Malaysia is such a diverse country and one of the places that really illustrates that is the landscape of the Cameron Highlands. Whilst the rest of the country is baked in sun and sweating in the humid conditions, up here the temperature and climate is totally different. The landscape, wildlife and the lifestyle is unique to this region of the country and the tea plantation blanketed mountains provide some of the best hiking in the region. We headed down to explore the stunning The Cameron Highlands, Malaysia and hike through the jungles and tea plantations.
Tackling the jungle: Hiking several of the rainforest trails
The Cameron Highlands might be most famous for the tea plantations but the many trails that were established in the region in the 1960’s by the military for patrolling the region against the communists are now used as hiking trails. There are 14 in total and most leave from the town of Tanah Rata and weave in and out of the surrounding jungle. Some are more of a challenge than others, many are closed due to landslides and some are discouraged due to reported robberies! So make sure to stay at a hostel or guest house with up to date information and let the owners know where you are heading when you go hiking in The Cameron Highlands, Malaysia.
As experienced hikers that only had time to really spend a couple of days up in The Cameron Highlands, Malaysia we decided to combine some of the trails together. Number 1 and number 10 had been described to us as the best in the area as well as some of the toughest. However route number 1 up to the summit of G. Brinchang was closed due to a collapsed walkway.
So we decided to make a route up, we began by taking the longest and hardest of the remaining ones, route 10. Then we cut across to route 3, briefly onto 2 before it joined with 5 before then hitch hiking back to town!
This walk was a full on full day adventure in the jungles, it took us initially through a steep section of the deep forest where after only a few minutes hiking we came across a scorpion on the trail!! The mossy floor below is an ancient jungle covered in layers and layers of moss built up over centuries that gives the ground a bouncy feel as you march on. Here there are all kinds of amazing plants and insects that lurk in the dark and damp corners of the jungle, The Cameron Highlands, Malaysia really does have so much adventure to offer.
The initial climb brought us out onto a clearing, our eyes still adjusting from the low light of the undergrowth we were greeted by a vast open vista. From this vantage point over The Cameron Highlands, Malaysia we could see back down to the town and beyond, over the amazing mountainous landscape covered in both tea plantations and thick ancient rainforest.
From here we continued on, back into the mystical and magical jungle with twisted vines, carnivorous pitch plants, giant snails and wondrous flowers around every turn. We crossed over river and rocks as we climbed up and down through this amazing landscape without ever seeing another person! We passed by many of the collapsed roads, little cottages surrounded by rose bushes that looked like they were straight out of England as we delved in and out of the jungle. Hiking in the Cameron Highlands, Malaysia really turned out to be an amazing adventure.
After a long day on the trails, covering around 10km over some challenging terrain we decided to hitch a ride back. In this region, unlike much of South East Asia, Hitch hiking is an everyday thing in the Cameron Highlands, Malaysia. Before we knew it we were sitting in the back of a pick up back to the hostel to celebrate in the only way that seemed proper… tea and scones!
Getting lost in the Tea Plantations the Cameron Highlands are famous for!
The second day on the trails and we wanted to finally immerse ourselves into the famous tea plantations around here, after all this is what we really came here for! We took the early bus up to the neighbouring town of Brichang around a 40min ride away. From here we could cross over and follow the steep 9km road up through the plantations and to the summit of G. Brichang, which was closed from the alternative route of trail 1. This would be another long and tough day where we anticipated a walk of around 18km!
Arriving in Brichang before 9am we were ready to set off on the long and steep walk up the winding road. Many cars and trucks full of tourists heading to the BOH tea plantations would pass us by as we huffed and puffed. But we didn’t wish to join them, as we stopped all to often to take in yet another stunning view over the valleys that they sped passed! Pausing for thought to contemplate yet again how we had managed to find ourselves in yet another unspeakably spectacular location.
