10 Places Not to Miss While Backpacking Malaysia

Top 10 Places to Visit while Backpacking Malaysia

red chinese lanterns penang malaysia
Chinese shop houses in historic Georgetown, Penang


A melting pot of ethnic cultures, religions and cuisines with stunning geography as diverse as it’s history and inhabitants, from modern cities and charming historic towns, colonial architecture, temples and tribal long houses, to paradise islands and world class diving, cool highlands and steamy jungles home to orangutans. Add friendly locals, good infrastructure and great value for money, this is a country of fascinating variety and diversity that is worth exploring. Check out Why I loved Malaysia and why you should visit too!

Here’s 10 must see places in Malaysia:

 Kuala Lumpur

petronas towers at night kuala lumpur kl must see places in malaysia
The iconic Petronas Twin Towers, Kuala Lumpur

You will probably start your Malaysian adventure here, among the ultra modern sky scrapers of Kuala Lumpur. Visit the iconic 452 meter high Petronas Twin Towers, former world’s tallest building but still the world’s tallest twin towers and the iconic landmark for KL.

Explore the history through the colonial architecture in buzzing Chinatown – the heart of old KL. Ride the mono rail and shop till you drop in classy, ultra modern malls, ignite all your senses in the wet markets and haggling for a bargain in Petaling Street market.

Outside the city centre lies Batu Caves a Hindu cave complex, admire the imposing 42.7 meter high golden statue of Murugan and climb the 272 steps into the limestone caves where many different Hindu shrines are found. See more of the Top 10 Things to do in Kuala Lumpur



kek lok si temple penang top 10 places to see in malaysia
The sprawling, fascinating Kek Lok Si Temple, Penang

UNESCO listed Georgetown in Penang is a prime example of multicultural Malaysia in all its rich cultural diversity and history. A wander through the atmospheric streets among the amazingly well preserved colonial architecture feels like a walk through multiple countries in one day.

Although officially an Islamic country people of many different ethnicities and religions bustle through snacking, shopping and praying at Hindu temples, Chinese ancestral worship temples, Muslim mosques, Buddhist temples and Christian churches. Make sure to visit the spectacular and fascinating Kek Lok Si temple just outside town.

religious diversity temples penang harmony street malaysia
The diversity of the temples, churches and mosques in Penang

Perhaps Penang’s greatest draw is that it offers a multicultural feast for the taste buds. From little boutique restaurants in restored colonial buildings to night markets and good honest street food hawker stalls. Enjoy cheap and delicious Indian curries, Chinese dumplings and dim sum, noddle soups, kebabs, seafood, spicy Thai and Malay curries. Check out more about the best Penang attractions and my post on The Melting Pot of Penang.

Perhentian Islands

perhentian islands malayasia
Paradise found on the laid back Perhentian Islands

Whilst the island of Langkawi with it’s 99 islands dotting the sea like emerald jewels, cable car and international, but tasteful resorts, draws the most tourists the Perhentain Islands are the most beautiful with palm-fringed white sandy beaches, turquoise blue seas, great diving, cheap accommodation and a laid back, unspoilt atmosphere.

 Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center

sepilok orangutan rehabillitation center borneo malaysia
Orangutans play at the rehabilitation center

Opened in 1964 the Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Center has been rescuing irresistibly cute baby orangutans who have been orphaned often due to loss of habit from logging sites, plantations, deforestation and illegal hunting. Getting close to these amazing creatures that are so similar to ourselves is an incredible experience. Once the orphaned orangutans are trained to survive again in the wild they are released as soon as possible and there are about 60 to 80 orangutans living free in the virgin rainforest of Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve


Mount Kinabalu

mt kinabulu borneo malaysia
Mount Kinabulu – the highest peak in South East Asia can be climbed relatively easily

At over 4,000 meters Mount Kinabalu is the highest mountain in Borneo and in South East Asia with amazing botanical and biological species biodiversity. Whilst the height isn’t going to break any records the main peak can be climbed easily by the majority of reasonable fit people. It takes 2 days and you will need a guide but not any mountaineering equipment but will leave you will awesome memories, sense of achievement and spectacular views

Gunung Mulu National Park

gunung Mulu Pinnacles borneo malaysia
The Pinnacles in Gunung Mulu Park, Borneo

This national park in Borneo boasts some of the largest and longest cave systems in the world and is famous for its extraordinary limestone karst formations. The Gunung Mulu National Park is one of the most awe-inspiring natural attractions in all of Southeast Asia. Trek along the headhunters trail to reach the Pinnacles – a stone forest of gigantic grey, white stones that jut like razor sharp teeth 45 meters out of the jungle and discover the Sarawak Chamber, the world’s largest cave chamber reputed to be big enough to hold 40 Boeing 747 aircraft.

