If you’re asked to name a tourist destination in Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur or Penang would probably be among the first to come to mind. Filled to the brim with culinary, cultural, and historical delights, these locations will surely make for a pleasurable trip.
Aside from Kuala Lumpur and Penang, however, there’s another Malaysian destination that deserves top-of-mind status: Kedah. Also known as “Darul Aman” or “Abode of Peace,” Kedah covers a 9,000-square-kilometre territory that is composed of the mainland and Langkawi Island.
Kedah has plenty of natural wonders, historic landmarks, and majestic structures. Here’s a list of must-visit places in Kedah to give you a taste and help you uncover this fascinating Malaysian state.
Langkawi Island or Pulau Langkawi is Malaysia’s top island destination. The primary gateway to the island is the Langkawi International Airport. It’s a tourist attraction in and of itself, due to the biennial Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition. Aside from the airport, the island can also be accessed via passenger boats. If your accommodations are in Alor Setar like Millenium Maison Home, you can easily find ferry services that can take you directly to Langkawi.
Attractions in the island combine the wonders of nature and modern technology to help promote and preserve its geological wonders. For example, you can take a cable car ride to the top of Mount Mat Cincang for truly spectacular views of Langkawi’s forests and waterfalls. There’s also Langkawi Wildlife Park & Bird Paradise and Underwater World Langkawi where you can find hundreds of beautiful animals. There are also various conservation areas like the Kilim Karst and Dayang Bunting Marble Geoforest Parks. Of course, you can find plenty of beaches in Langkawi where you can snorkel and dive to see the abundant marine life.
Kedah Royal Museum
Located in Alor Setar, Kedah’s capital, the Kedah Royal Museum was once a palace. It is where Malaysia’s first prime minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, was born. In fact, the former prince’s room is one of the most popular exhibits in the palace-turned-museum. In addition, the museum features antiques and jewellery that belonged to the Kedah Royal Family. There are also photos and artifacts that detail the royals’ birth, education, and ascent to the throne.
The Kedah Royal Museum maintains its status as a Royal Palace and is open to the public for free. You can easily complete the tour of the museum in about an hour, giving you plenty of time to visit other nearby attractions like Masjid Zahir.
The Masjid Zahir or Zahir Mosque, built in 1912, is the state mosque of Kedah where many of the local Muslims gather to worship. It’s also the venue of the state’s annual Quran reading competition. The Masjid Zahir is considered one of the most beautiful mosques in Malaysia, with a striking black-and-white exterior and a design inspired by Langkat mosques in Northern Sumatra. Its Moorish architecture features a primary dome surrounded by five smaller ones, which represent the five basic tenets of Islam.
Another interesting fact about the mosque is that it’s built on top of a historical site: the graves of the warriors who fought and died when the Siamese invaded Kedah in 1821.
Wat Nikrodharam is the centre of Buddhist worship in Alor Setar. This cross-cultural wat (temple) was built in 1968, with a design that combines Thai, Chinese, and Hindu influences. In fact, the temple’s Buddha figure has three faces and eight arms, reminiscent of Hindu iconography. This unique icon draws both religious devotees and even non-worshipers from all over the world. Wat Nikrodharam also features nagas and garudas in its design, as well as majestic roofs with traditional “lamyong” roof finials.
Menara Alor Setar
The Menara Alor Setar (Alor Setar Tower) is one of the tallest telecommunications towers in the world at 543 feet (165.50 metres). It’s also a tourist attraction. The observation deck at 289 feet (88 metres) gives gorgeous 360-degree views of the Alor Setar cityscape. On top of the tower is the Seri Angkasa Revolving Restaurant, where you can feast on local and international dishes while enjoying the scenery. You can even glimpse Butterworth and even Thailand in the distance! There is also a shop where you can buy little trinkets for souvenirs. If you can, visit on a weekday so there are fewer tourists.
Bukit Hijau is a recreational forest, located in the Gunung Inas Virgin Forest Reserve in Baling. The climb to the top of the hill is an easy one, which makes Bukit Hijau a popular destination for mountaineering beginners. Once you reach the peak, you’ll be rewarded with a view of Paya Terubong Valley and a part of Penang’s northeastern coast.
Aside from the beautiful mountain trail where you can glimpse a variety of plants and animals, Bukit Hijau is also famous for its seven-tiered waterfall. Many tourists come here to swim in the cool and crystal-clear pool beneath the cascade.
Found in Kulim, a district about 2 hours from Alor Setar, Sungai Sedim is a rushing river that’s perfect for white-water rafting and kayaking. Another famous activity here is the Tree Top Walk, a 925-metre canopy walk that lets you view the forest and the river from above. The acoustics are also quite interesting, with the sounds of the flowing water, wind, and animals combining to form a glorious natural symphony.
One thing that would please nature lovers about the Sungai Sedim Canopy Walk is that the path is actually a self-supporting bridge. This means that no trees were damaged, as opposed to “real” canopy walks that are attached to the trees.
Are you ready for a new adventure? Hopefully, you’ll find this list helpful in planning your next trip to Malaysia!