Malaysia is an amazing, unique country that is a melting pot of different scenery and cultures. All Southeast Asia travelers should consider adding this two weeks in Malaysia to their itinerary! Malaysia has influences from the majority Muslim Malays, as well as Indian Hindus, and Chinese Buddhists. Everyone is living in harmony, and the people here are really some of the friendliest that I’ve encountered on my travels.
Malaysia is considered to be one of the most developed countries in Southeast Asia. You’ll feel this especially in Kuala Lumpur, but also by the general cleanliness of the streets and public transit (and the higher prices for goods).
Malaysia also has consistently amazing food – from a little lady’s one-woman shop on the side of the street in Langkawi to the Indian samosas in KL, I was always looking forward to my next meal here.
Two Weeks in Malaysia Itinerary
Every step on this two weeks in Malaysia itinerary is well connected along the west coast of the country. Because Kuala Lumpur is the hub where most people will fly into, I will start the itinerary here. When I visited Malaysia in November/December 2017, I did basically this exact two weeks in Malaysia itinerary but backwards, starting in Georgetown, going up to Langkawi, then coming back down.
Admittedly, I took my sweet time when crossing the country, which this two weeks in Malaysia itinerary reflects. The time I’ve allotted for each city may be more than what you need, especially on a tight schedule. However, it will give you enough time to get to know each location well!
Kuala Lumpur - 3 Days
What a city. Kuala Lumpur, or KL, embodies everything I love about Southeast Asia.
The high-rises are beautiful and modern, the shopping malls are outrageously huge (I was there right before Christmas and the outrageousness was next level, especially for a Muslim country!) The public transit I found to be more efficient than the London Underground, and of course the food is amazing.
Things To Do in Kuala Lumpur:
- Visit the the Batu Caves, accessible from KL by public transit. There are also many cheap half-day tours available. Since I visited, the Batu Caves have been re-modeled and the steps have been painted like a rainbow! Don’t forget to cover your legs and shoulders before entry (for women). If you’re showing skin, you can pay to rent a sarong at the entrance.
- Visit the Petronas Towers, which were once the tallest buildings in the world. Purchase tickets online to skip the line, or just admire them from the park below.
- Watch the Petronas Towers fountain dynamic light show in the evening. Visit the myriad of malls surrounding the area where you can stock up on new goods too.
Where To Eat in Kuala Lumpur:
There are two great local street food streets, Jalan Alor and Petaling Street. Take a tour to navigate the street food, or discover it on your own!
- Jalan Alor is incredibly lively with rows of vendors grilling, blending, boiling different foods right in front of your eyes. There are also full-service restaurants with plastic tables and chairs spilling out into the streets.
- Petaling Street has many clothing, shoes, and jewelry vendors as well as large Chinese-influence food courts where you can pick buffet-style what you want to eat.
Petaling Street goodies! After you fill your plate, you pay whatever the old lady tells you to pay
Where To Stay in Kuala Lumpur:
I recommend staying at least one night in the Regalia Suites buildings, which has an infinity pool on the 37th floor with amazing KL views. There are several room rentals and hostels that run their business from individual apartments.
The views over KL during the day as well as at at night (pool stays open until 10 pm!) are incredible.
There’s also a laundry facility and gym on-site. Down the street is a mall with a big grocery store and food court, connected to the KL subway line. Five minutes away is a station for the overland train that takes you directly to the Batu Caves.
Closer to town I recommend the Travel Hub Highstreet hostel, which is close to Pasar Seni Metro station station and Petaling Street.
Cameron Highlands - 3 Days
A stark difference from busy KL is the quiet tea plantations of the Cameron Highlands. Situated up in the hills a little away from the coast, this is a great place to be in nature for a couple of days and get your body moving on some hikes!
Cameron Highlands is the name of the region, Tanah Rata is the town that everyone stays in.
Things To Do in the Cameron Highlands:
Travelers with a time constraint will spend two nights and one full day here, or even just take a day trip tour from Kuala Lumpur.
Those who stay overnight take a half-day tour of the tea plantations (sometimes they take you to a bee farm, a strawberry farm, and/or a butterfly farm?) then do a half-day trek close to town.