It wasn’t long up the road until we were completely surrounded by tea, I mean, I hate the stuff, but this was just awe inspiring. The steep and dramatic undulating landscape was lined with rows and rows of orderly plantations. The juxtaposition between the chaos of nature and the symmetry woven across it was simply magical. In many ways it has shades of the immense rice terraces of Sapa, a controlling of nature but in an ancient, caring and beautiful way. We were able to cut across the fields and walk amongst the chest high rows, completely and utterly immersed in a landscape so green it was almost impossible to believe it was real!
We stopped off near the BOH tea plantation as a detour from our main objective on the way up, the place where all the cars and people seemed to be heading when they come to the Cameron Highlands, Malaysia. Ironically though the view from over this side and their official “viewing platform and cafe” were the worse we saw of the valley all day! Heading back onto the trail we were ready for the most gruelling section.
Here the plantations got impressively and progressively steep, to think people could actually work on these angles amazed and worried us at the same time. Up here the climate and conditions were harsh by Malaysian standards and the local villagers we passed worked damned hard. This section of the route was even quieter than before as many had inevitably turned back once they looked up at the gradient of the road we stubbornly continued to plod up!
After a while the plantations gave out once more to increasingly thick and fog covered jungle, these heights were even too much for the hardy plants and workers to function at. As we reached the summit it was completely shrouded in thick fog and the views over the valley were to remain a mystery to our eyes. From here we headed down into the enchanting mossy forest, now made even more eerie with the suffocating mist that made even a few meters disappear into nothingness. The gnarled and tangled roots, knotted vines and damp branches snarled around us as we continued through the thick mud and dense air that we breathed in fast and frequently.
Returning to the road we contemplated the long 9km back down to the bus stop and wearily treaded on into the broken clouds below us. Finally at the intersection with the BOH tea plantation we once again hitched a ride, luckily they were heading right back into Tanah Rata! A 15km adventure was complete and our all too short time in the Cameron Highlands was almost at an end!
Tips: Making sense of the tracks, trails, routes and transportation!
Where to base yourself:
For us the best town to stay in is Tanah Rata, here there is much more going on, frequent buses, many guest houses and nearly all of the trails start from here. It’s a perfect base in the Cameron Highlands, Malaysia.
We stayed in the “Cameronian Guest house”. It’s a basic but lovely place that offers dorms and private rooms as well as breakfast in the morning. The owner here is also really helpful and friendly. He has hand drawn maps on the wall that detail each route and he is always on hand to go through them with you too. He is also great for general advice too if you tell him what you want to do and your level of fitness. You can also mark out which trail you are heading out on too in the morning and when you should be back so if you don’t return they can send help!
How to get around:
The area is very mountainous and not always well covered by public transport. However buses to the main towns of Tanah Rata and Brichang from other hubs such as KL and Penang are easy to catch and run everyday.
There are local buses in the area that are very cheap, however their timetables are very spaced out so it is best to plan ahead and aim for a specific bus.
Hitch hiking is common and popular up inthe Cameron Highlands, Malaysia due to the lack of reliable public transport. Head out to a main road heading in the direction you want to go and just put your thumb up. Most people will be heading for the main towns and you shouldn’t have too much of a hard time finding a ride. It’s usually very safe around here but the usual level of wariness and judgement should be used and if you can jumping in the back of a truck rather than inside a car is safer.
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The marked routes:
There are 14 jungle treks to tackle as well as many tea plantation walks in the area. These vary in difficulty and length so you should choose the ones best suited to you. Choosing good accommodation that provides you with the best and most current information is the best way to get the most from your time here.
This website has details on each of the routes: Cameron Highlands Info
Note: Route 1 & 11 are currently closed for repairs, 12 is permanently closed and 9 is strongly advised against due to robberies on the trail.
- The trails can be hard work so pick the ones suited to you
- Never hike alone and if possible try to find a group
- Avoid trail 9 as it is well known for robberies
- Carry with you first aid, camping knife, foil blanket.
- Bring enough food and water
- Wear suitable clothing and footwear for the changing climate
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