Each state in Malaysia is famous for various reasons.
For instance, many know that Penang is the country’s street food center. KL is a world-class shopping paradise. Melaka is a historian’s love. Nevertheless, apart from the usual tourist places, each state also has beautiful attractions. And some things to do that you may not have heard of.
1. Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur
You may know: Petronas Twin Towers
The Petronas Twin Towers have recognized the world over as a representation of Kuala Lumpur and Malaysia. In 1998, the 88-floor Twin Towers were the tallest structures in Malaysia. The twin towers were the tallest buildings in the world from 1998 to 2004. Until today, they are still the tallest twin towers in the world.
You might not know: KL Forest Eco Park
The KL Forest Eco Park is formerly known as the Bukit Nanas Forest Reserve. It is the oldest reserve of its kind in the country. The park offerss urbanites in KL a green retreat from the bustling city. Only a 15-minute walk from the Twin Towers, the forest provides numerous recreational activities like hiking, a canopy walk, and a forestry museum.
Often defined as KL’s green lung, the forest is home to a wide array of wildlife including monkeys, pythons, squirrels, monitor lizards, a herb garden, wild orchids, and more. The park is free for the public to enjoy and is open daily from 7 am to 6 pm.
Bonus: The nearby Panggung Bandaraya (City Theatre) runs a musical about Kuala Lumpur‘s history called MUD: Our Story of Kuala Lumpur. The show has been running for two years with no clear sign of stopping. If you’d like to get a better idea of the history of KL while being entertained by local talent, this show is a must-see.
2. Federal Territory of Putrajaya
You may know: Architecture. e.g., Putra Mosque
Putrajaya is the administrative capital of the country. The Prime Minister’s office, government headquarters, and various state offices are located in Putrajaya. The territory was formed with beauty and organisation in mind.
The surrounding scenery is breathtaking, with wide-open spaces, gardens, lakes, and intricate bridges. Indeed, the gorgeous gardens of Putrajaya are becoming quite the hotspot for wedding photography.
You might not know: Watersports Complex
Since there’s plenty of space and nature, Putrajaya is also establishing itself as a great place for outdoor activities. There’s plenty of opportunities to get back to nature in the Wetlands Park and Agriculture Heritage Park, or if you prefer, there’s the Equestrian Centre for horse-riding and the Challenge Park for rock climbing.
Most exciting, however, is the Watersports Complex in Precinct 6. Here, you can take lessons for several different watersports like wakeboarding, waterskiing, barefoot skiing, kneeboarding, and more. It’s a great place to pick up a new hobby and challenge yourself.
3. Federal Territory of Labuan
You may know: Offshore Finance
Labuan, which is made up of seven islands off the coast of Sabah in East Malaysia, is best known as an offshore financial centre that has offered international financial and business services since 1990.
The Labuan International Business and Financial Centre (IBFC) is an economic zone – a particular area in which trade and business laws differ from the rest of the country – and is in a unique position, geographically, to tap into investment opportunities from around the globe. The Malaysian government has also designated Labuan as a free trade zone.
You might not know: Wreck diving
Like many other areas in the waters off Borneo, Labuan offers splendid opportunities for divers. There are four most popular wrecks with divers: the Cement wreck, American wreck, Australian wreck, and Blue Water wreck.
Two of these, the American and Australian, are relics of the Allied and Japanese Forces’ battle during World War II, while the Cement and Blue Water wrecks date back to the 1980s. The skills required to explore these underwater wrecks range from novice to experienced with the Cement wreck being a famous training ground for new divers.
You may know: Rock climbing
A well-known spot for rock climbing is Wang Gunung, a mountain along the Malaysia–Thai border. The challenging mountain takes about two to three hours to complete and has 14 pit stops for climbers to take a breather before conquering the mountain.
A permit is required to climb this beast which can be obtained at the Perak Forestry Department for only RM5 per person. The other top spot for avid climbers is Bukit Keteri. There are a little over 50 routes you can take with varying levels of difficulty.
