The northernmost major city in Malaysia is also one of its most devoutly Muslim and it is deeply grounded in traditional Malay heritage. Kota Bharu has all the energy of a mid-sized city with the compact feel and friendly vibe of a small town. There are excellent markets and ample opportunities to taste superb local cuisine. There is also a good spread of accommodation options from backpacker hostels to business hotels. This is a logical overnight stop between Thailand and the resort islands of neighbouring Terengganu: Pulau Perhentian and Pulau Redang.
Kota Bharu is the gateway for exploring the geography and culture of Kelantan. Many traditional Malay villages and colourful Thai Buddhist temples are within day-tripping distance, and local crafts, cuisine and culture can be found while strolling in the city itself. For exploring the interior, the enticing Jungle Railway passes by Kota Bharu's doorstep.