When you are planning a trip to a new country or place to visit, you build your itinerary depending on what do you want to see and do. So do we. Malaysia was our next country to travel, and our goal, as usual, was to explore the most essential that this country has to reveal. However, there is a specific detail- Malaysia is literally separated into „two countries”- West (Peninsular) Malaysia, and East Malaysia, which are connected only politically. So, we chose only one of these parts- Peninsular Malaysia. Take a look at our 18 days geographical exploring Peninsular Malaysia itinerary!
The most essential of Peninsular Malaysia
So, again geography, we love it! To see the most essential of this land, I wanted to learn its geographical features- natural and human, as well as its history. Peninsular Malaysia is located in the equatorial natural zone of the Earth, only a few hundred kilometers (miles) north of the equator. There is no winter, spring, summer, and autumn, but only a wet, and slightly less wet season. Or better- an eternal summer, sometimes wetter, sometimes a bit dryer.
Peninsular Malaysia is the southernmost land of continental Asia, surrounded by the South China Sea and the Strait of Melaka part of the Andaman Sea. Obviously, what we can expect in such conditions is tropical beaches, coral reefs, and warm seawater. And in the interior- lush equatorial rainforest, similar to the famous Amazon rainforests, with rich wildlife.
Concerning the human geography and history, Peninsular Malaysia has a lot to present too. Its history is not „too ancient”, but still full of events and various periods with many remains. At the same time, it is ethnically and culturally very diverse. All this formed modern-day Malaysia, and we wanted to explore the places which best present this country, in its Peninsular part.
How we built our 18 days Peninsular Malaysia itinerary
We had 18 days for our trip. It is not too short, but at the same time not too long, so we had to choose the destinations of our route accordingly.
Our first destination was Kuala Lumpur. It had to be our starting and ending point. This is the capital of the whole of Malaysia, well presenting all of the modern days of the country, so we definitely had to choose it.
The history and culture
Then, there are two historical and cultural cities- Melaka and Penang (particularly- Georgetown). So we chose both of the two. But because they are located in opposite directions from Kuala Lumpur, it was more proper to separate them in time- one in the beginning, and one at the end of our itinerary. We chose Melaka as the first of them, and Penang- the second.
Tropical sea paradise
Beaches, coral reefs, and warm sea? There are several great destinations, mainly islands or archipelagos- Langkawi, Perhentian, Redang, and Tioman. Langkawi is great, but located too far, on the extreme northwest. Perhentian and Redang were more possible, so they were under question first. And Tioman was the most convenient choice, so we firmly put it in our Peninsular Malaysia itinerary.
Then- equatorial rainforests. I wanted to find some national parks. And we chose Taman Negara. First, it is one of the oldest equatorial rainforests on the Earth, and one of the largest in Peninsular Malaysia. Second, we could also see the local culture of the aborigine Orang Asli people.
Mountains and highlands? Yes, there are such places in Peninsular Malaysia too. And the best of them is Cameron Highlands. It was also very convenient because is located on the route between Taman Negara and Penang. So, we chose it too.
But how about the other islands- Perhentian and Redang? We saw also some other beaches with smaller islands nearby, in Terengganu state. For our 18 days time limit, we had two choices. First- to choose only one of these additional sea & beach destinations, and to shorten our time in the other chosen destinations, adding more hours to spend traveling on a bus. Or just to cancel all of them and to focus on the firmly chosen places, staying there a longer time.
Our Peninsular Malaysia itinerary in detail
Eventually, we decided to skip the other beach destinations and to stay more in the chosen ones. For our 18 days Peninsular Malaysia itinerary we chose „only” 6 destinations- Kuala Lumpur, Melaka, Tioman Island, Taman Negara, Cameron Highlands, and Penang. And we didn’t regret. We arranged our trip, purchased the tickets that had to be purchase online in advance, booked some of the hotels and prepared our luggage along with our “special packing list for Peninsular Malaysia“.
Finally, the time we spent in each of these destinations was perfectly enough to explore and enjoy there. We traveled with our two children again, and they enjoyed it too. So, I would recommend this itinerary too, and let’s see it in detail.
Days 1-3 Kuala Lumpur
We arrived in Kuala Lumpur on our Day 1 afternoon (we traveled with AirAsia from Macau). It was 3:30 pm, and since the airport is too far from the center of the city and our hotel, we knew that in our first day we couldn’t have time to explore anything, but only to reach the hotel and to have some dinner outside, with first impressions of the city.
