The Cameron Highlands is a hilly region in the Pahang state of Malaysia. As one of Malaysia’s biggest hill stations, it is home to a strong tea and vegetable production industry. Part of its great appeal lies in the refreshingly cooler temperatures of the area, when compared to the rest of the country’s stifling humidity.
Known for its expansive green tea plantations and dense jungle, the Cameron Highlands is a good destination for hiking and discovering abundant fauna and wildlife. For British tourists, it feels a little like a home from home, with afternoon tea and rolling green countryside.
In this guide to visiting the Cameron Highlands, I explain all you need to know about this unique pocket of Malaysia. From how to get there to the best things to see and do, and everything in between.
A quick bit of history
The Cameron Highlands is named after William Cameron, a British explorer who first surveyed the area in 1885. 40 years later, colonial explorer Sir George Maxwell decreed that the region should be developed into a hill station. Over the following years, plantations were developed and the area became a popular destination for holidaying Brits.
The British influence in the Cameron Highlands is strong. You’ll find cream teas and beef Wellingtons on menus, as well as hotels with Tudor-style period features. The area gradually grew in popularity with expats from all over the world. Today, it is a popular tourist destination to visitors exploring Malaysia.
Where is the Cameron Highlands?
The Cameron Highlands is located on the westernmost edge of the Pahang district in Western Malaysia. It is 85km from the nearest city, Ipoh, and 200km from Kuala Lumpur. The area is very hilly, with the highest point being 2,000m above sea level.
How to get to the Cameron Highlands
The Cameron Highlands is easily accessed from Kuala Lumpur and Penang by road. There are reliable bus services from these cities to Tanah Rata, the main town in the Cameron Highlands. The bus service from Kuala Lumpur takes three hours, costs RM35, and leaves from Terminal Bersepadu Selatan. The bus from Penang takes four hours, costs RM40, and leaves from Sungai Nibong Bus Terminal.
The last two hours of the journey to Cameron Highlands involves steep winding roads. As a result, the area is not accessible by train or plane. The nearest station is in Ipoh, where you can get a 90 minute bus from AmanJaya Bus Terminal.
Alternatively, you can travel as part of a wider travel tour or private tour service. This way, your tour operator will arrange all the travel for you. If you have more budget then you can take a taxi from Kuala Lumpur. Alternatively, you can hire a car from the main cities if you prefer the freedom of driving.
When to visit the Cameron Highlands
Cameron Highlands is a year round destination, but the best time to visit is during the off-peak season. As such a popular destination, the area can get extremely busy during peak times. Avoid school holidays, festive periods, and major public holidays where possible. The traffic can get really bad during these peak periods, with traffic jams a common sight. Weekends are understandably more busy too.
Weather in the Cameron Highlands
Rain is common in the Cameron Highlands, which is what makes it such a great place for harvesting tea and vegetables. The monsoon season is between November and February. There may be more rain but this is when all the beautiful green plantations are in full bloom. But given that the area is stunning all year round, you may prefer to avoid these months if the rain is a concern.
Although there is rain all year round, the amount of rain will be less in the dry season of February, March, and April, as well as during the summer months of June, July, and August. These months are popular times to visit. But as mentioned earlier, try to avoid school holidays if you can.
Temperature in the Cameron Highlands
Temperatures are noticeably cooler in the Cameron Highlands, when compared to the rest of the country. It’s one of the great appeals of the Cameron Highlands, as it is a refreshing respite from the intense humidity elsewhere in Malaysia.
Throughout the year, temperatures range from 14 to 28 degrees Celsius. The coolest months are in December, January, and February.
When you visit may depend on what you intend to see and do while in the Cameron Highlands. If you want to visit the Brinchang Night Market, then you’ll need to visit at the weekend. Or if you want to go hiking, then it is strongly recommended to avoid the rainy season. The trails can get slippery and are often closed as a result.
Top places to visit & things to do in the Cameron Highlands
There are plenty of interesting places to visit and unusual tourist attractions in the Cameron Highlands. Many of the activities won’t take long and can be squeezed into a relatively short space of time. Here are the best things to do in the Cameron Highlands:
1. Tea plantation tour
Given that the Cameron Highlands is famous for its tea production, a visit to a tea plantation is a must. Tour the Boh Sungei Palas Tea Plantation to learn all about the process of tea harvesting and growing. There’s also the Cameron Bharat Tea Estate for an alternative option.