You might not know: Snake and Reptile Farm
The only snake farm ever built in the country, the facility aids the Institute of Medical Research’s studies on anti-venom treatments. It showcases about 200 snakes of 34 different species, 10 of which are poisonous. Daring visitors can even take a photo with some of the (non-venomous) snakes.
You may know: Langkawi
Langkawi is a popular destination in Kedah for local and international tourists, officially known as the Jewel of Kedah. It is a cluster of 104 islands in the Andaman sea about 30km off the coast of Kedah, in the north of Peninsular Malaysia.
You might not know: Bujang Valley archaeological site
Lembah Bujang, or Bujang Valley, is a historical complex in Merbok, Kedah between Gunung Jerai and Muda River and is the most affluent archaeological area in Malaysia. It spans 224 sq km and contains the remains and ruins from a Hindu-Buddhist society that thrived there roughly 2,5000 years ago.
More than 50 ancient tomb temples called candi have been found, and a museum was erected on-site to showcase the various discoveries so far. The site is of significant value to historians, archaeologists, and scientists the world over.
6. Pulau Pinang
You may know: George Town, UNESCO World Heritage Site
Pulau Pinang, aka Penang Island, is known as the Pearl of the Orient and is famous as the (unofficial) street food capital of Malaysia. Most Malaysians and tourists will agree that street food in Penang is second to none, with its delicious local specialities like pasembur, laksa lemak and oh chien, and regional variations of national favourites like char kuey teow, hokkien mee, chee cheong fun, and cendol.
George Town on Penang Island is also recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008 (along with Melaka). As one of Malaysia’s oldest cities, George Town is littered with pre-and post-war buildings and relics.
You might not know: Komtar Jurassic Research Centre
One of the attractions at the iconic Komtar Building in George Town is the Jurassic Research Centre, highlighting an interactive activity center. There are various exhibitions and displays that are both educational and entertaining for all ages.
However, the highlight is the life-size dinosaur replicas – some that even move and roar – in the outdoor exhibition. This exhibition also has an archaeology section with half-unearthed dinosaur fossils and eggs, painting a prehistoric life on our planet.
You may know: The Lost World of Tambun
The Lost World of Tambun is the biggest nature theme park in Perak, built within the surrounding limestone hills, covering over 7,000 sq m. The park includes an amusement park, water park, petting zoo, a Tiger Valley, Tin Valley, adventure park, and hot springs and spa.
As soon as it debuted in 2004, the Lost World of Tambun has become a popular destination. It is the perfect adventurous getaway in nature, yet with all the comforts of modern living.
You might not know: Tasik Cermin
Located next to Gunung Rapat and the famous Sam Poh Tong Temple Cave, you’ll find a sparkling lake. Accessible via a tunnel carved through limestone rocks, the lake is still somewhat of a hidden gem. Tasik Cermin, which translates to Mirror Lake, is so named because the water’s smooth surface reflects the surrounding trees and limestone rocks.
The greenish water may not be clear enough to see through to the lake’s bottom but is clean enough to mirror the blue sky above. According to some, the lake can be difficult to find, so try using these GPS coordinates if you’d like to visit: 4.559169, 101.119575.
You may know: Batu Caves
Selangor is dotted with natural attractions, with the Batu Caves being the most famous. The complex in Selayang also features several sacred Hindu temples within the caves. The entire area comes alive during the Hindu festival of Thaipusam, when many thousands of pilgrims make their way to the temple to make their offerings.
You might not know: longest quartz ridge in the world
As to be expected for an area rich in wilderness, there are plenty of hikers in Selangor. It’s common to trek up various hills to watch the sunrise or set, and one of the more famous hills among local hikers is the challenging and sometimes dangerous Bukit Tabur.
What many don’t know is that Bukit Tabur is part of the most extended quartz ridge in the world. It is often called the Klang Gates Quartz Ridge. It is a dyke that runs through Selangor and Kuala Lumpur, 16km long and 200m wide, and is home to five unique species of plants and a rare mammal, the serow (a member of the goat family).
