Highlights of Malaysia

An ideal destination for first-time travellers to Malaysia, the country is home to genuinely warm and friendly locals, good infrastructure for ease of travel along with an outstanding mix of cutting-edge sophistication and Old-World charm. You’ll find exciting cities like the cosmopolitan capital of Kuala Lumpur, with its elegant colonial buildings and soaring skyscrapers, as well as spectacular nature, with ancient rain forests, pristine beaches and tea plantations.

With so much to cover, you’ll want to begin with its highlights, including these.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Malacca, Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur

Nearly all visitors fly into Kuala Lumpur, it’s a city you’ll want to spend at least a couple of days in. Taking a walking tour with a local guide is a great way to see its impressive mosques, churches and heritage buildings in the colonial core, while learning about their history along the way. When you first arrive, get your bearings and a spectacular view from the skybridge that links the famous Petronas Towers, the tallest twin skyscrapers in the world. You’ll also want to enjoy a view of the towers themselves, which can be down from Vertigo, a sky bar on the Banyan Tree Hotel’s 59th floor.

Historic Malacca

One of the best day trips you can take from Kuala Lumpur, Malacca is just a two-hour drive southeast. The country’s historical hub, with a mix of British, Chinese, Portuguese and Dutch settling here, there’s an intriguing mix of architecture, religion and food. Along the cobbled streets you’ll find impressive temples and Christ Church, Malaysia’s oldest functioning Protestant church which dates back to 1753, and the Baba-Nyonya Heritage Museum, a collection of three gorgeous restored homes arranged to look like a typical 19th-cenutry Baba-Nyonya residence. At the summit of St. Paul’s Hill are the ruins of St. Paul’s Church, built on the site of the last Malaccan sultan’s palace.

George Town City view from Penang Hill, Malaysia
Taman Negara National Park, Malaysia

George Town, the Penang Capital

Penang is famous for its gastronomy, often referred to as Malaysia’s food capital. In the capital city of George Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, you’ll find some of the best. The street food here is unbeatable, with a mixture of Indian, Chinese and Malaysian. The best place to start sampling it is along Chulia Street which intersects famous Love Lane. You’ll find the Red Garden Food Court just around the corner, serving all sorts of delicious cheap eats like Laksa, a spicy Malay soup. Sampling the offerings from the many vendors that line the streets is best done after dark with a guide, immersed in the lively atmosphere. Your guide will help you navigate it all, including the differences between all the Chinese regional variants like Hainanese, Hokkien and Cantonese.

Taman Negara National Park

Home to the most ancient rainforest in the world, here since the age of the dinosaurs, Taman Negara National Park is a must-visit on the Malay Peninsula. The most popular attraction here is the canopy walkway, the longest in the world, which spans a distance of 1,738 feet while hovering 147 feet above the forest floor. From here you can watch for the park’s famous flora and fauna. Monkeys are often seen bouncing through the trees, and if you’re lucky, you might spot a tiger, leopard or an elephant.

Arriving by longtail boat cruise, you might sight tapirs, stump-tailed and long-tailed macaques.

Langkawi, Malaysia
Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

Langkawi

Langkawi is an archipelago of 99 islands, with Pulau Langkawi the main island, one of just two that are inhabited. This is the place to go to relax while soaking up breathtaking tropical scenery, including unspoiled beaches like Datai Bay, a crescent-shaped secluded pocket of paradise along with wildlife-filled jungle. Activities like rainforest treks, kayaking through coastal mangroves and a wide range of other watersports are on offer too.

Cameron Highlands

The Cameron Highlands offers a relatively cool high elevation retreat, developed as a popular escape for colonial British following the 1885 arrival of Sir William Cameron. A vision of brilliant emerald green, it’s best known for its sprawling tea plantations, some of which can be toured, offering the opportunity to learn about the teamaking process and enjoy samples, often with scones, a very British tradition. This is the best place in Malaysia to buy the freshest of fresh fruit and vegetables or try sweet strawberry jam at a strawberry farm.