The Cameron Highlands, situated about 4 hours North of Kuala Lumpur, is a cool hidden gem. It’s not firmly planted on the backpacker trail, despite being in the ‘backpacker bible’ (the lonely planet – South East Asia on a shoestring).
It is, in my opinion such an underrated area. Although I had no plans to visit the highlands, I ended up there, and glad I did. It was one of my favourite places during my month in Malaysia. Here’s why ..
1. It’s cool! Literally! The Cameron Highlands is so between 1000-1600 metres above sea level. Average temperatures during the day rarely get above 25 degrees Celsius and at times they can drop to a chilly 10 degrees at night. So if you’ve been sweating your face off recently in other parts of South East Asia, get yourself to the highlands for a cool respite.
2. It has big flowers
You can get to see the largest flower in the World. The Rafflesia can be spotted in Malaysian Borneo, as well as in the highlands, and some parts of Indonesia. So if you aren’t visiting Borneo, but have time on Mainland Malaysia, get yourself here to spot this meat smelling large flower. Bare in mind though, that it is a tough 4 hour trek to get to see it.
3. It has Strawberries!
Ok so strawberries are fairly common in the Western World, not such a big deal right? I’ve done a fair bit of strawberry picking in the UK, and New Zealand. However, fresh strawberries are difficult to find in South East Asia. Apart from in the Cameron Highlands, were there are an abundance of strawberry farms, probably due to the cool climate. I visited the Big red strawberry farm, it was incredibly touristy, but the strawberries were amazing, as was the deep fried strawberry ice cream. You can pick them, but for a high price tag (for a budget backpacker).
4. It has Tea!
Whilst many people migrated to the highlands to start rubber plantations, the Russell family from Scotland migrated to open a black tea plantation in 1929. The BOH tea plantation is the largest established tea plantation in Malaysia, and one of the only places in Malaysia that grows tea. It is beautiful. Fields of green tea leaves are everywhere. A visit to the plantation is free, I learnt a lot about the tea making process that I didn’t know previously. Its open until 4pm, closed on Monday’s and public holidays. The tea is pretty good also, and they have yummy cakes and scones too.
5. It is a trekking wonderland!
The Cameron highlands is a great place if you enjoy tramping and trekking. There are many trails of varying degrees of length and difficulty. It is possible to trek these without a guide. However beware, the trails are not well marked or maintained at times. Also, avoid trail 9 and 9a, various robberies have been reported there, as were as attacks of solo female travellers. I did a few of the trails with a guy from London, I met in my hostel, and felt safe enough.
Where to stay in The Cameron Highlands
Tanah Rata is one of the main townships, and accommodation varies from high end hotels and resorts to guesthouses. I stayed in the dormitory wing of the Father’s Guesthouse. One of the best hostels I stayed in, in Malaysia.
Buses run every hour from Puduraya bus station in KL if you’re coming from the south. The cost is 35RM (US $11), and it takes 4 hours. There is no need to book in advance.
Buses also come from the North (Georgetown, Penang).
So if you’re looking for a chilled out vibe, with plenty to do, head to the highlands.