Where to Travel in Malaysia: Top Destinations from Every State

Where to Travel in Malaysia: Top Destinations from Every State in The Country

So many places to go, so little time!

In case you still haven’t heard: Travel has resumed in Malaysia! Since early October, not only have Malaysians been free to travel domestically, but they can also travel overseas for leisure too. What’s more, depending on the reception to the impending reopening of Langkawi to vaccinated international tourists later this month, taking a trip to Malaysia is no longer as distant a dream as it used to be! 

Even more importantly, a Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) between Singapore and Malaysia is set to come into effect from 29 November 2021! This means that quarantine-free travel between the two countries will soon resume!

So now the question is: Where to travel in Malaysia? What are some of the things to do in Malaysia? Don’t worry! While I’m sure most of you have your preferred destinations already, as your certified local travel expert, I’m here to share with you one or two key attractions to visit in EVERY state in Malaysia! 

1. Perlis

travel malaysia

Image credit: Zaki Mohamed via CanvaPro

Perlis is the smallest state in Malaysia. Bordering Thailand, Perlis is often the subject of memes and jokes. However, this charming little state in the north of the peninsula proves that great things sometimes come in small packages. 

Gua Kelam (or Kelam Cave) is one of the top destinations in Perlis. It is an enigmatic limestone cave with its own underground river! To enter it, visitors need to cross a wooden suspension bridge, all the while listening to the therapeutic sounds of the flowing water in the deep. 

As you explore Kangar, the state capital of Perlis, you’ll find plenty of picturesque rice fields where you can enjoy the simpler side of life. The golden hue of the paddy during harvest time, paired with the deep blue sky is a scene that words can never do justice to. Finally, visit Gunung Medan for rolling hills and spectacular scenery, not unlike a mini Zermatt! 

2. Kedah

langkawi

Image credit: Manish Tulaskar

I’m guessing you already know the key destination in Kedah. After all, it’s been in the news quite a fair bit recently. It’s the island of Langkawi

Whether it’s a romantic sunset stroll by Cenang Bridge, exploring the natural artistry of Kilim Geoforest Park, island hopping between the little islets, or walking on the glass-bottom Langkawi Sky Bridge, Malaysia’s top island destination provides plenty of fun for the whole family! You can also stock up on duty-free products in the town of Kuah! 

Back on the mainland, consider making a stop at Alor Setar, the capital. There’s a tower here (aptly named Alor Setar Tower) which you can climb up for a panoramic view of the city. Avid hikers, on the other hand, can embark on an overnight hike on Mount Jerai

3. Penang

destinations in malaysia penang

Image credit: Aaron Lee

Penang needs no introduction. A foodie haven, a top-class destination, a shopping paradise, there are so many ways to describe this travel gem. 

As a local boy myself, my favourite destination is Georgetown. Here, you’ll find plenty of Penang’s iconic landmarks, such as the Khoo Kongsi, and also the famous art murals. More importantly, you will also find most of Penang’s famous hawker foods within the area. While parking might be a nightmare sometimes, you can easily avoid the hassle by using an e-hailing service. 

One of the newer attractions that I really can’t get enough of is called The Habitat. Located at the top of Penang Hill, itself a bucket list-worthy attraction, The Habitat is a natural forest reserve that allows you to have an intimate experience of Malaysia’s ancient rainforests. While you’re there, head up to the Curtis Crest Treetop Walk for a view you won’t ever forget! 

Also read: 22 Fun Things to Do in Penang On Your First Trip

4. Kelantan

Image credit: Azmi Razak via CanvaPro

Kelantan is another Malaysian state that borders Thailand. Because of this, when you visit this east coast state, you will undoubtedly catch on to the influence of Thai culture in several areas. 

First, let’s make for the capital, Kota Bharu. Here, you’ll be able to get a taste of authentic Malay cuisine. If you love spicy food, you’ll love Kelantanese cuisine. Their nasi lemak and lekor (fried fish crackers), in particular, are truly something else. 

Despite Kelantan being a majority Muslim state, Tumpat is actually home to some of the most unique Buddhist temples in the region. It is even home to the largest Sitting Buddha statue in Southeast Asia! In addition, you can also sign up for a wau (traditional kite) or batik tour to find out more about the local culture. 