So, for exploring Kuala Lumpur, I planned a day and a half- the whole of Day 2 and the morning of Day 3. On the second day of our trip, we visited all of the main tourist spots of Kuala Lumpur- Masjid Jamek, Merdeka Square, Sultan Samad Abdul Building, KL City Gallery, National Mosque, the Old Railway Station, the National Museum, and Chinatown. We also walked around the Perdana Botanical Gardens too. And in the late afternoon, we reached KL Tower and the iconic Petronas Twin Towers. Finally, we met the evening in Kampung Baru, enjoying the view of the skyscrapers from the village.
Then, I planned our trip to Melaka by bus on Day 3 afternoon. And the morning was arranged for the most popular place to visit in the KL suburbs area- Batu Caves. After that, we move to Bersepadu Selatan Bus Terminal and traveled by bus 2 hours to Melaka.
Days 3-5 Melaka
Our plan for Melaka was quite similar to our Kuala Lumpur itinerary. On Day 3 we just had time to arrive in the Melaka Central Bus Terminal, to move to our hotel, and to go out to have dinner nearby.
So again, our main walk around Melaka was on the whole second day and the morning of the third day. The places to visit in Melaka that I chose are located in three areas- the Historical Center, Ayer Keroh town, and two additional, more isolated spots in the south-southeastern suburbs of Melaka- Straits of Melaka Mosque and the Portuguese Village.
Our next destination was Tioman Island and first, we had to arrive in Mersing, a small city, where is the main pier for the ferries heading to Tioman. There are only two buses from Melaka to Mersing, and the only convenient bus leaves Melaka at 12:45 pm. So we could have a whole morning to explore what we couldn’t visit on the previous day.
I realized that the morning of Day 5, before our bus to Mersing could be critical, because we had to arrive in Melaka Central Bus Terminal on time. So, the destinations in Ayer Keroh were not proper for this morning- they are too far. And we set the two places in Ayer Keroh that we consider the most important- Taman Mini Malaysia & ASEAN Park and Orang Asli Museum for the morning of Day 4. The whole Historical Center of Melaka was explored in the afternoon. And what remained for Day 5 in the morning was only Straits of Melaka Mosque and the Portuguese Village. Everything done successfully.
Days 6-9 Tioman Island
We arrived in Mersing from Melaka in the late afternoon. There is not much to see in Mersing, but it was important to prepare our trip to Tioman on the next day, so the rest of the day we used for that, and dinner outside.
On Day 6, we took the ferry at 7:30 am to Tioman Island (I have purchased our ferry tickets online in advance). In Tioman Island, we have booked our accommodation for three nights in Juara Village, on its eastern coast, and it had to be our „base camp” for our Tioman explorations.
The most essential of Tioman Island
What was the most essential in Tioman Island? There are two types of beaches around the island- calm beaches with coral reefs and crystal clear water, located on its western coast and the nearby small islets, and beaches with bigger waves, proper for surfing or just playing with the waves, located on its eastern coast. The interior of the island consists of mountains, covered by lush equatorial rainforest, great for trekking, with several small waterfalls. So, all of that was what we wanted to try and taste in Tioman Island.
And we did it. The ferry from Mersing arrives in Tioman Island, stopping at three piers, of which we got off in Tekek, the main settlement of the island. Then, there were three ways to reach Juara- by jeep, by water taxi, and by trekking in the rainforest. We chose the third option, thus we could explore the jungles in the interior. On our way, we could see one of the waterfalls- Ali’s Waterfall.
Then we could enjoy the beach with bigger waves since Juara is located along the two main eastern beaches- Juara and Mentawak. I made another trek in the jungle to another waterfall near Juara, called Lubuk Teja. And Day 8 was arranged for the quiet beaches on the west, for the coral reefs, and snorkeling. Although we didn’t visit some famous places like Asah Waterfall, we successfully tried and enjoyed everything that Tioman Island had to present.
Finally, on Day 9 by jeep, we back to Tekek, and by the ferry at 10:00 am we back to Mersing. There we had our lunch, then got the bus to Kuantan in 15:00, which had to be an intermediate point for our next destination- Taman Negara.
Days 10-13 Taman Negara
On Day 10 we got the bus from Kuantan to Jerantut. There are several buses in this direction, and this one was not full, so we didn’t need to purchase our tickets in advance. From Jerantut, we got one of the last existing cheap local buses to Kuala Tahan- the main village-resort of Taman Negara. From the 1st of February 2020, this bus was stopped and doesn’t exist anymore, so we were lucky. Now there are only more expensive (but more convenient) options to travel to Taman Negara.
