Visiting the Hong Kong Big Buddha (Tian Tan Buddha or 天壇大佛) on top of Ngong Ping on Lantau Island is a worthwhile experience you don’t want to miss!
Whether you plan to make a day trip from central Hong Kong or spend a few nights on Lantau Island (highly recommended!), a visit to this often overlooked corner of the city might just be one of the highlights of your time in Hong Kong.
There are so many ways you can approach a visit to Tian Tan, and much more to see and do in the area than simply climbing the 263 steps to Big Buddha.
In recent years, nearby Ngong Ping Cable Car and Po Lin Monastery have also become major attractions in their own rite (more on that below).
Crowds can get pretty crazy for these sites, and weather can have a major impact on your visit. In this guide, we’ll help you navigate all that to get the most out of your trip.
This detailed guide covers everything from the best ways to get there, how to visit on your own (DIY), advice for top tours (if you’re short on time or want to leave the details to someone else), when to visit Tian Tan Buddha, where to stay near Hong Kong Big Buddha, and other nearby attractions worth your time and money.
TIAN TAN BUDDHA QUICK FACTS
|Also Known As:||Tian Tan or 天壇大佛|
|Location:||Ngong Ping Village, Lantau Island, Hong Kong|
|Height:||34 meters (112 feet)|
|Year Constructed:||Began: 1990, Unveiled: 1993|
|Stair Steps to Big Buddha:||268|
|Time Requirement:||1-2 hours at Big Buddha complex; 4-6 hours on Lantau, including travel time from central Hong Kong.|
Thinking of Visiting Big Buddha and Lantau Island?
Also be sure to check out our detailed first-hand guide for visiting incredible Tai O fishing village!
Essential Guide to Visiting Hong Kong Big Buddha (Tian Tan)
Why Visit Hong Kong Big Buddha (Tian Tan)
The Big Buddha of Hong Kong is one of the largest seated Buddha images in the world and is a sight to behold (on a clear day).
It is a popular tourist attraction and source of pride for Hong Kong residents for what it represents spiritually, culturally, and from an artistic and engineering standpoint.
The statue, itself, is 34 meters tall (112 feet), and constructed of over 200 bronze pieces weighing in at over 250 metric tonnes. Visitors must ascend 268 steps to reach the base of the statue, which sits at 482 meters (1,581 feet) above sea level.
In addition, the Tian Tan statue is set on a prominence surrounded by dramatic scenery.
Visiting the Big Buddha makes a great day trip by itself, or coupled with a ride on the Ngong Ping Cable Car, visit to Po Lin Monastery, hiking the many scenic trails on Lantau, visiting historic Tai O fishing village, and many other activities.
How to Get to the Tian Tan Buddha in Hong Kong
The Tian Tan Buddha is located about ten miles from central Hong Kong, as the crew flies. Fortunately, it is surprisingly easy to get between central Hong Kong and Lantau Island via the fast and efficient Metro or by taking advantage of Hong Kong’s extensive network of public ferries and buses.
The journey can made on your own with relative ease, or through a tour company. We highly recommend going the tour route if you are pressed for time, traveling with kids, or don’t want to worry about travel logistics.
Skip the Hassle
Buy Tickets In Advance
Putting the Trip Together Yourself (DIY Option)
We recommend taking the New World First Ferry “Fast Ferry Service” from Central (Pier #6) to Mui Wo on the eastern shore of Lantau island.
The fast ferry takes about 40 minutes and costs HK$31 each (about US$4), one-way (Mar 2021). If you’re looking to get an even cheaper rate, NWFF also offers “Ordinary Ferry” service as well.
From Mui Wo on Lantau, catch the Bus No.2 up to the Big Buddha (Tian Tan Buddha). The journey costs around US$1.50 per person and takes about 90 minutes.
From Big Buddha, you can also catch an onward bus to other popular sites on Lantau island, such as Tai O fishing village, or return to the ferry pier in Mui Wo.
Alternatively, you can use the MTR (Metro/subway) to get between Hong Kong and Lantau Island (though we recommend taking the ferry at least one of the directions for the views and experience).
