Malaysia is a diverse, multicultural nation, with myriad attractions to keep visitors entertained, irrespective of age or budget. From the country’s cosmopolitan capital, Kuala Lumpur, where colonial palaces vie with the ultramodern Petronas Twin Towers, to the jungles of Borneo, we look at five of the country’s most impressive attractions.
1. Gunung Mulu – Sarawak
Sarawak is located in Borneo, a stone’s throw from Brunei. The sultanate is home to several national parks, including Gunung Mulu, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that was featured in the BBC’s award-winning Planet Earth series.
World famous for both its unique geographical features and high biodiversity, the park is dominated by gargantuan karsts—columns of rock reaching hundreds, even thousands, of meters into the sky. The park is named after its highest peak, Gunung Mulu, a pinnacle of sandstone that stands a colossal 2,377 meters.
Boasting an extensive underground cave system, with an estimated 295 kilometers of caves yet to be explored, Gunung Mulu National Park is home to the world’s largest cave chamber, the Sarawak Chamber, which measures 600 x 415 x 80 meters.
Gunung Mulu National Park’s deep canyons, wild rivers, and rainforest-swathed mountains are home to an assortment of rare wildlife, including 3,500 species of plants. Fauna includes giant porcupines, monkeys, civets, deer, and hornbills, as well as a myriad of vividly colored dragonflies and butterflies.
2. Petronas Twin Towers – Kuala Lumpur
Standing 452 meters high, with 88 floors and 76 elevators, the Petronas are the tallest twin towers on earth. Composed of reinforced concrete, steel, and glass, the structures are connected on the 41st and 42nd floors by a double sky bridge.
The Petronas Twin Towers boast stunning views of Malaysia’s capital city, particularly at night. While most of the floor space is rented to companies like Microsoft, IBM, and Huawei Technologies, the towers’ lower floors comprise one of Malaysia’s largest shopping centers. It features more than 300 shops, as well as an art gallery and even a Philharmonic Hall.
3. Sipadan Island
Located in the Celebes Sea, the waters of Sipadan host a vast coral seascape formed in an extinct volcano cone. Due to its vast population of marine life, Sipadan has earned a global reputation as a diver’s paradise.
Home to hundreds of different types of coral and more than 3,000 species of fish, Sipadan is one of the world’s most spectacular diving spots, offering divers opportunities to swim with manta rays, green and hawksbill turtles, whale sharks, schools of barracuda, parrotfish, and potato head groupers. It also is home to several sharks, including black- and white-tipped.
4. Langkawi Island – Kedha
Situated on Malaysia’s West Coast, 30 kilometers from the mainland, Langkawi is the most northernmost archipelago in Malaysia. This duty-free haven is easily accessible by air or by boat, either from Malaysia or Thailand.
Langkawi, with its picture-perfect white-sand beaches, is touted as Malaysia’s ultimate island escape. With year-round sea temperatures hovering around 84 degrees Fahrenheit, Langkawi’s waters are incredibly inviting. Jellyfish can be a problem, although several resorts have installed anti-jellyfish nets to protect their guests.
Langkawi offers a range of accommodation types, from basic beach huts to boutique hotels. On the southwest coast, Pantai Cenang is Langkawi’s busiest town. Travelers can find a diverse mix of cuisines, as well as duty-free outlets and souvenir shops lining the picturesque beach strip.
For those seeking a more laid-back experience, the northern beaches of Tanjung Rhu, lapped by the crystal-clear turquoise waters of the Andaman Sea, can be the perfect place to relax and unwind.
The archipelago is a popular destination for nature enthusiasts, with the Langkawi Skycab presenting a unique opportunity to rise high above the rainforest’s dense canopy to gaze across the glittering ocean. From here, on a clear day, visitors can catch glimpses of Southern Thailand.
For those seeking a closer encounter with the jungle, experienced guides lead treks through the rainforest slopes of Gunung Raya. Another trail leads visitors to the Telaga Tujuh (“Seven Wells”) waterfalls, a site frequented by fairies, according to local folklore.
5. Cameron Highlands – Pahang
One of Malaysia’s largest hill stations, the Cameron Highlands were first colonized by the British in the 1920s. Today, the region has a population of more than 34,000, its largest ethnic groups being Malays, Chinese, and Indians.
Renowned for its trails, the Cameron Highlands incorporates a variety of terrain, from the emerald green hills of the plantations to dense jungle. With a year-round temperate climate rarely topping 77 degrees, the Cameron Highlands provide visitors with respite from the oppressive heat and humidity of the Malaysian summer. Trekking options are available for hikers of all abilities. Visitors are advised to hire a guide since some trails are poorly delineated in places.
Translating as “the original people,” the Orang Asli still inhabit nearby forests and jungles. Excursions depart from the town of Tanah Rata, enabling travelers to experience Orang Asli village life firsthand. You can even join these famous hunters as they stalk through the dense flora, bringing down prey with blowpipes and poison-tipped darts.