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.

Peninsula Circuit

For a straightforward taster of everything the region has to offer, try this three-week circuit.

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.

4 Penang

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.

Sarawak and Mt Kinabalu

Allow at least three weeks for this adventurous trip into Malaysia's least-developed corners.

1 Kuching

Find your bearings at Sarawak's small, likeable capital: don't miss the Semenggoh orang-utan sanctuary, a rewarding day-trip.

2 Bako

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.

5 Miri

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.

6 Bario

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.

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