Malaysia is a very diverse country with lots of different landscapes. The Western part consists out of the capital Kuala Lumpur, rainforests, tea plantations but also islands with beautiful beaches. The Eastern part of Malaysia (Borneo) consists out of lots and lots of nature and wildlife. In this article I’ll provide a Malaysia bucketlist with 20 things to do, to see and to visit when travelling to the country. Hopefully this will give you some inspiration for your own trip. I’ll mark the things I’ve done myself.
✓ See the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur
The well-known Petronas Towers are the symbol of Malaysia and you see them on almost every photo of Kuala Lumpur. During the initiation of the towers in 1998, the Petronas Twin Towers was the highest building of the world. The towers have each a height of 452 meters and consists out of 88 floors. You can pay a visit to the towers and go all the way up. When you walk into the building, you’ll get into one of the most popular shopping malls of Kuala Lumpur: Suria KLCC. Here you can find shops of many international brands and they’re open until late in the evening (until 10 p.m.). Just before the shopping mall, you can find the entrance of the Petronas Towers where you can buy your ticket and go up with the elevator.
If you walk through the shopping mall and go out at the back of the Petronas Towers, you’ll arrive at a beautiful square. There’s a large fountain where you can enjoy a beautiful light water show in the evening. During the day, you can have a nice walk through the park which you can find just behind the fountain.
✓ Explore the magnificent beaches of Langkawi
Langkawi is an island with beautiful beaches and a relaxing vibe. You can find here long sanded beaches, green landscapes, small towns and jungle. Each beach of Langkawi has its own uniqueness and therefor it’s nice to spend a day exploring all the beaches Langkawi is rich of. In this article you can find more information as I’ve written more about specific beaches I’ve visited myself.
✓ Spot the nose monkey and other wildlife in Bako National Park
Only a 30-minute drive away from Kuching, Borneo, you can find Bako National Park. It’s the oldest and one of the smallest national parks of Sarawak. As it’s located near a lively city, it’s also a park which is easy to reach.
One of the highlights of Bako National Park will probably be the nose monkeys, which you can come across during hiking one of the many trails in the park. However, there’s so much other wildlife you can come across too. Another unique characteristic of Bako National Park will probably be the divers amount of eco-systems you can find here: beach vegetations, cliff vegetation, heather forest, mangrove forest, lowland forest, grassland vegetation and peat bog forests. Another nice thing: you can overnight in the park!
✓ Stay a night or two in a luxurious hotel at Penang
The island Penang is most well-known for the travelers and therefor the island offers many accommodation possibilities. Fun fact: Penang consists out of some beautiful, five stars hotels located at the beach for a very reasonable price. If you would like to enjoy some luxury during your Malaysia trip, you’re at the right place at Penang! We spoiled ourselves with a perfect stay at the PARKROYAL Penang Resort during our trip.
✓ Hike the Canopy Highwalk in Taman Negara
Taman Negara is one of the world’s oldest rainforests and one of the best places of Malaysia for a jungle experience, together with the jungles in Borneo. One of the most popular hiking trails in Taman Negara probably is the Canopy Highwalk. You can make this walk in a few hours; from the park centre you’ve to walk approximately 2 kilometers to the start of the Canopy Highwalk. To make this highwalk, you have to buy a ticket at the park centre as well. The Canopy Highwalk itself is around 45 meters high and around 500 meters long. Absolutely a must do!
Pay a visit to the Perhentian Islands
The Perhentian Islands may be the most beautiful islands of Malaysia as they are a tropical paradise! The islands consists out of white beaches and crystal clear water with a magnificent underwater world which is perfect for snorkeling and diving. Travelers go here for the ultimate relaxation.
There are two islands: Kecil (small) and Besar (big). At Kecil you can find more backpackers and at Besar you can find more luxurious hotels and more relaxation.
