Most travellers will enjoy a few days in Kuala Lumpur before moving on to the beaches of Thailand or Bali. But what about those who want to explore more of the country? I’m talking about the ones who want to see more of Malaysia and do a Cameron Highlands tour!
The Cameron Highlands is often the perfect place to spend a few days away from the chaos of Kuala Lumpur. Many explore the highlands on their way to or from Penang or Ipoh. With a more relaxing atmosphere and less stifling temperatures, it’s easy to see why so many travellers stop at this old hill station.
We read up a little on the Cameron Highlands but still didn’t know a lot about the place until we arrived. I’m happy to share a little of what we discovered so that you’ll too know what to expect from a tour of this highland retreat.
A Brief History Of Cameron Highlands
The highlands were named after British explorer and geologist William Cameron. Born in Scotland, William was commissioned to map the area back in 1885 when Malaysia was under the British Empire. Unfortunately, nothing came of these maps until around 40 years later. Sir George Maxwell continued the project and decided that the location would be perfect for a British holiday home!
The Brits discovered that the highlands were an excellent location for plantations such as fruit and veg, coffee and tea. The popularity of tea boomed due to the influx of Brits to the area. It wasn’t long before people were sipping a nice cuppa and a sandwich in their very British homes.
The tea plantations are now one of the biggest attractions in the highlands but travellers don’t just visit for afternoon tea. The many walking trails through the lush forests also attract hikers from all over the world as well as local farms and markets to explore.
When To Visit
Located at nearly 2000m above sea level, visitors to Cameron Highlands will feel some relief from the hot and humid conditions of Kuala Lumpur. It barely reaches 25°C and temperatures can be ‘refreshing’ at night. It was actually the first time we needed to put our hoodies on!
Monsoon season is from November to February. Normally these are probably the wettest and worst months to visit but if you want to see the highlands at their greenest, then it could be worth the risk. We visited in early January and although it wasn’t shorts and t-shirt weather, it was still pleasant (maybe it’s just because we’re used to the UK weather?)
Tip | As with most popular tourist destinations, weekends and public holidays are best avoided and Cameron Highlands is no exception. The single main road running through the highlands means heavy traffic, both on the road and on foot!
How To Get To Cameron Highlands
Getting to Cameron Highlands is very easy! Most journeys are either from Kuala Lumpur, in the south, or Penang in the west. There are no trains or flight and there is only one main road into the highlands so you won’t get lost along the way!
There are a few options to reach the highlands. The journey is around 4.5 hours and the road has many twists and turns. We went by bus and it was comfortable, safe and cheap! We didn’t get any motion sickness from all the sharp bends. There is a minivan option but we didn’t fancy being in a small van for that long on this occasion.
It’s easy to book a bus from BusOnlineTicket.com or 12Go Asia. I’ve used them many times and never had any issues with tickets. The price of a bus ticket from KL to Cameron Highlands is RM35-RM40 ($9). Just book online and show the office your ticket which is emailed through. Simple!
For the rich and famous, there is always the option of a private taxi. The journey is slightly shorter but you’ll be paying close to $100 for the journey. That’s if you have the haggling skills! A cheaper option may be just to hire your own vehicle.
Where To Stay
While the Cameron Highlands stretches over 700 km², there is a cluster of towns close to each offer that offer accommodation for tourists.
The main hub in the highlands, and the town we stayed in, is Tanah Rata. The bus station is at the end of the street (or the beginning, depending on where you departed from) and it won’t take you long to find your accommodation. A compact little place, the main area is one street of clothes and souvenir shops, eateries and cheap hotels. The perfect place for a budget traveller!
If you’re looking for something a bit more mid-range you can stay in Brinchang, Tanah Rata’s bigger brother a little further north. There are many hotels located between the towns that looked well out of our budget.
How To Book A Tour
Booking a tour of the Cameron Highlands couldn’t be easier. Once you arrive in Tanah Rata or Brinchang, just walk along the street and you see the many tour agencies ready to take you on a tour the very next day! You can even book a Kuala Lumpur to Cameron Highlands tour that will depart from KL and return a day or two later.
There are also dozens of tours available online. One place to search is Tripadvisor where you’ll find decently priced tours and plenty of reviews. We went with Eco Cameron and they were absolutely awesome.
If you must visit during a weekend or public holiday then I recommend booking your tour in advance. Actually, I would always book in advance if you’re tight on time. You don’t want to miss the chance if you only have a day in the highlands!
