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What to See in Malaysia: the Main Attractions



What to See in Malaysia: the Main Attractions


Malaysia is a country that, once visited, allows you to understand the whole of Asia. Besides Malays, there are Chinese and Indians living here, and each has contributed something of their own to the country’s culture. Malaysia is rich in natural parks and reserves, architectural landmarks and religious structures, and picturesque islands with a unique underwater world. Until the mid-20th century, the country was an English colony, so English is widely spoken here.

Today, Malaysia is open to tourists and gladly offers diverse conditions for any type of vacation. The country’s attractions are spread across different parts of the state, so you will need to carefully plan your itinerary to see them all. If you are ready to discover a country where the past and future intertwine, then this article is for you. We have compiled a list of the most remarkable landmarks that cannot be ignored when visiting Malaysia.

1. Kilim Karst Geoforest National Park.

This natural landmark is located in the northeast of Langkawi Island. The park is part of a broad network of island parks recognized by UNESCO in 2007. In Kilim Karst Geoforest Park, you can book a motorboat tour, during which you will see the beautiful nature and its inhabitants. The park is renowned for its caves, lagoons, and forests, so the tour passes through them. In the caves, you will see stalactites and stalagmites and have the opportunity to observe large colonies of bats.

The ecological significance of Kilim Karst Geoforest Park lies in its unique ecosystems. For example, the park features beautiful mangrove forests — evergreen deciduous forests that thrive in the sedimentary coastal environment. In the mangrove forests, you can observe the lives of monitor lizards, monkeys, crabs, and various bird species. There is also a fish farm where tourists can witness the feeding of rare fish species. Additionally, you can watch the feeding of red and white eagles on the water.

On the Kilim Karst Geoforest Park website, you can read about the park as a whole or specific attraction and choose the tour that interests you. The cost of an excursion, such as through the mangrove forests, ranges from 350 to 500 ringgit ($75-110) depending on the duration of the tour and selected attractions. The park is open daily from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. Some travellers opt for self-guided exploration of the park.

2. Semenggoh Nature Reserve.

Located on the island of Borneo, 22 kilometres from Kuching Airport, the easiest and most convenient way to get there is by car. Thanks to car rental in Malaysia, you can enjoy the beauty of the park in just 30 minutes. The Semenggoh Nature Reserve, on its vast territory, is home to over 1,000 species of mammals, many of which are on the endangered animals list. However, most visitors come here to see the orangutans that live within the rehabilitation program. Due to deforestation, orangutans often become orphans or sustain serious injuries. But in Semenggoh, they have the opportunity to recover and live peacefully.

The park has three platforms where you can even feed the animals with fruits and observe their behaviour. However, such interactions occur only twice a day to limit disturbance to the animals. When visiting the Semenggoh Nature Reserve, it is important to follow the rules set for the safety of the orangutans. The park premises include a small café, toilets, and free parking. In some areas, you can even connect to Wi-Fi to share your experience with friends online. The reserve operates from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and the entrance fee starts from 24 euros.

3. Sipadan National Park.

One of the most famous places in Malaysia for diving. The park is located on a volcanic island surrounded by the deep waters of the Coral Sea. Here, you can find rare species of animals that will be interesting for every tourist to see, such as leopard sharks, octopuses, clownfish, rays, triggerfish, barracudas, glass shrimps, and giant turtles. The number of visitors to the Sipadan National Park is limited to preserve and protect the marine environment. It is not possible to visit independently, only organised tours are allowed after making a reservation.

After the excursion, you will have the opportunity to relax on the beach, equipped with sun loungers and special canopies with dining tables. Diving prices are set by diving centres, as well as quotas for diving. So, it is not possible to go diving every day. Agencies offer packages that include diving in Sipadan and other locations, as well as accommodation. During the off-season, it may be possible to find tours with diving only in Sipadan in small diving centres. There are no specific operating hours in the park, as visits are limited and take place within the framework of a tour.

4. Redang Island.

Located in the South China Sea, 25 kilometres off the coast of the peninsula of Malaysia from the northeast, Redang Island is precisely the kind of attraction in Malaysia whose photos and descriptions instantly evoke a desire to explore the nature, flora, and fauna of the Asian expanses. The island has a total area of only 42 square kilometres, yet it is home to several resorts and diving centres, with a local population of only 1,500 people.

