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.
Things to do in the Cameron Highlands: The best trails and hiking around the Tea Plantations of Malaysia
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 so you can make the most of the best things to do in the Cameron Highlands.
As experienced hikers that only had time to really spend a couple of days up in The Cameron Highlands we decided to combine some of the trails together to maximise our coverage over a short visit. This was only made possible by the help of maps and guides to see which would work and pre planning before we set off.
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 which was disappointing as it was one of the main things to do in the Cameron Highlands that we were looking forward to.
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 is a great full day hike that covers all the main viewpoints and places of interest on the main hiking trails away from the tea plantations themselves. That we saved for another days hiking. If you only have a couple of days here and want to cover the best of the trails and the plantations and you’re a decent hiker then we recommend taking our route or at least trail 10 as it’s one of the best things to do in the Cameron Highlands.
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 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 we could see back down to the town and beyond, over the amazing mountainous landscape covered in both tea plantations and thick ancient rainforest. The town might be mostly famous for the tea plantations in the distance but exploring the many trails is one of the things to do in the Cameron Highlands for sure and offers a quite different experience.
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 one of the most common things to do in the Cameron Highlands. 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!
Things to do in the Cameron Highlands: Exploring the vast Tea Plantations the area is 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 40 min 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!
Things to do in the Cameron Highlands: Combining BOH, Tea Plantations & The Mossy Forest into a full day hike!
Again, here we decided to combine a few of the best things to do in the Cameron Highlands into a long hike due to our time restrictions in the area. This meant visiting the BOH tea plantations on our way up to the summit of G. Brichang and the Mossy Forest. Both of which can be reached from the other side via Trail 1 had it been open. However the road on this side of the Highlands offers a walk right through the heart of the Cameron Highlands.
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.
Many visitors do choose to just go straight to the BOH tea plantations on an organised trip. This is a great idea if you want a taste of the immense beauty of the region but don’t have the time and ability to hike up the steep road. If however you do want to experience that bit more then even the walk from the road to BOH is worth walking rather than visiting on a tour so you can explore more of the tea fields themselves.
It wasn’t long up the road until we were completely surrounded by tea, I mean, I hate drinking 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! This is one huge reason to do even a short hike or walk around here!
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. 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, though of course, they were still lovely indeed!
Heading back onto the trail we were ready for the most gruelling section but also the most impressive!
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!
Things to do in the Cameron Highlands: 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 for hiking, organising tour and transport as well as having good restaurants and small shops for supplies.
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:
All of the trails are a short walk from Tanah Rata so it’s a great place to base yourself for the main hiking routes. Some are a short walk from the town but none too far. It also has a small bus station too which covers local and national buses.
The area is very mountainous and not always well covered by public transport. However local buses to the main towns of Tanah Rata and Brichang run throughout the day and are very cheap. Their timetables are quite spread out and irregular so you should check the timetables beforehand and plan your day around that.
The bus from Tanah Rata to Brichang also passes directly by the Strawberry farms too which are another of the best things to do in the Cameron Highlands.
Taxis are available in the area but do check the best companies and correct fares with your accommodation beforehand to be sure you’re not being ripped off. A better way would be to use a service like GRAB or UBER using the phone app or have your accommodation organise a driver for you themselves which could be then turned into a multi-stop day tour. Be sure to pick up a local sim card and have some data if you plan on using UBER or arrange your pick up as you’re dropped off!
Hitch hiking is common and popular up in the Cameron Highlands 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 as it is safer.
Getting to The Cameron Highlands:
Taking the bus:
Buses run regularly to the main towns of the Cameron Highlands from other areas of the country and are often not too long of a journey either on motorways and good roads.
On the way here we took a short bus from Penang to Tanah Rata and from there we took the bus back to Kuala Lumpur. It is also possible to take a bus from here to Ipoh, Malaka and even Singapore. Travelling from Thailand direct to the Cameron Highlands is a little bit more complicated and we recommend if you are coming or doing in that direction to break the journey up in another town such as Malaka or Penang.
Travel time from Penang is around 4.5 hrs and from KL around 6 hrs and from Ipoh around 2hrs. From Singapore its a longer bus being more like 9 hours so maybe breaking the journey up would be a better way.
Taking the train:
There is no direct train to the Cameron Highlands from KL but you can take the train to Ipoh. From there you can take a bus (2hrs) to the Cameron Highlands. They leave four times a day at 8.00am, 11.00am, 3.00pm & 6.00pm.
There is no airport in the Cameron Highlands but the nearest is in the city of Ipoh. From there you can take a bus (2hrs) to the Cameron Highlands. They leave four times a day at 8.00am, 11.00am, 3.00pm & 6.00pm.
Book your transport across Malaysia and Asia here:
Things to do in the Cameron Highlands:
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.
Note: Route 1 & 11 are currently closed for repairs but do double check, 12 is permanently closed and 9 is strongly advised against due to robberies on the trail.
This website has details on each of the routes: Cameron Highlands Info
Things to do in the Cameron Highlands:
Other things to do in the region if you’re not into hiking!
Pick your own fresh strawberries
A lovely thing to do on a rest day or if you’re not particularly fond of hiking is to visit some of the strawberry farms in the area. Many are along the road from Tanah Rata to Brichang where the bus runs so they’re easy to reach. Here is the only place in Malaysia where you can pick your own fresh strawberries!
Indulge in Tea and scones
If you still want the experience of seeing the tea plantations but don’t fancy the long hikes then a trip to the BOH tea plantations is ideal. From the viewing platforms you can enjoy some local tea with some jam and cream on scones! A very English experience in Malaysia reflecting the colonial routes of this area. The local buses only run to the bottom of the road leading to the plantations. You could either hitchhike the rest of the way, do the short but beautiful hike or organise a driver or UBER direct from the towns.
Have a family friendly day at the butterfly farm
Only 8km from Tanah Rata the butterfly farm is one of the more relaxed and fun things to do in The Cameron Highlands and is ideal for those with kids too. It houses a large collection of beautiful and colourful butterflies alongside other insects and creepy crawlies!
Discover the culture of the area at the Mah Meri Art Gallery
The Cameron Highlands might be famous for the colonial past, tea plantations and incredible hiking but there is some incredible native culture here to discover too. On a rainy day a trip to the Mah Meri Art Gallery is a great way to discover the culture of the indigenous people of the region and is home to over 300 hand carved masks and many more important artefacts.
Things to do in the Cameron Highlands:
General advice for hiking and exploring:
* The trails can be hard work so pick the ones suited to you
* Never hike alone and if possible try to find a group, let your accommodation know you’re intended route and planned return time before you set off.
* Avoid trail 9 as it is well known for robberies and check all the conditions and alerts of the trails you intend to hike beforehand.
* Check bus times the day before and get to the station early. Check return times and places too and always bear in mind hitch hiking is a great way to get around in this region.
* Download Map.me to use as an offline map which has all the trails on there. Also try to get a local sim with data beforehand for emergencies and organising UBER if needed.
* Carry with you first aid, camping knife, foil blanket.
* Bring enough food and water
* Wear suitable clothing and footwear for the changing climate. Don’t underestimate the weather as it can get cold and wet in the highlands and especially at the summit of the mountains. The weather changes quickly here too so bring warm and waterproof clothing and a dry sack/ bag cover just incase!
Unsure? Book a tour
Ok, so usually we’re not tour people but it can be a difficult and intimidating area to get yourself around if you’re not used to using marginal public transport and taking long hikes. Booking on a tour is a great way to maximise your time here and see a few different areas in one if you want convenience and are worried about transport.
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Booking your accommodation here:
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