Put Malaysia on your bucket list if it’s not already – it is one of the most spectacular countries to visit in South East Asia boasting a scenery of cascading tea plantations, pristine white sandy beaches, crystal-clear waters, and wild tropical rainforests, all in one! Malaysia also has a fascinating heritage, a mix of Malay, Chinese, Muslim, and Christian making up its rich and diverse cultural tapestry. Not only does this translate into mouth-watering cuisine, too, but into the vibrant customs and traditions still present to this day.
Where to go in Malaysia
You have not seen Malaysia without…
Whilst planning that trip to Malaysia, three not-to-miss destinations we would recommend you visit to make the most of the country’s incredible landscape of beach and jungle, wildlife and sea life, are Kuala Lumpur, the cosmopolitan capital; Borneo, home to the wildest jungles; and the paradise islands of Langkawi and Perhentian.
Spend a few days exploring Kuala Lumpur – not quite as polished as Singapore, but not quite as hectic as Bangkok – with British colonial traces throughout the city, a scattering of Muslim mosques, and a vibrant and colourful Chinatown. Punctuating the city’s skyline are the Petronas Twin Towers, standing at 451m, which when illuminated can be seen across the city (top tip: there are a few great sky bars to take in the incredible views over happy hour). Needless to say, the capital’s diversity will keep you entertained from morning until night.
From concrete jungle to tropical jungle, just a short flight from KL will take you to Kuching or Kota Kinabalu, to explore Malaysian Borneo: home to some of the oldest rainforests in the world, dating back 140 million years. Here you will find amazing wildlife from endangered orangutans, Sumatran rhinos, elephants, monitor lizards, pythons, tarantulas… you name it!
One of the best things to do is a multi-day jungle tour with a guide and explore the wonderful wildlife and nature for yourself.
If it’s beach time you’re after, Malaysia isn’t short of a tropical island, or two. Make a beeline for Langkawi, Malaysia’s original postcard paradise, an archipelago off the mainland’s west coast, where people have been coming to for years to enjoy its stunning white beaches and turquoise seas.
But if you’re after something a little less travelled, the Perhentian Islands are a great alternative on the east coast of the mainland and if you time your trip right, you might even be able to see turtles hatching on Turtle Beach (the island is renowned for its turtle nests!)
Where to go if you like…
What really stands Malaysia apart from some of its neighbouring countries in South East Asia, is the incredible number of things to do and activities you can get involved with to experience the diverse landscape, wildlife, and sea life.
Malaysia is ‘one to watch’ in the diving scene with stunning reefs and corals for those who love to explore the underwater world. Some of the best dive sites are found off the east coast of Borneo, in Sipidan, where the National Marine Park and its conservation efforts protects the dramatic sea shelves home to exotic fish, sharks, turtles, and rays. You will have to book ahead for a dive pass, as they are sold daily and limited to avoid too much environmental impact. Extend your diving for a few more days to visit the neighbouring dive sites of Mabul and Kapalai Islands, too.
Hiking and mountaineering
Malaysia has some incredible mountains whose peaks and pinnacles are just calling out to be climbed. Mount Kinabalu is Malaysia’s tallest mountain, standing at 4095.2m (13,435ft). Join a 2D/1N guided climb and stay overnight up the mountain before waking up to conquer the peak for sunrise. It’s hard work (we can’t lie!) but once you reach the summit, you’ll feel on top of the world and you’ll get to witness an incredible sunrise.
Another climbing adventure on Borneo is at Mulu National Park whose guided tours will take you around the national park, its incredible cave systems, jungle walks, and a climb up the pinnacles: incredible jagged limestone daggers. Did you know the pinnacles are designed onto the MYR100 note?
Jungle trekking & wildlife
Something to be aware of on your visit to Malaysia is the rise of (and speed of) deforestation for ruthless palm oil plantations – this is a huge problem not only for the rainforests but for the wildlife, too. We urge you to visit the lush green jungles while you can, there’s so much to experience and learn from just make sure you are supporting sustainable and ethical companies when booking your tours.
Some of our favourite jungle trips are to Danum Valley, an important research centre where you can stay on site with the team, and join in jungle walks, talks, and night safaris. For a swampier experience, Kinabatangan river jungle can also be explored by boat and you’ll get to stay in a floating camp on stilts – right in the thick of it!
For Malaysia’s history and heritage, many visit Cameron Highlands for a more subdued hiking adventure, but also to learn about the country’s history at the tea plantations. Not only does this experience offer stunning views, but an insight into the British Colonies.
Georgetown and Melaka are two other cities you should put on your agenda if you want to learn more about Malaysia’s rich past through fascinating architecture, museums, and temples.