Things to do in the Cameron Highlands and Hiking Guide
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Malaysia’s a country that has a lot to offer tourists. Beaches, cities, food… the only problem I’ve ever had with Malaysia is just that it’s so bladdy hot all the time. It’s just above the equator (which crosses somewhere in Central Sumatra) so it’s humid, tropical, and just generally warm.
After a scorching couple of days in Melaka, and a stressful event in Kuala Lumpur where my laptop almost gave up on me, I was ready to go and find some cooler climes and try to de-stress in nature a tad.
So the Cameron Highlands were calling my name.
What is the Cameron Highlands?
The Cameron Highlands are a hilly area (they aren’t quite mountainous) that are used to grow various goods that don’t do so well at tropical sea level; most notably tea and strawberries. Their very British name is because of a certain Brit named William Cameron, who was surveying the land.
During British colonial days, Brits who were struggling with the heat (know the feeling) in the lowlands used to come up to the Cameron Highlands for a bit of respite. So basically, us Brits have been pansies about the weather for centuries.
After various wars, the area was developed as both farmland and a resort, with the idea that various tourists who couldn’t cope with Malaysia’s heat will make the journey up to one of its largest hilly areas for evermore.
It’s also really beautiful and hiking here is definitely a unique experience in Malaysia.
How to get to the Cameron Highlands
The Cameron Highlands are not reachable by rail; so most tourists take the bus. You’ll want to take a bus to Tanah Rata Bus Station – from Kuala Lumpur this leaves from the KLCC Station. You can book tickets there (best to book them the day before) or online here.
You can also travel to the Cameron Highlands from Butterworth/ Penang. If you want to go from Langkawi, you’ll need to change in Butterworth. They’ll help you with this all at the bus station.
If you have access to a car or bike in Malaysia, you could drive up there – make sure you have the legal international license – but do be wary that the road is rather windy. You are going into the highlands, after all 😉
Hitchhiking is more popular in Malaysia than other South East Asian countries, it’s widely considered safe within the Cameron Highlands area, although my hostel owner said she wouldn’t recommend doing it in Kuala Lumpur.
Things to do in the Cameron Highlands
Hike the Tea Fields
The Cameron Highlands are famous for tea; and there are many hiking paths traversing through the tea fields. If you download the application maps.me, the hiking trails are all shown on the app.
Trails take from 2-6 hours, and are generally safe for solo hikers (of course, take normal precautions, but I hiked alone and felt very safe). It can rain and be muddy, so don’t wear clothes that you want to keep clean – I was covered in mud by the time I’d completed my Cameron Highlands hike!
Hike to Waterfalls
The Cameron Highlands is an area with lots of natural beauty – various waterfalls are amongst all of the tea plantations. Most famous are the Robinson Falls, which are a 20 minute hike from Tanah Rata. Again, trails are available on maps.me.
Hike the Mossy Forest
Sitting around of Gunung Brinchang, the Mossy Forest spans 900 hectares. It’s a very atmospheric place, with the cool weather and ample amount of trees giving it a rather eerie atmosphere, unlike anywhere else in Malaysia. It’s a great place for trekking, with plenty of hikes traversing the area, as well as a boardwalk through one of the mossiest parts!
Visit a Strawberry Plantation
Because of its altitude, the Cameron Highlands is the best place in the country to sample some fresh, delicious strawberries. Most popular is the Big Red Strawberry Plantation, also known as Taman Agro Tourism, where you can pick your own and have plenty of strawberry-themed desserts and snacks!
Tour a Tea Plantation
As you might expect, there are plenty of tea plantations to explore in the Cameron Highlands. The most famous of these is probably BOH’s Tea Centre – which is one of the leading tea plantations in the country. There’s beautiful scenery and a cafe with panoramic views, and it’s free to enter the plantation. You’ll need your own transport to get up there – or you might be able to share a ride with friends or pay a motorbike driver to take you up the hill. Be aware that, if you do self-drive up there, the road is a tad treacherous.
Drive Up A Mountain
Gunung Brinchang isn’t the highest mountain in the Cameron Highlands, but it’s certainly the most accessible. You can drive all the way to the top on Malaysia’s highest tarmac road. While the peak is often shrouded in fog and mist, you can get a panoramic view of the lower-lying towns and villages, as well as the landscapes that make up the Cameron Highlands.
Rent out a Scooter and Explore
One of the best ways to see the Cameron Highlands attractions listed in this post is with your own two wheels. I’m going to be honest, I’ve never drove a scooter and I still feel quite scared about the prospect – but if you have experience and want to see the Cameron Highlands at your own pace, it’s a fantastic way to really take in the area’s outstanding scenery. You can rent scooters from Rata Tanah town.
Malaysia is a great country to travel to on a budget, and one of the best ways to enjoy this country in a budget-friendly way is by hitchhiking. I didn’t actually do this in the Cameron Highlands, but it’s widely regarded to be very safe and a viable way of getting around.
If you’re lucky like my friends, you might even make some new pals and end up hanging around with them after!
Have a drink in the Jim Thompson tea room
One of the best things to do in Bangkok is to see the Jim Thompson house – he was an American man who revived the Thai silk industry. He mysteriously went on holiday in the Cameron Highlands one year… and mysteriously went missing.
Nobody’s sure why – as I mentioned the Cameron Highlands are a very safe place – but they’ve established a tea room here in memory of him anyway. S0 have a cuppa and ponder over one of Malaysia’s greatest mysteries while you do it.
See a Tudor mansion
Ok, so it’s not quite the same level of the many castles near London and elsewhere in the UK, but The Lakehouse in the Cameron Highlands is a mock-Tudor country house that will make you feel like you’re back in the Elizabethan countryside. It functions as a hotel, restaurant and bar, so you can either stay there, or just enjoy a high tea and cooler weather and pretend you’re 10,000 kilometres north-west for an hour or so.
Take a guided tour
Apart from the hikes that leave from Tanah Rata, many things to do in the Cameron Highlands are rather spread out. If you don’t have your own wheels and don’t want to try hitchiking, another option is to take part in a guided tour.
The tours include attractions like:
- Visiting the strawberry plantations
- Hiking in the mossy forest
- Swimming in a refreshing waterfall
You can click here to see a tour from the Cameron Highlands or, if you want to do a Cameron Highlands day trip from Kuala Lumpur, here’s a great tour option that accommodates your needs.
Where to eat in the Cameron Highlands
There are a few eateries lining the streets of Tanah Rata, ranging from local Indian restaurants to Starbucks. I ate at the rather boujie Mossy Forest Cafe a couple of times, which had a decent veggie burger, and other than that just ate Indian food (which is basically my diet whenever I’m in Malaysia and I have no complaints). There are places to get local food as well. I don’t really have any specific recommendations, but there’s plenty to enjoy in Tanah Rata!
Where to go from the Cameron Highlands
I headed straight to Langkawi, because I’ve already been to Penang (and will be returning for Christmas!). But if you’re heading north I would definitely recommend heading to Penang after – which is generally the next stop on the standard Malaysia itinerary. THEN head to Langkawi and check out my list of what to do in Langkawi.
If you’re southbound, Kuala Lumpur is the most obvious stop – here’s a 2 day itinerary for Kuala Lumpur – and then you might want to think about Melaka and eventually Singapore. When you make it there, you can check out my 2 days in Singapore itinerary and guide to travelling Singapore on a budget.