The Hong Kong SAR, with a population of just over seven million, is located at the southeastern tip of the People's Republic of China, some 2,000km (1,240 miles) south of Beijing; it lies just south of the Tropic of Cancer at about the same latitude as Mexico City, the Bahamas, and Hawaii. Some people who have never been to Asia may think of Hong Kong as an island -- and they'd be right if it were 1842. But not long after the colony was first established on Hong Kong Island, the British felt the need to expand, which they did by acquiring more land across Victoria Harbour on the Chinese mainland. Today, Hong Kong Island is just a small part of the SAR, which covers 1,100 sq. km (425 sq. miles) and measures 49km (30 miles) north to south and 73km (45 miles) east to west -- much of it mountainous.
Hong Kong, comprising 18 administrative districts, can be divided into four distinct geographic areas: Hong Kong Island, Kowloon Peninsula, the New Territories, and the outlying islands. On Hong Kong Island are the Central District (Hong Kong's main financial and business district and usually referred to simply as Central), the Western District, Wan Chai, and Causeway Bay, all on the island's north side. Hong Kong Island is the home to such major attractions as Hong Kong Park, Victoria Peak, Stanley Market, Ocean Park, Aberdeen, the Zoological and Botanical gardens, Lan Kwai Fong nightlife district, several shopping malls, and Hollywood Road with its many antique shops.
Across Victoria Harbour, at the tip of Kowloon Peninsula, is Tsim Sha Tsui and its many hotels, restaurants, museums, and shops, as well as Tsim Sha Tsui East, and the Yau Ma Tei and Mong Kok districts.
The New Territories cover by far the largest area, stretching north of Kowloon all the way to the Chinese border. Once a vast area of peaceful little villages, fields, and duck farms, the New Territories in the past few decades have witnessed a remarkable mushrooming of vast satellite towns with huge public-housing projects. Sha Tin, with a population of more than 700,000 and home to one of Hong Kong's two horse-racing tracks, is the largest; in all, the New Territories house approximately half of the SAR's population, mostly in virtual "cities" that can number in the hundreds of thousands. And yet, much of the New Territories remains open and uninhabited. Close to 70% of Hong Kong's total landmass is rural, with 23 country parks and 14 nature reserves accounting for more than 40% of Hong Kong's land area. One of the most pristine regions is Sai Kung, which, together with the northeast New Territories, is home to the new Geopark.
As for Hong Kong's 260 outlying islands, most are barren and uninhabited; those that aren't lend themselves to excellent exploration into Hong Kong's past. Lantau, Lamma, and Cheung Chau are three of the region's best known and most easily accessible islands, where a gentler, slower, and more peaceful life prevails. Lantau, boasting the world's largest seated bronze Buddha (located near a monastery noted for its vegetarian meals), is the most popular destination, accessible by ferry and cable car. Lamma is famous for its open-air waterfront seafood restaurants, beaches, pleasant hiking trails, and expat community, while Cheung Chau makes for a pleasant half-day excursion with its lively traditional village, boat population, and beach.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.