Hop on the MTR Tung Chun line at Hong Kong or Kowloon station and take it all the way to Tung Chung (about US$5). You could also take the Airport Express line, but you would need to change to the Tung Chung line at Tsing Yi.
From Tung Chun station you have four main options: Take Bus No.23 or No.11, take a taxi, or hike, or ride the Ngong Ping Cable Car.
Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car
The recent addition of the Ngong Ping Cable Car has added another way to get to the Big Buddha. Billed as the quickest and most direct route to the Tian Tan Buddha, the cable car run from the MTR Tung Chung station, up and over Tung Chung Bay and the hills of Lantau, to within 1 km of the base of the statue.
Lines for the cable car can be horrendously long, so it’s best to get your cable car tickets in advance, which can be done online or at many large international hotels in the area.
Visiting Tian Tan Buddha on a Package Tour
If Lori and I were planning a visit today and wanted to get the most value for our time on Lantau Island, or simply found ourselves short on time in Hong Kong, these are the packages and guided tours we would consider. These are also what we recommend to friends and family visiting Hong Kong.
FULL DAY LANTAU ISLAND WALKING TOUR ▸ Skip the lines, headaches, and hassles, and leave it all up to a knowledgeable and experienced local guide on one of Hong Kong’s most highly rated tours. This comprehensive 7-hour tour can be done as a private tour or small group tour.
FULL DAY LANTAU ISLAND BUS TOUR ▸ If you are not up to pounding the pavement so hard, have limited mobility, or just want to take it easy, this top-rated coach day tour is the way to go. With pickups from many major central hotels.
Where to Stay Near Hong Kong Big Buddha
While many visitors to Hong Kong choose to base themselves out of the city center for the duration of their stay, there is something to be said for spending a few nights on the island of Lantau as well.
You’ll get a far different experience on the island, a world apart from the frenetic pace and hectic lifestyle of Central or Kowloon. Plus, staying on Lantau will put you in easy reach of the islands top attractions, giving you more time to enjoy the diverse experiences on offer here.
Here are our top recommendations for places to stay on Lantau Island if we were planning our trip today.
NEAR BIG BUDDHA ▸ While there aren’t a lot of options for international travelers at the base of the Big Buddha, there are two excellent options a short drive (~4 km) away. Our top choice near the Big Buddha is Lantau Lodge, located in a picturesque village within walking distance to hiking trails and the three beaches. City Oasis Guest House, situated on the outskirts of Tung Chung is another good bet nearby.
TAI O FISHING VILLAGE ▸ For a completely different take on Hong Kong (and Lantau), we recommend staying in the heart of a historic fishing village. Espace Elastique B&B is our top choice in the village, for their hospitality and cozy property.
DISCOVERY BAY / DISNEYLAND ▸ If you’d like to base yourself close to Hong Kong Disneyland, or take advantage of all of the amenities of a large resort away form the city center, Auberge Discovery Bay is our top recommendation, especially for those traveling with families.
When to Visit the Big Buddha
The best time of year to visit Hong Kong, in general, is September to mid-December, when temperatures are comfortable and humidity is low.
December and January tend to be the driest months, but the weather can also get a bit chilly during that time. For those who prefer dry conditions, it’s best to avoid the rainy season, which usually occurs from May through September.
With regards to visiting the Hong Kong Big Buddha, keep in mind that fog is a common occurrence (see our trip report below), given the coastal location and Ngong Ping’s higher elevation.
No doubt, Tian Tan can still be enjoyed on a foggy day. But if you want to be able to get the most out of your visit and be able to take in the incredible scenery, be sure to keep a flexible itinerary and check reliable weather reports.
Taking a look at live weather cams before heading to Lantau may help in planning your visit. But do keep in mind that weather is highly changeable in some parts of the year, and it can be clear at the airport but fogged in at 482 meters above sea level.
Our advice is, if the forecast calls for any chance of fog, skip the Cable Car. The lines can be long no matter what the weather, and there’s not a whole lot you can see up in the Cable Car on a foggy day.
