Lantau Island’s Big Buddha: Is It Worth It?

This post was last updated on August 26th, 2014

Lantau Island’s Big Buddha—Is it worth it?

 Tian Tan Buddha Lantau Island Hong Kong

Tian Tan Buddha, or simply the Big Buddha, is one of the world’s largest Buddhas as well as a popular tourist attraction in Hong Kong. Serenely nestled on the hills of Lantau Island, it also takes a bit of a time commitment and varying amounts of dough (not to mention hundreds of stairs) to access the Buddha’s smiling face.

Stairs to Big Buddha Lantau Island

We did make the trek out to visit the Buddha, and even got to wish him the happiest of birthdays while we were there. But many fellow travelers we met in Hong Kong expressed their disinterest in the statue, primarily because of the time involved to see the tourist attraction.

 

So was it worth it?

You’ll have to wait (we know you would never just skim down) to the end of the post to find out. But first, let’s talk practicalities.

 

Getting to the Big Buddha

To access the Big Buddha, you’ll first need to arrive at the Tung Chung MTR station. (We’ll mention this in another post, but do so via your Octopus Card. It’s a huge time and money saver, and it works on the bus too.) Once there, you can do one of two things:

 1. Take bus No. 23 to Ngong Ping (via MTR exit B) If you mime Big Buddha actions, all the locals                 will direct you to the bus you need. Creativity points awarded. Be prepared for small roads, deep bends, and fast drivers.

          Estimated time: 30-40 minutes one-way

          Cost: HK $17.20 one way

2.    Board the Ngong Ping 360 gondola/cable car. Excellent views of Hong Kong’s greener side, and the South China Sea.

 Estimated Time: 25 minutes one-way

Cost: Standard Cabin: HK $94 one-way/ HK $135 round trip; Crystal Cabin: HK $149 one-way/ HK $213        round trip.

 

*Note: There is also a ferry to Mui Wo from the Star Ferry Terminal at Central. In Mui Wo you’ll have to take another bus to Ngong Ping. We’re not completely familiar with this route, and unable to offer prices or travel times.

 

We opted for the bus, primarily because the morning was so foggy that we could barely make out the hills just in front of us. Chances are there would have been no dazzling views of the China Sea stretching out before us. However, on a clear day, I do think the cable car would be worth the extra dip in your budget.

 

Upon arriving at Ngong Ping, you’re essentially in Big Buddha territory. Follow the signs, or the hazy site of the Big Buddha itself, and you’ll be at its base in no time.

 

The Big Buddha (located on Po Lin Monastery grounds) is open from 10:00am to 5:30pm. Entrance to the Buddha is free, although you will have to pay to access the exhibitions inside.

 

Climbing The Stairs

Big Buddha Lantau Island 

268 steps now separate you from the Big Buddha. While the majority of people huffing and puffing their way up will be tourists, it is quite likely you’ll also come across devote Buddhists who view the ascent as a pilgrimage. It’s a stunning site to see families dressed in traditional robes, bowing and kissing the ground upon each step so peacefully climbed. It made me feel a bit embarrassed for superficially complaining about the sweat beads beginning to form upon my forehead.

 Old and New Lantau Island

 

Circling the Buddha

Built of bronze and weighing in at 250 tons, the Buddha definitely makes a statement. It was built to symbolize the stability of Hong Kong, but that’s not where it stops: each feature of the Buddha is in fact symbolic. Whether it’s the pearl and conch hair representing wisdom; the right hand in the mudra of compassion from sufferings; the left hand fulfilling wishes and granting blessings to all; or the cross-legged lotus-seat representing purity—each element of design means something deep, virtuous and spiritual.  The Po Lin Monastery website is full of engaging and truly incredible details about the building and symbolization of the Big Buddha. We highly recommend checking it out if a trip to the Buddha is in your future.

Umbrella Big Buddha Lantau Island

 

After the Buddha

After taking in the lush surroundings of Lantau Island, and the Buddha itself, a few options present themselves. First, head to the Po Lin Monastery for a vegetarian lunch (they have surprisingly delicious lotus jellies). You can then opt to spend an afternoon hiking the Tung Chung Loop back to the bottom of the hill, or ascend even higher to Lantau Peak! Additionally, spend time leisurely sipping tea at the Linong Tea House, buy souvenirs at Ngong Ping Village (quite a tourist trap in our opinion), or explore the mountains and beaches of Lantau Island.

 

We were fortunate to time our visit to the Buddha with his birthday, which meant there were quite a few activities going on around the monastery grounds. In between watching children proffer incense and devout Buddhists present their offerings, we took part in a free lunch and numerous performances (with some pretty baller kung fu ninja monks-the technical term) all to celebrate the enlightened one’s birthday.

Praying Lantau Island

Offerings Lantau Island
Monks Kung Fu Show Lantau Island

 

So do we recommend it?

 Yes. But it’s not an absolute, must-see, going to really regret it if I don’t kinda thing. If you happen to be in Hong Kong on one of its rare sunny days, then we would say the views on the gondola and surrounding the Buddha are reward enough. Given more time, we would have been interested in hiking and exploring more of Lantau Island as well. The Big Buddha in itself is quite impressive, but it is more of an experience to observe the spiritual activities surrounding it. If you have previously experienced a Buddhist culture, then the Tian Tan statue might not blow you away; it can be quite touristy. Again, the weather makes all the difference—don’t bother making the trek through haze or storms.

