Cameron Highlands Travel Guide
In a nutshell
Nuzzling the borders of Pahang and Perak provinces, the tranquil, green surrounds of the Cameron Highlands, make this destination the idyllic spot to get away from the hustle and bustle usually associated with cities in Malaysia.
Why go to Cameron Highlands
The refreshing and fragrant air, the open expanse of rolling tea plantations and the environmentally aware trekking in the Cameron Highlands is one of the many reasons to visit this green oasis in the clouds. The trekking trails combined with the cool temperatures and spectacular scenery make the Cameron Highlands a must-visit destination for all nature lovers and hikers. Don your hiking boots, pack a few snacks and prepare to discover unexplored forests, majestic waterfalls and fascinating temples in this trekking wonderland. It is also possible to spot the Rafflesia, the largest flower in the entire world, during your stay in the highlands.
Aside from the beautiful hiking trails and scenic walks through the villages, travellers can also pay visits to delightful strawberry, rose, honey bee and butterfly farms. Outings to these serene farms are pleasant and relaxing ways to spend the day after a morning of strenuous hiking. It also goes without saying that no visit to the highlands is complete without a visit to the tea plantations. The tea plantations offer visitors enlightening information on all things tea related, provide travelers with excellent and memorable souvenirs to take home, and all photography enthusiasts are sure to be gratified with the undulating, luscious landscape and picturesque rows of green tea leaves.
When to go to Cameron Highlands
Fortunately for those wanting to plan a trip to the Cameron Highlands, the temperature is comfortable throughout the year making it a year round destination. Rain is frequent throughout the year, however, travellers might want to take note that the monsoon season runs from November to February.
Where to stay in Cameron Highlands
Being so centrally located, the Cameron Highlands is a definite hotspot destination as it is the perfect jumping off point to various other tourist spots in Malaysia. Being a popular spot for backpackers as well as those with generous budgets, has fortunately resulted in a wide range of accommodation options catering for all wallet sizes and travel tastes.
There is no shortage of lodging options in the highlands and there is a plentiful selection of inns, hotels, guest houses, bungalows and even entire apartments to rent during your stay. For those traveling in large groups or with families, private bungalows and apartments offer privacy, intimacy and good value for money.
For those wanting more affordable options, there are welcoming and cosy country inns and lodges as well as inexpensive guest houses and budget-friendly hotels. With the stunning panoramic views of the rippling tea plantation hills, it’s the perfect spot to visit to relax and recharge one’s batteries. Making this experience even more appealing for travellers who are looking for just that, is the accommodation options of a luxury spa resort.
Where to eat in Cameron Highlands
Trekking through the hills and valleys and breathing in lungfuls of clean, fresh air always works up an appetite and here in the Cameron Highlands, tasty, satisfying food and scrumptious aromas compete against the views for the attention of travellers.
With an abundance of restaurants and eateries there is an assortment of eating options no matter what your budget. Food varieties are largely made up of Chinese, Indian and Malay dishes; with Western, Thai and Japanese options too. Grilled corn slathered in margarine and salt, fresh salads and spicy curries are popular meals on offer with English breakfast and afternoon tea and cake being offered at competitive prices. A must-try meal when visiting the Cameron Highlands is undoubtedly the well-known DIY ‘steamboat’. Perfect for the cool weather, the steamboat is a piping, hot soup where diners cook their own vegetables and meat and dip it into the steaming broth.
How to get around Cameron Highlands
The Cameron Highlands consists of eight different neighbourhoods, three of which are townships and five of which are settlements. All eight are pretty far apart from one another, with the most popular towns being Tanah Rata and Brinchang and are around 4km from one another.
Getting around the various neighbourhoods is best done on foot as public buses are almost non-existent and very unreliable. Flagging down a taxi is only really possible in Tanah Rata and Brinchang and is best organised via one’s accommodation.
While the roads in the Cameron Highlands are mostly decent, renting a car is also tricky and risky unless organised from a reputable company located in the main cities such as Penang or Kuala Lumpur. Renting a motorbike is an excellent option for those travellers who want convenient and independent travelling around the highlands. Local tours are also readily available for those who want to visit all the hotspots without the hassle, cost and risk of renting private transport.
How to get to and from Cameron Highlands
While the highlands used to be situated in a largely remote and inaccessible area on the Titiwangsa Range, the road from Simpang Pulai to Kampung Raja was opened in the mid 2000’s making access to the highlands far easier.
There are four ways of getting to the Cameron Highlands; from the south via Tapah Road in Pahang, via the road in the highlands of Ipoh via Simpang Pulairoad in Perak, the main road on the east coast via Gua Musang in Kelantan and Bentong (Raub) via the new road in Pahang. Entering the highlands is only possible via road using a car, taxi, bus/coach or train.
Self-driving, although tricky with the winding roads, is a great option for those who have a reliable car and a valid license as it allows for independent travel and freedom to explore the sights along the way should you wish. From the North-South Expressway, exit at Tapah and continue through route 59 which will take you straight to the highlands in about an hour and a half. Another route which has considerably superior roads than the roads on route 59 is via route 145 which you can get onto after existing the expressway at Simpang Pulai in Ipoh. It’ll take you around an hour to reach the first town, Kampung Raja in the Cameron Highlands.
However, for backpackers or for those who don’t drive, getting into the Cameron Highlands is best done via a bus or a minivan. Buses will take travellers directly to the Tanah Rata bus station which is the centre of the action in the highlands with plenty of hotels, restaurants and bars. For travellers who are wanting to go on to Brinchang, it is less than 4km away and walking there, even with a backpack is very manageable from the Tanah Rata bus station.
If entering via the west from Ipoh, travellers can catch the Perak Transit bus from Ipoh’s Amanajaya bus terminal which runs frequently from 8am until 7:30pm and is only ten minutes away from Ipoh city centre. Tickets are a reasonable MYR20.00. A plusher option is Unity Express (MYR40). The trip takes about two and a half hours. Word of caution for travellers who suffer from motion sickness – while the winding roads offer breath-taking mountainous scenery, they are also nausea-inducing and bringing along a plastic bag and motion sickness medication is advised.
Entering the highlands from Kuala Lumpur is also possible with Unititi Express, Kurnia Bistari, GT Express and CS Travel. Unititi Express, Kurnia Bistari are the longest serving buses to the Cameron Highlands with tickets costing between MYR 28 and MYR 60, with GT Express and CS Travel being relatively new companies with tickets costing roughly MYR 35. The length of the journey is about four hours and all four express buses depart from the TBS (Terminal Bersepadu Selatan) and arrive at Tanah Rata bus station in the highlands. TBS is a 15-minute drive from Chinatown but with the notoriously long queues, arriving early is advisable. Tickets for all four bus companies can be purchased online or bought upon arrival at the bus station.
Getting into the highlands via Singapore is also an option on a VIP overnight buses with StarMart Travel departing from the Golden Mile Tower. The journey takes around ten hours and stopping points are Ringlet, Tanah Rata, Brinchang Hotel, and Copthorne Hotel.
Is Cameron Highlands a safe place to visit?
Fortunately the Cameron Highlands is a relatively safe destination to travel to and explore provided one isn’t reckless and remains somewhat careful. Travellers can expect a laid-back and peaceful community with plenty of modern-day amenities. Visitors should be mindful that the journey to the highlands during the rainy season is not recommended as the road is prone to landslides which can make travelling all the more dangerous.