Redang Island holds the status of a nature reserve. It is an excellent place for snorkelling, diving, fishing, and boat trips. Here, you can encounter over 500 species of corals, as well as rays, lobsters, barracudas, turtles, and many other representatives of the underwater world. The park strives to protect and preserve its natural resources, hence specific rules are in place for visitors to minimise the impact on the island’s ecosystem and reefs.

What makes Redang unique is that getting around the island is exclusively done by boat. There are simply no roads on land. However, tourists have the option to rent motorised boats and move around independently. Redang offers a range of accommodations, from budget-friendly hotels to more luxurious options. It is also possible to enjoy karaoke during weekend nights. The island features several accessible beaches, including Turtle Bay, Simpan Beach, and Marina Park Center.

5. Mount Kinabalu.

This is the fourth highest mountain in Southeast Asia, located on the island of Borneo, 130 km away from the city of Kota Kinabalu. Its height is 4,095 metres, and at the foot of the mountain, there is a national park. It is renowned for its diverse flora and fauna. In geological terms, this mountain is very young and continues to rise at a rate of five millimetres per year. Those who enjoy active recreation can climb to the summit on their own. It is a challenging activity that requires special preparation. The route to the top can be a two-day or three-day trek, and a special permit from the organisers is required.

The path to the summit of Kinabalu is approximately 9 km long. It provides an opportunity to understand oneself and overcome mental barriers. To reach the mountain, you can take a regular bus from Kota Kinabalu for $5 one way. The entrance fee to the park is $4. Ascending Mount Kinabalu usually takes place in two stages: the ascent starts at 8 am and continues until 5 pm, reaching an altitude of 3,300 metres, where Laban Rata, the accommodation for the night, is located. The second stage is the climb to the summit at 4,095 metres, starting at 2:30 am and ending at 4 am to witness the sunrise over the island of Borneo. Descending from the summit is unique as it follows the via Ferrata system, usually with the help of a safety rope or chain fixed along the rocks.

Every year, on the last Saturday or Sunday of October, the Mount Kinabalu International Climbathon takes place. The goal is to reach the summit of the mountain as quickly as possible and descend. The total distance of the route, including the ascent and descent, is 21 kilometres. In 2008, Spanish runner Augusto Ros Amador set the world record for the climb, completing it in 2 hours, 44 minutes, and 47 seconds.

6. Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center.

Another rehabilitation centre that has taken in orangutans who have suffered at the hands of humans. The centre occupies an area of 43 square kilometres in a forest reserve, where approximately 80 individuals and 25 orphaned infants reside. It is divided into two parts: a nursery and a feeding platform. Tourists can stroll through the centre using designated walking paths. It is recommended to speak in a whisper here, so as not to frighten the orangutans. However, be cautious as some individuals have long grown accustomed to humans and may approach closely and take something from you. The best time to visit the rehabilitation centre is during the feeding hours in the morning at 10:00 and after lunch at 15:00.

It is beneficial to have binoculars with you for better observation of the orangutans. The Sepilok Rehabilitation Center offers not only the opportunity to see these animals but also to support their conservation. In this place, you will learn how important it is to care for wildlife, protect orangutans, and their natural habitat for future generations. The entrance ticket costs $8 for adults and $4 for children up to 17 years old. Separate fees apply for photography and videography, approximately $2.50. All proceeds from the entrance and filming fees go towards the needs of the rehabilitation centre, so you will be making a kind of donation.

7. Sun Bear Conservation Center in Borneo.

Sun bears, also known as Malayan bears, are the smallest bears on the planet. They are on the brink of extinction due to habitat loss, poaching, and illegal trading of animal cubs. Therefore, the Sun Bear Conservation Center is a valuable gem of the country. It is located near the orangutan rehabilitation centre, so it would be logical to combine a visit to these two attractions. The centre’s territory consists of large forest enclosures to provide a natural environment that meets the needs and well-being of sun bears and facilitates their rehabilitation for eventual release into the wild.

