One of South East Asia’s most popular and enchanting destinations, Penang deserves be high on the list of anyone planning a visit to Malaysia.
Penang is packed with plenty of must-see attractions guaranteed to appeal to every type of traveller from families and honeymooners to food-lovers and those with a thirst for adventure. To help you plan the perfect itinerary, here are Tourism Malaysia’s top picks, which include an interesting and eclectic mix of modern and quirky offerings, family-friendly amusement parks, and natural and cultural attractions that truly reflect the essence of this tropical paradise.
Penang is steeped in Malaysia’s rich colonial history. And one of the best place to capture the essence of this is Penang Hill. Penang Hill was the first colonial hill station developed in Peninsular Malaysia. Located just outside the capital Georgetown, this hilly and forested area is the state’s primary hill resort.
Soaring 821m above Penang’s capital, islanders call it Bukit Bendera and it is generally about five degrees cooler than Georgetown. It’s also the last patch of tropical rainforest in Penang so the flora and fauna here have been protected since 1960. While it doesn’t have the same prominence as Genting Highlands, Fraser’s Hill or Cameron Highlands, it’s still one of Penang’s best-known tourist attractions – and on a clear day you can see the mountains of Langkawi and north Kedah not to mention over 100 species of birdlife.
Kek Lok Si Temple
For a temporal experience, pay a visit to is a Kek Lok Si Temple. Amongst the largest Buddhist temple complexes in Southeast Asia, it stands atop a hill in the little town of Air Itam near Georgetown.
Founded more than a hundred years ago, the complex is filled with beautifully-landscaped gardens and sacred temples. A striking seven-tiered pagoda called The Pagoda of 1000 Buddhas, which combines Thai, Chinese and Burmese styles in one structure, houses a stunning collection of Buddha statues made from all sorts of precious materials. Also found within the temple complex are the statues of The Four Heavenly Kings, guarding the four points of the compass – North, South, West and East – with the statue of The Laughing Buddha in the middle.
Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion
Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion in the old part of Georgetown, is one of Penang’s most iconic attractions. The home of an influential Chinese industrialist in the early 1890s, the striking blue building compromises some of the best examples of 18th and 19th-century colonial Chinese architecture.
Relying heavily on feng shui design, a team of master craftsmen from China took more than seven years to build the mansion originally, including its five granite courtyards, 38 rooms, seven staircases and 22 stained glass windows. Locals call it the Blue Mansion and it remains one of only three traditional Chinese mansions outside of China.
In 1989, it was restored and converted into a 16-room boutique heritage hotel/museum combo best known for its indigo blue façade. Rooms are priced from around $215 per night. Or if you don’t feel like staying, join a guided tour instead which take place at 11.00am, 1.30pm and 3.00pm, with an entry fee of just RM12 per visitor.
Escape Adventureplay is just the ticket for those looking for the ultimate adventure experience. A few hours spent at this adrenalin pumping theme park are likely to rank as some of the most thrilling and emotionally charged moments of your life. The park specializes in flying foxes, with some of the biggest and longest in Malaysia on offer. But if hurtling through the open air at high speed metres above the ground is not enough to get your heart racing, there are plenty of other fun activities on offer including a free fall from a 20m jump platform, an inner-tube slide and tree rope swing.
The park is open from 09.00am – 6.00pm Tuesday – Sunday and entrance is just RM60 for adults and RM45 for kids, making it a great affordable day out for all the family.
Another one of Penang’s most well known landmarks, Fort Cornwallis is the largest standing fort in Malaysia. Set close to the Esplanade and Penang Clocktower in the oldest quarter of Georgetown, the star-shaped bastion is one of the oldest structures in Penang.
Named after Marquis Charles Cornwallis the former Governor General of India, only a set of ten-foot high outer walls remains, enclosing a park within. Here you can explore a 17th century chapel, prison cells, ammunition storage area, and much more. There are even some pretty cool old bronze cannons, including a Dutch one that superstitious locals believe has a positive effect on women’s fertility. Originally built entirely out of wood, refurbishment over the years has led to the Fort’s current concrete façade. The Fort is open daily from 9.00am – 6.30pm and entry is free.
Where to stay?
There are plenty of hotel and accommodation options in Penang to suit every budget. Apart from The Blue Mansion two of the best family options include Shangri-La’s Rasa Sayang Resort in Batu Ferringhi with rooms priced from around $265, and Hotel Penaga in the heart of Georgetown priced from around $147 per room.