The most essential of Taman Negara
So, in Taman Negara, our main days for exploring the area were Day 11 and Day 12. The most important activities and places to visit in the area are related mainly to the rainforest, also to the two main rivers, and to the local Orang Asli people.
A popular and easy way to hike the deep rainforest in Taman Negara is the trail (on paths made by wooden boards) to Bukit Teresek, a low mountain with some good panoramic views to Gunung Tahan, the highest peak of Peninsular Malaysia. The trail passes by the longest Canopy Bridge in Southeast Asia, an important local attraction.
But we went further- from Bukit Teresek we proceeded on normal paths through the jungle, so we could experience a real jungle trekking. We were even bitten and sucked by leeches on the path (anyway, don’t be scared of them, they are harmless).
Concerning the two main rivers in the area- Tembeling and Tahan, we enjoyed them too. We traveled by boats on the rivers to Lata Berkoh Falls, and one of the Orang Asli villages. Thus we could touch the culture of Malaysia’s aboriginal people– the Orang Asli tribe of Bateq. With this, we successfully explored and enjoyed the wonderful Taman Negara. Then on Day 13, we traveled directly by van to our next destination- Cameron Highlands.
Days 13-15 Cameron Highlands
Cameron Highlands is a beautiful mountain area, one of the highest in Peninsular Malaysia. It is interesting to explore the local mountains and forests. There are many other places to visit in Cameron Highlands, but they are mainly „human-made”- tea plantations, farms, markets, and resorts.
So, following our style, we focused first on the natural places- Gunung Brinchang Mountain and the Mossy Forest. And we were lucky, because there was a fog, making the Mossy Forest really mysterious, revealing the best of its beauty.
However, we tasted from the „human-made” places. Of them, the most important was the iconic tea plantations on the hilly slopes. We also visited the Time Tunnel Museum and the evening market. There are two waterfalls near Tanah Rata, but we skipped them because we already have visited other waterfalls in Taman Negara and Tioman Island.
And that’s how we arrange all of it. We arrived in Brinchang, Cameron Island, in the afternoon. So, we dedicated the rest of the day to the evening market. Then, on Day 14, we explored all other important places by spectacular hiking on the road to Gunung Brinchang and the Mossy Forest, passing by the tea plantations and Time Tunnel Museum. We wanted to make a jungle hike from Gunung Brinchang Peak to Brinchang Town, but currently, the peak is closed. There was another small path, but it is longer and we didn’t dare to try it. Finally, on Day 15 we got the bus to Penang.
Days 15-17 Penang
It was our last destination. Again, we traveled from Cameron Highlands to Penang in the middle of the day and arrived in the afternoon. There are several buses from Tanah Rata in Cameron Highlands to Penang, and we chose the bus at 10:00 am.
Most of the most important places to visit in Penang are located in the Historical Center of Georgetown. It is a compact place, and like Melaka, it is easily walkable on foot. So, when we arrived in Penang, we explored a significant part of this area, including the Clan Jetty on the sea coast.
The rest of the important places to visit in Penang remained for Day 16. We finished the Historical Center, including Victoria Clock Tower and Fort Cornwallis. There are several more spots, located further from the center, all along the northern coast of Penang Island. They remained for the afternoon, and there are convenient cheap buses on this route. These buses could be used to the farthest of these places- the Floating Mosque.
Of course, there are many other places to visit in Penang- mountains, beaches, resorts, and parks. And yes, they are definitely nice for walking, hiking and relaxing. But they are not essential for Peninsular Malaysia. We visited much better beaches, much better forests and mountains for a hike. That’s why in Penang we focused only on Georgetown and its old heritage, which is really worth and representative. And we did it successfully.
Days 17-18 Kuala Lumpur, end of the trip
The last two days of our Peninsular Malaysia itinerary were just for accomplishing the trip. On Day 17 we back to Kuala Lumpur by bus, for about 5 hours, and by train to our accommodation near the airport. Finally, on Day 18 we left Malaysia in the morning.
The transportation is a very important detail of every itinerary, and traveling around Peninsular Malaysia is not an exception. The good thing is that it is very well-arranged and predictable, so the itinerary can be easily planned and built.
There are several ways to travel between the destinations in Peninsular Malaysia, and our main way was by bus. The only exception was the section between Taman Negara and Cameron Highlands, which we traveled by van, booked from one of the local travel companies in Kuala Tahan.
For most of the buses, we purchased tickets directly from the bus terminal. But for two of the trips- from Melaka to Mersing, and from Tanah Rata (Cameron Highlands) to Penang we booked the tickets online, in advance. And we did it from here. It was mainly because there are not too many buses traveling on these routes, and if we miss a bus due to lack of seats, it would seriously affect the whole trip.