✓ Enjoy one of the many views over Kuala Lumpur
There are many places in Kuala Lumpur where you can enjoy beautiful views over the city. Like told before, the Petronas Towers are one of them. Furthermore, you can pay a visit to the KL Tower or the Heli Lounge Bar, where you can also enjoy impressive views. There are also several hotels with an outdoor pool, including views.
✓ Discover the island Langkawi by scooter
Langkawi is the perfect place to rent a scooter and explore the island by scooter, as it’s still less touristy and still very pure. During our time in Langkawi, we also rented a scooter. We had the freedom to go anywhere we liked. In my opinion, I found it quite dangerous to rent a scooter in Kuala Lumpur, because it’s a big and choatic city. In contrast to Kuala Lumpur, Langkawi doesn’t have big cities, which makes it much safer to drive a scooter. There’s a lot of nature (and beaches of course) which is easy to reach by scooter.
✓ Go to the tea plantations of the Cameron Highlands
One of the biggest highlights when travelling to Malaysia, is the Cameron Highlands. The highland is located in the middle of Malaysia, approximately 150 kilometers from Kuala Lumpur. Because of the fact that the highland is almost 2000 meters at its highest point, the temperatures can also be lower as compared to other parts of Malaysia. These temperatures makes it a perfect place to cultivate tea. The tea plantations already exists since approximately 1885. In this time, the British expedition leader William Cameron discovered the Cameron Highlands during a expedition. The highland is named after him.
You can visit one of the plantations, walk around, try some tea and possibly buy some. It’s a really nice experience and a beautiful environment.
✓ View orang-utans in the Semenggoh Nature Reserve
On a driving distance of 30 minutes from Kuching, Borneo, you can find the Semenggoh Nature Reserve. This reserve is the best place in Sarawak to spot orang-utans in their natural habitat. Two times a day, there is a possibility to visit the reserve and to look at how the orang-utans get feed. Such an unique experience!
Go diving from Sipadan Island
Sipadan Island is located just in front of the Malaysian state Sabah, Borneo, and is one of the best diving spots of the world. The underwater world around the island is just magnificent and a must visit for snorkeling and diving lovers.
✓ Wander around George Town to view the beautiful murals
George Town is the capital of the island Penang and is, besides Kuala Lumpur, the most lively city of the country. Although the city consists out of many high buildings, which give a little less atmosphere, the murals of George Town definitely make up for it. In general, George Town has some old looking streets. However, the street art which you can find in several streets makes it a pleasure to walk around these streets. It’s beautiful how these street art is created. Most of the street art is created in combination with a real item, which makes it more lively. The street art includes children and several situations. I really loved wandering around the streets and exploring the art on the walls.
Most of the street art can be found in Little India or Chinatown, located close to the port of George Town. Keep in mind that exploring the street art is very popular in the city, so you’ll be standing with some more tourists to take a picture.
✓ Pay a visit to the Batu Caves
The Batu Caves is a sight which is located just outside the city center of Kuala Lumpur. The Batu Caves are several limestone caves where you can also find some Hindu temples. Most of those temples, you can find in the Temple Cave, which is 400 meters long and 100 meters high. The big, golden statue immediately gets your intention at the beginning of the stairs, which lead you to the Hindu temples in the Temple Cave. This golden statue represents Lord Murugan, a god from India who stands for victory. In order to take the stairs, you have to be dressed properly. That means that your knees, shoulders and chest need to be covered. On your way upwards, you will come across some monkeys. Besides the Temple Cave, you can also go into the Dark Cave. However, for the Dark Cave you’ll need to pay an entrance fee of MYR 35 per person.
Take into account that the Batu Caves can be very touristy, therefor it’s recommended to avoid the busy times.
✓ Stay in a concrete silo in Sarawak
If you would like to include an unique stay in your Malaysia trip, may be the Culvert is something for you. This accommodation is located in Sarawak, Borneo, at approximately a 40-minute drive from the city Kuching. The accommodation isn’t located that centrally and there aren’t many restaurants or shops in the direct environment; however it’s a beautiful, remote place with nature and beaches around. This location creates a peaceful ambiance. Unique about this accommodation is the fact that it provides concrete silo’s as rooms. Personally I really loved this concept!
