Less than 2 hours a drive from Ipoh, or 3 hours from Kuala Lumpur, Cameron Highlands (in Malaysia), since featured by Lonely Planet in recent years, is fast turning into a not-so-secret paradise.
Have you been to Cameron Highlands yet?
I first went when I was 12, as a school trip all the way from Singapore. Two weekends ago, I took another trip to Cameron Highlands for the 3rd time in my life. That Friday also happened to be a long weekend in Malaysia. I’ve never remembered Cameron Highlands to be crowded, so it caught me by surprise when we were constantly caught in traffic jams! Eh, I thought not many people actually go to Cameron Highlands? Turned out I was wrong. There were plenty of locals as well – Malaysians visiting from other states.
Things to Do at Cameron Highlands
Enjoy the cooling weather
Firstly, the weather at Cameron Highlands is awesome, in terms of temperature. High up in the mountains above 1300m and more, the weather is always cooling and nice, especially in the morning and night, dipping to 10+ degrees.
Admire breathtaking tea plantations, rolling hills & valleys
Known for these beautiful tea valleys, Cameron Highlands has 3-4 main tea plantations. We drove to Cameron Valley tea plantation. It was so lovely there! The weather forecast hadn’t been too optimistic with thunderstorms predicted, so I was super glad when the weather held up – it didn’t rain!
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This is Boh’s Tea Plantation. We came here as part of a 4-hour Mossy Forest tour!
Hop from Farm to Farm
From strawberry farms to cactus to butterfly and bee farms
There are farms with strawberries which you can pick and fill up. For novelty’s sake only, though. Just don’t imagine the farms will provide plenty of big, fat strawberries, because those have already picked away and sold at the markets, lol.
Other than that, there’re also cactus farms with all sorts of weird cactuses you can admire or buy (if you wanna buy plants, check ahead if your country allows you to bring them in). There’s also a butterfly farm (I went as a kid so I don’t remember) and also a bee farm, if you’re into insects!
Go photo-crazy at Lavender Garden
Who can resist the idea of a lavender garden?!? Since I haven’t been able to get to Hokkaido yet, a lavender farm at Cameron Highlands will suffice for now. My eyes lit up in excitement when our Ipoh friends suggested Cameron Lavender to us.
After visiting though, if you ask me, the existence of this attraction is totally tourist-driven. The lavender section is in fact, a very small section near the entrance. The other areas feature different flowers, which serves as a pretty backdrop for photos. Visiting this place once in your life will be more than enough.
This road is right in front of Lavender Garden — filled with cars and tour buses!
Entrance fees for Lavender Garden: RM10/adult and RM7/child (5-12 years).
Enjoy tea & scones with fresh air & views like this
Or have scones at this charming restaurant
Other than tea, another thing that Cameron Highlands is known for would be scones. You can order for scones one of the tea plantations’ teahouses, or can enjoy them at a charming, old-world restaurant like Ye Olde Smokehouse.
Ye Olde Smokehouse is both a restaurant and a hotel. We headed over for lunch and ended the meal with tea and scones. Because the prices weren’t considered cheap by Malaysian standards, the restaurant wasn’t crowded when we were there.
At the main entrance, they have a guard who only allows entry into the premises for patrons only. Same goes for the hotel lobby, the receptionist once again intercepted us when we wanted to go explore the garden (which is again only open to hotel guests or restaurant diners). At first, I thought this was rather snooty of the establishment. However, my friend reminded me that if they don’t reinforce this policy, it would take even a lot more effort to maintain their beautiful, sprawling garden. That, I’ll have to agree!
I wondered how it’ll be like to stay a night at this gorgeous, colonial building. If you have stayed before or are planning to, please share your experience with me!
Eat hot charcoal steamboat for dinner
Nothing like having hot steamboat in Cameron Highlands’ cool weather! There’s a particular stretch at Brinchang with quite a few charcoal steamboat restaurants. From another trip few years ago, the hotel we stayed at prepared steamboat dinner for us too.
Remember to save stomach space after dinner! Because you’ll need to…
Head to the pasar malam for snacks & supper
Happening every Friday and Saturday nights, this is a night market where you can buy plenty of food (local Malay food and more), snacks (grilled corn or steamed corn – I recommend steamed corn!), fresh strawberries, souvenirs, fruits & veggies and more.
I highly recommend checking out this particular Malay stall if you can recognize from my photo above on the right. The fried chicken was sooooo good omg. I miss it now!
Catch the sunrise
I went for this in 2012. It was amazing. However, whether you get to catch a sunrise or not will depend on the weather. Good luck!
Ps: It gets very cold in the mornings before dawn. Be prepared and bring a good jacket!