Sun bears are nocturnal animals, so they will most likely be sleeping when you visit the park. It is better to visit the park in the first half of the day when the bears are most active. From a special observation deck, you will be able to see the animals climbing trees and enjoying sun baths. The centre has a dedicated guide who provides information about the animals in English. Overall, the visit to this excursion should not take more than an hour. The entrance ticket for adult tourists costs nearly $11, and for children aged 2-17, it is around $6. The centre is open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

8. Bako National Park.

This is a unique reserve where you can meet monkeys and other inhabitants of the jungle. The park is located on a territory of 27 square kilometres and offers its visitors 18 routes that vary in difficulty level and length. This is the oldest national park in Malaysia. Bako has a very diverse landscape: forests, cliffs, swamps, and beaches. Here you can find rare plants such as pitcher plants (Nepenthes), orchids, and lianas. The park is home to monkeys, including the proboscis monkey, flying foxes, monitor lizards, wild boar families, crocodiles, and various insects, from butterflies to spiders.

To fully explore the park, you will need 2-3 days, so we recommend booking accommodations in Bako in advance. The park has various trails and tracks for hiking. The most popular ones are the Telok Paku Kac and the Segze trails. From there, tourists can enjoy breathtaking views of the coast, jungles, and waterfalls. To avoid wandering through the jungle in search of its inhabitants, you can use the services of a guide.

Bako National Park is located an hour’s bus ride from the city of Kuching. The first bus departs at 7 am, and the last boat back is at 4 pm, with the bus departing at 4:30 pm. However, those who have rented a car do not need to adhere to the local schedule. Upon arrival, you will need to pay RM20 (approximately $5) for the boat ride to the park and another RM20 for park entry. In the main building, there is a cafe, toilets, showers, and a storage room. The storage room looks like an ordinary room where visitors can leave their bags and other belongings, but no one is responsible for their safety.

9. Mosque of Putrajaya.

This is one of the most famous mosques in the capital of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur. It is located on the shore of the artificial lake Putrajaya. It is a pink granite mosque built in 1999. It can accommodate around 10,000 worshippers inside and another 5,000 people in the courtyard. Its notable feature is the five-tiered minaret, measuring 116 metres in length, symbolising the five pillars of Islam. The mosque is known for its beautiful facade, as well as exquisite decorations inside, including carpets, artwork, and well-thought-out architecture.

Putra Mosque is a place of prayer for Muslims and people of other nationalities. Everyone who visits the mosque must adhere to certain etiquette rules, such as being dressed decently and removing their shoes upon entry. The mosque premises are kept very clean, and its staff members are friendly and welcoming to tourists. To enter the interior of Putra Mosque, visitors should wait for a prayer break. Admission for tourists is free and open from 10 am. As mentioned earlier, the attire for entering the mosque should be modest. If you do not have suitable attire, a special robe will be provided to you.

10. Batu Caves.

Every year, 1.5 million people visit them. And all because these are caves formed naturally 400 million years ago. You can find them by moving 13 kilometres north of Kuala Lumpur. Batu Caves occupy an area of over 2.5 square kilometres. It is a complex of thirty hills of different sizes with deep internal formations. In the highest mountain of Batu, standing over 100 metres tall, you will find the most visited cave by tourists and local pilgrims.

The most convenient way to get to this place is by car since buses operate on a specific schedule, and taxis are expensive, starting from $15. We recommend arriving in Batu early in the morning, right after opening hours, as it gets very hot and crowded here by lunchtime. Bring food and water with you since there are no nearby places to have a snack, and you will spend quite a long time in Batu. Also, do not wear your most expensive belongings as the caves are damp, and they might get damaged.

11. Turtle Island.

Turtle Island Reserve is one of the most unique places where tourists can witness green sea turtles with their own eyes, which are under the threat of extinction. It consists of three islands in the Sulawesi Sea: Selingan Island, Bakungan Kecil, and Pulau Gulisan. Only on the first island, Selingan, can tourists stay overnight.

