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Top 10 Places to Visit in Malaysia

Malaysia Top 10 Places To Visit

As Malaysia has always been high on many travelers' bucket lists, I have come up with the Top 10 places to visit in Malaysia for any first-timer here.

The truth about this list of places to visit in Malaysia is purely done through my personal experience,  as over the years, I have visited all of the places mentioned here.

Yes, I make it a point to visit all the places before writing about them, unlike many other Top 10 lists which are simply copied from various websites and blogs.

Top 10 Places to Visit in Malaysia

My mission for this is clear - to promote Malaysia to the world using digital mediums like this travel blog site, and various social media platforms to share the information and photos

Since the Malaysia mainstream media is constantly promoting the same places over and over, I have taken the initiative to share the many other interesting places around Malaysia with you here.

I hope you enjoy this article and the best places to visit in Malaysia are;

Batu Caves in Selangor
Batu Caves in Selangor
10. Selangor 

While the state of Selangor is the main place you will be arriving via flights (all the airports are located in the state of Selangor and not Kuala Lumpur as many think), there are quite a number of popular touristic places for one to visit.

The most popular being the Batu Caves, and yes it is not in Kuala Lumpur as you thought so. Selangor also holds various Ecotourism sites like Kuala Kubu Baharu and beaches like Sepang for the outdoor lovers. 

Places like Kuala Kubu Bharu or KKB offers various outdoor activities like river tubing and trekking while Tanjung Sepat offers a day trip for some amazing local Chinese food around the Sepang coast. A Birds Nest Eco Farm is also found around the Sepang area too.

However, the main fact remains as Selangor is home to many top shopping malls and also the famous Sunway Lagoon Theme Park. One of the latest attractions in Selangor is also iCity, a water and theme park located in Shah Alam.

A number of world-class resorts are also found around Selangor like the Avani Resort in Sepang Goldcoast and also the Sunway Villas in Petaling Jaya. You can also refer to my article on Places to visit in Selangor.

Pantai Cenang Beach in Langkawi Island
Pantai Cenang Beach in Langkawi Island
9. Langkawi Island

A popular name among travelers, Langkawi has always been in the spotlight, therefore, it was hard not to include this island in the list.

However, Langkawi does have some unique and interesting attractions besides the beach, islands and cable car.

Ecotourism has grown quite a bit with the mangrove tours heading in from the Tanjung Rhu side where new players with modern boats such as companies like Naam Tours, take visitors on an exciting mangrove adventure.

Forget the commercial side of things as those are easily available from list posts, leaflets and tourism sites, Langkawi is best explored by renting your own motorcycle or car in order to see the traditional island life here.

Bird watching and nature tours open up the flora and fauna for Eco travelers. You can also refer to one of my earlier articles on things to do in Langkawi for additional information.

Another plus point is the duty-free shopping in Langkawi for those on a shopping vacation. The most popular place in Langkawi is also Pantai Cenang Beach where all of the action is found.

Maliau Basin Canopy Walk in Sabah
Maliau Basin Canopy Walk in Sabah
8. Maliau Basin, Sabah

One of the most unexplored places on the island of Borneo, Maliau Basin sits in a massive protected primary rainforest reserve almost in the middle of Sabah, Borneo.

To get here, one needs to book a Maliau Basin Package from selected specialized tour operators as not anyone can sell these tours.

The conservation here will suit anyone who loves the outdoors, adventure, trekking, wildlife and bird watching.

For the extreme trekkers or hikers, this is your place. Some of the trails here can take a few days to complete but the result is rewarding as you will reach places that many have not.

Dedicated to nature lovers, this is one of the most unique places found in Sabah and Malaysia. Trips here come in a minimum of three days and a maximum of 10-20 days depending on the traveler. They have very good accommodations and also dorms.

Bario Highlands in Sarawak
Bario Highlands in Sarawak
7. Bario and Ba'kelalan Highlands, Sarawak

Located 3000 feet high in the north of Sarawak Borneo along the Bario Highlands, these two villages are one of the least visited tourist places here.

Bario and Ba'kelalan are far apart and the most practical way to visit these two places would be to fly in on a small 16-seater propeller plane operated by MasWings from the city of Miri or Lawas.

The beauty of these two places is that they have not been modernized and time moves very slowly here. The highlight would be the culture and heritage which is still very strong and active here.

The landscapes here are stunningly beautiful minus the modern roads or buildings. The Lun Bawang people here still go about their farming with rice paddy and natural salt processing as the main source of income.

Bario and Bakelalan are great for anyone wanting a different kind of Malaysian or Bornean experience with a passion for culture, heritage, and nature.

Legoland Water Park in Nusajaya, Johor
Legoland Water Park in Nusajaya, Johor
6. Nusajaya, Johor

The new kid on the block in the most south most state before Singapore. Nusajaya currently is the trend in Malaysia ever since the opening of Legoland Malaysia, followed by Hello Kitty Town and recently the new Angry Birds Park.

*Update Nov 2019: Hello Kitty Town is closing by the end of 2019.

Families flock here for the all-round entertainment for everyone while there is even Malaysia's first proper factory outlet - Johor Premium Outlet or JPO and all of these are within a certain radius making traveling easy. 

For families with children, this is the must-visit place as the number of activities can keep the kids going for days here.

