Victoria Peak
Price: 55

Victoria Peak is a mountain in Hong Kong. It is also documented as The Peak locally, and Mount Austin. The mountain is located in the western half of the Hong Kong Island. With an altitude of 552 m (1,810 ft), it is the highest mountain on the island, although far from the highest Tai Mo Shan in the territory. It is also known to have the highest land value in the world, with many of the Super-Rich residing here. Because of its view, history and spectacular location Victoria Peak is strongly attached with an air of prestige.

The actual summit of Victoria Peak is occupied by a radio telecommunications facility and is closed to the public. However the surrounding area comprises a mixture of publicly accessible parkland, and high value residential land, and it is this area that is normally meant by the name The Peak. The Peak offers spectacular views over central Hong Kong, the harbor and surrounding islands, and is a major tourist attraction.

History

The early history of the Peak was driven by the breezes and generally cooler temperatures which could be found there during Hong Kong's sub-tropical summers, especially in the days before air conditioning was generally available. This made the area a desirable retreat for Hong Kong's more affluent residents. The summer home of Governor Sir Richard MacDonnell was built there around 1868. Other wealthy residents followed suit.

The original residents reached their homes by sedan chair, which were carried up and down the steep paths by their personal staff of uniformed bearers. The difficulty of access limited the development of the Peak, a situation that would remain until the opening of the Peak Tram funicular railway in 1888.

The boost to accessibility given by the opening of the Peak Tram increased the demand for residences on the Peak. Between 1904 and 1930, the Peak Reservation Ordinance designated the Peak as an exclusive residential area reserved for Europeans and government officials, as well as reserving the Peak Tram for the use of such passengers during peak periods. The Peak remains an upmarket residential area, although residency today is controlled by wealth rather than race.

Tourism

With some seven million visitors every year, the Peak is the biggest tourist attraction in Hong Kong. It offers spectacular views of the city and harbours. The number of visitors has resulted in the building of two major leisure and shopping centres, the Peak Tower and the Peak Galleria, situated adjacent to each other at Victoria Gap.

The Peak Tower incorporates the upper station of the Peak Tram funicular railway that brings passengers up from Central district, whilst the Peak Galleria incorporates the bus station used by the public bus and green minibus services to the Peak. The Peak is also accessible by taxi and private car via the circuitous Peak Road, or by walking up the steep Old Peak Road from the mid-levels starting near the Zoological Botanical Gardens.

Victoria Peak Garden is located on the site of Mountain Lodge, the Governor's old summer residence, and is the closest publicly accessible point to the summit. It can be reached from Victoria Gap by walking up Mount Austin Road, a climb of about 150 metres (490 ft). Another popular walk is the level loop along Lugard Road, giving good views of Central district and Kowloon, and then returning via Harlech Road, encircling the summit at the level of the Peak Tower.

There are several restaurants on Victoria Peak. Most of them are located in the shopping complexes, the Peak Tower and the Peak Galleria. However one of the most famous, the Peak Lookout Restaurant, is housed in an older and more traditional building. Originally a rooming house for engineers working on the Peak Tramway, it was rebuilt in 1901 as a stop area for private or public sedan chairs, and opened as a restaurant in 1947.

Natural history

The Peak is home to a wealth of bird life, most prominently the Black Kite, and to an array of butterflies.

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