Malaysia is one of the most vibrant destinations in modern Southeast Asia, offering experiences as contrasting as its multi-ethnic population is diverse. Pristine beaches, jungle-draped hills and mountains, cities holding a wealth of exotic architecture, craft traditions and wonderfully eclectic cuisines – all can be sampled in even a relatively short tour.
Created in 1963 from a patchwork of erstwhile colonial kingdoms, Malaysia is divided into two distinct regions separated by the South China Sea: the Malay Peninsula in the west; and the states of Sabah and Sarawak on the island of Borneo to the east. Between the Peninsula and neighbouring Sumatra stretch one of the world’s busiest seaways, the Straits of Malacca.
From the early 15th century onwards, European powers jostled for control over the lucrative trade in spices and other valuables from the Far East which passed through the Straits. The Portuguese, Dutch and British all established colonies here at one time, adding their influence to the rich mix of Malay, Chinese and Indian which had already taken root.
Today, it’s precisely this same blend that makes this such a fascinating part of the world to explore. Wander through the atmospheric back streets of Georgetown, with its wood-shuttered shop fronts, Chinese temples, evocative colonial-era buildings and stalls selling flavour-packed Tamil street food; or soak up the headlong modernity of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s great melting pot, whose skyscrapers and shopping malls remind you that you’re at the heart of a booming Asian-tiger economy.
At the other extreme lie the remote, interior jungles of Borneo, which you can experience from the comfort of a luxury river cruiser, or the great mountain of Kinabalu overlooking the coast of Sabah, whose pale-grey granite summit soars above a tract of rainforest where orangutans still roam free.
Suggested tours to Malaysia and Borneo
Tailor-made Tour 14 days from £3000 per person
This two-week tour focuses on Malaysia’s colonial legacy, starting in the capital and progressing to the cooler climes of the Cameron Highlands, before exploring the decaying mansions and period architecture of Ipoh. You’ll finish in Penang – an isla…
Tailor-made Tour 17 days from £3100 per person
Malaysia is often mistakenly regarded as an urban nation, but as this 17-day trip across the peninsula vividly demonstrates, that couldn’t be further from the truth. The country’s national parks form the backbone of the route, which covers the full g…
Tailor-made Tour 17 days from £4170 per person
Explore Sarawak and Sabah’s world-renowned wildlife parks, staying at luxurious eco-lodges in the heart of the rainforest. Spot Borneo’s varied species of tropical animals – including proboscis monkeys and orangutans – deep in the region’s finest res…
Tailor-made Tour 16 days from £3900 per person
Mystical Borneo takes you deep into the interior of Sarawak, an area still well off the radar of most travellers to this island. Explore Sarawak and neighbouring Sabah by road and boat, stay overnight in tribal longhouses, and walk through jungle to…
Borneo Family Adventure
Tailor-made Tour 15 days from £2800 per person
Share unforgettable wildlife encounters, sleepovers in a tribal longhouse and a blissful stay on a tropical beach in the course of this 15-day family-oriented tour. The optimum time for visiting Sabah is between April and September – perfect for the…
Wonders of Borneo
Tailor-made Tour 12 days from £2500 per person
On our tour of Malaysian Borneo venture into some of the world's oldest rainforests, teeming with a wild array of exotic flora and fauna as well as canopy walkways and mysterious cave systems. One of the largest islands in the world, Borneo offers a…
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Malaysia and Borneo holiday types
Malaysia and Borneo Places and Experiences
Wander around Melaka’s old quarter, Bandar Hilir, for a glimpse of a ruined Portuguese fort, salmon-coloured Dutch Square and Chinese clan houses and temples – just part of the rich heritage of a town whose role in the early maritime spice…
Taman Negara National Park
High in the hills of Malaysia’s sparsely populated interior, Taman Negara, due to its easy reach from Kuala Lumpur, takes the top spot of the country’s most visited national park – a 4,323 sq km reserve of primary rainforest, rivers and clo…
Georgetown, Penang Island
Georgetown, capital of Penang state on the northwestern side of the Malay Peninsula, was the East India Company’s first outpost in the region, and preserves behind its high-rise blocks and modern intersections a wealth of colonial-era vesti…
Since it opened in 1964, the world-famous Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre at Sepilok in northern Sabah has cared for apes orphaned or injured by forest clearance. In 43 sq km of tropical forest they are able to roam wild, re-learning essent…
The most pristine, protected lowland rainforest in Borneo extends over 169 sq miles (438 sq km) of the Danum Valley in eastern Sabah. Comprising primarily dipterocarp jungle, the area provides sanctuary for an exceptionally rich array of sp…
Gunung Mulu National Park
Encompassing a spectacular tract of pristine rainforest and high mountains in Sarawak’s northern interior, this is the state’s top national park, and one of the few in the country designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The accolade der…
Olive green or chocolate brown depending on the season, the Kinabatangan is Sabah’s longest river, rising in the mountains of the interior and flowing into the Sulawesi Sea on Borneo’s northeast coast. The mangroves, grassy swamplands, oxbo…
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