Among the other outdoor attractions in Selangor, be sure to visit Crab Island off Port Klang, beaches like Bagan Lalang, Morib, and Batu Laut. And as well as the Kuala Selangor Nature Park, Firefly Sanctuary, Bukit Cerakah Agriculture Park, and Kanching Recreational Forest.
9. Negeri Sembilan
You may know: Port Dickson and beaches
There are various beach resorts and seaside hotels in Port Dickson that you can choose from for an overnight stay, but since it’s so close to KL, it also makes for a great day-trip destination. Along the beach in Cape Rachado is a small wildlife reserve and an old lighthouse that you can explore.
You might not know: Berumbun Forest
In the jungles of Negeri Sembilan, you find three beautiful retreats; The Dusun, The Shorea Retreats, and AwanMulan. All these retreats are located in the Berumbun Forest Reserve. With each offering slightly different experiences, you can enjoy the breathtaking view of Malaysia’s rainforest and hills or dive right in to explore the waterfalls and wildlife.
Negeri Sembilan is only the next state over from Kuala Lumpur, which makes it an ideal location for short family getaway into the jungle. The villas and retreats are suitable for families as well as smaller groups and couples.
You may know: Colonial architecture and history
Melaka has been a popular tourist hotspot for years now. Colonised by the Dutch, Portuguese, and British, Melaka is dotted with colonial-styled buildings from the ruins of Porta De Santiago built by the Portuguese in 1511 to Christ Church, Stadthuys, St. Peter’s Church, and more.
The old buildings in the city centre bear unmistakably the architectural styling of the historic city’s colonial past – which can be explored at length in the various museums found around the small state.
You might not know: Klebang coconut shake
Located on Jalan Klebang Besar, this roadside stall serves refreshing coconut shakes to combat the sweltering tropical heat. The shake is a simple blend of coconut flesh, coconut water, and ice. You can also order the ‘special’ which comes with a scoop of vanilla ice cream on top for extra creaminess. The shakes are tropical, tasty, and refreshing.
If you’re only in Melaka for a short stopover or a day trip, it might seem like the shakes are not worth the long queue. But don’t worry, the staff work quickly, and the line moves fast. You’ll be sipping on creamy freshness in no time at all.
You may know: Genting and Cameron Highlands
Genting and Cameron Highlands are two of the most popular highland retreats in Peninsular Malaysia. Cameron Highlands was a British hill station set up for officers to escape the country’s humidity; it is now the site of Malaysia’s largest tea plantation and boasts numerous vegetable, fruit, and herb farms. Many grocers in KL stock fresh produce from farms here.
On the other hand, Genting is a bustling highland town that houses the country’s only casino. There’s also the Genting Theme Park and the upcoming 20th Century Fox Theme Park. Genting is all about entertainment. It also houses a vast arena where many international acts perform, including Boyz II Men, Cliff Richard, Jolin Tsai, Olivia Newton-John and more.
You might not know: Mount Tahan
Also known as the Peninsula’s Everest, Mount Tahan is the highest point in Peninsular Malaysia, at 2,187m above sea level. Located in Taman Negara (National Park), Mount Tahan is a big hit among hikers and is unsurprisingly considered the most challenging trek in West Malaysia.
There are three main trails use to hike the mountain, the longest and most challenging of which can take up to seven days to complete on a return trip. The mountain peak can get very cold (by tropical standards), dipping to as low as 4°C and sometimes, the peaks can get frosty.
You may know: Wayang Kulit
This art form, also known as shadow puppetry, is an ancient form of entertainment. Shadows of intricately carved leather puppets are cast onto a screen, often depicting tales based on ancient Hindu epics.
Wayang Kulit in Kelantan has been brought in from Thailand in the first millennium AD and became a popular form of entertainment for the upper classes and is now considered a cultural treasure. Behind the screen, the puppet master (Tok Dalang) manipulates the puppets. He narrates the story using various voices and sound effects, often accompanied by traditional music by a small ensemble playing the gongs, cymbals, drums, and wind instruments.
You might not know: longest reclining Buddha in Malaysia
The Thai Buddhist temple of Wat Phothivihan is one of 25 temples in Tumpat, a holy village in the northeastern corner of Western Malaysia. It houses the country’s longest reclining Buddha which is 40m long.
