The 17 Most Beautiful Places to Visit in Malaysia

| Louis Gan / Unsplash
Sam Bedford

Wondering where to go in Malaysia? With its diverse landscapes, culture and activities, it can be hard to know where to start. If that’s the case for you, try our guide to the country’s most beautiful places to visit. From walking around Unesco-listed historical marvels to exploring 130-million-year-old jungle, you’ll always have plenty of things to see and do in Malaysia.

1. Malacca City, Malacca

Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark

Malacca City, Malaysia
© Edy Kasim / Shutterstock
Malacca City, capital of Malacca State, oozes with history and culture. Listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site since 2008, the colonial city along the Strait of Malacca attracts visitors with local architecture, food and famous Jonker Street Night Market. Not only has it experienced periods under the Portuguese and Dutch, but the 15th-century Malacca Sultanate is widely considered to be a golden age for Malay culture. St Paul’s Church, A Famosa Fort and Stadthuys (the official residence of the Dutch governor) are top attractions.

2. George Town, Penang

Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark

Irene Navarro / © Culture Trip
Irene Navarro / © Culture Trip
George Town is an open museum. The colonial district boasts a wide selection of British buildings and churches, and is home to Fort Cornwallis. Stroll through the streets and see traditional shophouses, each with an individual style and design. Street art and murals decorate the walls too. Combine this history with temples (including Kek Lok Si), food courts, a vibrant shopping scene and the longest coffee shop in the country, and George Town is absolutely the place to go in Malaysia.

3. The Perhentians, Terengganu

Natural Feature

Perhentian Islands, Terengganu, Malaysia
Johannes Mändle / Unsplash

The Perhentian Islands are a small archipelago in the South China Sea off the coast of Terengganu. They are consistently ranked as one of the most beautiful places in Malaysia. The region is comprised of seven islands in total, five of which remain uninhabited; the other two are named Besar and Kecil. If you fancy holidaying there, picture white sand stretching around sparsely populated areas, while crystal-clear water laps against the shore. Favourite activities include scuba diving, snorkelling and canoeing. Avoid coming between March and October though, as that’s when most hotels and guesthouses close.

4. Danum Valley, Sabah

Forest, Hiking Trail

Are you an ecotourist? Then Danum Valley is by far your best place to visit in Malaysia, as you get to experience untouched jungle with incredible biodiversity. Inside the 169sqmi (438sqkm) conservation area are hundreds, if not thousands, of fauna and flora species. Among the untamed wilds, you may well spot orangutans, pygmy elephants or a clouded leopard. Activities include jungle treks with experienced guides, night safaris and visiting ancient Kadazan-Dusun burial sites.

5. Alor Setar, Kedah

Natural Feature

Zahir Mosque in Alor Setar, Kedah
Cecelia Chang / Unsplash

Most who visit the state of Kedah spend their time in Langkawi. But, approximately 34mi (55km) southeast of the popular island sits an unexplored city called Alor Setar. The central square features the intricate Zahir Mosque, the Big Clock Building, the Royal Hall and the Sultan Museum. A little further afield, you can visit the 218m (715ft) and 250 million-year-old Gunung Keriang limestone hill. Head to nearby Kuala Kedah and walk through the ruins of a 17th-century Malay fort, the oldest in Northern Malaysia.

6. Kota Kinabalu

Natural Feature, Architectural Landmark, Mosque

Kinabalu national park, Malaysia
© Tappasan Phurisamrit / Shutterstock

The capital of Sabah, Kota Kinabalu, might not appear beautiful at first. However, behind the malls and buildings lie stretches of orange sand, islands reachable within 10 minutes, and the iconic floating mosque. Head to Tanjung Aru Beach for a spectacular sunset, or stroll along Likas Bay to marvel at the coast and islands. The five islands, known as Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, are a brilliant day trip for snorkelling, beaches and relaxation. Drive a short distance from the city and find untouched jungle.

7. Ipoh, Perak

Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark

Abandoned Kellies Castle in Batu Gajah, Malaysia
© reezuan / Shutterstock

Ipoh is fast becoming an obvious answer to the question of where to go in Malaysia. The historical core consists of colonial buildings and traditional shophouses, while a plethora of Buddhist and Hindu cave temples surround the city. Kellie’s Castle, an incomplete former colonial mansion, is a short drive from the city too.

8. The Cameron Highlands, Pahang

Natural Feature

Tea field, Malaysia
© chatnara / Shutterstock

British surveyor, William Cameron, discovered the Cameron Highlands in 1885 and it has only grown since as a tourist hotspot. Today, emerald green tea plantations dominate the skyline, along with strawberry and vegetable farms. If you plan on going, you’ll almost definitely enjoy the cooler climate and the opportunities to go hiking.