In terms of avoiding the crowds, the same goes for most top attractions. Try to visit as early in the day as possible, midweek, and or in the off season.
Our Tian Tan Buddha Trip Report
We visited Hong Kong in early December. Temperatures were chilly but comfortable.
The Big Buddha sits high upon a hill in Lantau’s interior and can be seen from as far away as Macau on a clear day (as you might expect from a 10-story bronze statue sitting atop a hill of 268 steps).
This, however, was not a clear day. More on that in a moment.
On the plus side, the fog did help to dramatically reduce the number of visitors to the Big Buddha, which is huge given the popularity of the site.
The Hong Kong Big Buddha has become one of the area’s biggest tourist attractions, so it’s sometimes easy to forget that the complex is an important place of worship for many.
Be respectful and plan accordingly.
Po Lin Monastery
The Hong Kong Big Buddha shares the site with a sprawling pavilion complex, the Po Lin Monastery, which was lovely in its own right — even on a dreary day.
Enough already! On to the Big Buddha!
…and, which way might that be again? Ah, right!
Ascending the Stairs to Big Buddha
Construction of the Tian Tan Buddha began in 1990 and was completed on 29 December 1993, which marks the anniversary of the day the original Buddha achieved enlightenment.
The Buddha faces north, which makes this statue unique, as great Buddha statues generally face south.
Climbing the steps and still not seeing the massive Buddha likeness, but we know he’s around here somewhere… 234…235…236…
The Buddha is ringed by six smaller statues known as the “Offering of the Six Devas”
Finally, after climbing 268 steps the magnificent Tien Tan Buddha comes into focus…well, not exactly.
Is that you Big Buddha?
And then all of a sudden the earth begins to move and the clouds part and…
Yeah…not so much today.
Ngong Ping Village
An entire tourist village has sprung up at the foot of Hong Kong Big Buddha called Ngong Ping Village.
But don’t be fooled!
While the village is built in the classical style, it is a very recent addition specifically aimed at meeting the growing influx of domestic and international visitors to the Hong Kong Big Buddha complex.
Ngong Ping offers everything you’d expect from a wholly commercial endeavor meant to satisfy the insatiable material needs of today’s growing tourist masses, such as gift shops, interpretive exhibitions, and an array of dining options (including…um…Starbucks and Subway…).
Our advice is to skip the eateries at Ngong Ping and eat inside Po Lin monastery.
The village also offers an informational film on the life of the Buddha, which might be a good place to start, depending on your personal knowledge of Siddhartha Gautama.
Traveling with Kids to Hong Kong Big Buddha
I know a lot of you with little ones might be going ‘woohoo!’ to the prospect of getting to Big Buddha faster and more efficiently via the new Cable Car.
My personal advice?
Don’t take the easy road just for the sake of avoiding a bit of discomfort. You’ve made it this far, and Lantau is a truly fun and interesting place to explore on your own. Give your family plenty of time to explore and get around by yourself.
Not going on an organized tour (or jetting there and back via MTR/cable car) doesn’t mean not planning ahead.
Get your hands on the local bus schedule and get lost! Even with kids.
The beauty of Hong Kong is the worst that will likely happen is the experience will lead to a bit of unexpected interaction with locals and memories that will last a lifetime.
If your family is into hiking, there are dozens of kilometers of paths around the Big Buddha complex to explore.
There are also a number of fascinating villages on the island to poke around in as well. Getting out of the tourist areas and exploring the neighboring communities was the highlight of our day trip.
One Final Word of Advice
The vast majority of travelers to Hong Kong don't encounter serious issues with safety and security. With that said, we've had stuff happen affecting our travel — severe weather, road accidents, broken bones, and other nasties.
When we've had these sorts of setbacks while traveling, it's been a huge relief to have insurance — from a financial standpoint, but also to have the support of English-speaking health care experts at any hour.
Thanks for Reading Our Guide to the Hong Kong Big Buddha (Tian Tan)!
Have you visited Big Buddha on Lantau Island? Let us know about your experience in the comments below!
Cover photo by Jason Cooper on Unsplash