 

The Lovebirds’ Verdict: Go for the surrounding views and photo-ops. image6553Don’t necessarily visit for the Buddha itself, or on a day with poor weather conditions.

 

We only spent half a day at the Big Buddha, so we want to hear your thoughts. Have you been? Would you recommend it?

22 Comments

  1. When I first started researching our RTW trip, this was on the list of things I absolutely definitely wanted to see in Hong Kong. And then… we spent a month in Japan before we got there and by the time we made it, I had seen so many Buddha statues (many of them very large, like the ones in Nara and Kamakura) that I honestly no longer cared about it. As you know, we spent our last days sick as dogs in HK so many things we wanted to do got scrapped, but this one I feel ok about. I mean, maybe the next time we go back I’ll check it out, but at the time, it was definitely the right choice for us to skip it!
    Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) recently posted…Everything You Ever Wanted to Know (& More!) About: The Philippine IslandsMy Profile

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    • Our travel plans always change so much too when we are actually in the act-although I’m sure you know more about how that goes from falling in love with the Philippines! Sickness definitely doesn’t help things either. Sounds like you saw some amazing things in Japan. Until recently I never had a huge urge to visit Japan, but after hearing so many amazing things I’m starting to change my mind!

      Reply
  2. I thought it was totally worth it! And, we ate at the monastery too. What I would not repeat was the walk down the hill. Lonely Planet made it seem like a nice stroll, but my husband now refers to it as the Bataan Death March. It was hot, not well marked, we got lost, saw a snake, one of us fell and slid down the hill, we ran out of water. It was a blast! Thanks for refreshing the memory!
    Amber recently posted…Tips for Eating in Bali – Part 2 – The PadangMy Profile

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    • That sounds like quite the experience! Had it been better weather, we might have attempted that very same hike…haha sounds like it’s a good thing we took the bus! I’m very happy to hear that you enjoyed your time at the Big Buddha!! (and made it to the bottom of the hill safely!)

      Reply
    • I agree, it would be much better if they were more budget-friendly! So glad you enjoyed your time at the Buddha!

      Reply
  3. This looks like a great experience combined with the beautiful views. I’m going to Hong Kong for the first time in January and will have to check this out.
    Josh @ I Ran So Far Away recently posted…Josh vs. Fear: FlyingMy Profile

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  4. Looks like a worth it experience to me, even with all the stairs! The status looks pretty impressive. If we end up visiting Hong Kong, I’d check this out if only for the views and atmosphere.
    Charlie recently posted…Our Round the World BudgetMy Profile

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    • I definitely think the views would be worth it :-) We did thoroughly enjoy our time while we were there, just not so much as eating our hearts out in Hong Kong’s backstreets. Hope you make it to Hong Kong-it really is amazing. Look forward to hearing about your plans as they progress!

      Reply
  5. We really enjoyed Lantau – though we were also blessed with one of those rare clear and sunny days. The Buddha was interesting, but I believe the real magic is the lush natural setting, which is a world away from the madness of Hong Kong Island and Kowloon.
    Erik recently posted…Korean Barbecue on “Meat Street” – Hongdae, Seoul, South KoreaMy Profile

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    • We couldn’t believe how green it was as soon as you got out of the reach of the MTR. It’s definitely a different vibe from the bustling city.

      Reply
  6. Lantau looks a pretty nice area to explore, we saw so many Buddha statues that I’m not sure if this one would surprise me. The biggest we saw so far was in Nara at the Todaiji temple which has one of Japan’s largest bronze Buddha’s statues in the country.
    Franca recently posted…LOCATE CAVEY – Grottaglie (Part 1)My Profile

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    • Lantau Island was a nice place to spend a couple of hours. We were really lucky to end up there on Buddha’s Birthday. We have heard of the Todaiji Temple in Japan and would love to make it there one day.

      Reply
  7. Having spent some time checking out Buddha’s and temples in Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Japan, I must admit that I didn’t think the Tian Tan Buddha was worth the hassle. The saving grace for me was the truly incredible views from the cable car!

    I much preferred my time in Tai O fishing village. Did you guys make it out there?
    Heather recently posted…Tai O Fishing Village and Hong Kong’s Big BuddhaMy Profile

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    • Sounds like you’ve seen more than your fair share of Buddhas. We weren’t lucky enough to be blessed with a rare clear HK day but I would have loved a ride in the cable car. That’s awesome you were able to do it. With our short stay in HK we didn’t have enough time to get to Tai O fishing village. I have only heard good things though. Next time! :-)

      Reply
  8. I haven’t been to Hong Kong yet but I think it’s gonna be worth it. It’s one of the most iconic places in the world and getting there gives one the bragging rights. Haha! And you see, Hong Kong is known for its skyline; and I bet going to the Big Buddha will somehow provide you with a nice view of it.

    Reply
    • Hong Kong is something special. We are still telling our friends about how much we enjoyed it :-p. I hope you get the chance to go yourself soon.

      Reply
  9. We will be there in March 2015. This attraction was on our list – sounds expensive, crowded and foggy. But still looks interesting. We’ll do more research

    Reply
  10. The trip must be worth it.
    The images you post are quite amazing, it makes me want to go immediately although that’s not possible now.
    The Tian Tan Buddha Statue is enlisted as one of the largest Buddha statues in the world.

    Reply
  11. This statue totally worth it! I was there last year with my mom. It was amazing! Best regards!

    Reply

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