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Where to go in Sarawak

Where to go in Sarawak

Sarawak has always been one of the unique destinations in Malaysia, and many have always asked this question of where to go in Sarawak. I have come up with this list of places to visit Sarawak Borneo for first-timers or regular visitors.

Before I continue, those who do not know, Sarawak is the largest state in Malaysia and located on the island of Borneo and in the South China Sea.

Sarawak is also known as The Land of the Hornbill and is neighbouring Sabah, Brunei, and Kalimantan. The only way to visit Sarawak is via flights from various airlines in the region.

Where to go in Sarawak?

Sarawak is so huge that it takes about 14 hours to drive from one end to the other, and many of their unique villages and towns are accessible via flights or logging roads.

Rich with culture and heritage, Sarawak boasts of Southeast Asia's most unique ethnic tribes and cultures.

The number one thing to do in Sarawak is no other than Eco-tourism, where there is an abundance of it available all over. 

Your starting city would also be Kuching, the capital of Sarawak or Miri, the resort city in the north, bordering Brunei.

Most international and domestic flights arrive at these two cities, and you can connect to certain smaller towns and villages using MAS Wings flights.

Travelling overland is also common here but consider the long hours and off-road conditions.

Visit Sibu Year 2017
Sibu Gateway in the city area
1. Sibu

As this year is Visit Sibu Year, much has been planned for this central city in Sarawak. Sibu operates as the main city that caters to the central region and has recently opened up to tourism.

However, Sibu is a very culturally rich place, and you need to move around and out of Sibu to see this beautiful part of Sarawak.

One of the must-visit places is no other than the traditional Melanau village by an undisturbed river and showcases the Melanau lifestyle.

Pasar Bear Sibu
Malaysia's largest market in Sibu, Sarawak
In Sibu city, the highlights are the Sibu Heritage Centre which works as a museum showcasing the overall culture and history of Sibu and the ethnic people from around here.

In the evenings, the Sibu Night Market in Market Square is an amazing gastronomical experience as you would encounter another side of Sarawak's fascinating food.

Sibu is also home to Malaysia's largest market, called the Sibu Central Market, where you can find over 1000 stalls selling local produce.

To go to Sibu - You can fly direct to Sibu with AirAsia or Malaysia Airlines or, you could also take a river ferry from Kuching that takes around two hours.

Moving around requires you to engage a tour guide, and we highly recommend Hou Kang from Greatown Travel, who specializes in Sibu tours.

Bario Highlands
Bario Highlands in Sarawak
2. Bario

For the best encounter with a cultural highland experience in Sarawak, Bario is hands down the place to visit.

Away from it all, Bario is located in the Kelabit Highlands and bordering Kalimantan is a natural Eco village that sits 1000 meters above sea level and is cooling throughout the year.

Most visitors that come to Bario seek Eco adventures like trekking, hiking, cycling, and generally enjoying things as they were 50 years ago.

Nothing much has changed here, hence making this destination ideal for those seeking purity and originality. Read my previous article, A Journey to the Bario Highlands in Sarawak, for more detailed information.

Stay at any of the homestays here as there are no hotels, only family-operated homestays, which is such an amazing experience. Nigmat Ayu is one of the recommended places to stay in Bario.

To go to Bario - The best way is to fly in via MAS Wings from Miri, and the flight takes about one hour with a Twin Otter 19 seat turboprop plane.

The flight is an overall experience, and you will land at one of the smallest airports in Malaysia. Moving around is on foot or hitching a ride from the locals.

Gua Niah
Niah Caves, out of Miri
3. Miri

Miri has always appealed to certain visitors over the years. Still, in the last five years, Miri has advanced quite a bit in tourism, especially being the gateway to Northern Sarawak.

Most visitors to Miri come from Brunei or Sabah, but since scuba diving became popular, there has been a surge of adventure tourists heading here. Read more about diving in Miri.

Miri's city also offers food tourism where you can sample some unique Kayan cuisine and various local hawker food in the old town area. Sites around Miri include temples, markets, hilltop views, and some stunning beaches.

