Places to Visit in Malaysia

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From steamy jungles packed with wildlife to beautiful beaches and idyllic islands, there are many wonderful places to visit in Malaysia.

Malaysia is a vibrant destination that retains many elements of its diverse culture while having cities as modern as anywhere else in Asia. It is Malaysia’s blend of multiculturalism and natural areas from beaches to islands, mountains and rainforests that make it such a popular Asian holiday destination for travellers of all kinds. This diverse landscape combined with its unique plants and animals offers tourists enchanting opportunities and a truly Asian experience.

To make planning your holiday to Malaysia a little bit easier we put together a list of the best places to visit in Malaysia. Select one or more places to visit and see the best of Malaysia on your next vacation.

Best Places to Visit in Malaysia

15. Cameron Highlands

Cameron Highlands is the country’s largest and most popular hill station, with a consistently pleasant climate, rolling hills, lush tea plantations, and distinctively colonial character. Misty mountains, gum-boots, Tudor-themed architecture, scones, strawberries and tea plantations all converge in this distinctly un-Southeast Asian destination. Activities such as self-guided hiking, nature trekking and agricultural tourism make this one of Malaysia’s most worthwhile active destinations. It also represents a clever escape within a vacation, as the elevation means that the weather in the Cameron Highlands tends to stay cool year-round.

Location: Peninsular Malaysia

14. Kuching

Borneo’s most sophisticated and stylish city, Kuching brings together a kaleidoscope of cultures, crafts and cuisines. Revelling in a picturesque setting on the Sarawak River, Kuching has a leisurely charm all its own, cultivating a sophisticated but relaxed atmosphere where high-rises tower over traditional river ferries and souvenir shops rub shoulders with bird’s-nest traders. The bustling markets amply reward visitors with a penchant for ambling, but the city’s biggest draw is what’s nearby: some of Sarawak’s finest natural sites. You can spot semiwild orang-utans or search out a giant Rafflesia flower, look for proboscis monkeys and wild crocs on a sundown cruise in the South China Sea, and then spend a night at an Iban longhouse along the Ai river.

Location: Sarawak, Borneo

13. Georgetown, Penang

Once abandoned by locals and seemingly forgotten by tourists, Penang’s lively capital, Georgetown has emerged as one of Malaysia’s hottest destinations in the last few years. The 2008 UNESCO World Heritage declaration sparked a frenzy of cultural preservation, and the city’s charismatic shophouses have been turned into house museums, boutique hotels and chic restaurants. Its impressive colonial architecture and multiculturalism are its two big drawcards, which sit side-by-side with the soaring skyscrapers of modern Georgetown. Aggressive drivers aside, it’s also one of the best cities in Southeast Asia to explore on foot. Chinese and Indian temples, neoclassical reminders of the Raj and a plethora of old-fashioned little shops sprinkled across the city make Georgetown a fascinating place to wander.

Location: Peninsular Malaysia

12. Sungai Kinabatangan

Proclaimed somewhat grandly as Malaysia’s “Gift to Earth”, the mighty, muddy Sungai Kinabatangan is Sabah’s longest river and its lower reaches, bordered by dense forests, provide the largest corridor of wildlife in the country. Laden with oxbow lakes, mangrove and grass swamps, the area is designated as the Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary. The number one reason to come here is the wildlife, and the Kinabatangan is almost invariably a highlight of any nature lover’s trip to Sabah. Cruise through pristine jungle along this spectacular river, spotting proboscis monkeys among the mangroves, long-tailed and pig-tailed macaques, and occasionally wild orang-utans.

Location: Sabah, Borneo

11. Melaka

With its colourful, cosmopolitan heritage, the town of Melaka is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of Malaysia’s top destinations. Droves of visitors are lured to this historic port city where they are quickly steeped in an intoxicating multicultural world of ancient architecture and the alluring aromas of distinctive local cooking. The city’s complex historical heritage is evident in its Portuguese, Dutch and British buildings and Peranakan ancestral homes. Delightful Chinatown is Melaka’s most visited area, where you will be rewarded with rich seams of genuine character and history. Proud of its multicultural traditions, plentiful museums and assorted cultural attractions, Melaka is a tourist habitat par excellence.

Location: Peninsular Malaysia

10. Bako National Park

With steep, rocky cliffs punctuated by deep bays, white sandy beaches, and a mangrove-fringed coastline, Bako National Park is Sarawak’s oldest national park and a nature lover’s paradise. Bako offers opportunities to spot a diverse range of wildlife, including bearded pigs, sambar deer, macaques, and 150 species of birds. However, the stars of the park are the endangered proboscis monkeys, named for their prominent nose, who forage in groups for mangrove leaves. When you are not out wildlife-watching, you can swim in jungle streams or at isolated sandy coves, and hike through terrain that takes in rainforest, mangrove and kerangas, with pitcher plants easily visible on some terrains.

Location: Sarawak, Borneo

9. Kuala Lumpur

Packed with towering skyscrapers, glitzy shopping malls and world-class bars and restaurants, Kuala Lumpur, the nation’s capital is essentially a young, modern metropolis with vestiges of a colonial past. More fun and easier to negotiate than Bangkok, grittier than Singapore and more eclectic than Hanoi, the buzz about Kuala Lumpur is as palpable as its intoxicating aromas of sizzling satay, stinky durian sweet incence and petrol fumes. The city possesses a rich cultural heritage that is revealed in its colonial architecture, temples and mosques. It’s this multicultural character that makes Kuala Lumpur such a fascinating place to visit.

