5 breathtaking Malaysian hilltop retreats

Although it may be tempting to escape to nearby Thailand, Cambodia, or Vietnam for a retreat, there are many gorgeous places to visit closer to home in Malaysia. Whether you’re looking for an easy day trip or somewhere to escape for a long weekend, these five stunning spots will give you more time to relax and explore without any of the hassles of traveling outside the country. From local markets to bird watching to hot springs, there’s something for everyone right here in Malaysia!

1. Fraser’s Hill, Pahang

The Smokehouse hotel and restaurant in Fraser's Hill is a favourite stop to relax – whether for a cup of tea and scones, or a night away. Photo: Jan, flickr.com/jhecking

The Smokehouse hotel and restaurant in Fraser’s Hill is a favourite stop to relax – whether for a cup of tea and scones, or a night away. Photo: Jan, flickr.com/jhecking

Located about two hours north of the Kuala Lumpur City Centre, Fraser’s Hill is a beautiful hill station nestled in the mountains of Pahang. Once a thriving location for tin ore excavation, this area is now prized by locals and visitors alike for its cooler year-round temperatures and a wide variety of outdoor attractions. Relax in one of the rooms at Ye Olde Smokehouse Hotel, enjoy a English-themed dinner at the restaurant, or admire the beauty of the surrounding mountains while you enjoy tea and scones at the daily afternoon tea. 

Nature and wildlife can be experienced in every direction during the drive up to Fraser's Hill and once you get to the top! Photo: Peter Groneman, flick.com/39463459@N08

Nature and wildlife can be experienced in every direction during the drive up to Fraser’s Hill and once you get to the top! Photo: Peter Groneman, flick.com/39463459@N08

For bird-lovers, you won't have to look too far for birds like this grey-chinned minivet and many other varieties. Photo: Jason Thompson, flickr.com/79492850@N00

For bird-lovers, you won’t have to look too far for birds like this grey-chinned minivet and many other varieties. Photo: Jason Thompson, flickr.com/79492850@N00

Down a narrow road from the Smokehouse Hotel is Jeriau Waterfall, a beautiful oasis that is well worth the drive. The waterfall has a picnic area and restrooms so you can make a full day of your time there. If you’re interested in hiking or bushwalking, Fraser’s Hill has trails to suit every fitness level. Hikers looking for an easy walk through the wood will enjoy the Hemmant Trail, Bishop Trail, and Mager Trail. For more advanced hikers, the challenging Pine Hill Trail winds 5.5 km through the forest to a scenic view from the top. 

There are many spectacular views from the top of Fraser's Hill. allowing travelers to take some time to stop and reflect on how big our world is. Photo: Jan, flickr.com/jhecking

There are many spectacular views from the top of Fraser’s Hill. allowing travelers to take some time to stop and reflect on how big our world is. Photo: Jan, flickr.com/jhecking

2. Cameron Highlands, Pahang

One of Malaysia’s largest hill stations, Cameron Highlands in Pahang offers an average temperature of 18 degrees, which makes it a welcome retreat from the heat elsewhere in the country. With a steady stream of visitors since the 1930s, Cameron Highlands has a wide variety of amenities and attractions. The Boh Tea Plantation, the country’s largest producer of black teas, is located in Cameron Highlands, and guests are invited to tour the company’s tea factory, Tea Centre and tea garden. 

Visit the tea gardens that line the hills of the Cameron Highlands. Photo: Phalinn Ooi, flickr.com/phalinn

Visit the tea gardens that line the hills of the Cameron Highlands. Photo: Phalinn Ooi, flickr.com/phalinn

Learn more about the area’s crops by visiting a few of the farms: Cameron Highlands is home to a bee farm, butterfly farms, a lavender garden, and strawberry farms. All are open seasonally for visitors. Golfers will be delighted to sharpen their skills at the 18-hole course located between Tanah Rata and Brinchang. Shop locally for produce at the Kea Farm Market, and plan to spend your Saturday evening at the Bringchang Night Market, where you can indulge in the many food options or search for a souvenir. A visit to the area is not complete with a stop at the Sam Poh Buddhist Temple, considered to be the country’s largest cave temple.

