1. Mountain trails
You need good levels of fitness for the two-day ascent of south-east Asia’s highest mountain, Mount Kinabalu (4,095m). This hike is included in an escorted trekking itinerary offered by Exodus as part of a fortnight of forays into some of Malaysia’s most spectacular landscapes. It also takes in a tree canopy walk and a wildlife-watching trek along the Sepilok Laut trail, and finishes with a poolside day at a beach resort in Kota Kinabalu.
Trekking Borneo and Beyond from £2,899 for 14 nights, including flights, transfers and some meals. Departs March to April and July to November. Exodus Travels (exodus.co.uk).
2. Gastronomic riches
Spicy, colourful and characterised by some rich flavours, Malaysia’s gastronomy is diverse. Bamboo Travel makes the most of this on a tailor-made itinerary that takes in a cooking workshop in Malacca, a culinary tour of Kuala Lumpur, a soup noodle lunch in Ipoh, a food trail in Penang and a visit to a tropical spice garden on Teluk Bahang. Learn how to make “apam balik” (pancakes) and the coconut-flavoured dessert, “bubur cha-cha”.
A Taste of Malaysia from £3,595 for 10 nights, including flights, transfers and some meals. Departs November to April. Bamboo Travel (bambootravel.co.uk).
3. Family friendly
Malaysia’s tropical landscapes, exotic food and fascinating wildlife makes for a great family adventure holiday. Intrepid Travel has an escorted, small-group tour designed for adults and children aged from five years, which includes a visit to the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre, where orphaned orang-utans are taught how to adapt to the wild. An overnight stay in a jungle eco-camp, snorkelling off the sandy beaches of Dinawan Island, and a dip in the hot springs of Kinabalu National Park are also among the trip highlights.
Borneo Family Holiday from £1,355 (adult), £1,305 (child) for 10 nights, including some meals. Excludes flights and transfers. Intrepid Travel (intrepidtravel.com).
4. History and heritage
Malaysia’s colonial past was influenced by the British, the Dutch and the Portuguese, and the result is a rich mix of architectural, cultural and culinary influences. TransIndus delves into this legacy on a tailor-made tour from Kuala Lumpur, with its old colonial buildings, to a British-built hill station in the Cameron Highlands, which is encircled by tea plantations. Highlights also include Malacca, with its crumbling Portuguese fort and Dutch-gabled buildings, and Ipoh, with its grand Edwardian-baroque railway station.
Colonial Malaysia from £3,000 for 11 nights B&B, including flights and transfers. TransIndus (transindus.co.uk).
5. Orang-utans and rainforests
Borneo’s rainforests are among the few remaining places in the world to see Orang-utans in the wild. Naturetrek offers an escorted tour in the company of an expert guide, which focuses on tracking these endangered apes. It includes two nights in Sepilok, a cruise along the Kinabatangan river and a foray into the Danum Valley Conservation Area, which is also home to elephants, leopards and bears.
Borneo’s Orang-utans from £4,695 for nine nights, including flights, transfers and most meals. Departs Sept 2 2020. Naturetrek (naturetrek.co.uk).
6. Outdoor adventure
Malaysia’s national parks and fast-flowing rivers offer lots of scope for outdoor fun. Fleewinter’s adrenalin-fuelled itinerary makes the most of them with a jungle night walk in the Taman Negara National Park, white-water rafting on the Kampar river and abseiling down the Geruntum waterfalls in the Cameron Highlands. From Kuala Lumpur, the tour heads north to Langkawi for a cycle tour, and a catamaran excursion to the protected waters of Payar Island Marine Park for snorkelling through shoals of tropical fish.
Active in Malaysia from £2,200 for 13 nights B&B, including transfers. Excludes flights. Fleewinter (fleewinter.com).
7. Sun, sand and spa
For a tranquil beach holiday, the five-star resort of Pangkor Laut, on a private island in the Strait of Malacca, is an excellent option. The 140-room hotel is reached by a 15-minute boat ride from Marina Island Pangkor, and comprises individual villas and suites set in gardens or on stilts over the sea. There are five restaurants, two bars and a spa village, and the hotel offers excursions that include jungle trekking and sunset cruises.
Pangkor Laut Resort from £1,593 for seven nights B&B, including flights and transfers. Kuoni (kuoni.co.uk).
8. Island hopping
Enticing beaches backed by lush rainforest and lapped by the warm South China Sea make the islands off Malaysia’s eastern coast a top pick for a sun-and-sand break. Eastravel offers a relaxed multi-centre package to a collection of island hideaways – three nights each at the Bubu Long Beach Resort on Perhentian Kecil, the Perhentian Beach Resort on Perhentian Besar and the D’Coconut Lagoon on Lang Tengah Island, with fast boat transfers between each island. Room upgrades are available at extra cost.
Island Hopping on the East Coast of Malaysia from £852 for nine nights B&B, including transfers. Departs April to October. Excludes flights. Eastravel (eastravel.co.uk).
9. City sightseeing
It’s cosmopolitan, has a real buzz to it and a food culture that ranges from street stalls to classy restaurants but, for some reason, Malaysia’s capital, Kuala Lumpur, tends to fall below the tourist radar. This is a shame because the architectural contrast created by its colonial past and its 21st-century high-rise skyline, together with mosques, temples and churches, makes for a fascinating mix. There is also good shopping, and a lively Chinatown and Little India.
Kuala Lumpur and Penang from £1,669 for 10 nights B&B, including flights and transfers. Tropical Sky (tropicalsky.co.uk).
10. Lure of the north
Northern Malaysia offers a particularly diverse mix of experiences, and they are cleverly combined in a two-week trip from Experience Travel Group. This includes a walking tour of Penang’s unique street art, a cookery session and a two-night village homestay with a Malay family by Lake Cendorah. The itinerary also takes in the jungle landscapes of the Belum State Park, and the beaches of the Perhentian islands.