Miri has a few interesting shopping malls like Bintang Megamall and the newly opened Permaisuri Imperial City Mall for shoppers.

A Miri Handicraft Centre just next to Bintang Megamall is your one-stop place for all the local ethnic cultures and souvenirs.

Miri Pullman Hotel
View of Miri City from the Miri Pullman Hotel
Miri is also home to the world-famous Borneo Jazz Festival, which is also the region's premier international jazz festival running for 12 solid years. The next Borneo Jazz takes place around May and at the ParkCity Everly Hotel.

For Ecotourism, Miri is also home to some of the popular national parks in Sarawak like the Niah National Park, Lambir Hills National Park and also the Loagan Bunut National Park, which is around an hour drive from the city.

To visit the parks, you need to engage the services of a tour company that provide driver and nature guides, and one of the recommended companies is Brighton Travel and Tours in Miri.

To go to Miri, you need to fly in from Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Kuching or Kota Kinabalu in Sabah. From Kuching, an overland journey will take you around 11 to 12 hours.

Mulu Marriott Resort
View of the Marriott Resort in Mulu, Sarawak (Image from Mulu Marriott)
4. Mulu National Park

One of the most beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Malaysia is no other than the Mulu National Park, where you can find the world-renown Mulu Caves.

For any outdoor or Eco lover, this is your number one place to visit in Sarawak due to this national park's overall uniqueness and surroundings.

Longboat travels, cave explorations, nature trekking and an abundance of flora and fauna are on top of your menu when you visit the Mulu National Park.

Stay at the Mulu Marriott Resort, a luxury retreat located in the middle of the rainforest. Alternatively, the Mulu National Park offers to lodge with longhouse dorms or even individual chalets. Outside the park, you can also find homestays and budget guesthouses or lodges.

The best possible way to go to Mulu is to fly in via Kuching, Miri or Kota Kinabalu in Sabah, as they have direct flights using a turboprop ATR72 plane.

Flights are one hour long and land at one of the smallest airports in Malaysia. You can also take a 7-hour long boat ride through the lush tropical rainforest for the hardcore explorer, passing remote villages and beautiful picturesque scenery.

Old Town Kuching
Kuching's Old Town area
5. Kuching

The capital of Sarawak and the most popular tourist destination, Kuching offers a laid back city lifestyle, culture, and food as the main things to do here.

Most visitors will arrive in Kuching and then head out to national parks, animal sanctuaries, and traditional ethnic longhouses or even the Sarawak Cultural Village.

One of the recommended places for culture lovers in Kuching is the Sarawak Museum, which is touted as one of the best museums in the world in terms of ethnicity and cultural history.

Mee Kolok
Kolo Mee Noodles in Kuching
A walking tour in Kuching city is highly recommended as you can explore the old town of Kuching, take a Sarawak River Cruise and also indulge in savouring the famous Sarawak food around here.

Eating in Kuching is one of the must-do things as the cat city offers you the famous Sarawak Laksa noodles, Sarawak Kolo Mee, Belachan Bee Hoon, the Sarawak Layer Cakes or Kek Lapis and many other local favourites.

Read about eating local food in Kuching, which was done by me a few years ago, as it shares some of the popular food in Kuching. For seafood in Kuching, visit this place called Top Spot.

Popular places out of Kuching are Kubah National Park, Semenggoh Orang Utan Centre, and Annah Rais Longhouse, which require you to use a tour company service.

In the city, try renting a bicycle to move around as they also have cycling tours in Kuching that take you to local villages.

Nightlife in Kuching is also spread out, and the best place in the city to experience this is around the Jalan Tabuan area, where you can find the trendiest bars, restaurants, clubs, and cafes. Carpenter Street is also another road where you can find some nightlife.

To go to Kuching, fly in via various airlines from around the region and once there, you can either engage a tour company for your tours or simply explore on foot around the city.

Taman Negara Bako
Sarawak Sea Stack at Bako National Park
6. Bako National Park

Two hours out of Kuching is the Bako National Park, probably the most visited national park in the south.

The uniqueness of this place is that it is home to the local bearded pig, proboscis monkeys, and many other birds and reptiles.

