Cave temples, drowned forests, a town famous for bean sprouts – Perak's highlights are a motley group. This rugged swathe of Peninsular Malaysia is as rewarding for trekkers as gastronomes. Perak (literally 'silver', a nod to its tin-mining boom times) receives only a modest stream of international travellers, but to Malaysians, its attractions are totemic: white coffee, colonial-era architecture, limestone bluffs.
Nostalgia is rife in Ipoh and Taiping, Perak's largest and most rewarding towns. But Perak is most interesting beyond its population centers: surrounding Ipoh are temples posing dramatically on cliffs; west of Taiping is a mangrove reserve. Things get wetter and wilder at river-rafting centre Gopeng, and north in Royal Belum State Park, where pristine rainforest is interspersed with lagoons.
Perak is also a good starting point to explore the Cameron Highlands (technically in Pahang) and its breezy hill stations, where days are spent hiking and slathering cream onto scones.
These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Perak.
State ParkRoyal Belum State Park
This 1175-sq-km park within Belum-Temenggor Rainforest was gazetted in 2007 to protect a rich menagerie of tigers, tapirs, panthers and the Sumatran rhino – though the latter is now believed to be extinct in Malaysia. The spears of submerged trees poking above the waterline of the largely dam-flooded lake are an eerie sight. A permit and guide are needed to explore; hotels can help with both. Book a fortnight ahead to secure tours and a permit (RM20); you'll need a scan of your passport.
Historic BuildingKellie’s Castle
Steeped in tragic legend, this monument to British eccentricity stands marooned by the highway, 5km east of Batu Gajah. Known as Kellie’s Folly, the Gothic- and Moorish-style castle was commissioned by wealthy Scottish rubber-plantation owner William Kellie Smith, whose sudden death left it abandoned. It's now reasonably well restored, with a few rooms richly furnished in early 20th-century style. Take in views from the upper floors (note the secret passageway) and watch for ghosts, rumoured to haunt the corridors.
PlantationBoh Sungei Palas Tea Estate
If there's time for only one tea-themed experience in the highlands, make it this spectacularly situated plantation, with its own tea interpretation centre and a cafe stunningly cantilevered over endless emerald whorls of tea buses. A short film explains the estate's history and free 15-minute tours (every 15 minutes) demonstrate the tea-making process. Every imaginable flavour of tea is offered in the gift shop. Spare some time to dawdle on the paths leading through the plantation.
MuseumSultan Azlan Shah Gallery
This former royal palace, also known as Istana Kota and Istana Hulu, is a showy mash-up of Renaissance, neoclassical and Moorish styles. Completed in 1903 its marbled hallways now host exhibitions honouring the life of the 34th sultan of Perak, Sultan Azlan Shah (1928–2014): see his rotating cabinet of gem-crusted watches, sunglasses, items from his school days and a separate building sheltering his Rolls-Royces and other luxury vehicles.
CaveKek Look Tong
With a craggy cave mouth beneath a towering cliff, Kek Look Tong (1920) has the most impressive approach of all Ipoh's temples. Three Sages dominate the central cavern, while towards the back a cheerful Chinese Buddha of Future Happiness sits in the company of three bodhisattvas. Beyond the main chamber, the cave passage opens onto a lagoon and picturesque gardens, bookended by forested cliffs. It's 8km southeast of central Ipoh.
Developed in 1926 by Chinese Buddhists Chong Sen Yee and his wife, this temple (7km north of Ipoh) is popular for its mesmerising murals and panoramic views. The first staircase leads to a majestic seated Buddha (12m tall) in the main chamber. Some of the surrounding murals were painted as recently as the 1990s. Follow the staircase up and outside – after 450 steep steps you'll reach expansive views across Ipoh and its hilly beyond.
Nature ReserveMatang Mangrove Forest Reserve
Wooden boardwalks weave among the protruding, twisted tree roots of the Matang Mangrove Forest Reserve. The reserve is best known for its fireflies, which glow like fairy lights after sundown, but it's also spellbinding by day. Considered a standout example of environmental preservation in Malaysia, the forest brims with life, from otters, mud lobsters and fiddler crabs down below to macaques swinging between the branches. Travelling from Taiping, the entrance to the reserve is about 500m before Kuala Sepetang village.
With bands of Italian marble and enormous gold domes, Masjid Ubudiah is a contender for the title of Malaysia's prettiest mosque. Commissioned by Perak’s 28th sultan, Idris Shah, after his recovery from illness, Masjid Ubudiah – meaning 'mosque of self-surrender to Allah' – was masterminded by AB Hubback, the architect behind numerous colonial buildings in Perak. The mosque was completed in 1917, though the sultan didn't live to see it finished. Dress modestly.
CaveSam Poh Tong
First discovered by a monk in 1890, this cavern, 5km south of Ipoh, is now a riot of religious statuary and pagoda tiles. The entrance pavilion is grand enough (check out the ornamental garden with ceramic lions, miniature shrines and Buddha statues) but continue through the main chamber and you'll reach a breathtaking scarlet-tiered pavilion squeezed into a narrow rocky cleft.
Whether it’s a guided tour of a historic landmark, private tasting of local delicacies, or an off-road adventure — explore the best experiences in Perak.