Malaysia is a vast country but a young country.  It may not have the long historical past of its neighbouring countries such as Thailand and Vietnam, but it is a country that is a melting pot of rich cultures.   It also showcases a diverse natural landscape filled with diverse plantation and wild life.   Chances are you will not have enough time to see all of Malaysia.  Nevertheless, even if you cannot experience it all, there are a few things I feel that you must at least try to experience, else you would not have really experienced Malaysia at all. 
Here is my top 10 recommended list of  things to do in Malaysia:

 1.  Trek up to the summit of Mount Kinabalu

Mount Kinabalu Summit (4095m) © by Stephane Enten

 Situated in the eastern Malaysian state of Sabah, Mount Kinabalu is the world’s 20th tallest mountain.  The height at its summit is 4095m (13,435 ft) above sea level.  It is a relatively straight forward trek up to the summit without any special climbing gear needed.  Mount Kinabalu and its surrounding area is a protected nature reserve.   Usually hikers will take about 1 day to reach to the top, and purposely wait until the break of dawn to reach to the summit in order to catch the amazing views of the morning sunrise.

2. Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur

Petronas Towers © by kalleboo

 A trip to Malaysia would definitely not be complete without a visit to the Petronas Towers in the nation’s capital city, Kuala Lumpur.  Petronas Towers were the tallest buildings in the world from 1998 to 2004, until the Taipei 101 building was built in Taiwan that took its title.  Subsequently, now the Burj tower in Dubai has taken over the crown as the tallest.  Although it has lost its status as the tallest building in the world, it is still a marvelous piece of architecture.  The towers can be seen with a calming glow at night, and is the symbol of Malaysia’s quest to modernization.

3.  Embrace the charm from the city of Georgetown, Penang

Cheong Tze Fatt Mansion, Georgetown, Penang © by nimbu

Georgetown is the capital city of the Malaysian state of Penang.  Once a key trading hub for the British empire in Malaysia, the city is filled with pockets of its unique colonial past.  The city was voted in as a UNESCO world heritage site  in 2008.  The unique architecture, the surrounding mountains and sea, and the rich variety of food that can be found usually are the factors that attracts returning visitors.  It is an enchanting and beautiful place where you can relax and get lost in its charm.  

4.  Visit the historical city of Melaka

Melaka, Malacca christ church © by Auswandern Malaysia

 Melaka city is the capital of the Malaysian state of Melaka.  It is by far the most historical place in Malaysia, with its roots tracing back to the 1400’s.  A once important and strategic trading post, it has seen conquests from the Dutch, Portugese and the British.  Also prominent in Melaka is the unique Baba Nonya culture, where Chinese and Malay cultures are infused together, spawning a new culture that can be seen in its architecture, clothing, and food.  Together with Penang, Melaka was also awarded the UNESCO world heritage site in 2008.

 5.  Take a break from the heat and enjoy the cool temperatures of Cameron Highlands

Tea Plantations at Cameron Highlands © by nimbu

 Need a break from the hot and humid Malaysian weather?  Then take a drive to Cameron Highlands in the Malaysian state of Pahang.  One of the largest hill stations in all of Malaysia, because of the higher altitudes, the temperature is much cooler and quite pleasant.  This cool temperature makes it ideal for planting of tea leaves, strawberries and various types of flowers, and therefore there are numerous farms you can visit and buy fresh produce. 

 6.  Clear blue waters and white beaches of the Perhentian Islands

Perhentian islands © by gemb1

 Unspoilt palm fringed white beaches, inviting clear blue seas, and the fresh crisp ocean air, this is what you will find at the Perhentian islands.  Located off the north eastern coast of the Malaysian state of Terengganu, the two main islands that make up the Perhentian islands are Perhentian Besar, and Perhentian Kecil.  Quiet, remote, but simply stunning.

7.  Trek into the old rainforests of Taman Negara

Taman Negara © by Xuanxu

One of the oldest tropical rainforests in the world, Taman Negara encompasses over three Malaysian states:  Pahang, Kelantan, and Terengganu.   Such a dense and vast tropical rainforest is home to a wide variety of animal species and plant life.  You may even see the Malayan Tiger which still inhabits this nature reserve!

8.  Visit Kuching and surrounding areas in Sarawak

Kuching Waterfront © by mrosanno

Kuching is the largest city in the eastern Malaysian state of Sarawak.   A quiet town with a spectacular waterfront promenade and great seafood.  It is also a great starting points for trips further into Sarawak, such as visiting the Orang utan sanctuaries, and visiting the long houses to catch a glimpse of the native Iban people.

9.  Try your luck and hopefully win big at Genting Highlands

Ferris Wheel at the indoor theme park, Genting Highlands © by Ke Wynn

 Home to Malaysia’s first and only casino gaming resort, Genting Highlands is remarkably built on top of a mountain bordered between the Malaysian states of Pahang and Selangor.  During its first inception, Genting Highlands was an ambitious dream that was doubted by many.  Now Genting Highlands boasts 3 casinos, an outdoor themepark (complete with a drop tower ride and looping rollercoaster), an indoor themepark, numerous hotels, malls, and eating establishments.  Usually packed with locals over the weekend, trying their luck for the big win.  Its a quirky place to be, with some tackiness to it, but hey, sometimes tackiness is a good thing, since its all for some great fun. 

10.  Marvel at the sacred Hindu shrines at the Batu Caves

Batu Caves (17) © by Auswandern Malaysia

Located in pockets of a huge limestone cave north of Kuala Lumpur, Batu Caves is the sight of a sprawling Hindu temple dedicated to the Lord Murugan.  Each year during the Thaipusam festival, Hindus from around the world would make a pilgrimage to Batu Caves, a festival that is quite an eye opener.
Well this is my top 10 list of must see things in Malaysia.  Hope you found it informative!  Any other places in Malaysia I missed out on this list that you feel should be a “must see” in Malaysia?  Please add on and share your comments!

Alec Chan

Alec Chan is an intrepid traveler, travel writer, author, speaker, serial entrepreneur and self professed Asia travel ambassador. Traveling all around Asia since 2003, and still traveling, Alec is an accomplished and passionate traveler seeking to bridge the cultural gaps in Asia. Through his unique perspective as a Canadian born Chinese, Alec shares his special insights on Asia to help others around the world to have a better understanding on Asian culture so that they can have a more meaningful, fun, and stress free trip to Asia. Alec has written numerous travel guides on several destinations in Asia and is the editor in chief of

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