At the Boh plantation, you can enjoy a delightful afternoon tea in the glass-fronted cafe. Situated on an inviting terrace, you can enjoy a cuppa against the backdrop of spectacular panoramic views over the emerald tea plantations. You will be spoilt for choice with tea blends and flavours; honestly, it gives Fortnum & Mason a run for their money! You can also buy some tea in their tea shop – the perfect souvenir or gift for someone back home.
Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday 08:30 – 16:30
Entrance fee: Free
2. Hiking trails & jungle trekking
There are a number of wonderful hiking trails in the Cameron Highlands. Wind through dense forest, cascading waterfalls, and discover plenty of wildlife. There are a number of marked trails with varying degrees of difficulty, so be sure to choose according to your trekking experience and fitness levels.
More challenging trails require a guide and a permit, but are generally rewarded with breathtaking scenery. Heavy rain can mean regular trail closures, so check before you head out. Make sure that you wear appropriate footwear too, so you’re prepared to tackle any mud and slippery paths.
Cameron Highlands hiking highlights
- Discover Robinson Waterfalls on trail number 9. It’s only a 10 minute walk and is a truly serene spot.
- Mossy Forest is another great place to hike to. It is teeming with tropical plants and fauna, as well as monkeys, birds, and butterflies.
- Look out for Rafflesia flowers, the world’s largest flower which is currently endangered.
3. Climb Mount Brinchang
At 2,000 metres high, Mount Brinchang offers spectacular views across the Cameron Highlands. The trail is easily accessible, starting on the northside of Brinchang. It takes around two hours to hike, but you can also drive to the top. Hiking is preferable though, as you get to discover the beautiful jungle trails along the way.
4. Visit a Strawberry farm
At Raaju’s Hill Strawberry Farm, visitors will find rows and rows of juicy red delicacies. Just waiting to be picked and devoured with lashings of cream! A strawberry farm tour is a great activity for families visiting the Cameron Highlands. It also includes the opportunity to pick your own strawberries.
Even if you don’t pick your own, you can’t possibly leave without a punnet of fresh strawberries to be devoured on the way home.
Top tip: Try the strawberry milkshake – it’s wonderfully refreshing and utterly delicious.
Opening times: Daily 08:00-18:30
Entrance fee: Free
5. Wander around a Butterfly farm
Visit the Butterfly Farm to see the intricate patterns and vibrant colours of the beautiful butterflies with their large wing spans. The butterflies are free-flying, so it’s great for seeing them in their natural environment. If you don’t like any kind of creature flapping around you then it’s probably best avoided! But if you’d like to get up close to these stunning insects, plus a range of other cool species (guinea pigs included) then it’s worth a visit.
Opening times: Daily 08:00-18:00
Entrance fee: RM7
6. Sample Steamboat cuisine
A culinary staple of the Cameron Highlands is Steamboat cuisine. Similar to the cook-your-own style of European fondues, it involves a large bowl of bubbling broth to which you add your chosen raw ingredients. The ingredients you add are up to you, whether it’s meat, fish, vegetables, noodles, or tofu.
It may not be to everyone’s taste but it’s a fun and unique experience when in the Cameron Highlands. There are plenty of Steamboat restaurants to choose from, so it’s worth getting a recommendation from one of the locals.
7. Explore the Night Market
Brinchang Night Market, sometimes known as the Golden Hill Night Market, takes place every Friday and Saturday. There are around 150 local vendors selling a range of products. These include:
- Fresh produce, such as strawberries, honey, and vegetables
- Tea blends
- Hawker stalls which sell grilled meats and other tasty treats
The produce is all very affordable, and the atmosphere is vibrant and lively. There is a car park just a five minute walk away from the market, with a small fee to park.
Opening times: Friday & Saturday 16:00-23:00
The night market is also open every day during Malaysian school holidays.
