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.
Travel offers; book through Rough Guides
Planning your trip to Malaysia
Everything you need to plan where to go and what to do.
The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.
Living the good life in Borneo
Life in the beautiful region of Sapulot is relaxed and uncomplicated, and the communities who live here want to keep it that way. They are inviting visitors to …02 Jun 2016 • Ros Walford insert_drive_file Article
7 reasons why Langkawi is Malaysia's ultimate island escape
Looking to unwind on a tropical island somewhere in Southeast Asia? Then head to the island of Langkawi, Malaysia’s ultimate escape from the country’s frene…09 Feb 2016 • Stuart Forster insert_drive_file Article
Quiz: can you locate these national parks?
National parks are some of the world's most awe-inspiring natural places, taking in mountains, glaciers, waterfalls and forests (sometimes all in the same one…02 Jul 2015 • Rebecca Hallett help Quiz