The Most Beautiful Places to Visit in Malaysia

Turtle Bay is a blissful highlight of Pangkor Island
Turtle Bay is a blissful highlight of Pangkor Island | © Jochen Schlenker / robertharding / Alamy
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.

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Malacca City, Malacca

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.

George Town, Penang

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.

The Perhentians, Terengganu

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.

Danum Valley, Sabah

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.

Alor Setar

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.

Kota Kinabalu, Sabah

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.

Ipoh, Perak

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.

The Cameron Highlands, Pahang

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.

Pangkor Island, Perak

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.

Pulau Tioman, Pahang

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.

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