5. Pahang

travel malaysia cameron highlands

Image credit: Ravin Rau

Pahang is another one of the top destinations in Malaysia. Although, I won’t be surprised if only locals know about this. Because most foreign tourists only recognise the attractions that Pahang is famous for: Cameron Highlands and Genting Highlands. I won’t talk at length about those two because I’m sure they are already famous enough. 

Instead, let’s focus on some of the hidden gems within Peninsular Malaysia’s largest state. Pantai Batu Hitam (or Black Stone Beach) is a pristine beach with spectacular coastal views. The backdrop of the black sand is perfect for an Instagram photo shoot, while its location makes it an ideal site for catching the sunrise. 

If you love the sweet embrace of verdant hills, then add the ambient towns of Bentong and Sungai Lembing to your list as they provide access to some of the most beautiful natural attractions in the country, such as Mount Lembing and Chamang Waterfall. In Pekan, you’ll find Malaysia’s second-largest natural lake: Tasik Jernih. 

There’s just so much to do in Pahang, and we haven’t even mentioned places like Cherating, Taman Negara (the oldest rainforest in the world), and Fraser’s Hill! Trust me, apart from Penang, Pahang really should be your go-to place to visit in Malaysia! 

Also read: 30 Things to Do in Pahang, Peninsular Malaysia’s Biggest State

6. Terengganu 

travel malaysia

Image credit: Nazarizal Mohammad

Terengganu, located on the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia, is famous for its many beautiful islands, and as the breeding ground of endangered sea turtles. 

Pulau Redang is the most popular island to turtle watch in the state while Pulau Tenggol is known as a diver’s paradise. Snorkelling in Pulau Kapas is a must and the scenery on Gem Island and Pulau Lang Tengah will leave you breathless! 

Not far from the capital, Kuala Terengganu, you’ll find the largest man-made lake in Southeast Asia: Tasik Kenyir. Here, you can swim, kayak, and fish to your heart’s content. You can even stay overnight in a boathouse or an overwater villa! 

7. Perak

Image credit: Timothy Tan

Geographically, you can say that Perak is the heart of Peninsular Malaysia. It is very much located in the very centre, after all! 

Perak’s most famous destination is Ipoh, where you can find some of Malaysia’s most delicious food, such as chicken with bean sprouts, traditional pastries, and white coffee. Obviously, in addition to the food, there are plenty of must-visit locations too like Concubine Lane which is super Insta-worthy! 

In addition, visit Pangkor Island for a relaxing and blissful island getaway. Other hidden gems include the Perak Tong Cave Temple, Taiping, and Tasik Cermin!

8. Selangor

travel malaysia

Image credit: Lloyd Alozie

If Perak is the geographical heart of Peninsular Malaysia, then Selangor is the metaphorical one. After all, it is the most populous city in the country, and almost every international franchise and event arrives in this state first. 

But it’s not just another mega metropolis, it has plenty of hidden attractions too. There’s the famous Batu Caves with its rich history, Kuala Selangor and Sekinchan with their ambient rural views and paddy fields, and even various natural parks and hiking trails nestled within the city to provide an oasis for those weary of the concrete jungle. 

9. Kuala Lumpur

Image credit: Dmitry Berdnyk

The capital city of Malaysia is an absolute joy for urban explorers. Featuring a combination of iconic landmarks (like the Twin Towers) and shopping havens (Pavilion KL, Berjaya Times Square, and so many more), Kuala Lumpur (or KL as we locals call it), is where you can experience metropolitan life in Malaysia. 

But in addition to those, KL also has its fair share of historical monuments, hidden attractions (the beautiful Thean Hou Temple), foodie spots like the Jalan Alor Night Market, and nature escapes like KL Forest Eco Park and Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM)

10. Negeri Sembilan

port dickson

Image credit: Deva Darshan 

Negeri Sembilan, which neighbours Selangor, is the top day trip destination from KL. It is home to amazing coastal views and pristine rainforests, making it the perfect choice for a weekend staycation far away from the city. 