Another reason why Nusajaya is so popular is because of the close proximity to Singapore's Universal Studios therefore many will stay in Johor and do a day trip across the border to get the best of both worlds.

Jonker Street, Melaka
Old heritage buildings in Jonker Street, Melaka
5. Melaka (Malacca)

Another tourist winning spot after all these years, Melaka or Malacca still holds very strong touristic value.

You may already have heard of Jonker Walk or Jonker Street, but these places have not changed over the years except for the inclusion of a weekend night bazaar.

Other places of interest fall around the core heritage zone which are historic structures. After all, Melaka is one of two UNESCO World Heritage Cities in Malaysia. 

However, for the new visitor to Melaka, I would highly recommend the food trail here as Melaka is one of the top places in Malaysia for food but note this, not at Jonker Street in Melaka as many claim.

The places here are overly touristy, however, if it is your first time here, then it is recommended you start here.

Walking is also highly recommended as there are many highly-rated historical monuments found around the main area.

Sepilok, Sandakan Sabah
Sepilok Orang Utan Conservation Center in Sandakan, Sabah
4. Sandakan, Sabah 

The best place in Malaysia for wildlife and nature tourism is hands down in Sandakan. Located on the east coast of Sabah Borneo, the place is also home to the world-renown Sepilok Orangutan Conservation Center and also the unique Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Center.

While Sandakan is noted as a city, the place is still laid-back looking like an old trading town from the 80s, and is often called Little Hong Kong.

While Sandakan is mainly a port town, barter trading still goes on here for those who do not know and many of the traders are second or third-generation Chinese who operate most of the businesses here.

Most travelers come to Sandakan as the main gateway into the Kinabatangan River for their wildlife and bird watching activities or Gomantong Caves, as a unique experience to see the birds' nest harvesting.

Spending three to four days here would allow you to experience going on a Kinabatangan River cruise to see wildlife such as the Orangutans, Sun Bears and even the unique large-nosed Proboscis Monkeys.

Heritage Buildings in George Town, Penang
Heritage Buildings in George Town, Penang
3. Geroge Town, Penang

Most tourists or travelers would already know George Town in Penang as a must-visit destination of Malaysia.

Also because of the assistance of Lonely Planet, Trip Advisor and many other leading travel websites for the highly recommended food and historical qualities that Penang has to offer.

Known commonly as the Pearl of the Orient, George Town offers a myriad of experiences for the would-be tourist with one of the countries' best local hawker food selections.

Also, a UNESCO World Heritage City, walking or cycling around exploring the pre-war buildings are one of the highlights here.

The beauty of this old place is walking through the lanes and streets seeing how life goes about from the locals. The popular Street Art is also featured in various places around George Town too.

I would personally recommend you explore the local food scene around George Town and avoid commercial spots like Gurney Drive.

For foodies, nothing beats exploring the hawker food in Penang by visiting the many local coffee shops and food centers around the city.

Last but not least, I did an article in early 2014 called free things to do in Penang for those on a budget.

Kuching 2015
Sunset in Kuching, Sarawak
2. Kuching, Sarawak

The least recommended place in Malaysia, Kuching, is actually the gateway into the rainforest of the Bornean jungles.

For anyone looking for a modern city-like experience, this is not your place. Kuching city is catered for explorers and adventurers who appreciate the real tourism in general.

The city holds some exciting museums and bazaars that are rich with cultural heritage and souvenirs.

Food tourism is high on the list here as a majority of the local authentic Sarawakian food can be found in and around the main city of Kuching.

Temples and old colonial-inspired streets are a must walk experience in the older part of town. Here is some additional information from my earlier article on what to do in Kuching, Sarawak.

Kota Kinabalu 2015
Amazing sunset in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah
1. Kota Kinabalu, Sabah

The 'Bali of Southeast Asia' as some call this place, Kota Kinabalu has always impressed many travelers due to the unique selection of tourism genres available in the city and its outskirts.

From culture, heritage, islands, beaches, mountains, wildlife and rivers, you can find all of these in one city area.

Kota Kinabalu or KK as everyone calls this place is also the main gateway to some of the best mountain climbing in the region with Mount Kinabalu as the highest mountain in Southeast Asia.

Beautiful islands with crystal clear waters and white sand beaches are a mere 10 minutes by boat from the main jetty in KK town.

Here, you can try the world's longest zip line from island to island, do some snorkeling and even sea walking.

Scuba diving is also available at the islands while there are a number of world-class resorts found here too.

There are also a couple of cultural villages to visit for a better understanding of the Sabahan people while a nostalgic railroad trip on board an actual steam train from the 50s is one of the highlights here.

For the nature lover, there are even wildlife parks such as Lok Kawi and river cruises at Klias River to see wildlife which are all in a day trip.

For more information, you can also read my earlier articles on Things to do in Kota Kinabalu or also check out some of the popular places in Kota Kinabalu.

Gaya Street Market in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah
Gaya Street Market in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah

Before making a booking for accommodations and transport to any of these destinations in Malaysia, we recommend looking at Saleduck Malaysia as they offer some interesting discount codes for Expedia, Hotels.com, Busonlineticket, Redbus, and Agoda which would help you get some good deals.

There you have it, a list of the Top 10 places to visit in Malaysia compiled solely by me as I have personally been to all these places, some of them multiple times in the last year alone.

Most of my work involves product updates and also exploring the off-the-beaten-parts of these places.