A visit to the strawberry farms is an absolute must while in Cameron Highlands. Take the opportunity to sample the produce fresh from the plants! Photo: Amrufm, flickr.com/amrufm

A visit to the strawberry farms is an absolute must while in Cameron Highlands. Take the opportunity to sample the produce fresh from the plants! Photo: Amrufm, flickr.com/amrufm

3. Penang Hill, Penang

Known for the stunning views of nearby George Town, Penang Hill, Penang, is well worth the train trip to the top. Take a smooth ride up the hill on a funicular train, which will drop you off only steps from the area’s attractions.

Catching the train is the easiest way up Penang Hill. Photo: Shankar S, flickr.com/shankaronline

Catching the funicular train is the easiest way up Penang Hill. Photo: Shankar S, flickr.com/shankaronline

There are also trails leading up the hill if you’re up to a hike. If you choose to hike the hill, make sure to stop at the Canopy Walk suspension bridge. Admire the beautiful birds and plants at the Bellevue Aviary and Ginger Garden at the Bellevue Hotel, or take a guided hill walk through a ten million year old tropical forest. Treat yourself to views and delicious fare at David Brown’s Restaurant or the Sky Terrace at the peak. 

Be captivated by the spectacular views one you reach the top of Penang Hill. Photo: Shankar S, flickr.com/shankaronline

Be captivated by the spectacular views one you reach the top of Penang Hill. Photo: Shankar S, flickr.com/shankaronline

4. Maxwell Hill, Perak

Smaller than the other hill stations mentioned – but no less interesting – Maxwell Hill in Perak is surrounded by dense tropical forest and rolling hills. Also known as Bukit Larut, the area can be a bit challenging to access, as a hike or a ride on a 4 wheel drive vehicle are the only ways to the pinnacle. If you choose to hike, note that the ascent is quite challenging. However, once you’ve arrived at the hill station, the panorama of Taiping Town and the surrounding area will make you glad that you committed to your journey. 

The view from the top of Maxwell Hill. Photo: Hanumann, flickr.com/40883475@N00

The view of Taiping Town from the top of Maxwell Hill. Photo: Hanumann, flickr.com/40883475@N00

The cool mountain air invites visitors to explore the natural beauty, as bird watching and hiking are the major reasons why visitors are drawn to the area. There is a small restaurant at the hill-station, but visitors often choose to pack a picnic lunch. 

5. Kundusang

Because of the nearby Mount Kinabalu National Park, Kundasang, Kota Kinabalu, has emerged as one of the area’s most popular towns. Experience life on a working farm in a picturesque settling at the Desa Cattle Dairy Farm. Learn how to feed the calves and see how the bottling process is completed before you try some of their homemade ice cream. 

Visit the docile milking cows at Desa Cattle Dairy Farm in Kundusang. Photo: Nadia Zee, nadiazee.wordpress.com

Relax in the sulpher rich waters of Poring Hot Springs after a long day sightseeing. The nearby Canopy Walk takes you up to 40 meters into the tree tops and allows you a new perspective on the surrounding forest. Also near the hot springs are two waterfalls: Kipungit Falls, a twenty minute hike, and Langganan Falls, which takes an hour to reach from the springs.

See the forest from the top with this bewildering yet beautiful canopy walk. Photo: Shankar S, flickr.com/shankaronline

See the forest from the top with this bewildering yet beautiful canopy walk. Photo: Shankar S, flickr.com/shankaronline

Learn more about the town’s involvement in World War II by visiting the Kundasang War Memorial, which commemorates the POWs who lost their lives between Sandakan and Ranau and the Sabahans who risked their lives trying to save them.· Today, Kundasang is primarily known for the fresh produce that it provides to the rest of the country, so make sure to try a few dishes made with local produce while you’re in town.