What To Expect On The Cameron Highlands Tour
Most people will arrive in Cameron Highlands and do a full-day tour. While most one-day tours may seem rushed, a day-tour in the highlands is actually quite relaxing. Here are some of the things you will see on your tour.
One of the main attractions in the highlands are the tea plantations. The conditions are perfect for growing tea very similar to the stuff back in the UK. Could it be the cool climate and grey skies then?
The two main plantations that you’ll find on your tour are the BOH Tea Centre and Plantation and the Cameron Bharat Tea Estate. We visited the BOH plantation, which great since its supposedly Malaysias most popular tea for over 90 years!
After taking in the views of the plantation, there is a chance to visit the factory where you can see the tea being processed and packaged. Then you can buy all the tea that’ll fit in your backpack before enjoying a cuppa at the stunning tea garden.
The Mossy Forest is the other main attraction on the tour of the highlands. The forest’s base is completely covered in moss, hence the name ‘Mossy Forest’!
The high altitude and cooler temperatures mean this lush forest is a one-of-a-kind in Malaysia! Some of the plants and trees have been in the forest for centuries! As well as moss you’ll see plenty of pitcher plants and, if you’re very lucky, you may see the largest flower in the world – the Rafflesia arnoldii (or corpse flower!)
The only way through for tourists is on a boardwalk and can explored in around an hour. This is one of the occasions where you’ll be glad you didn’t arrive at the weekend! There is a reason why this beautiful place is also know as the Muddy Forest!
The highest point in the Cameron Highlands, Gunung Brinchang is popular with hikers as the 3-hour trip to the summit is not overly strenuous!
Unfortunately, your day-tour won’t allow you the time to hike the peak yourself (unless you chose a Gunung Brinchang hinking trip!) Alot of the tours will take you to another high point so that you can view the mountain from afar rather than be on top of it.
Check with your tour operator and if you really fancy it, book a hiking tour instead!
Sam Poh Buddhist Temple
If you’re staying in Brinchang you may have already seen this large, colourful temple on whilst walking around the town. It’s difficult to miss since it’s one of the largest Buddhist temples in Malaysia.
For those who are staying elsewhere, the Sam Poh Buddhist Temple is built on the top of the hill overlooking the town and some tours will usually make a stop for you to have a quick look around. It’s a calm and peaceful place with great panoramic views of the surrounding area.
Insect & Fruit Farms
You can’t go on a tour in Asia without some kind of filler material! This is not the usual side trip to a friend’s jewellery or souvenir shops though. These farm stops offer tourists the chance to sample some delicious local produce. In fact, the strawberry farm is the only area in Malaysia where strawberries are grown. Or so they tell you.
You might also stop by a butterfly farm where the little (and big) winged insects pose for your photos and fly off just as you’re about to take the picture! Another popular insect farm stop is the honey bee farm. This is more about the honey as getting stung by a bee will be the souvenir you didn’t ask for.
One of the things I love about travelling in Asia is the markets and your driver may take you to a local one to look around. As well as all the the fresh fruit and vegetables you’ll find vendors selling little souvenirs and street food.
There is some amazing trekking around the highlands and you could can book anything from a one hour hike to a multi-day trek into the forest. This is obviously not part of a regular day-trip but with so many hikers visiting explore the mountains, forests and waterfalls it’s definitely one of the best things to do in Cameron Highlands.
If you’re not interested in tea or farms then this could be a better option for you. Or why not just stay longer and do both?
Ready For Your Cameron Highlands Tour?
We really enjoyed our day-tour of the Cameron Highlands and would’ve loved to have seen more!
While a tour is a great way to see so many things in one day it’s not everyone’s ‘cup of tea!’ For most of us, spending a day or two in Cameron Highlands is enough as there the towns are not very big and the main sites are out of town anyway. The great thing about the tours is that you aren’t herded around like cattle – something I’ve experienced a few times whilst on day-tours.
Our schedule meant that we couldn’t stay longer in the highlands but there’s definitely the potential for more days there. Hiring a driver or even your own car will open up so many more possibilities. Why not visit more than one plantation if you love tea? Go on a self-guided hike with no other tourists! Visit one of the many waterfalls!
If we pass through the highlands again one day then I’d definitely consider staying longer. Like most tours, I feel we’ve only just scratched the surface of this beautiful place.
So that is what you can expect on a Cameron Highlands tour! If you have any questions about something that I may not have covered, or perhaps you spend longer in the highlands, then feel free to get in contact. Or just let me know in the comments below.