If countries were awarded for diversity, Malaysia would top first place. Not only is Malaysia a melting pot of ethnic cultures, but it is also a blend of many different customs, cuisines and religions all coexisting peacefully together. From large island groups to mountains, fertile highlands and tropical rainforest, the country’s geography is every bit as diverse. What’s more, Malaysia is a unique country in that is divided into two main landmasses. West Malaysia occupies the southern half of a peninsula shared with Thailand, while across the South China Sea is East Malaysia, situated on the Borneo island. This overview of the best places to visit in Malaysia concentrates on its cultural, historic and natural attractions. For an insight in Malaysia’s most popular islands & beaches see this island list.
1) Visiting the island of Langkawi
Pantai Cenang Langkawi Island
Langkawi is a beautiful island in the northwestern part of Peninsular Malaysia; many people describe the island as one of the most beautiful islands in the world. The island is not (yet) spoiled by tourists, which makes it a perfect holiday destination for travelers. Accommodation is affordable on the island. You can stay in a resort for a mere $30 a night, but also for $3000 for a single night. The island is especially renowned for the many great attractions. Besides that you can shop at some of the shopping malls, you can have splendid dinners at one of the many hawkers, or you can rent a motorcycle (moped) to explore the island (RM40 for 24h). The island is easy accessible from Kuala Lumpur or the neighboring island of Penang. Read more about Langkawi.
2) Perhentian Island
Perhentian is a great island for scuba diving and snorkeling. Especially great are the affordable prices of accommodation, you can stay at the island for a mere $15, – a night. Because of these great prices, Perhentian is a very popular island among tourists. Add the crisp marine water to that, and you will be having the time of your life at this island. If I would rate all Malaysian islands, Perhentian would probably score a 9/10. Read more about Perhentian.
3) Shop till you drop in Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur City Center
The capital city of Malaysia – Kuala Lumpur – has much to offer for tourists. Shopping in this great metropolis is very popular. Malaysians usually go to the shopping malls during weekend as past time. Shopping in Malaysia is an awesome experience for most tourists. Where else can you find ultra luxurious malls with affordable products? It is not that common to try to bargain for lower prices in shopping malls. You could always try your luck, but on regular clothing and other low priced products, you will probably have zero chance of getting lower prices. When you are planning to buy more expensive products (like jewelry or electronic devices); always bargain for a better price. Read more about shopping in Kuala Lumpur.
4) Penang Island
Georgetown Penang Island
Penang is a beautiful island in the northwestern part of Peninsular Malaysia. While Langkawi is well known for the pristine jungles and beaches, Penang is more renowned for the authentic (Chinese influenced) Asian atmosphere and the great food at the numerous hawkers. Should you ask Penangites to describe the island, many would probably tell you the great food is the main reason why tourists should visit Penang. Read more about Penang.
5) The three major cities on the eastern side of Peninsular Malaysia
Wet market Kota Bharu
I could have named one of the famous cities in the eastern part of Peninsular Malaysia; but that would do no justice to the two other comparable cities. The three cities are Kuantan, Kuala Terengganu and Kota Bharu. Kuala Terengganu and Kota Bharu lie within the two Islamic states of Malaysia (Terengganu and Kelantan). Kuantan is a great city to explore. It is not as big as many other cities in Malaysia, but the atmosphere is great and the beaches (especially Cherating) are superb.
Kota Bharu and Kuala Terengganu are both known for their great authentic markets. These two cities also reflect the traditional Malaysia best. Avoid these cities during monsoon season (October through March), because the weather is usually very bad. These cities lose their attractiveness when it rains 24 hours a day. Both cities are the starting point of your trip to some of the most beautiful tropical islands of Malaysia; Pulau Perhentian, Pulau Redang and Pulau Lang Tengah. Read more about Kuantan, Kuala Terengganu and Kota Bharu.