9. Pangkor Island, Perak

Natural Feature

Pangkor Island, Perak, Malaysia
Anh Thu Le Nguyen / Unsplash
Pangkor Island consists of a small archipelago in the Strait of Malacca. Once a haven for sailors and pirates, Pangkor Island has remained unchanged for decades, thus giving you the chance to experience an undeveloped tropical paradise – the population is just 30,000. The main activities are relaxing on the beach, motorbike rental and driving around the perimeter, as well as diving and snorkelling. In Teluk Nipah on the west coast, the owner of Sunset View Chalet feeds or more wild hornbills every night at 6.30pm.

10. Pulau Tioman, Pahang

Natural Feature

Pulau Tioman Juara Beach
© Adel Newman / Shutterstock

Back in the ’70s, Time Magazine mentioned Pulau Tioman as one of the most beautiful islands in the world. Little has changed since then. With untouched beaches and dense rainforest, the island offers a more secluded feel than the likes of Langkawi. Favourite activities include snorkelling and scuba diving. There’s also trekking in the jungle, touring the island on a motorbike or bicycle, and plenty of opportunities to see gorgeous waterfalls.

11. Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur

Shopping Mall, Architectural Landmark

shutterstock_292688456
© f11photo / Shutterstock

You can’t visit Kuala Lumpur without visiting Bukit Bintang. Cosmopolitan yet local, commercial yet cultural, the neighbourhood of Bukit Bintang is buzzing with activity. During the day, you’ll want to visit Pasar Seni, a popular handicrafts market, as well as Kasturi Walk, a covered walkway with vendors selling local delicacies. Once the sun sets, head over to Changkat Bukit Bintang for the real fun, where an obedient row of colonial-style shophouses have been converted into boisterous pubs, bars and cafes. Recommended by Michelle Leong.

12. Pulau Langkawi, Kedah

Natural Feature

© Nataliia Sokolovska/Shutterstock

Also known as the ‘Jewel of Kedah,’ Langkawi is one of those places which even Malaysians visit (and Malaysians are a thrifty lot). Pristine white sand meets gentle ocean waves at Cenang Beach, which is long enough to mean you won’t feel crowded in with other travelers. As long as you’re prepared to pay a fee, the Langkawi Cable Car also offers a majestic and sweeping view of the island. Recommended by Michelle Leong.

13. Mulu World Heritage Area, Sarawak

Park

Caves in Mulu National Park, Borneo, Malaysia
© Nora Yusuf / Shutterstock

If you want proof of Mother Nature’s blessings, this is the place to see it. Sheer limestone cliffs rise like the tower(s) of Sauron over the quiet, verdure, unsuspecting rainforest. The two caves — Deer Cave and Clearwater Cave — are massive with an array of natural limestone formations and sleeping bats. Small waterfalls offer a refreshing view while making your way through the forest. Sounds like paradise? Wait until you see it in person. Recommended by Michelle Leong.

14. Talang-Satang National Park, Sarawak

Natural Feature

This marine protected area encompasses four islands, three of which are known as the ‘turtle islands’. The clear waters and shallow coral reefs are ideal for expectant turtle mothers, who come ashore between July and October to nest. Giant green turtles account for 90% of turtle landings here, but if you’re lucky you’ll also spot a hawksbill turtle making her slow ascent towards her nesting spot. Recommended by Michelle Leong.

15. Johor Bahru, Johor

Natural Feature

Red House building, Johor Bahru, Malaysia
© HitManSnr / Shutterstock

It’s been said that Singaporeans love Johor Bahru — but it’s not just because the currency is a good deal in their favor. It’s because of the banana cakes at Hiap Joo Bakery, the lovely stretch of fine sand at Desaru Beach, and the laid-back culture of Johorians. Recent years have seen quaint boutique cafés mushrooming up all around town, particularly along the Tan Hiok Nee Heritage Street. Night markets are also a big draw. Recommended by Michelle Leong.

16. Kuching, Sarawak

Park, Natural Feature

cat monument kuching
© Alexander Mazurkevich / Shutterstock

‘Kuching’ literally means cats. That’s right — Sarawak’s capital city is named after furry domestic felines, who dominate the city in the form of numerous strategic sculptures. But there’s more than just cats to look at here. You can explore history at the Fort Margherita, discover religious culture at Tua Pek Kong Temple, and say hello to the proboscis monkeys at Bako National Park. Recommended by Michelle Leong.

17. Lambir Hills National Park

Park

Waterfall, Lambir Hill, Malaysia
© steph photographies / Shutterstock

Experienced hikers will enjoy the challenge of Lambir Hills. Selected parts of the journey offer hiking aids like handlebars and wooden steps – but even this convenience doesn’t beset the steep climb at the final part of the hike, towards the top of Bukit Lambir. Waterfalls abound, birds are aplenty and trekking trails fork several ways. Bring water, snacks and a towel if you’re likely to sweat. Recommended by Michelle Leong.

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