8. Visit Cactus Valley
Located in Brinchang, the Cactus Valley is home to an impressive variety of cacti. From small and spiky to big and spiky! Visitors will also discover giant cacti, with some up to 60 years old. There is also a range of other flora in the valley, including wild flowers and apple orchards.
Opening times: Daily 08:00-18:00
Entrance fee: RM4
9. See the Lavender Gardens
Explore the vibrant landscaped gardens of the lavender farms. Breathe in the wonderful scent of lavender which fills the air. The gardens also feature various other continental flowers on display. It’s a truly Instagram-worthy spot! Once you’re done admiring the gorgeous display, be sure to taste the lavender ice cream before you leave.
Opening times: Daily 9:00-18:00
Entrance fee: RM10
10. Visit Sam Poh Temple
Sam Poh Temple is the fourth largest temple in Malaysia, situated one kilometre away from Brinchang. It is a colourful Chinese temple set against a backdrop of verdant jungle. Visitors will find beautiful golden warrior statues inside and the fourth largest Buddha statue in Malaysia. It’s a great spot to discover a bit of imperial Chinese art and history.
Opening times: Daily 07:00 – 19:00
Entrance fee: Free
Visiting the Cameron Highlands
Here’s everything you need to know if you’re planning a visit to the Cameron Highlands. From where to stay and what to eat, to how to get around and what to pack.
Where to stay in Cameron Highlands
Tanah Rata is the main hub where travellers base themselves. It has bus links to connect you to various day trip locations, plus many hiking trails start from the outskirts of the town. There are a variety of hotels, homestay, Airbnbs, and other unique places to stay in the Cameron Highlands.
Where you choose to stay will depend on your personal preferences, budget, and the type of experience you’re after. For a tudor-style boutique resort that brings a bit of luxury, stay at The Lakehouse. Or for a more budget option, try an authentic homestay like Moon River Lodge.
What to eat
There are plenty of budget-friendly places to eat within the towns and villages of the Cameron Highlands. If you’re visiting at the weekend then be sure to try some traditional Malay street food from the hawker stalls at the night market. Fresh strawberries from a strawberry farm are also a must – the perfect refreshing snack during the day.
For another authentic experience, visit a Steamboat restaurant. Cameron Organic Produce, Gonbei, and Jin Jin are good steamboat options. But it’s always good to get a local recommendation for the best places to eat.
Transport in the Cameron Highlands
There are three main ways to get around the Cameron Highlands: on foot, by taxi, or by shuttle bus. The shuttle bus leaves from Tanah Rata and goes to Brinchang and Kampung Raja. It is a budget-friendly option but does have an irregular schedule.
There are plenty of taxis available for use, and they can often be found outside the main tourist attractions and resorts. Car rental is not available in the Cameron Highlands; you would have to hire a car from Kuala Lumpur or Ipoh. Alternatively, you can hire bicycles and motorbikes if you’d prefer a more unique and independent means of getting around.
What to bring and pack
In terms of what to wear, bring light clothing as it is still quite humid in the Cameron Highlands. It’s advisable to bring something warmer for when the temperature drops in the evenings.
If you plan to go hiking, make sure you pack accordingly. Bring long trousers, a waterproof jacket, and appropriate footwear. Hiking boots are preferable but anything that will survive the trails will suffice.
How long to spend in the Cameron Highlands
Only a day or two are needed to take in the sights of the Cameron Highlands. Any longer and you may run out of things to do, and get a little bored. One night is enough, although you may want that extra night just to make the most of the glorious cool temperature before it’s back to the unbearable humidity!
It’s only recommended to stay for longer if you plan on doing a lot of hiking. Even still, a few days would be more than enough.
Is Cameron Highlands worth visiting?
Cameron Highlands is a very popular destination, which means it’s a hot spot for tour groups. The traffic can be almost unbearable, especially at peak times. There’s no getting around the fact that tourism is having a detrimental effect on the area. So choose your tour operator and guides carefully. When hiking, stay on marked paths and don’t touch or pick the plants.
As long as you try to visit off peak, the Cameron Highlands is certainly worth a visit if you’re exploring Malaysia. It’s quite a unique place and offers something quite different to the rest of the country. Just don’t spend too long there, and make the most of the refreshingly cooler temperatures while you’re visiting.