Looking for a Cameron Highlands travel guide? Look no further.
This is Malaysia’s largest hill station. The Cameron Highlands are nestled high in the mountains above Pahang at altitudes of 2000m and above.
Temperatures are much cooler up here and rarely exceed 30 degrees Celsius. This region offers a pleasant escape from the heat and humidity across the rest of Malaysia.
The Cameron Highlands
The Cameron Highlands are a stark contrast to most of the scenery in Malaysia. Here, dense wild jungles border tea plantations and rolling green hills that extend as far as the eye can see.
Cameron Highlands is a vision in green. Its scenery is reminiscent of something you may expect to see in a J.R.R. Tolkien novel.
The conditions up here make Cameron Highlands perfect for farming. Indeed, most of the fruits and vegetables that are sold across Malaysia and Singapore come from Cameron Highlands.
The name “Cameron Highlands” does not sound very Malay. So where did it come from?
This region is named after British Explorer Sir William Cameron, who mapped the area in 1885. The townships of Ringlet, Tanah Rata, Brinchang, Tringkap and Kampung Raja all sit within its grasp.
The Cameron Highlands are also home to the Orang Asli people. These are a group of indigenous Malays who live in the jungle.
As you travel through the region, you will often see them at the side of the road selling fruits and handicrafts from the depths of the jungle. Orang Asli people come from various tribes. Those that live in the Cameron Highlands are part of the Temiah tribe.
When to Travel to Cameron Highlands
The specific temperatures and climatic conditions vary from season to season. However, travel to Cameron Highlands can generally be enjoyed at any time throughout the year.
May and June are considered the warmest months. They see temperatures of around 25 degrees celsius.
Meanwhile, November through to February are the coldest. Temperatures dip to around 20 degrees celsius at this time. It never really gets truly cold in Malaysia mind.
It rains frequently in the Cameron Highlands, especially in the winter. That said, this is typically not consistent rain. You can usually expect to see showers before the skies clear and you can get on with your day.
Best Things to do in the Cameron Highlands
This Cameron Highlands travel guide contains heaps of activities to do in the region. If you enjoy nature and the great outdoors, then Cameron Highlands will surely be a highlight of your Malaysia itinerary.
You can see the main attractions of the region in just one day. Sticking around a little longer allows more time for hiking, tea tasting, etc.
Visit the BOH Tea Plantation
There are numerous emerald-green tea plantations scattered around the region. The BOH tea plantation is one of the most famous.
This is the largest domestic and international tea seller in Malaysia. The BOH plantation itself is okay.
You can visit the BOH factory in order to learn about how tea is made. Then head to the BOH tearoom to enjoy a steaming cup of black tea and a scone as you gaze across the tea fields.
However, the highlight of the BOH plantation is simply strolling along the roads next to the tea fields and admiring the stunning emerald green scenery. Trekking upwards along the road from the BOH plantation towards the mossy forest offers incredible scenic views and photo opportunities, especially as you start to reach the higher points.
Climb Mount Brinchang
Mount Brinchang is the tallest mountain peak in the Cameron Highlands. It stands tall and proud at 2,032 metres. The ascent to the top takes approximately four hours and at the highest point you can enjoy incredible views over Perak and Pahang.
The mountain height may make the climb sound challenging. However considering the fact that you are already in the hilly highlands, it is only actually a 500m trek to the peak.
The trail up Mount Brinchang commences at the far side of Brinchang town. From there, the route is pretty well sign posted and it is easy to complete the trek without a guide. An alternative route that you can take is to walk along the twisting road that leads up past the BOH plantation.
Admire a Unique Ecosystem in the Mossy Forest
The Mossy Forest close to Brinchang is a highlight of any Cameron Highlands itinerary. As the name suggests, the trees and plants in this area are all draped in moss.
The Mossy Forest boasts an incredibly unique ecosystem. Its constantly damp atmosphere, the low clouds, and the eerie fog that is thick in the air make the conditions perfect for all kinds of weird and wonderful plants and animals.
From here, you can spot some pretty unique plant life. For instance, the carnivorous pitcher plant that eats frogs, bugs, and small creatures.
If you are lucky, you may see a Rafflesia. This is the world’s largest flower that eats flies and has the nickname “corpse flower” on account of the horrible stench it emits to attract bugs.
Browse the Brinchang Market
The Brinchang market is worth stopping by, especially in the evening. Different stalls set up their wares during the day and the night.
