Forget KL. Here's where you should go on your next trip to Malaysia.


Written by: Circles.Life

Think the only place worth visiting in Malaysia is Kuala Lumpur? Think again, friend. There’s so much more to the country than you’ve seen on flashy travel blogs or Instagram posts.

Malaysia is a land of tremendous, unrivalled diversity, offering a dizzying combination of stunning landscapes, traditional living, and hidden gems, waiting to be discovered. It’s also a melting pot, with influences stretching from China to the Indian subcontinent.

This post speaks directly to groups of friends, partners, or solo adventurers looking for new landscapes to explore. Here we run through some of the lesser-known and more authentic places you should visit on your next trip to Malaysia.

Side note: Before you get those plane tickets, be sure to set up your travel eSIM with Jetpac for seamless roaming across the border.


Travellers often overlook Penang in favour of more touristy destinations. However, if you’re dead set on experiencing authentic Malaysian culture and history, it’s the place to go.

The island is home to a vibrant mix of cultures, including Chinese, Indian, and Malay, which is reflected in its architecture, food, and customs. It’s also off the beaten track, which means you get to see what life’s really like in the country for regular people.

Most adventurers to Penang head to Penang Hill. The hike takes around two hours and offers stunning views of the island and the sea. At the top of the hill, you'll find a beautiful temple, a mosque, and a café where you can relax and enjoy the view. You can take time out here for Instagram photos or to meditate on the achievement.

You should also head over to the Kek Lok Si Temple if you’re in the area, the largest Buddhist temple in Malaysia. Again, it’s on a hill overlooking the surrounding countryside, adorned with beautiful gardens and statues. The main attraction is the seven-story pagoda – a wondrous sight for architecture connoisseurs.

Lastly, if you’re looking for thrills, you can try parasailing or jet skiing at Batu Ferringhi Beach, which is located on the north coast of the island. You’ll find fellow adrenaline junkies here, a mix of locals and Western tourists.


Heading to Malaysia’s west coast, you’ll find the historical city of Melaka. In the past, it was a trading port, mainly serving Chinese, Indian, and European imperial merchants. Now, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage site and is home to many historical buildings and museums.

Adventurers usually head to the A'Famosa Resort. This venue offers a range of amenities, including water, safari, and adventure parks. Animals on display include tigers, elephants, and zebras, all living in semi-natural environments.

Another popular attraction is the Jonker Street Night Market, available every Friday and Saturday. The place is a hub of activity, and a wonderful area to sample local food or pick up a souvenir.

Kota Kinabalu

Kota Kinabalu is located in Borneo, one of the most rugged and wildlife-rich tropical islands in the world. The city is surrounded by beautiful beaches and is a gateway to some of the most stunning natural attractions in Malaysia.

People visit Kota Kinabalu to go to Kinabalu Park, another UNESCO World Heritage site. It is home to Mount Kinabalu, which is the highest mountain in Malaysia. Hikers regularly trek to the top of the mountain over two days, usually as part of a guided tour. Views from the top show the stunning rainforest landscape below and glimpses of Borneo’s illusive interior.

Many people also travel to the city for island hopping. Nearby are dozens of small atolls, each with its own unique character and charm. You can rent a boat and explore the islands at your own pace, stopping off at secluded beaches, snorkelling spots, and local villages along the way.

Finally, adrenaline junkies go to Kota Kinabalu for whitewater rafting on the Kiulu River. Currents tend to be strong during all seasons, thanks to heavy rainfall upstream.

Tioman Island

Tioman Island is like something designed for a postcard. It has crystal-clear water, white sand beaches, lush green forests and colourful marine life. It was once voted one of the most beautiful islands in the world by Time magazine.

Tioman Island is ideal for those who want to escape from the crowds and enjoy nature at its best. You can snorkel or dive among coral reefs and fish, hike through jungle trails and waterfalls, visit traditional villages or just relax on hammocks.

Tioman Island also has some legends associated with it. According to local mythology, the island came into being when Sri Gunom, a dragon princess, visited Gunung Linga, against the wishes of the gods. When they struck her down, her body became what’s known as Tioman Island today.


Kuantan is a laid-back town that’s way off the beaten track for most travellers. Located on the east coast of Malaysia’s main peninsula, it offers a relaxed atmosphere, friendly locals, and delicious food.

If you’re someone who loves to eat, it’s a great place to pick up nasi lemak (coconut rice with spicy sambal). You can also get satay (grilled meat skewers) or cendol (shaved ice with coconut milk) here, the latter being a great option for hot days.

Kuantan also has some natural attractions worth visiting. For instance, Teluk Cempedak beach is great for sunbathing and surfing. Sungai Pandan Waterfall is also ideal for taking photos for that ‘gram.

Lastly, you might want to explore the Taman Negara National Park (the oldest rainforest in the world). It’s home to several species not found anywhere else.

Aman Island

Lastly, Aman Island (or Pulau Aman in Malay) is a small island close to Penang. Incredibly, it has no cars or paved roads, and lives up to its nickname, “The Island of Peace.”

Its main attraction is its seafood, especially the mantis prawns, which you can find at many restaurants. You can also relax on the beach, hike to the top of the hill for panoramic views, visit the Water and Moon temple or get a boat to Pulau Betong.





Published 2023-05-01

Written by Circles.Life



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