6) Mount Kinabalu on Borneo
Mount Kinabalu on Borneo
Mount Kinabalu is the highest mountain in Malaysia. With 4092 meters, it is not a contestant for being the tallest mountain in the world. There is no snow at the summit, but it is quite cold compared to temperatures on sea level. The mountain lies in the northern part of the State of Sabah, in Borneo Malaysia. If you are planning to climb the mountain, you should head over to Kota Kinabalu; which is the closest city near the mountain. The trip to the summit is really great. You will probably get back very exhausted, but with many awesome memories. I can say for myself this is one of the most spectacular attractions I have done in Malaysia so far. Read more about the Mount Kinabalu Summit Trail.
Kinabatangan River Borneo
The river Kinabatangan runs through the state of Sabah in Borneo. Alongside the river, many different exotic animal species can be spotted from out of a small boat. A Kinabatangan river cruise is a great way to explore the inlands of Sabah. This region in Sabah is probably one of the best places to spot animals, birds, insects and many plant species in all of Southeast Asia. We have had such a great time there that we recommend it to everybody else as one of the best attractions Malaysia has to offer. Read more about Kinabatangan river cruises in Sabah.
8) Diving at Sipadan Island
Diving at Sipadan Island
Sipadan is probably one of the best diving spots in the world. Every diving enthusiast knows that the underwater world ‘beneath’ the island is simply stunning. Sipadan Island used to be open to public, but after the government concluded that the island and its surroundings were quickly deteriorating the island became a protected marine park. Fortunately, diving is still possible, but visitors stay overnight at the neighboring islands of Mabul or Kapalai. Sipadan is a very exclusive diving spot, so you’ll pay pretty high prices for a diving trip to the island. Diving conditions are usually excellent, though it is best to be an advanced diver due to strong currents (and depth of diving). Read more about diving at Pulau Sipadan.
9) Cameron Highlands
The Cameron Highlands are located in close to the city of Ipoh, in the western part of Peninsular Malaysia. Because the Cameron Highlands are higher than many other places in Malaysia, it is usually a noticeable cooler there. For this reason many local Malaysians often go to the Cameron Highlands to escape the warm and humid climate of the big cities of Malaysia. The surroundings are perfect for strolls and hikes; this is the main reason why many tourists head over to the Cameron Highlands. It is again a different Malaysia. Read more about the Cameron Highlands.
10) Taman Negara
If you are visiting Malaysia you can either stay on the Peninsular Malaysia, or head off to Borneo. Borneo has many wildlife parks, all almost equally beautiful and very much worth a visit. However; sometimes this is difficult due to time restrictions. If you only have three weeks to explore Malaysia, it can sometimes be wiser to stay on the peninsula. Many other tourists describe the National Park ‘Taman Negara’ as an (lesser) alternative to the jungles of Borneo. This is untrue in my opinion; Taman Negara is the oldest primary rainforest in the world, and an absolute must-visit when you’re staying on Peninsular Malaysia.
GETTING THERE – MALAYSIA
Malaysia – By Air
Most major airlines regularly fly to Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Malaysia. You can fly from Malaysia’s neighboring countries – including Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia- either directly or through a connecting airplane to some cities other than Kuala Lumpur.
Malaysia By Train
Malaysia is well connected to Singapore and Thailand through the daily train connections from both countries to Malaysia. The train takes 2 days to reach Bangkok and close to 10 hours to reach Singapore.
Malaysia By Road
There are regular bus services connecting Malaysia to both Singapore and Thailand. You can hire taxis to do the trip.
Malaysia By Sea
It is possible to reach Peninsular Malaysia by sea from the following countries :
Indonesia (Sumatra) : boats regularly connect Medan with Penang and Dumai with Melaka. See the localities for more details. It is also possible to reach Johor Bahru from Sumatra (Batu Ampar or Tanjung Pinang).
Thailand : it is possible to reach Kuala Perlis or Langkawi Island from Satun in Thailand.
Singapore : ferry crossing are possible between Changi Villlage and Tanjung Belungkor, east of Johor Bahru. More useful maybe is the high speed ferry to Tioman Island which operate daily except during the monsoon from 31 October to 1March.
BOOK YOUR HOTEL AS PLAN YOUR HOLIDAY:
There are many good hotel and resorts near Malaysia, we have given a below quick link to Book Hotels.