Emerald green tea plantations, juicy ripe strawberries, misty mountain tops, overgrown jungle trails, rolling hills and tiny villages – sound like your kind of place?
The Cameron Highlands of Malaysia were one of my favourite places we visited during 10 months in Southeast Asia. The high altitude and cool temperatures were a refreshing treat after the sweltering heat of the rest of Malaysia and I loved the lush greenery and laid back pace.
This is the kind of place that you can stay for a while, spending days hiking through the jungle, picking your own strawberries and drinking endless cups of tea.
Although this hill station is a popular holiday spot for Malaysians, it still isn’t on the main backpacker beaten track for travellers. If you are planning to head there on your Southeast Asia travels, here are some essentials you need to know.
How to Get There
You can get to the Cameron Highlands from Ipoh by bus from the Amanjaya bus terminal. The destination of the bus will be Tanah Rata, the main town of the area. If you are staying at one of the other towns, such as Kampong Raja or Brinchang, you can let the driver know to let you off there.
If you are in Kuala Lumpur you can reach Tanah Rata on a bus from Pudu Sentral Bus Station. There are also overnight buses from Singapore. You can find a detailed guide to the bus schedules here.
Top Things to Do
Although the Cameron Highlands are a nice place to just relax for a while, there are also plenty of great activities if you are looking for something to do. You can book a day tour through one of the agencies in Tanah Rata which can take you to many of these Cameron Highlands attractions in a day. Or, you could visit them independently and do them at your own pace.
This is one of the many strawberry farms in the Cameron Highlands and here you will be able to get a bucket and walk through row upon row of strawberries, picking as many as you like. We picked a huge bucket and kept them in our hotel room for snacks and breakfast – yum! The farm also has a cafe that serves plenty of yummy strawberry treats including strawberries and yogurt, strawberry smoothies and strawberry muffins.
Cameron Highlands Butterfly Garden and Farm
The Butterfly Garden and the Butterfly Farm are both on the same road, only around 20 km from Tanah Rata. The butterflies are pretty interesting, with their huge and colourful wings. However, there’s more than just butterflies to see here. The other displays include beetles, mantids, tiny frilled lizards, frogs that pretend to be rocks, insects that look just like leaves, giant horned beetles, snakes and much more.
Gunung Brinchang Hike
When Lee and I read about the Gunung Brinchang hike online, it was described as an “easy” hike that you can reach from the village of Brinchang. However, our experience was much different than we expected. We spent three hours crawling up the mountainside in the mud -emerging at the top panting and soaked in sweat. The view at the top was totally worth it though, so I would recommend this hike if you want to push yourself, get some exercise and explore the jungle. Make sure you wear sensible shoes and take plenty of water.
At the top of Gunung Brinchang there is a boardwalk that will take you through the Mossy Forest, where some of the trees have been untouched for centuries.
Boh Tea Plantation
When you drink a cup of tea, have you ever wondered where the tea leaves came from? In the Cameron Highlands you can take a visit to a tea plantation and see for yourself.
The famous Boh Tea company was founded in 1929 and it has three tea plantations in the Cameron Highlands – the Habu Tea Gardens, The Fairlie Tea Garden and the Sungai Palas Tea Garden.
Here you can sit in a cafe that overlooks a stunning vista of rolling green hills while you drink a cup of tea that was brewed from leaves carefully handpicked from that plantation. You can also learn about how the tea is produced, as well as the history of Malaysian tea growing.
The Rafflesia is truly strange. It is the largest flower in the world and it looks like something out of Doctor Who. You can find it clinging to a hill deep in the jungle, surrounded by buzzing flies. It’s blood red flesh has spikes on the inside and it is as big around as a truck tire. You can see the strange and fascinating Rafflesia on a tour and your guide will know where to find this rarely-blooming and strange flower/fungus.
When it comes to finding a Cameron Highlands hotel, here are some tips to keep in mind.
- Keep in mind that rates for hotel rooms can generally be higher on the weekends and cheaper during the week, so plan your trip accordingly if you can.
- There are hostels available in the Cameron Highlands for budget travellers. They will usually cost at least half the rate of a private double room. If you are on a really tight budget, you can camp for only a few ringgit.
- However, if you are travelling as a couple or you are not on a shoestring budget, it’s worth it to spring for a private room since it is still quite affordable.
Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit the Cameron Highlands is during the off peak season, as it will be quite busy during the festive holidays (such as Ramadan) and the school holidays. When we were there we waited until after Ramadan, because during the holiday period the Cameron Highlands hotels were completely packed. Rain is common throughout the year in this cool and fertile region but your best chance for dry weather is between February and April.
- Remember that although it might be warm enough for shorts and a t-shirt during the day, the temperature can drop in the late evenings so bring a light jacket with you.
- Also, bring an umbrella and a waterproof jacket, as it rains a lot here.
- Although credit cards are accepted in most hotels, you might not be able to use them at the local restaurants and attractions so make sure you also have cash.
- There are a few banks in Tanah Rata, as well as one bank in Brinchang and one in Ringlet. When we were there our card didn’t work in the ATM in Brinchang, so we had to walk down the road to Tanah Rata to get cash! Try to avoid this by bringing plenty of cash with you.