While it might be best known for its bohemian urban centre, George Town, Penang is actually an expansive region of Malaysia with plenty to explore. As with the rest of the country, you’re rarely far from a stretch of jungle or a coastline. What better way to explore such a beautiful natural setting than with a hike? The eight routes below will take you all over Penang and earn every mile you cover.
Penang National Park
Penang National Park is actually the smallest in the country, but at just under 26 square kilometres (10 sq mi), it has plenty of space to explore. It has two main hiking trails, the first of which leads along the coast, ending at Monkey Beach. The second is a steep jungle climb to Turtle Beach, where your reward is a visit to the turtle sanctuary which gives it its name.
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Teluk Bahang Forest Eco Park
Teluk Bahang is one of the most well-maintained parks in Penang, with dozens of different hiking trails and as many public footpaths. It spans just under 32 hectares (80 acres), with picnic areas, campsites, water features and a treetop path. You could cover a few miles of jungle or just find somewhere nice to sit down and watch the day go by – no wrong answers.
Penang Hill (Bukit Bendera)
Start your hiking trail from the Moon Gate at the Botanic Gardens. The entire hiking experience will take you three hours, and parts of the journey feature climbing aids (steps and holds) to better facilitate your steep hike. Bring water, bug spray and light snacks. If you plan to hike back down, we recommend starting your hike in the morning; you don’t want to get yourself lost in the woods after dark. There are various different ways to conquer Penang Hill, sitting proudly as it does 9km (5.6mi) from the centre of George Town. The Malay government has a list of routes with various different starting points and difficulties. The Moon Gate trail will take around three hours, and cuts through some dense forest, so it’s best to start early. If when you reach the top, however, you don’t feel up to descending, the hill boasts the steepest funicular railway track in the world!
Bukit Jambul is a residential district 10km (6mi) northwest of George Town. It looks pretty unassuming at first, but it hides a hiking route which is paved with large stones, and covers around 1.3km (0.8mi) uphill, making it a short, easy ascent with a rewarding view when you reach the top.
As the name suggests, the Youth Park is a child-friendly space with fountains, a skate park and a reflexology path. It’s known as a good spot to start from if you’re aiming to summit Penang Hill, but you can also take a loop route that leads from there to the Botanic Gardens and back again, or mix it up however you want. It’s an ideal point to either start or finish a long walk.
Penang Botanic Gardens
The Botanic Gardens in Penang are a great place to relax, but the circular hiking route is a great way to get the full experience. Its popularity means you’ll encounter lots of locals and tourists alike, as well as getting a good sense of all the different sections of the gardens, including the fern rockery and the various spots where colourful birds like to congregate.
Air Itam Dam
The Air Itam Dam was first opened in 1962 to create a reservoir, and sits around 210m (690ft) above sea level. This means that the air is clear and crisp, and doesn’t tend to be as foot traffic-heavy as some of the other routes around Penang. The circular route is 2.7km (1.7mi), so nothing crazy, but the views and the tranquility really set this one apart.
Bukit Mertajam Recreational Forest
Spanning more than 37 hectares (91 acres) and reaching a high point of 457m (1,500ft) above sea level, Bukit Mertajam is an impressive park. The tree cover keeps it well shaded, and you can take a direct route from the bottom to the top, ending at a great viewing point that looks over the surrounding region of Perai. If you need to cool off, there are a few streams and shallow pools and even a waterfall in the park where you can take a dip.
Additional reporting by Callum Davies.
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