Location: Peninsular Malaysia

8. Gunung Mulu National Park

Listed as both a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a Rainforest Conservation Area, Gunung Mulu National Park is one of Sarawak’s premier tourist destinations. Named for the sandstone peak of Gunung Mulu, it is a region of great natural beauty with some of the largest and most spectacular caves in the world. Gorges, valleys, and underground passages provide the ideal habitat for an abundance of flora and fauna, including several species of orchids and hornbills. Trekking up to the limestone pinnacles of Gunung Api, exploring Clearwater and Deer Caves, and traversing the Canopy Skywalk are among the park’s highlights.

Location: Sarawak, Borneo

7. Perhentian Islands

Though eastern Peninsular Malaysia has several islands offering unparalleled underwater activities, Pulau Perhentian wins when it comes to attracting snorkelers. Perhaps it’s the water itself: clear and ethereally blue. Or the huge variety of marine life: sharks, tropical fish, turtles and nesting urchins. Living coral beds lie close to shore, and on most days you won’t have to swim much further than the jetty at Long Beach before finding yourself a rainbow cloud of fish of all shapes and sizes. Besides diving and snorkelling, other activities available on the islands include sailing, windsurfing, and jungle walks. All this is capped by a refreshingly laidback atmosphere that can make it difficult to tear yourself away.

Location: Peninsular Malaysia

6. Kelabit Highlands

One of UNESCO’s most isolated and unspoilt regions, the remote Kelabit Highlands has some of the most well-preserved natural beauty in Sarawak. The temperate, forested highlands around the Indonesian border offer some of the best jungle trekking on the island, taking in farming villages, rugged peaks and supremely remote Kenyah and Kelabit longhouses along the way. Whether you just fancy a day’s stroll around the valley town of Bario or want to pretend you’re Eric Hansen on an extended camping trip, you should under no circumstances miss out on coming here.

Location: Sarawak, Borneo

5. Taman Negara

Nature lovers flock to Taman Negara, Malaysia’s oldest and biggest national park, to view its wildlife, climb mountains and take boat trips on Sungai Tembeling. With suitable options for all levels of comfort and desired adventure, Taman Negara opens the wonders of primary rainforest and the creatures who dwell in it to everyone. To visit here is to step back in time and experience the land as it was in primeval times. Inside this shadowy, nigh-impenetrable jungle, ancient trees with gargantuan buttressed root systems dwarf luminescent fungi, orchids, and flora rare and beautiful. Making their home within are elephants, tigers and leopards, as well as smaller wonders such as flying squirrels, lizards, monkeys, deer, tapirs and serpents of all sorts. From the canopy walk high atop the forest to night watches for nocturnal life, this adventure is as stunning as it is informative.

Location: Peninsular Malaysia

4. Pulau Sipadan

Acclaimed by Jacques Cousteau as “an untouched piece of art”, Pulau Sipadan is rated among the world’s top five dive sites and attracts divers from all over the world. Borneo’s most famous island, Sipadan is actually a tip of a limestone pinnacle that rises 600m from the sea-bed. Fringed with white and sandy beaches and blessed with a cornucopia of marine life, its waters are teeming with turtles, moray eels, sharks, barracuda, vast schools of colourful tropical fish, and a diversity of coral comparable to that of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. For any diver, from the amateur to seasoned veterans like Jacques Cousteau, Sipadan is the ultimate underwater adventure.

Location: Sabah, Borneo

3. Sepilok Orang-Utan Rehabilitation Centre

There is no primate quite like the orang-utan. These great apes are a stirring combination: brawn and grace; raw power and gentle restraint; cuteness. Behind their sparkling eyes lie deep reserves of what we can only call wisdom and, sometimes, sadness. All these complicated observations occur at the Sepilok Orang-Utan Rehabilitation Centre – one of only four orang-utan sanctuaries in the world – where visitors can see the apes from an often crowded viewing platform, the highlight of many a Sabah trip.

Location: Sabah, Borneo

2. Mount Kinabalu

It is the abode of the spirits, the highest mountain in Malaysia (4095m), one of the most dominant geographic features in North Borneo, the bone-shaking trek that has worn out countless challengers. Mt Kinabalu is all this as well as one of the most popular tourist attractions in Borneo. Malaysia’s first UNESCO World Heritage site, Mt Kinabalu is one of the easiest mountains in the world to climb and as such attracts thousands of people of all ages and fitness levels to scale its summit every year. Don’t worry – you will still have moments of utter freedom, breathing in the only alpine air in Sabah and, if you’re lucky, enjoying a horizon that stretches to the Philippines.

Location: Sabah, Borneo

1. Langkawi

Malaysia’s best known holiday destination, Langkawi is one of those places whose name alone summons up images of tropical romance and carefree days under swaying coconut palms. Fringed with long, sandy beaches and with an interior of jungle-clad hills and picturesque paddy fields, it’s easy to see why this is Malaysia’s most popular tourist hotspot. Cheap booze (Langkawi is duty-free) and a decent restaurant and bar scene provide just the hint of a party vibe, while a glut of kid-friendly activities make it a great destination for families. But it’s not just a holiday island; off-the-beaten-track-type exploration will reveal that Langkawi has managed to retain its endearing kampong soul.

Location: Peninsular Malaysia

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