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Malaysia offers a strong argument against the truism that it's always better to take the road less traveled. The world's ninth most-visited country offers a stunning array of natural attractions and an authentic cultural experience that's hard to find in places that see far less tourist traffic. Over thousands of years, Malaysia's location at the intersection of key trade and migration routes have made it one of the world's true melting pots. Eclectic cultural influences have shaped the country's religious traditions, cuisines and economy into a unique, ever-changing tapestry.
From the modern office towers of Kuala Lumpur and the holy spaces of Thean Hou Temple to the broad beaches of Penang and the towering mountains of Kinabalu National Park, Malaysia surprises and delights even the most jaded visitors. Learn more about the unforgettable sights, sounds and tastes that you'll encounter on your Malaysian journey.
Kuala Lumpur: Malaysia's political capital also serves as the country's beating economic heart. This city, however, isn't merely an economic mirage in the jungle. It's a fast-growing metropolis with a rich cultural and religious history. Visit Thean Hou Temple, an important house of worship with roots in the Chinese colonial period. The nearby Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia and National Planetarium boast towering minarets that evoke the city's multitude of mosques. For a modern architectural treat, visitors can stand on the observation deck of the 450-meter Petronas Twin Towers and look out on the distant Straits of Malacca.
Kinabalu National Park: Located near the northern extreme of sparsely populated Malaysian Borneo, Kinabalu National Park harbors a 4,200-meter mountain range that's among the world's most topographically prominent. The slopes of Kinabalu and surrounding peaks harbor 6,000 species of plants, mammals and reptiles. The summit itself is an alpine enclave with a host of rare species and a stunning view of the lower peaks and dappled clouds below. Although climbers must be accompanied by a guide, Kinabalu's relatively gentle slope doesn't demand mountaineering equipment.
Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park: Not far from Kinabalu, the Tunku Abdul Rahman archipelago populates one of the country's most distinctive national parks. With ridges that reach nearly 400 meters and a breathtaking diversity of flora and fauna, they should be high on any botany enthusiast's list. For an unforgettable experience, hire a guide for an afternoon of scuba diving amid the multi-colored rocks and tropical fish that surround the islands.
George Town and Melaka: Malaysia's two UNESCO World Heritage Sites harbor artifacts from indigenous populations, Arab traders and the British East India Company. Step back to the British Empire's 19th-century heyday on the docks of George Town or discover the region's pre-colonial Islamic culture at the sprawling Palace of the Malay Sultanate in Melaka. Geometric artwork covers the buildings and plazas in Melaka, Malaysia's so-called "Historic State." Don't leave this area without sampling belacan, a unique shrimp paste made from local shellfish.
There's no limit to what intrepid travelers can accomplish in Malaysia. With hundreds of worthy destinations within its borders, Malaysia gives visitors the rare opportunity to craft a completely unique travel experience.
Best Time To Visit:
As a tropical country, Malaysia's climate is characterized by minimal temperature variation and distinct wet and dry seasons. On the eastern side of the country, monsoon season runs from November through March and creates unsafe rip currents that cause many of the region's beach resorts to close temporarily. On the western side of Malaysia, the two rainy seasons fall in mid-spring and mid-fall. Since these stretches feature copious amounts of rain on a daily basis, visitors may wish to avoid traveling to Malaysia altogether for their duration.
Malaysia's popular tourist destinations experience two distinct peak seasons: the December-January corridor and the Northern Hemisphere summer. Shorter but no less hectic stretches fall around the Malaysian holiday of Hari Raya Puasa in August and the Chinese New Year in February. Visitors who wish to avoid running into children should avoid traveling during the peak summer holiday season.