Essential Malaysia & Singapore
- 2 Weeks
This itinerary cherry picks the best of the two countries with a focus on urban adventures but also with the chance to experience the region’s amazing biodiversity.
Spend your first three days in Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur (KL) where you can explore cultural diversity in Chinatown, marvel at the soaring steel-clad Petronas Towers and discover the treasures of the Islamic Arts Museum.
Next head inland to Taman Negara. Even on a two-day visit to this magnificent national park you can clamber across the canopy walkway and do some short jungle hikes. Return to KL and hop on a flight to Penang where three days will give you a good taste of the heritage districts of George Town and other island highlights such as Kek Lok Si Temple.
Historic Melaka, another Unesco World Heritage Site, deserves a couple of nights but visit midweek to avoid the crowds. Then head across the causeway to Singapore where you can spend your final four days enjoying everything from maxing out your credit card at glitzy shopping malls and sampling delicious hawker food to visiting the eye-boggling space age architecture of Marina Bay and the excellent zoo and night safari.
- 3 Weeks
The southern end of Peninsular Malaysia is no slouch in offering up a diverse range of travel experiences, plus there’s easy access to and from Singapore, the logical start and finish to this trip.
Leave yourself several days to soak up the island state of Singapore's manifold attractions. If you’re strapped for cash then Johor Bahru just across the causeway is a cheaper base. It’s a decent hangout, not least for street food and nearby Legoland.
The lethargic riverside town of Muar has a colonial-era district that’s worth a look, and can be used as a base for assaults on Gunung Ledang, Johor’s highest mountain, located within the Gunung Ledang National Park. Recover in Unesco World Heritage Site–listed Melaka where you can spend several days enjoying the enduring Portuguese and Dutch influence.
Explore the last remaining stands of lowland forest on the peninsula in Endau-Rompin National Park. Stunning Pulau Tioman is the epitome of an island paradise. Alternatively, indulge in some island-hopping and diving around the 64 gems of the Seribuat Archipelago.
The Grand Tour
- 6 Weeks
Starting on the Peninsula and finishing in the wilds of Borneo, this itinerary includes classic sights, some off-the-beaten-track gems and time to relax and take it all in.
Schedule a week in Kuala Lumpur and surrounds for sightseeing and acclimatisation. Day trips could include Batu Caves and Putrajaya, a showcase of modern Malaysian architecture. The sleepy old royal capital of Kuala Selangor, near to which you can observe the dazzling natural display of fireflies, is also only a couple of hours' drive from KL.
After a pit stop in Ipoh, which has some great colonial-era architecture and places to eat, your second week is spent in the cooler climate of the Cameron Highlands where you can take walks past verdant tea plantations. Return to the coast and hop across to Pulau Pangkor.
The urban delights of George Town, on Penang are up next; the city’s Unesco World Heritage district is packed with colourful, fascinating sights. This large island is also Malaysia’s number one food destination. A quick flight away are the resorts, gorgeous beaches and jungle hinterlands of Pulau Langkawi.
Into week four and it’s time to cross the mountainous spine of the peninsula to Kota Bharu, a great place to encounter traditional Malay culture. Island- and beach-hop down the east coast, pausing at Pulau Perhentian, Cherating and Pulau Tioman. Kenong Rimba State Park offers jungle adventures without the crowds.
Singapore can easily swallow up a week of shopping, museum viewing and world-class eating. From here you can fly to Kuching in Sarawak, a good base for a longhouse excursion or for arranging a trek in Gunung Mulu National Park. Rack up the visa stamps by taking the overland and river route from Sarawak to Sabah via Brunei stopping in the capital Bandar Seri Begawan.
Having made it to Kota Kinabalu, relax for a few days dipping into the art scene of Sabah’s capital or heading to the nearby islands of the Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park. Your final challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to climb Mt Kinabalu. Alternatively, it’s difficult to resist the chance to eyeball close up the supercute ginger apes at Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre.
- 4 Weeks
On this grand tour of Borneo tackle the island’s top five treks and enjoy some world-class diving and snorkelling plus encounters with endangered wildlife.
From Kuching explore the local longhouses and Bako National Park. Fly to Miri, which is the base for trips to the impressive Niah National Park; Gunung Mulu National Park for more caves, the heart-pumping trek to the Pinnacles and along the Headhunters Trail; and Bario, in the vine-draped Kelabit Highlands.
Chill out in Kota Kinabalu before setting your sights on Mt Kinabalu. Catch some ape love at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, followed by a layover in historic Sandakan. The mighty Sungai Kinabatangan offers wildlife enthusiasts plenty of photo fodder. If you’ve got the time (and the dime), head deep into Sabah’s green interior for a trek through the Danum Valley Conservation Area. The magnificent dive sites of the Semporna Archipelago accessed from Semporna provide an ideal climax.