Hike the Mossy Forest
This time, our tour took us on a boardwalk trail at the forest, instead of hiking the real forest (which I did in 2012). It was much easier this time and most importantly, your shoes will not get dirtied by mud. The boardwalk reaches a height of 2000m above sea level, which explains the misty scenes below.
There are steps to climb up and down though. It’s not friendly for wheelchairs, strollers and toddlers, do take note.
Is Cameron Highlands good for a family/company/friends’ trip?
Yes! The weather was wonderful – chilly at below 20 degrees when we were there. In the daytime, when the sun is out, the temperature can go up significantly, so all you need is a Tshirt or tank top. Keep a sweater with you.
Tips for your Cameron Highlands trip!
- Staying 1 or 2 nights is good enough. Choose a Friday or Saturday, because that’s when the night market (pasar malam) is open.
- Not sure where to stay in Cameron Highlands? There’re serviced apartments, plenty of AirBNB options and a few hotels. I would recommend staying at a hotel OR an AirBNB with really excellent reviews. Our AirBNB apartment at Golden Hills – just walking steps away from the pasar malam at Tanah Rata, had no bad reviews, but the stay was less than desirable. The apartment was pretty but cleanliness was very questionable. I’ve also stayed at Strawberry Park Resort in 2012, a hotel with spacious rooms. The next time I go, I’ll be very interested to stay at Cameron Highlands Resort! Meanwhile, you can check more options on Booking.com / Agoda !
- In the daytime, a T-shirt might suffice if the sun is out. Bring a sweater/jacket with you though so you can put it on when it gets chilly.
- You saw this tip here first 😉 Wear track shoes so you can go further down the tea plantations, away from the crowds, for photos! I managed to go lower down the slopes because many people were wearing things like slippers or sandals. Be careful regardless, as the slopes get steep and slippery.
- If you’re interested to visit Mossy Forest, book tours instead of driving on your own. The roads that lead to Mossy Forest are not well-maintained, have plenty of uncovered drains, and also can get really narrow. It takes great driving skills to arrive safely. We went with Eco Cameron Highland Tours and were happy with our decision. Besides, the prices were reasonable. If you’re considering hiking on your own, do enough research. One thing to note is the possibility of armed robbers lurking in this forest (can you imagine?!?), cases which were reported to have happened a few years ago.
- If you don’t have a car, to make the most of your trip, book those day-long tours so you can get a taste of everything, and not worry about transport at Cameron Highlands! The roads at Cameron Highlands can be very congested.
How to get to Cameron Highlands
Option 1. Take a coach from Singapore to Cameron Highlands.
In 2012, a big group of us (company trip) booked coach tickets that will take us from Singapore (Beach Road) to Cameron Highlands. Our coach set off at 10+pm. After crossing the borders between Singapore and Malaysia, it’s a long drive. By the next early morning, we’d reached Cameron Highlands.
Point of caution though: these coach rides take place late at night. There’s a certain degree of danger compared to making the journey by day whether it be the North-South Highway (known for many accidents), or the road that leads to Cameron Highlands (roads may not be lit).
Option 2. Drive from Singapore to Cameron Highlands
Unless you really love driving, it’s a long way to drive to reach Cameron Highlands in Malaysia, taking between 7 to 9 hours.
There’s a newer route, by the way. Using the North-South Highway in Malaysia, drive past the Tapah exit (Tapah exit brings you to the old route which is longer and more winding). Instead, take the Simpang Pulai exit, then follow the signboards to drive up to Cameron Highlands.
When you use the newer route, you’ll get to Brinchang (the highest town in Cameron Highlands) first, instead of having to wind past the lower towns (Ringlet and Tanah Rata). This post here has more details.
Option 3. Fly to Ipoh (Malaysia), and then drive to Cameron Highlands.
If you manage to get a car, you can drive up yourself. From Ipoh to Cameron Highlands, it’s about a 1.5 hour drive. Refer to Option 2 for the driving advice.
Option 4. Get there from Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia).
KL is a 3-hour drive from Cameron Highlands. You can research on bus companies or possibly booking a taxi to send you there.
Hope you like this feature on Cameron Highlands! Will you be heading there soon?
Interested in my itinerary? Scroll to the Itinerary Section & look for Malaysia ’17 on my Travel Resources page!
Read next: 6 Reasons to visit Ipoh!
Visited: Sep 2017
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Further reads on Malaysia here!
• Top 6 reasons to visit Ipoh soon
• The Fengshui behind Penang’s Blue Mansion
• Penang’s street art in 15 photos
• Making noodles at Mamee Museum
• Calanthe Art Cafe – the most artistic cafe in Malacca