Malaysia covers such a spread-out area that it would be impossible to see everything, but each of the following routes makes a great way to spend two or three weeks in the region. While the Peninsula Circuit is the most varied, head east to Borneo if you prefer an outdoor-focused option.
1 Kuala Lumpur
Malaysia’s capital offers shiny malls, showcase architecture and a mix of Muslim, Chinese and Hindu districts, with some of the best street food in the country.
2 Cameron Highlands
This former retreat for colonial administrators is now a rural idyll of tea plantations and forest walks.
3 Pulau Pangkor
Kick back at this low-key resort island that’s a favourite with Malaysian families.
Packed with historic guildhalls and streets, eccentric temples and surprisingly wild gardens and national parks.
5 Kota Bharu
One of the last places in this Muslim country that allows shadow-puppet performances of the Hindu epics.
6 Perhentian islands
Superb tropical hangouts with gorgeous beaches and splendid snorkelling and scuba diving.
7 Jungle railway
This slow-moving commuter train chugs past languid towns, tiny kampungs and market gardens along the way.
8 Taman Negara
One of the world’s oldest rainforests features superlative wildlife-spotting and jungle treks lasting up to a week or more.
Find your bearings at Sarawak’s small, likeable capital: don’t miss the Semenggoh orang-utan sanctuary, a rewarding day-trip.
Sarawak’s oldest national park, this small patch of well-preserved coastal forest is home to waterfalls, proboscis monkeys and bizarre pitcher plants.
3 Batang Ai
Take a boat through spectacular riverine forest in this often overlooked national park, and visit traditional longhouse communities such as Nanga Sumpa.
4 Gunung Mulu National Park
Spectacular jungle scenery, particularly the three-day trek out to a “forest” of limestone towers, and a network of rugged caverns.
A stepping stone to the remoter corners of Sarawak. Don’t miss the caves at Niah National Park, inhabited by humans over 40,000 years ago.
Set out on some demanding multi-day trekking via remote Kelabit longhouses or up Mount Murud.
7 Kota Kinabalu
Sabah’s capital has lively markets, a district of traditional houses built over the water on piles, and an interesting indigenous museum.
8 Kinabulu National Park
This small reserve surrounds wind-seared Mount Kinabulu, one of the toughest hikes in Malaysia.