Backpacking in Hong Kong on a Gap Year

Countries  »  Hong Kong

Hong Kong isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s a frenetic, potentially overwhelming city packing a huge number of people, neighbourhoods, and cultures into a (relatively) tiny amount of space. No wonder it has the most skyscrapers in the world.

What a lot of people don’t realise when backpacking in Hong Kong is that there are plenty of opportunities to escape the hustle and bustle. After a day or two exploring the markets, alleyways, and hidden spaces of Kowloon, the glass and steel commercial landscape of Hong Kong Island, you can seek out a quiet village on the outskirts, find a remote island to call your own for the day, or simply find one of the city’s many beautifully tended parks.

Take everything in your stride, keep your feet (mostly) on the ground, and a visit to Hong Kong is a pleasure unlike any other.

Top Things to Do in Hong Kong

Victoria Peak

Is it super touristy? Yep. Is it unmissable when you’re backpacking in Hong Kong? Absolutely! At 552m high, Victoria Peak is the highest point on Hong Kong Island and visible from almost anywhere in the city. Take the peak tram to the top, a 125-year-old funicular that seems to defy gravity to take you to the top. From there you’re offer spectacular views of the iconic Hong Kong skyline – do everything you can to visit on a clear day. There’s more to see at the Peak, and we recommend walking back down for a mini-adventure.

Mong Kok Markets

This feels like quintessential Hong Kong, picking your way through the busy streets of Kowloon. Shops and markets sell almost anything you can think of, from tech to toys to tailored suits. Most striking are stalls selling fish in clear plastic bags like funfairs of old (though it doesn’t seem terribly kind to the fish). More markets spring up at night, including food stalls selling delicious wonton noodles, dim sum, and sweet pastries.

Big Buddha on Lantau Island

Another touristy thing, yes, but one worth doing. Lantau Island is easily reachable via the excellent Hong Kong subway, and an epic cable car ride (pay a little extra for a carriage with a glass bottom) will take you up to see the Big Buddha, sitting some 34 metres high over the island, the tallest seated Buddha statue in the world. It’s an impressive site, but the joy of Lantau is sneaking away to explore the smaller settlements and walk around the quieter parts of the island – it’s hard to believe it’s so close to the city.