If you’re the kind of traveler who prefers tranquil mountain sceneries over sultry days at the beach, the Cameron Highlands are a perfect destination for you. Located on the westernmost edge of the State of Pahang, this is Malaysia’s most expansive hill-station area, where elevations for the residential zones are between 2,600 to 5,259 feet above sea level. As a result, the climate here is nothing short of cool and restorative, with temperatures rarely ever rising above 25 °C during the day. These conditions are ideal for growing tea, and tea plantations and related experiences are major tourist draws. Read on for our guide on how to best spend a weekend in this scenic Malaysian retreat.
The Cameron Highlands are named after a British explorer named Sir William Cameron, who first visited the area in 1885. It wasn’t until 40 years later that his countrymen began to set up roots in the hills because the milder weather, settling into the plateaus and building estates and plantations in the district. Among the crops that flourished in the highlands due to the temperate climate is tea.
Today, the most well-known plantation here belongs to the Malaysian brand BOH, which was founded in 1929 by a businessman named J.A Russell. Cameron Highland tour packages typically include a visit here. The BOH Tea Estate, located in Sungei Palas, offers picturesque sweeping views of the plantation from their visitor center, along with short film viewings on the history of the estate, as well as a 15-minute tour of the premises. It’s the ideal place for tea lovers to further their education into what makes the perfect cup, since guests are offered a firsthand look at what goes into the making of a Malaysian tea, from picking to final processing.
Those who simply wish to enjoy their tea can do so on the outdoor terrace of the BOH Café, where guests are invited to sample and savor a myriad of available offerings. If you absolutely must have one tea-related experience in the Cameron Highlands, this should be it.
Those looking to get in touch with their spiritual side will find the atmosphere of the Cameron Highlands calming and peaceful, ideal for meditative walks and deep contemplation. In the town of Brinchang, Buddhist and Hindu temples share the same space with mosques, proof of the area’s rich religious diversity.
Sam Poh is the Highlands’ main Buddhist temple, one of the largest in the country. It is meticulously maintained by the resident monks and a team of volunteers, and is a good place to score a free vegetarian meal, if you happen to be visiting on a prayer day. The complex is painted in hues of bright yellow and scarlet, making it a striking subject for photos. Inside, you can view magnificent Buddha images that have been painstakingly hand-painted onto ceramic tiles. You’ll also be able to see the towering statue of the Buddha for which this temple is most famous.
The Cameron Highlands district is also home to many hidden waterfalls, accessible only by trekking through the jungle. The two most popular ones are located near the town of Tanah Rata: Parit Waterfall and Robinson Waterfall. Parit Falls is located inside a recreational nature park at Taman Sedia; it is also known as Thompson Falls and shouldn’t be hard to find, being one of the attractions in the area specifically geared towards tourists. The Robinson Falls are a bit more of a challenge to get to, involving a ten-minute hike through a jungle trail.
Seeking local advice before you go hiking is recommended, and we can’t stress enough the importance of hiring a guide for exploring certain areas. However, if you insist on going independent, we recommend the easy Trail 4 towards Parit Falls. Trails 1 and 8 happen to be significantly more difficult and are suitable only for those above a certain fitness level. Your efforts will almost always be rewarded with stunning scenery, glimpses of local wildlife, and sightings of unique flora, including carnivorous pitcher plants and the world’s smelliest flower, the Rafflesia.
The Cameron Highlands district is accessible via travel express buses leaving from the Pudu Sentral Bus Station in Kuala Lumpur. You may be able to reserve and book your tickets online. If you are coming from the east, simply hop on a bus to Tanah Rata or Ipoh from the Gua Musang Bus Station. There are also minibuses that run daily to Cameron Highlands from Kuala Besut.