Everything from fresh produce from the local farms, toys, handicrafts and street food items can be found here. Be sure to sample some of the local jams and sweet treats.
Discover the Region’s History at the Time Tunnel
The Time Tunnel is the region’s only museum. Yet “museum” doesn’t quite feel like a fitting title.
The displays here make the Time Tunnel look more like the collection of a mad eccentric rather than any kind of organised gallery. The museum was opened by local collector See Kok Shan who purchased many old photographs and items of memorabilia from Cameron Highlands.
See Kok Shan then assembled them all in this ramshackle spot in Brinchang. If you have a little time to spare, browsing through the random assortment of objects here provides some interesting insight into the region.
Discover Hidden Waterfalls
Hiking in the Cameron Highlands region offers something for everyone. Keep in mind that some of the jungle treks here are only possible with a guide and a permit that must be obtained a month in advance.
If you prefer a more casual hike, you can enjoy the well sign-posted trails that lead to incredible viewpoints and hidden waterfalls. Some of the best routes for trekking in the Cameron Highlands are summarised below.
- Trail 10 – A relatively easy hike for beginner/intermediate hikers. Well sign posted and leads to one of the best viewpoints in the highlands.
- Trail 3 – An intermediate route that leads you to the peak of Gunung Berembun at 1,840m. The trail leads you across rivers, through rainforests and past waterfalls.
- Trail 4/Parit falls – A very short route to Parit Falls: a hidden waterfall nestled in the heart of the Taman Sedia national park in Tanah Rata.
- Trail 9/Robinson Falls – The start of this trail begins close to Tanah Rata and leads to Robinson Falls – arguably the most beautiful waterfall in the Cameron Highlands region.
Note: Many tourists and locals reported robberies on trails 9 and 9a. As such you should not attempt these routes alone.
Consider taking a guide. Let your hotel/guesthouse know where you are headed before embarking on a trek!
Check Out the Orang Asli Settlements
The Orang Asli (Malay for “original”) people are the local indigenous tribes that are native to the area. If you have a rental car and are driving up to Cameron Highlands from Ipoh or Kuala Lumpur, you will pass by many Orang Asli settlements and can stop off along your way.
Many Orang Asli people set up makeshift bamboo stalls to sell fruits and handicrafts made from items they have found within the jungle. This makes for both an interesting souvenir and a nice way to offer support to the local people.
Some indigenous people still live deep within the heart of the jungle. It is possible to visit their villages and learn about their practices of hunting, cooking, playing music and building.
It is necessary to take a guide to these places. This is both for the purposes of locating them and for being able to communicate with the Orang Asli.
Have a British Afternoon Tea
The Cameron Highlands doesn’t sound all that Malay does it? That’s because the region was founded by British Explorer William Cameron.
Cameron Highlands was something of a haven for the British during their occupation of Malaysia. This was mostly due to its cooler temperatures that were more reminiscent of their home country.
You will find a scattering of British colonial architecture as you meander through the region. One British tradition that has still remained is the delight of having an afternoon tea.
What better way to soak up the atmosphere of the beautiful green tea fields than with a piping cup of English breakfast tea, lots of teeny tiny scones, cakes, and clotted cream? Numerous cafes in the region offer this.
Head to the Smokehouse Hotel, or the Jim Thompson tea room for one of the best afternoon teas in town. Just don’t think about the calorie count!
Eat Strawberries and Cream at a Strawberry Farm
The conditions at Cameron Highlands are reminiscent of an English summer. They are warm, pleasant and breezy but never too hot.
This climate is perfect for growing strawberries. Along with tea, the sweet red fruit is one of the most popular produce items from this region.
Dozens of strawberry farms are dotted throughout the Cameron Highlands area. It is possible to take a basket at the entrance and pick your own strawberries.
A variety of container sizes are available if you are interested in engaging in a little strawberry picking. They range from 100g up to several kilos.
This is a very touristic activity though, and you may not find the experience that rewarding. Many tour buses pass through the area every day. With hundreds of visitors heading into the strawberry farms with baskets in hand, there often aren’t many good fruits left to pick.
Many farms and cafes in the area do boast very strawberry-focused menus. It is worth sampling the homemade strawberry ice cream, the strawberry cakes, or the strawberry smoothies while in town.
Learn About the Disappearance of Jim Thompson
If you have a morbid fascination with the strange and mysterious, the unexplained disappearance of Jim Thompson will fascinate you. Thompson was an American businessman that lived in Thailand.