We also booked in advance (and I would highly recommend it!) our ferry from Mersing to Tioman Island and back. And we did it again from the same website, together with our bus ticket for the Melaka-Mersing bus (they often offer such options).
For the local transportation within the cities- Kuala Lumpur, Melaka, Kuantan, and Penang, we used mainly Grab. It is cheaper than taxis, and much safer. Also, we used public buses in Penang (only 2 RM, regardless of the distance), LRT and trains in Kuala Lumpur. In Tioman Island, we used a jeep taxi to back from Juara Village to Tekek and an organized boat trip for the snorkeling destinations.
There is no Grab in Cameron Highlands, so there we could only use a normal taxi. And we traveled by organized boat trips on the rivers in Taman Negara. Everything else we visited by our own feet.
It is another important detail for the trip. We are budget travelers, so the cheap price was one of the criteria that we look for when we book a hotel from Booking or Agoda. But that’s not everything. The location is very important too.
Some not so successful bookings
Following these two criteria, I can confess that we didn’t book the best hotels for all the destinations in our Peninsular Malaysia itinerary. In Kuala Lumpur, we booked Bunker Hotel & Restaurant, which was not bad, but its location was not good. The same mistake in Melaka- we booked Dragon Hotel, which is in the middle between the Historical Center and Melaka Central Bus Terminal, but that was not the best solution- a property in the Historical Center would be better. Another mistake was Carlton Inn Bukit Ubi in Kuantan- a nice hotel, but far from the bus terminal, and far from any restaurants and shops.
The successful bookings
So, for the other destinations, our accommodation was perfectly arranged. In Mersing, we stayed in Bluewater Hotel, which is exactly beside the Bus Terminal. And in Tioman Island, we lived 3 days in Juara Village, which was better for exploring the island. There we chose Village Chalet Resort, exactly on the northern end of Mentawak Beach.
In Taman Negara, we spent 3 nights in Greenland Guesthouse, one of the cheapest places to sleep. It is a bit far from the center, but that’s no problem since Kuala Tahan is a small place. Then, in Cameron Highlands, we spent 2 nights in Check-In Hotel (there are Check-In 1 and Check-In 2 hotels, we were in 1), in Brinchang, which is exactly in the center of the town. It has a good location for exploring the Gunung Brinchang Mountain too. In Penang, we spent 2 nights in Rainbow House, which is in a great location within the Historical Center of Georgetown. And finally, the last night I chose OYO Night Queen Hotel, which is very near the International Airport.
All the places to sleep were cheap but still nice. With some little exceptions, everything was clean and comfortable. In most of the places, we didn’t have any problems with the WiFi, and the stuff was enough helpful in everything. I can say that our best experience was in Juara Village Chalet, where we became friends with the people.
Wherever we travel, we always try to eat local food, as a part of our geographical exploration. Yes, sometimes we go to MacDonald’s or KFC, but only if our children travel with us. It was the same in Malaysia. And the local food that we saw and tried was not expensive. You don’t need to go to a luxury restaurant to try „the expensive best” of the local cuisine. But you can find it in the small local fast-food restaurants or open market stalls.
In Malaysia, as always, we ate cheap food. When we were in the cities- Kuala Lumpur, Melaka, Mersing, Brinchang or Penang, we usually ate the local „nasi lemak”- chicken with rice, as well as some other meals of this kind, such as „nasi goreng”. And for the more natural destinations, such as Tioman Island and Taman Negara, we often searched for more simple things to eat, to be easy for bringing with us in the jungle. We could find sandwiches, rice with eggs wrapped in paper or leaves, as well as chocolate, and always a lot of water.
However, I can admit that some of the most delicious meals that we tried (at least for our taste), we found in an Indian-Muslim restaurant in the Historical Center of Georgetown, Penang. If you go to Penang, you can easily find it too (in Google Maps), it is called Kapitan Restaurant. Not expensive and very delicious.
For our whole family- two adults and two children, we spent around 5600 RM (not including our flights to and from Kuala Lumpur), which is around 1335 USD. If you go alone on the same trip, sleep in the same properties, use the same transport, and don’t share some expenses with anybody, you would probably spend around 3500 to 4000 MR (around 850 to 950 USD) within Malaysia, depending on what would you like to eat and how much.
Finally, it was a good and successful trip. We visited everything that we planned, even more. And during this 18 days trip, we learned, tried and enjoyed the geography and history of Peninsular Malaysia
Get more impressions of Peninsular Malaysia from the video below!
Check some travel books about Malaysia!
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