Malaysia is a melting pot of races including Malays, Indian, Chinese and other ethnic groups. Its diversity has helped to make the country a gastronomic paradise offering a huge range of experiences including Chinese-Malay fare, Indian curries, Malay food stalls and modern Asian cuisine. It is also home to a wealth of art, history and hundreds of colourful festivals representing its many different cultures. Malaysia is equally diverse geographically, divided into 13 states and three federal territories, separated by the South China Sea.
Peninsula Malaysia is swathed in dense tropical rainforest and ringed by white sandy beaches and tropical islands. Kuala Lumpur, the capital city and gateway, has a vibrant feel, with a wealth of history, culture and fantastic dining. Flowers stalls and traditional items can be found in Little India in the area around Masjid Jame, while the Klang district is home to the stately Sulaiman mosque. Chinatown, with its markets, shops and food stalls, is centred on Jalan Petaling, while modern KL can be seen around Bukit Binteng with towering office blocks, shopping malls and the iconic Petronas Twin Towers.
Pahang, the largest state in peninsular Malaysia, is home to its oldest national park, Taman Negara, and to the Cameron Highlands, Malaysia’s most extensive hill station. This is a legacy of the days when the British left the fierce heat of the cities for the cooler temperatures of the highlands, and is famed for picturesque tea plantations, jungle trails waterfalls and mountains. Melaka, also on the peninsula, is renowned for its history, culture and museums and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Scattered in the seas all around the coast of Malaysia are a myriad of islands – some large, some small, some with luxury resorts, some uninhabited – but all sitting in an amazing sea teeming with marine life and home to some of the best dive sites in the world.
Langkawi, off the north western coast of Peninsular Malaysia, is the perfect place to relax and enjoy miles of sandy beaches and clear blue water. Away from the beaches serene villages are interspersed with acres of rice paddy fields while the mountainous interior and lush vegetation is home to exotic plants and wildlife.
In Malaysian Borneo, Sarawak features numerous rivers connecting the inland forests to the main towns. The indigenous people who inhabit the forests live in traditional long house communities, some of which welcome visitors. It is also home to many national parks and wildlife reserves, with varied flora and fauna and beautiful waterfalls. Sabah contains Mount Kinabalu – one of the highest peaks in South-East Asia – which can be climbed given a lot of stamina and intensive preparation. It is also home also to the Sepilok Orangitan Sanctuary founded to rehabilitate orphan orangutans.
The weather in Malaysia is influenced by its equatorial climate, resulting in warm temperatures and high humidity throughout the year. Malaysia has two main monsoon seasons, which impact different regions:
West Coast (Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Langkawi):
Best Time to Travel: December to March
Weather: The west coast of Malaysia experiences its dry season from December to March, making it the best time to visit. During this period, the weather is generally sunny with minimal rainfall, providing ideal conditions for exploring cities like Kuala Lumpur and the beautiful beaches of Penang and Langkawi. However, it’s worth noting that Malaysia’s west coast can still experience occasional showers, even during the dry season.
Best Time to Travel: April to October
Weather: The east coast of Malaysia experiences its dry season from April to October, offering the best weather for beach vacations and water activities. The months of June to August are particularly popular for island getaways, with clear skies and calm seas. During the monsoon season from November to March, the east coast experiences heavy rainfall and rough seas, leading many resorts and businesses to close during this period.
The inter-monsoon periods from April to May and October to November are considered transitional seasons, with more unpredictable weather and occasional rain showers.
Inland regions of Malaysia, such as the Cameron Highlands and Taman Negara, experience a relatively consistent climate throughout the year, with cooler temperatures due to higher elevations. However, rain can still occur at any time, so it’s advisable to pack accordingly for these regions.