In addition, the state is also famous for its traditional baked pastries, most of which are found in Seremban. Port Dickson, on the other hand, is the top island staycation that Malaysians flock to for a romantic or family getaway. There are overwater villas and unrivalled access to the beach. 

Also read: Top 10 Attractions to Visit in Seremban, Negeri Sembilan

11. Melaka

melaka

Image credit: Aleksandra Khoroshykh

Melaka is the most historical state in Malaysia and one of the country’s top destinations. It is home to plenty of important landmarks, exciting attractions, lovely vistas, and mouthwatering local delicacies. 

Dutch Square is where you will find Melaka’s iconic red houses while A’Famosa is both a historical fort and exciting water park! Jonker Walk is the night market that all foodies will love. Here is where you will find all the famous foods that the state is famous for! 

Also read: 72 Hours in Melaka: Where to Stay and What to Do

12. Johor

travel malaysia

Image credit: Afifi Zulkifle

The southernmost state of Peninsular Malaysia borders Singapore and is somewhat of a premium destination. 

It is not only home to popular locations like Legoland and Desaru Coast, but also pristine islands like Pulau Rawa and Pulau Tioman. Tanjung Piai National Park offers a reprieve from the city life and switches out your views with that of alluring rainforest vistas. 

Johor Bahru, on the other hand, is where you will find plenty of ambient historical landmarks and streets. However, if you’re a true foodie, you’ll want to make your way to Muar instead where you can sample some authentic Johorean delights. 

Fun fact: Did you know that laksa in Johor is actually made with spaghetti? It’s such a weird combination but it works! 

13. Sarawak

Image credit: Deva Darshan

Going by area, Sarawak is the biggest state in Malaysia. But its size isn’t the only impressive thing about Sarawak. It is filled with a diverse range of attractions and places to visit, with alluring natural locations and rich cultural heritage being its greatest draw. 

Some of the places you can’t miss are Kuching, the state capital, and Bako National Park, where you can visit the rare and unique-looking Proboscis Monkeys. Another destination to add to your list is the Sarawak Cultural Village, which is a living museum where you can learn more about the aboriginal communities in the area. It also hosts the annual Rainforest Music Festival!

Also read: Sarawak: The Do-It-All Destination for 5 Types of Travellers

14. Sabah

Image credit: Vicky Lee Kai Wai via CanvaPro

Real talk, I think Sabah is the most naturally beautiful state in all of Malaysia. The Land Beneath the Wind is full of majestic mountains, enigmatic caves, and ancient rainforests that will all make you go “Wow!”

The most famous destination in Sabah (and possibly Malaysia) is Mount Kinabalu, the tallest mountain in the entire region. Avid hikers have to train and hire a guide if they want to make it to the top. But when they do, they are left speechless by the sheer beauty that surrounds them. It is also in Sabah where you will find the largest flowers in the world: The Rafflesia. 

At the foot of Mount Kinabalu, you have Kundasang, which is pretty much the “New Zealand of Malaysia”. Think rolling hills, a restful ambience, and alpine scenery. Desa Dairy Farm is the go-to-place in Kundasang and it’s easy to see why! 

Away from the forests and greenery, Sabah also has some truly world-class diving sites. Pulau Sipadan, in particular, is an untouched underwater sanctuary and private island getaway all in one. Mabul Island, which is literally next to the Sipadan diving site, allows you to kayak into the open water on transparent bottom boats.

Also read: 7 Hidden Hotspots and Gems To Explore in Sabah

Take your pick! 

And there you have it: Key destinations in every state in Malaysia. Of course, there’s a whole lot more where that came from. However, I’m sure this list is already a great starting point in helping you decide where to travel in Malaysia! 

Hopefully, Malaysia’s borders will fully reopen soon because I know a few friends who are already craving Malaysian food. Until then, stay safe everyone, and see you soon! 

About Author

Darren Yeoh
Darren Yeoh

Darren enjoys the finer things in life and loves exploring unfamiliar places on foot, guided with nothing but instinct and a good-old fashioned map. He enjoys cultural experiences and exciting adventures and is not a stranger to travelling alone. When he's not putting his travel experiences into words, he's probably sitting behind his laptop, planning his upcoming adventure.

CLICK TO SEE MORE ARTICLES BY Darren Yeoh