On Turtle Island, there are huge specimens up to 1 metre in length. They swim to the coast to lay their eggs, which are then collected by park rangers and buried in the sand in special incubators. After 40 days, young turtles hatch and are released into the wild, where they begin to live independently. You can observe all of these processes firsthand. Turtles swim to the shore after sunset, and before that moment, tourists have a wonderful opportunity to swim and sunbathe on the beach.

Visiting Turtle Island is only possible with a guide. Video and flash photography are prohibited and strictly monitored. The weather at sea depends on the season and can be very rough with waves up to 3 metres high or calm and quiet in the early morning. The ticket price for adults is $16, and for children, it is $8.

12. Perak Сave Еemple.

In the Malaysian state of Ipoh, there is a small town where numerous cave temples are located. Perak is the most popular among them. It is the oldest cave temple, which experienced travellers strive to see. It was discovered in 1926 by a married couple who arrived here from the Chinese province of Zhao-Lin. The temple itself is not large, but inside, you can see a vast number of intriguing drawings.

Dominating over the temple is a seated statue of Buddha, standing at a height of 40 feet (slightly over 12 metres). The cave walls are adorned with colourful frescoes depicting characters and events from Buddhist scriptures and Chinese mythology. Anyone interested can climb from the temple to the mountaintop, but the steps to the summit are only open during certain hours — from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. By the way, there are around 450 steps. It is not the kind of tourist attraction where crowds of visitors roam, so it is peaceful and comfortable here. Moreover, you can visit the temple completely free of charge. In front of the Perak cave temple, there is a pond and a landscaped park. There is also a restaurant, including a vegetarian cuisine option, as well as souvenir shops.

How to find the time to see all the sights in Malaysia

Malaysia is a kaleidoscope country. It combines beautiful landmarks with the smiles of the locals, vibrant colours and sounds of nature, fragrances of incense, and comfortable hotels. This country is home to numerous iconic places that cannot be ignored when being here. And if you want to see all the popular Malaysian spots, it is important to plan your trip correctly and make the most efficient use of your time to see the most interesting things.

* Create an itinerary for your trip

The first step is to choose the places where you really want to visit. Make a list of attractions and regions of the country where they are located. Then decide in which order you would like to visit them. Creating an itinerary involves choosing a starting point on the island and gradually moving around the country. With a plan in place, you will be able to efficiently allocate your time and avoid wasting precious minutes on travelling between different attractions in different parts of Malaysia.

* Choose the right time to visit

When planning your trip, make sure you choose the right time to visit Malaysia. The climate in the country is equatorial, hot, and humid. The climate may vary in different regions of the island due to topography and seasons, so it is important to select a time when the weather is favourable for your trip. Remember that Malaysia is divided into the Malay Peninsula and islands such as Langkawi, Borneo, and Perhentian. Allocate time between different regions based on their significance to you and the attractions they offer.

* Rent a car

Despite having a well-developed public transportation network, we still recommend renting a car in Malaysia. This will help you move quickly, affordably, and comfortably between cities. Cars in Malaysia can be rented on the website of LocalCarRents. It is quite convenient to do so — just visit the website, choose a car, and enjoy your journey. Renting a car is an additional advantage for those who want to explore the entire country and stay overnight in different cities. Pack all your belongings in the trunk, turn on the air conditioning, and set off for an amazing vacation.

* Use the services of local guides

If you have limited time, you can take advantage of the services of local guides who will tell you the history of various landmarks in a short amount of time. They usually speak English and are familiar with local routes, providing a wealth of interesting information about the culture and history of the cities. Another option is to hire a guide for the entire duration of your trip, who will accompany you and provide information about all the attractions in Malaysia.

* Travel light and without excess baggage

If you have large luggage that does not fit in the rented car, use the baggage storage services at hotels and train stations. Those who aim to see many attractions in Malaysia often travel with a small number of belongings. Do not burden yourself with excessive luggage and enjoy a hassle-free vacation. Malaysia has numerous hidden gems, and you might want to stay in a particular place longer than planned. Be prepared for unplanned deviations in your itinerary and embrace such situations as part of the journey.

Malaysia is an excellent country for tourism. Here, history intertwines with the future, scents of incense mix with the sea, vibrant nature meets man-made wonders. Follow our advice, and your island getaway will become unforgettable.