✓ Visit the Skybridge of Langkawi
One of the highlights on Langkawi (and therefor quite busy) will probably be the Cable Car and Skybridge. The skycab takes you on Mt. Machincang, which gives some magnificent views over the island. A little higher, about 100 meters above the top of Mt. Machincang, you can also take a walk on the Skybridge which is one of the world’s longest curved suspension bridges at 125 meters. It’s a nice experience and the views on the Skybridge are fantastic as well.
When going back downwards with the skycab, you’ll get in an area where you can find some other attractions as well. You’ll find a 3D Art Msueum, an Adventure Park, some shops and restaurants.
Go hiking in Mount Kinabalu National Park
Mount Kinabalu National Park is located in Sabah, Borneo, and is the perfect place for hiking lovers! The nature in the park is very diverse and the hiking trails are well maintained. There are all kinds of trails which suits every level of hiking. Along the way, you come across beautiful views and crystal clear streams. There also is a possibility to overnight in the park if you’d like to.
The highlight of Mount Kinabalu National Park probably is the climb of the mountain Gunung Kinabalu. The highest top of the mountain is Low’s Peak, named after the former British officer Hugh Low.
✓ Have dinner at one of the many local food markets
All around Malaysia you can find food markets where you can enjoy a dish from the local cuisine. During your trip to Malaysia you should at least go to one food market to experience the local cuisine! When I was in Malaysia, I enjoyed dinner at several food markets around the country and I definitely enjoyed it. In Kuala Lumpur you can go to Jalan Alor for example and at Langkawi you can visit a food market every night at a different place on the island.
✓ Spend a day in Kuching, the city of the cats
Kuching is, next to the capital of the Malaysian state Sarawak, the city of the cats. Literally, the name of the city also means ‘cat’. On diverse places around the city you can find statues of cats, but you can also find them all around the souvenir shops. Kuching is a very clean and safe city full of nice eateries and awesome street art. You can spend your day wandering along the waterfront, visiting one of the many museums, going to a food market or/and go shopping in one of the shopping centres.
✓ Do a boat trip through Taman Negara
A very cool experience is doing a boat trip through the jungle of Taman Negara. There are many boat trips you can do. During our trip, we went on a boat trip for around one hour, where we stopped at three places. The first place was one of the biggest trees you can find in Taman Negara. At the second place we had the chance to feed the fishes. Lata Berkoh was our last destination. From where we arrived with the boat, we had to walk around 15 minutes to Lata Berkoh, where normally you can swim. At the time we were at this place, the water was too wild, unfortunately. However, it was nice to take a look. I loved the experience of sitting in a boat and going through the jungle like that!
Go up on Penang Hill by train
Penang Hill, also known as Bukit Bendera, is an assemblage of mountains which you can reach by train. The train rides through the whole day, so you can chose whenever you would like to go. Keep in mind that it can be quite crowded, so it’s recommended to visit Penang Hill in the early morning or in the evening. In around 10 minutes you will get from George Town to Penang Hill, at a height of 735 meters. When you’ve reached the top, you can make some nice walks. On the way, you’ll walk across some amazing views over George Town. Especially in the evening this can give a beautiful image. You can also visit the Owl Museum on Penang Hill.
If you are more like an active traveller, you can also walk to Penang Hill. From the Botanic Gardens it’s an approximately five kilometres walk, which takes around two hours. On the way you can come across several monkeys.
Have you been to Malaysia? Do you think there are things missing on this list? Please let us know in the comment section below!
Would you like to read more about Malaysia and my experiences? I’ve written several extensive guides about the places I’ve visited and which are mentioned in this post. You can find all my articles by clicking here.