The cost of the half-day trek is a standard 50-Ringgit (~$12 USD), book in Tanah Rata!
It’s worth renting a scooter and exploring the tea plantations yourself for one day, then doing some treks on the other days. When I was there, I hiked Trail 1 (there’s a legendary man who hangs out at the top of the hill here, who plays his guitar and catches butterflies), Trails 3 and 4 on one day, and Trails 6 and 8. Three days trekking in total!
One of Malaysia’s claims to fame is Boh Tea. You can visit their tea plantation here and see the workers looking after the tea leaf bushes. Later, visit their little cafe for a treat and try Boh’s different flavored teas!
Where To Stay in the Cameron Highlands:
I stayed at Map Travelodge, which I loved. Most backpackers coming through town will stay here so it’s so easy to meet people in their common room. The workers let us bring our own beers in (keep an eye out for 13%, 15%, and 19% alcohol beer!) which led to some great nights and tough mornings.
Ipoh - 1 Day
Many people skip Ipoh, located at the foot of the Cameron Highlands, but I really liked its charm. There are some famous works of street art here, made by Ernest Zacharevic, the same artist who painted his most famous murals in Georgetown. Ipoh seems to be a popular place among Chinese tourists, but has yet to be frequented by Western backpackers.
Things To Do in Ipoh:
During the day there are many alleyways that are filled with boutique shops, or that sell local snacks and handicrafts. The night market was big but nothing to write home about, mostly because they sold shoes, clothes, electronics, etc for locals instead of street food like I was hoping for.
Where To Eat in Ipoh:
My favorite stop was Big Bowl Ramen. You can see the picture of a two-person bowl above, but they make even larger ones too!
Where To Stay in Ipoh:
I stayed at Mari Hostel, which I recommend for a backpacker vibe. It was a bit far of a walk from the bus stations, but other attractions and a big shopping mall with grocery store is close by.
Georgetown - 4 Days
I fell in love with Georgetown, Penang the moment I arrived. I spent over a week here, and it’s a must-visit city during two weeks in Malaysia! It’s another busy city in some ways but the old town area is so beautiful. There’s a large Portuguese architectural influence that the town is famous for, and you’ll see it in the colorful townhouses that line the streets.
Georgetown is also famous for its “Clan Jetties”, where Chinese families have built their shops and homes on stilts over the water
Things To Do in Georgetown:
Spend one day going to the Nine Emperor’s Temple in nearby Butterworth, and one to the Kek Lok Si Temple that’s built into the side of a mountain outside of Georgetown.
When I think back on the most impressive temples I saw in Asia, the Nine Emperor’s Temple in Butterworth is definitely in the top three. It is insanely intricate, and no space on the building itself is left untouched by colorful paintings or carvings. There are several rooms within the temple that you can walk though, each one dedicated to different deity sculptures or murals.
Kek Lok Si temple and the complex around it is beautiful also, with an amazing view over Georgetown and Penang. There’s a massive Goddess of Peace statue under a pagoda that was still under construction when I visited. You can purchase colorful ribbons here, each one symbolizing a wish (for Strength, Courage, World Peace, etc) that you can tie to a wish-tree in the main prayer room.
The rest of your time in Georgetown, wander around the streets of town and absorb all the different cultures, sounds, and smells that you encounter. There’s Little India and a Chinatown to explore, as well as temples and mosques everywhere! Make sure to see Ernest Zacharevic’s murals as well, they’re fun to interact with and beautifully depict the life of the locals in Georgetown.
If you’re staying in Penang for longer, start checking out these 60 unmissable things in Penang!
Tip: Eat all the street food you can in Georgetown!
At night, go for a drink in Love Lane where all the bars are blasting music way too loudly onto the street right next to each other. The Tipsy Tiger Party Hostel does a different drinking event each night, followed by a pub crawl that anyone can join in on as well.
Where To Stay in Georgetown:
I stayed at Just Inn, which I recommend although it was hit or miss on whether it was social or not. It’s super close to a big mall and has a wonderful fruit stand nearby where you can buy bags of pre-cut fruit for 1 Ringgit (25 cents) each!
