Around 200km north of KL, surrounded by the dark blue, forested peaks of Banjaran Titiwangsa, the Peninsula’s main mountain range, the CAMERON HIGHLANDS form Malaysia’s most extensive hill station. The place took its name from William Cameron, a government surveyor who stumbled across the area in 1885, though not until forty years later did civil servant Sir George Maxwell propose developing a hill station here. Indian tea planters, Chinese vegetable farmers and wealthy landowners in search of a weekend retreat flocked in, establishing tea plantations and leaving a swathe of mock-Tudor buildings in their wake. Though it gets packed out at times – especially during the March to May hot-season school holidays – it offers excellent nature walks, a pleasantly cool climate, plenty of fresh air, and the chance to sample locally grown strawberries or relax with tea and scones.
The Highlands cover around 700 square kilometres, cut by the twisting Route 59, which links the three main townships. Southerly Ringlet is a busy little marketplace surrounded by modern housing estates, close to a couple of attractions but otherwise forgettable. Some 15km northeast, Tanah Rata is the Highlands’ main town and favoured base, at the core of walking trails and flush with places to stay and eat; 5km further north, scruffier Brinchang offers more of the same, plus several nearby fruit and vegetable farms.
With hills in every direction, the weather in the Cameron Highlands is unpredictable, and you can expect rainstorms even in the dry season. It makes sense to avoid the area during the monsoon itself (Nov–Jan), and at major holiday times if you want to avoid the crowds. Given the 1000m-plus altitude, temperatures drop dramatically at night – whatever the season – so you’ll need warm clothes, as well as waterproofs.