A visit to Hong Kong is an experience embracing history, tradition, remnants of the colonial culture, contemporary lifestyles, 21st century Western influences and, above all, the contrast between Cantonese life in the teeming city and its quieter manifestations on the outlying islands. In many ways, it’s China-lite, an introduction to the vast country just across the harbor. As a result, there are endless things to see and do on a Hong Kong vacation.

Quintessential landmarks include Victoria Harbour, Victoria Peak, and Lantau Island, a contrast between glorious temples, local life, the Tian Tan Buddha, and Hong Kong Disneyland. Hong Kong’s Central district, now famed for its skyline and the city’s oldest parts on the slopes of Victoria Peak, was the heart of the main island in colonial time. It’s easy to access everything via ultra-modern, integrated public transport systems.

Taking the Peak Tram to the Sky Terrace at the top of Victoria Peak is an all-time favorite. The observation deck is almost 1,400 ft. above the city, giving unforgettable views as far as the New Territories and panoramic vistas of Hong Kong’s archipelago. It’s part of all-day and multi-day guided tours through Viator.

Lantau Island is a fascinating place to visit for its Ngong Ping cultural village, as well as the massive bronze Buddha at Tian Tan. Reaching over 100 ft. tall, it’s the world’s largest seated image of the Sakyamuni Buddha. Also on Lantau Island are fascinatingly traditional stilted fishing villages, set out over waters of the bay. Discovery Bay beach is a good spot for swimming, and tours to the island are offered by City Discovery and a number of other local operators.

Kowloon waterfront is a must-see for visitors to Hong Kong, with a Star Ferry trip across spectacular Victoria Harbour the best way to get here. Kowloon is the most crowded place on earth, and much more ‘Chinese’ than Hong Kong Island. The waterfront is a favorite place to watch the famous nightly Symphony of Lights light and sound show. Close by are the Avenue of Stars, Hong Kong’s answer to Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, and the Sik Sik Yuen Wong Tai Sin Taoist temple, famed for divinations. China Highlights offers day-long and half-day tours.

The natural beauty of the interior of Hong Kong Island is a great place for trekking as it has the popular Hong Kong Trail. Hikes range from family-friendly to tough, long distance walks through remote, mountainous countryside, giving people of all ability levels the chance to experience an enjoyable day. Many of the routes afford fine views of the island and the distant cityscape, and Lantau Island has even wilder trails. Walk Hong Kong offer hikes, including several in the New Territories Global Geopark.

Popular water and beach activities in Hong Kong include surfing at Big Wave Bay Beach on Hong Kong Island and Pui O Beach on Lantau Island, which also have kayaking and canoeing. If getting away from the crowds is a goal, a boat trip to Lamma Island’s Lo So Shing Beach is a must for its clear-as-crystal water. All Hong Kong public beaches have lifeguards, changing rooms and toilets so they’re good for a family day out. Long Coast Seasports offers water sports equipment rental and lessons.