If you’re looking for more of a party-vibe, stay at the Tipsy Tiger. They have discounted drinks for their guests, and a party every night!
Langkawi - 3 Days
I have a confession: I stayed for two weeks on Langkawi!!
During two weeks in Malaysia, Langkawi is a great place to start or finish your journey.
Langkawi is covered in amazing waterfalls and beaches. The most popular is Cenang Beach (pronounced Che-nang), which is long, wide, and clean with many options for renting a lawn chair and an umbrella for 4 Ringgit ($1) for the whole day. The cherry on top: the whole island is duty-free, meaning no taxes on alcohol unlike the heavy taxes in the rest of the country. What more could you want from paradise?
Langkawi is a good place to end your time in Malaysia. It has a pretty big airport where you can fly on the cheap to other Southeast Asian destinations. It’s also a quick ferry ride back to Penang and Georgetown, where there’s an even larger airport. You can also take a ferry north to Thailand’s Koh Lipe, which is a tiny paradise of its own!
Things To Do In Langkawi:
- Visit the Langkawi Cable Car. The 55 Ringgit ($13.40) entrance fee will get you to the viewpoint, a entrance to a 3D art museum and a “6D” dinosaur themed ride. There are two viewpoints on the cable car ride that both have amazing views over the island on a clear day. You can even see nearby Koh Lipe and mainland Thailand!
- Pay 5 Ringgit ($1.20) more to walk to the Sky Bridge. The theme-park that you walk through to get to the cable car is a nice area for shopping and having a quick bite. The food court is small but the prices are very reasonable.
Read about more things to do in Langkawi here!
Things to do in Langkawi, continued
- Swim in the Seven Wells waterfalls. It’s near the Cable Car, and a great place to relax in the water after a short trek uphill. The water falls over smooth rocks that you can slide down. It overlooks a forested valley all the way to the ocean, but beware: monkeys come looking for food in your bags!
- Spend time just relaxing on the beach in Langkawi. Many restaurants and cafes line the shore that offer meals, drinks, and shisha. If you stay until the evening after sunset, things start to get lively with loud music and fire shows.
- Go on a mangrove boat tour to see a different side of Langkawi. You cruise around the backwaters to check out some marshes and wildlife there. A stark difference from the beachy coastline on the other side of the island!
Where To Stay in Langkawi:
The main tourist stretch of the island where most of the hostels are is called Pantai Cenang. During my two weeks here I hopped around a bit from hostel to hostel.
- At first I was at Vila Thai, which had the cheapest dorm accommodation I could find that was still walking distance to the beach. For the price it was alright, but it was a bit far from the beach.
- I recommend Soluna Guesthouse, which is a quaint building with an open-air common area on a large property. Also – kittens!!
- My friends stayed at Two Peace House, which has a backpacker’s ambiance and is close to the main road. Sometimes they show movies at their outdoor common area.
My Favorite Langkawi Accommodation:
I stayed the longest at Gecko Guesthouse, where I made so many new friends and to explore the rest of the island with! They have many resident cats that come up to you for cuddles, and every night they have happy hour beers in the common area.
Where To Eat in Langkawi:
This concludes two weeks in Malaysia! Any of the towns I included in the itinerary (except maybe Ipoh) you can stay at for much longer than I have listed. There’s so much to enjoy about Malaysia, it’s nice to take it slow from place to place.
Where to go if you have more than two weeks in Malaysia
If you have more time to spend than two weeks in Malaysia, I recommend two other places to visit. I took a detour to Taman Negara National Park after the Cameron Highlands, which had some great hiking and viewpoints. The 2-hour riverboat ride to get to the small town next to the park was a highlight for me.
It’s possible to take a tour from Kuala Lumpur to Taman Negara. Otherwise, stay the night at Wild Lodge, the only backpacker’s hostel in Kuala Tahan town. Watch out for the leeches in the park though, which were EVERYWHERE on the trails.
I also recommend going to Malacca, which is also day-trip distance from KL. It’s another town with a European influence and a great night market that happens every night on Jonker Street. If you’re headed overland to Singapore after Malaysia, Malacca is a logical step between KL and Singapore.