Away from the skyscrapers and shopping malls that dot the Lion City, lie green spaces with much to discover. We highlight seven parks with hiking trails that’ll let you soak in the views, learn more about Singapore’s past and get closer to wildlife around the island.
For trails with a view
MacRitchie Reservoir Park
Panoramic views of the forest and the thrill of walking at 25 metres above ground are all part of the experience when you traverse the TreeTop Walk, a 250-metre-long freestanding suspension bridge. See first-hand the layers of the rainforest, from the ground all the way to the canopy and the emergent layer of trees, when you take on this scenic seven-kilometre-long roundtrip to the bridge. From the carpark at Venus Drive, it’s a three- to four-hour hike—do note that the TreeTop Walk only allows access from one direction.
Bird-watchers, take the path that leads to the seven-storey-tall Jelutong Tower when you reach the fork at Sime Track. From atop this tower, look out for the chestnut-bellied malkoha or the orange-bellied flowerpecker, among the wide variety of birds that reside in the MacRitchie area. No luck with bird-spotting on your visit? The tower also offers a breathtaking view of MacRitchie Reservoir.
MacRitchie Reservoir Park. Singapore 298717.
Tue-Fri 9am-5pm; Sat & Sun 8.30am-5pm.
The Southern Ridges
Keep your camera on hand when you hike the photogenic ten-kilometre-long network of trails known as the Southern Ridges. The route starts at HarbourFront Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) station and takes you three to five hours to walk through Mount Faber Park, Telok Blangah Hill and HortPark before ending at Kent Ridge Park. Soak in the scenic views of our skyline and the Southern Islands at the peak of Mount Faber Park, which is also where you can take photos with the Merlion sculpture—one of seven that dot the island.
For Instagram-worthy pictures, we definitely recommend Henderson Waves, the highest pedestrian bridge in Singapore. The post-modern wood and steel structure’s also an ideal venue for a romantic night stroll, as it’s majestically illuminated by glowing LED lights from 7pm to 7am.
Long walkways that offer a bird's-eye view of the forest canopy await at the Forest Walk at Telok Blangah Hill Park, as you continue along the trail. Instagrammers, here’s why it’s worth it to trek further and cross Alexandra Road into HortPark: terraced and themed gardens filled with blooms and lush greenery that’ll be your backdrops for selfies. End your trek here, or cross the park connector that links HortPark to Kent Ridge Park, where the Canopy Walk takes you through the trees of a secondary forest.
The Southern Ridges. Henderson Road, Mount Faber Park. Singapore 099203.
Up close with wildlife
Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve
Enjoy an up-close look at mud lobsters, tree-climbing crabs and monitor lizards when you stroll along the 500-metre-long boardwalk of the mangrove swamps in Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. The boardwalk runs parallel to the Wetland Centre. Turn your views to the sky when you head to the Migratory Bird Trail just a short walk away. From behind the five hides, two platforms and the 18-metre-tall Aerie Tower featured along the trail, you can quietly observe migratory birds such as the Common Redshank and Pacific Golden Plover that shack up in this reserve from September to March. Kingfishers, herons and egrets also visit the reserve regularly. But don’t just read the signboards that are placed around the reserve, hear about the wildlife from certified nature guides during the free guided walks, held every Saturday at 9.30am.
Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. 301 Neo Tiew Crescent, Singapore 718925.
Chek Jawa Wetlands
Feeling hot and sweaty? A breezy boat ride to Pulau Ubin, Singapore’s most famous offshore island, will soothe your senses before you start your hike. From Ubin Jetty, it’s a 40-minute walk to Chek Jawa. Alternatively, rent a van or bicycle from the main village for a quicker journey.
For a chance to catch a glimpse of the wild boars or long-tailed macaques that occasionally roam the area, your best bet is at the gate to Chek Jawa. The 1.1-kilometre boardwalk starts from the coastal forest—try to spot fruits such as durian and mangosteen hanging from the trees—before transiting to the mangrove path. Put in that extra effort and climb up the 21-metre-tall Jejawi Tower, located at the entrance of the mangrove forest, for a panoramic view of Pulau Ubin. Be prepared to sweat buckets, though, as you walk along the section of unsheltered boardwalk that extends out into shallow water. There, aim your cameras at the coast where mudskippers, fiddler crabs, various anemones and corals can be seen when the sea recedes during low tide.
Chek Jawa Wetlands. Pulau Ubin, Singapore.
Hike through history
Bukit Timah Nature Reserve
Take the path less travelled when you venture into the dense vegetation of Bukit Timah Nature Reserve where remnants of a once teeming kampung (Malay for 'village') are hidden. Starting from a path off Hindhede Drive, a few minutes from the Visitor Centre, walk past fragments of antiquated structures that were commonplace in early 20th century kampungs. The artefacts include a stone well, an outhouse and parts of a yesteryear kitchen, which are gradually being overtaken by creepers. You’ll also chance upon a stream—unhygienic thoughts aside—that was once used by the villagers for bathing and washing laundry.
Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. Hindhede Drive, Singapore 589318.
Fort Canning Park
Relive the footsteps of Malay kings and British governors at Fort Canning Park. This area used to be home to Malay royalty, and was also where Sir Stamford Raffles built his first house, which eventually became the place of residence for governors. Connect with history when you explore Fort Canning Service Reservoir to discover landmarks such as the nine-pound cannon that dates back to the 19th century; headstones that mark the site of Singapore’s first Christian cemetery; and Fort Gate, a remnant of the fortress that was built on this hill.
For an important slice of Singapore's history, head to Battlebox—a bunker that was the British underground command centre during WWII. Go on a daily guided tour (adults S$18/child S$9), which is the only way you’ll be able to explore Battlebox, and put yourself in the shoes of the British when they decided to surrender Singapore to the Japanese.
Fort Canning Park. Bounded by Hill Street, Canning Rise, Clemenceau Avenue and River Valley Road, Singapore 179618.
Labrador Nature Reserve
Learn more about Singapore’s colonial past and maritime history when you make a trip to Labrador Nature Reserve. Before the Japanese occupation, the area was known as Fort Pasir Panjang, a former defence battery that was constructed to defend the western entrance to Keppel Harbour—Singapore’s main port since the 19th century.
You’ll want to start at the reserve’s Carpark C, where there’ll be two navigational markers. These markers are in fact the replica of an outcrop of rocks known as Dragon's Teeth Gate—the original was blown up to widen the increasingly busy channel, and Berlayer Point Beacon, which was built in 1930.
WWII buffs can reimagine wartime scenarios around the remaining brick walls of the old fort and machine gun post, which are situated just a short walk from the beacon. From the old fort, make for the forested areas of the reserve to find more relics such as a six-inch cannon. Here’s a challenge while you’re there: try to spot the entrance to the series of tunnels built by the British army during the war.
Labrador Nature Reserve. Labrador Villa Road, Singapore 119187.