Malaysia has a diversity of landscapes, cultures, and activities. From the UNESCO World Heritage-listed George Town town promenade, from the historical core of Malacca to the discovery of isolated islands and the jungle dwellings of Borneo, 130 million years old, tourists have many places to visit in Malaysia. Here are our favorites.
Cameron Highlands, Pahang
The Cameron Highlands are one of the favorite places to visit in Malaysia since the end of the 19th century. British observer William Cameron “discovered” the area in 1885 and has since become a tourist hotspot. The highlands range from about 1100 meters (3609 feet) to 1800 meters (5906 feet), creating a more comfortable and colder climate. It is not surprising that the Cameron Highlands has become the most massive mountain resort in Malaysia. Today, emerald-green tea plantations dominate the skyline, alongside strawberry and vegetable farms. Tourists enjoy the colder climate and opportunities for hiking.
George Town, Penang
Penang is still considered one of the best places to visit in Malaysia. The state, named after the palm-like pinang, is shared between Butterworth on the mainland and George Town on Penang Island. George Town is an open museum. The colonial district is full of British buildings, churches, and Fort Cornwallis. Stroll through the streets and discover traditional shophouses, each with its style and design. Street art and murals also decorate the walls. Combine this story with temples, including the Kek Lok Si, renowned restaurants, a bustling shopping scene, and the most extended coffee in the country. It is no wonder that George Town is one of the best places to visit in Malaysia.
Malacca City, Malacca
The city of Malacca, capital of the state of Malacca, is full of history and culture. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2008, the colonial city along the Straits of Malacca attracts visitors with its architecture, cuisine and the famous Jonker Street Night Market. Not only has this historic city experienced times under the Portuguese and Dutch, but the 15th-century Sultanate of Malacca is widely regarded as the golden age of Malay culture. St. Paul’s Church, Fort A Famosa, and Stadthuys, the official residence of the Dutch governor, are the main attractions.
The Perhentians, Terengganu
The small archipelago called the Perhentians, found in the South China Sea off the coast of Terengganu is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Malaysia. The main islands surrounded by corals are the Besar Islands and Kecil, or Big and Small. Imagine white sand sprawling around sparsely populated areas with crystal clear, shallow waters rubbing against the shore. Favorite activities, in addition to relaxing in this little-visited tropical paradise, include scuba diving, snorkeling, and canoeing. Those planning to visit should avoid the area during the eastern monsoon between March and October when most hotels and guest houses close their doors.
Alor Setar, Kedah
Most tourists who visit Kedah state end up spending their time in Langkawi. But about 55 kilometers southeast of this famous island is an attractive and unexplored city called Alor Setar. The central square of Alor Setar includes the Zahir Complex Mosque, the Big Clock Building, the Royal Hall and the Sultan Museum, with a fountain as the centerpiece. A little further, tourists can visit the limestone hill of Gunung Keriang, 218 meters (250 meters) old and 250 million years old. Rendezvous near Kuala Kedah and visit the ruins of a 17th-century Malaysian fort, the oldest in northern Malaysia.
Danum Valley, Sabah
Danum Valley is by far the best destination to visit in Malaysia for ecotourism and to live an untouched jungle. Located at the bottom of the 130-million-year-old lowland dipterocarp forest, the conservation area is blessed with incredible biodiversity. Hundreds, if not thousands, of even more abundant fauna and flora within 438 square kilometers, are home to this region. Lucky tourists might spot orangutans, dwarf elephants, and the cloudy leopard. But the greatest attraction of Danum Valley is the lack of human settlements, providing a cleaner environment. Logging and deforestation have devastated habitats throughout Sabah, but not within this protected area. Activities include jungle trekking with experienced guides, night safaris, and visits to ancient Kadazan-Dusun funerary sites.
Kota Kinabalu, Sabah
The capital of Sabah, Kota Kinabalu, might not seem beautiful at first. But behind the malls and buildings are beautiful orange sand beaches, islands within 10 minutes, and the iconic floating mosque. Head to Tanjung Aru Beach to admire one of Borneo’s most spectacular sunsets or take a stroll along Likas Bay and marvel at the coast and islands. The five lands, known as the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, are a day trip for snorkeling, beaches, and relaxation. Drive a short way from the city and discover an untouched jungle.
Ipoh, the capital of Perak, has recently experienced a boom in tourism thanks to Perak 2017. Nicknamed “the city of Bougainvillea,” after the colorful flower and surrounded by rugged limestone hills, Ipoh is becoming a hot spot in Malaysia. The historic core consists of colonial buildings and traditional shophouses, while a plethora of Buddhist and Hindu rock temples surround the city. Kellie Castle, an incomplete colonial mansion, is also a short drive from the city.
Pulau Tioman, Pahang
Time magazine mentioned Pulau Tioman as one of the most beautiful islands in the world in the 1970s. Few things have changed since the publication and Tioman Island, located off the East Coast in the South China Sea, is a must-visit place in Malaysia. With its vibrant coral, untouched beaches and dense tropical forest interior, the island offers a more isolated atmosphere to Langkawi’s tastes. Popular activities include snorkeling and scuba diving, jungle trekking, island biking or biking, and waterfall tours.
Pangkor Island, Perak
Pangkor Island of Perak, derived from ‘Pang Ko’ in Thai and translated as ‘Beautiful Island,’ includes a small archipelago in the Strait of Malacca. Once home to fishers, sailors, and pirates, and remaining unchanged for decades, Pangkor Island offers tourists a chance to experience a relatively undeveloped tropical paradise. With a population of only 30,000, the main activities are relaxing on the beach, renting motorbikes and driving around the perimeter of the island, as well as scuba diving and snorkeling. In Teluk Nipah, on the west coast, the owner of Sunset View Chalet eats at least 30 wild hornbills every night at 18:30.