He often ventured to the Cameron Highlands to trade beautiful silk fabrics within the region. However one day, he mysteriously disappeared without a trace while walking in the Cameron Highlands.
Many conspiracy theories exist around Thompson’s disappearance. Was he eaten by a tiger?
Was he kidnapped? The Orang Asli people tried to search for his trails and found nothing!
Some of the older people still residing in the area can speak with you about the event. You can even stay at the moonlight bungalow where he stayed before his disappearance.
Visit the Indigenous People’s Mah Meri Mask Exhibit
The Mah Meri mask exhibition in Tanah Rata is worth a brief visit. The collection presents a range of beautifully intricate carved wooden masks that have been handcrafted by the Mah Meri tribe.
The Mah Meri tribe are one of the most mysterious indigenous groups living on the mainland. They are known for their carving skills and often wear wooden masks that represent deities and gods.
You can spot this exhibition on the main road in Tanah Rata. It is not really your usual Cameron Highlands tourist destination but a worthwhile learning experience. Tickets cost 35 ringgit.
What to Avoid in the Cameron Highlands
Be mindful of some of the farms and attractions in Cameron Highlands, particularly where animals are concerned. There are many bee and butterfly farms where it seems like the little loves are not treated well.
Some travellers have advised that some of the butterfly farms are filled with more dead butterflies on the floor than alive ones. Do not contribute to this.
Getting Around the Cameron Highlands
The Cameron Highlands is a region comprised of various hills. The sights and settlements of the area are relatively spread out. As such, it is virtually impossible to explore the area without a car.
Renting a Car
Your best bet for exploring Cameron Highlands is to rent a car. Public transport here is pretty much non-existent.
There is one bus that runs infrequently from Tanah Rata to Brinchang. However, it operates on a very limited schedule.
Taking a Cab
If you do not drive, or feel uncomfortable doing so, you can hire a taxi to transport you around for 25 ringgit per hour (circa $5). This is a reasonable price, particularly if there are a few of you.
You can explore Tanah Rata and Brinchang on foot. You only really need a cab driver for 2-3 hours in order to get out towards the tea plantations and the mossy forest.
There are many Cameron Highlands tours available. However the schedules are inflexible, you are bundled with a ton of other travellers, and some of the stopping points are not all that interesting.
The tours generally include the BOH plantation, the mossy forest and a handful of the animal/farm exhibitions.
Where to Stay in Cameron Highlands
There are many, many resorts and hotels to choose from in the Cameron Highlands. Some are pretty isolated so it is important to check the location prior to making a booking.
Your best best is to book accommodation in either Tanah Rata or Brinchang. Both locations place you close to ample restaurants, coffee shops and convenience stores.
Many travellers pass through the region. However, neither town feels overly touristic. Brinchang also plays host to a daily night market which is well worth checking out.
There are pros and cons of each town. In Tanah Rata, you are close to the main bus station. Meanwhile, in Brinchang, you can easily explore a lot of the area’s main attractions on foot.
The Sleepbox Hotel is pretty swanky as far as backpackers hostels go. The hotel follows a sort-of Japanese capsule hotel style and features capsule rooms in the form of stacked storage units.
The rooms here contain double beds, lights, plug points, and plenty of privacy. Not bad for $15 a night. You can find other standard backpacker hostels for as little as $5-6 per night.
For a lavish experience in the highlands, you can consider staying at the Cameron Highlands Resort. This is a spot that is regarded as being the best luxury hotel in the region.
Stay in an elegant colonial building and enjoy rooms and suites with incredible views and dining options. Rooms start from $100 per night including breakfast.
A pleasant alternative is the Smokehouse Hotel. Here you can stay in a charming Tudor style English hotel that dates back to the 1930s.
Enjoy traditional English breakfasts and afternoon teas, and evenings relaxing by a wooden fireplace. Rooms start from $70 per night including breakfast.
Getting to Cameron Highlands
The Cameron Highlands is a popular getaway spot for locals and international tourists alike. As such, it is easy to get here by public transport.
Many bus operators run frequent services to Cameron Highlands every day. Departures leave every few hours from Kuala Lumpur, Ipoh, and Penang.
The Bus to Cameron Highlands
It takes four hours to get to Cameron Highlands from Kuala Lumpur by bus. From Ipoh, the journey takes two and a half hours and from Penang, it takes five.
Do you have any further questions about travelling to the Cameron Highlands? Feel free to reach out to me via email or in the comments below!
Safe travels! Melissa xo