sky Terrace’ on the roof is $25 HKD (or thereabouts).
The terrace is the best location to see the ‘cliche’ view of Hong Kong, but it gets crowded at dusk, and cold in winter due to the lack of shelter.
From the Sky Terrace you can also look over the south side of Hong Kong Island, towards Lamma Island, Hei Ling Chau, and Lantau Island.
Since it is a tourist trap, there are a number of photographers who will take your photo in front of the skyline. There prices seems to be pretty normal by tourist rates, and they are polite enough to not barge their way around trying to drum up business – if only the touts on the streets of Tsim Sha Tsui were that nice!
There are a few other lookouts to visit: if you are willing to walk further afield, there are two walking tracks to the west that cover more of the scenery. The first is a circular trail that loops around Victoria Peak itself. Running along Lugard Road and Harlech Road it is relatively flat, when travelling clockwise you look down on the busy northern shores of Hong Kong Island, followed by the quieter residential areas on the south side. The second trail is a steep climb to the top of the peak itself, where there are a number of parks and gardens. This website has some more details about the walking tracks.
Down the road from the Peak Tower is another lookout: the Lions Pavilion, perched on the hill above the Peak Tram tracks. The pavilion is free for all to wander around, but it does get rather crowded when tour groups are visiting.
From a photography viewpoint, you might want to visit earlier in the day: I arrived there in winter about 2 hours before sunset, and the shadows had already covered the pavilion, and were starting to creep over the buildings located down the bottom of the peak. Of course, if it is a hazy day (which happens far too often in Hong Kong) then you won’t have the sunlight to worry about!
Once you have finished at the peak, there are a number of ways back down. The most obvious one is to catch the tram back down, but depending on the time of day, you might be waiting in the line for a long time. Can can also take the bus mentioned earlier, but the journey time is longer.
The final way to leave Victoria Peak is walking: Old Peak Road is a concrete walking track that leads from the Lions Pavilion lookout to the Mid-levels back in the urban area. While going downhill might be much less strenuous than heading up the hill, it does result in some sore ankles from the very steep slope.
It took me about 30 minutes to walk down from the peak to the first apartment blocks in Mid-levels. Once you reach the urban area the route forward gets confusing: if you don’t have a map then the simplest way is to keep on heading downhill! Once back into the tourist areas you will run into the usual directional signage that points you at places of interest.
As for myself, I decided to walk west back towards the Peak Tram route to take some photos, which I’ll post in a follow up article.