There are two options to visit here where you can either stay over at the park lodging or make a day trip.

The main highlight of Bako National Park is trekking and hiking, where there are many trails offered, from basic to advanced.

Any trekking activities require park rangers to follow along for a small fee. Some beaches are also found along a few of the treks.

Before departing the park, ask your boatman to bring you to the famous Sarawak Sea Stack and rock formations near the main entrance to the national park.

Bako National Park attracts all kinds of visitors, namely Eco lovers, trekkers and hikers, animal lovers, bird watchers, and even photographers.

The park is managed by the Sarawak Forestry Department and is very well maintained.

To go to Bako, usually, tour operators sell day trips or overnight trips here. Book your Bako tour from any of the tour operators in Kuching city.

Siniawan Night Market, photo by James & Sara of http://.karmacuzzies.wordpress.com
7. Siniawan Night Market

The hottest attraction for locals in the last couple of years is Siniawan Old Town in Bau, two hours from Kuching.

The charm of this 100 over year old town lies in that one main street with the original 48 wooden shophouses.

And at night, the Siniawan night market main street is closed, and dining tables line the streets with Chinese lanterns hung above, giving that traditional food street ambience which is really hard to come by nowadays.

Launched in 2010, Siniawan Night Market was popular with the locals, and after getting a lot of attention via social media, more tourists started coming here to experience this old charm.

The night market is in full swing on weekends only, and food is the main attraction here. Please note that this would be a great place to visit if you are into food and old towns.

Most tours bring you here just before sunset and then to have dinner. A must-try is the pitcher plant rice which is very unique and also the traditional local cakes.

To go to Siniawan, you can either self-drive here, take a taxi or engage a tour company. The Siniawan Night Market is open from 6.00 pm to 10.00 pm and only on weekends.

RWMF 2017
Rainforest World Music Festival
8. Attend the Rainforest World Music Festival

One of the world's most unique music festivals to attend is no other than the Rainforest World Music Festival, which occurs in July or August at the Sarawak Cultural Village in Santubong.

This three-day music festival showcases some of the best traditional and ethnic musicians from around the world, and among the highlights are the music workshops that take place in the day.

Known also as RWMF, the music festival's home is on the grounds of the Sarawak Cultural Village, which doubles as a living museum where various ethnic groups from Sarawak stay and operate each of their homes in the village.

The music festival sees around 20,000 visitors from all over the world attending and is listed as one of the Top 25 Music Festivals in the world to attend by Songlines for six years in a row.

If you love music festivals and unique cultures, the Rainforest World Music Festival is a must-attend, and you should book your flights, tickers, and accommodations as early as possible as they tend to sell out fast. You can choose to stay near the festival in Santubong or stay in Kuching city.

Going to Santubong, you can take the shuttle service, taxi, public bus, and the journey takes about one hour from Kuching City.

Bario Photography
View of the Bario Highlands in Sarawak

The list above is personally compiled by me - David Hogan Jr of Malaysia Asia. I have been travelling around Sarawak for many years, exploring new destinations and many places of interest.

The list also highlights places that are easily accessible for all kinds of tourists due to the proper infrastructure and facilities.

These destinations are also overseen by the Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) and the Ministry of Tourism Sarawak; therefore, if you need more information, you can visit the Sarawak Tourism Board website, where you can go in Sarawak.

If you have any comments or feedback, please leave them in the comment section below and have a great time travelling and exploring Sarawak, Borneo.

Post a Comment


Anonymous said…
Nice post, but some clarification:
1. River ferry takes only 2 hours from Kuching to sibu? I think it should be at least 5 hours
2. Bako is about the most 1 hour drive (and even less than 30 min from Kuching city centre) and boat ride of about 30 min. 2 hours sounds impossible, unless you count the waiting time.
Malaysia Asia said…
Hi there anon, thanks for clarifying some of the things here. You are right and I will change it, my mistake on the typo as it is around 4 hours.

For Bako, yes, 2 hours total for tourist. Van, stop at the jetty, transfer to the park.

Thank you again.