The temple was completed in 1979 and housed several other status and structures including a Wheel of Dharma statue and a Tibetan style hall that features a Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara statue with 18 arms. The temple also has accommodations for monks and visitors. Entry to the temple is free.
You may know: The islands
Terengganu state includes several picturesque islands attracting beach bums and avid divers for decades: Redang, Perhentian (which consists of two islands, Besar and Kecil), and Kapas are famed white sandy beaches and gorgeous sunset views, and Pulau Tenggol is excellent for snorkelling and diving.
You might not know: Traditional boat makers
Terengganu is home to a little-known group of master boat-builders: on a small river island of Pulau Duyung (Mermaid Island), skilled artisans work with cengal wood, which is durable and resistant to termites, to build some of the best handmade boats in the world.
One man, in particular, Haji Abdullah, is a famous boat-builder who has spent more than five decades of his life building over 100 boats for customers around the world from the US, Denmark, England, France, and Canada.
You may know: Legoland
One of the biggest attractions in Johor is Legoland, Malaysia’s first international theme park. The LEGO park is a popular attraction for families around Malaysia and neighbouring Singapore. There are water parks, a mini LEGO city and special exhibitions and activities all-year-round.
You might not know: Firefly Valley Leisure Park
On the Johor Riverbank, the firefly park is a fun detour you should take when in the Kota Tinggi area. To book a boat for a firefly trip, you’ll have to make a reservation. It costs RM15 for adults and RM12 for children below eight years.
The trip will include a visit to the mini-farm/petting zoo that houses rabbits, goats, and other cuddly creatures. There’s also a restaurant that offers pork-free and beef-free food which you can enjoy by the water. It is a cool, calming retreat in Johor with twinkling fireflies to light up the night.
You may know: Mount Kinabalu
Mount Kinabalu and the surrounding areas are also some of the richest biological sites globally. With 5,000 to 6,000 species of plants, 326 species of birds, and over 100 species of mammals identified so far. Notable species here include the famous orangutans and rafflesia flowers.
Conquering Mount Kinabalu is on the list of every climber in this region. The hike is challenging but can be completed even by novices. The view at the summit more than makes up for all the hard work.
You might not know: Maliau Basin
Also known as the Lost World of Sabah, the Maliau Basin is one of Malaysia’s last few untouched wilderness areas and remains one of the most diverse forests globally. The entire area is designated a conservation area, and visitors have to obtain a permit to visit the forest.
There are 12 types of forest in the basin. This includes a lower montane forest with Agathis trees, montane heath forests, and lowland. And hill dipterocarp forest unique to Malaysia. The Maliau Basin also features the impressive seven-tier Maliau Falls and the tallest tropical tree globally, an 88.3-meter tall Yellow Meranti. Efforts are currently being made to designate Maliau Basin as a World Heritage Site.
You may know: Caves and parks
Sarawak is heralded for its biodiversity, as much of it is still relatively green. Despite decades of deforestation and logging at the hands of man. One of the most prominent cave chambers is the Gua Nasib Bagus. It is the largest cave chamber in the world by area and second-largest by volume. It’s part of a network of caves and tunnels at the Gunung Mulu National Park.
Other well-known parks are Lambir Hills National Park, the Bako National Park, and Niah National Park, where the Niah Cave is found. The caves are the earliest human settlement in Sarawak, with evidence of habitation dating back 40,000 years.
You might not know: The Matang narrow-mouthed frog
The minuscule Matang narrow-mouthed frog used to be the smallest frog of the ‘Old World’, with adult males growing to a maximum of 10.6–12.8mm. The current smallest frog in the land is the Paedophryne amauensis, which is only 7.7mm long.
The tadpoles, which measure only 3mm long, live and grow in the water of tropical pitcher plants, Nepenthes ampullaria, and the frog lives its entire life cycle in the same plant. The Matang narrow-mouthed frog may be small, but their mating calls can be quite loud, adding to the surrounding forest’s cacophony.