Melaka (Malacca)

historic malacca melaka top 10 places to see in malaysia
Historical, laid back, multicultural Malacca

UNESCO listed, laid back, historical old town of Malacca or Melaka is only 2 hours by bus from KL .Cruise down and river and meander the quaint streets of this town that exudes an atmosphere only slightly less laid back than that of a tropical beach. Exploring the rich and diverse history through the Portuguese forts, colonial buildings, Chinese shop houses, mosques, churches and temples and browse in the antique and curious shops and independent art galleries. At weekends the famous Jonker Street night market is buzzing with tourists and delicious hawkers food. See more on Meandering through Malacca.

 Cameron Highlands

Bharat Plantations Cameron Highlands malaysia
Rolling tea plantations in the Cameron Highlands

The Cameron Highlands is a cool reprieve from humid Malaysia. Enjoy the fresh air of one of Malaysia’s most extensive hill stations, first developed by the British in the 1920s. Hike along trails through the rainforest to waterfalls and other tranquil spots. Visit a butterfly or strawberry farm, take a tour around a tea factory, gorge yourself on tea and cakes and take in the amazing views over the pretty, green bushes of the tea plantations.Check out Cooling Off in the Cameron Highlands. 



turtle sipadan diving malaysia
Sipadan is known for some of the best diving in the world

Sipadan is the only oceanic island in Malaysia and is a protected marine park of the coast of Borneo. As such the island, and the diving, is only possible as a day trip, you will need to stay on a nearby island or a live aboard dive ship. The name of Sipadan is simply a legendary in diving circles and is probably one of the best scuba diving spots in the world.The underwater world beneath the island is simply stunning but it is a very exclusive diving spot (hello high prices!) and diving conditions are better suited to advanced divers because of the depth of diving and strong currents. 

Taman Negara

Taman Negara rain forest malaysia
Walking above the rain forest of Taman Negara

Taman Negara is one of the oldest tropical rain forests in the world. Trek among the massive trees and waterfalls and along the world’s longest canopy walkways or take it all in on the engineering feat of the jungle train. This rainforest is also is a haven for endangered species including tigers, leopards, Asian elephants and rhinos but sightings are unlikely.

Multicultural Malaysia’s stunning environment, diversity and mixing pot of cultures, religions and cuisines made for an fascinating, whirlwind ride for mind, body and soul.


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Srimanta Ghosh May 23, 2014 at 6:50 am

Malaysia is wonderful place, Ever green Malaysia attract me to visit here, I would like to visit here once. The photos, you shared here is well captured with great angel.

Thank you for sharing.

Anna Phipps May 26, 2014 at 6:02 am

Thanks for commenting and I’m very glad you liked the photos 🙂 Yes, I think Malaysia is wonderful. It is culturally and geographically diverse with great beauty, great food and great people. There is something for everyone here and I hope you get to visit one day soon.

samar March 13, 2018 at 12:20 pm

I liked the Chinatown, Little India, and Batu Caves the most in Malaysia. Of course, the cuisines that are a mix of different culture are also worth mentioning. What’s good about this Southeast country is its ability to make travelers of any age happy. Touring to Malaysia will surely offers best value for money.

ella September 26, 2018 at 3:32 pm

how much would you say this trip would cost, staying in hostels and no diving?

Anna September 30, 2018 at 7:04 pm

Hi Ella it really varies but $50 per person per day should be sufficient. Take a look at my malaysia backpacking budget (bear in mind this was a few years ago tho) https://www.global-gallivanting.com/backpacking-malaysia-budget/


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