Planning a mini-Malaysian vacay but not sure where to go? No worries – I’ve got you! Here is a list of the 7 best places to visit in Malaysia in 3 days. After living in Penang for 6, going on 7 years, I know all about this wonderful country. It’s totally underrated, less touristy than its neighbors, and has a little something for everyone.
However, if you only have 3 days in Malaysia, it’s going to be a hard decision where to hang your hat.
Fret not, my friends; I am here to help.
First, you are going to need to make some choices.
Do you want a frenetic city? Are you there for the islands? What about food and culture? Yes, Malaysia has all that and more.
Sadly, you can’t have it all in three days; there is just too much here to choose from. That’s why I’ve written about 7 of the best places to visit in Malaysia in 3 days.
Since you are short on time, I’ve chosen my faves with the shortest travel times. No point in going somewhere when it will take you a day to get there. This is not the time for off the beaten track Malaysia. That’s another trip.
It’s time to grab a glass wine, coffee, tea, vodka – whatever, and get to planning.
7 Places to Visit in Malaysia in 3 days
No matter where you are coming from, it’s most likely that your international flight will take you to Kuala Lumpur. It’s the capital of Malaysia and a massive, bustling city. This world-class city is a perfect place to get over your jet lag, get acquainted with Malaysia, and wander the streets. It is a vibrant city full of culture, food, and sights.
KL, as the locals call it, is cosmopolitan, multi-cultural, and historical, all wrapped up into one metropolis.
Every time we go back, I like it more and more. And I’m always surprised by the number of activities there. It’s def one of my fave Malaysia must visit places.
Getting around the city is easy and cheap with various train systems. However, avoid taking cabs at all costs, they’ll just rip you off. If you need a ride, use Grab (Malaysia’s Uber). But traffic really sucks in KL, so it could be faster to walk.
There is so much to do there. You can easily spend three days, or even a month, and not see everything. I should write a guide on the city itself, but until I do, I’ve picked my favorite places to visit in Kuala Lumpur to get you started.
It is for sure one of the best places to visit in Malaysia in 3 days because you can really get a sense of what Malaysia is all about.
Best Things to do in Kuala Lumpur in 3 days:
This excellent Kuala Lumpur itinerary has the best ideas to pack into your three day trip.
- Eat… a lot. Jalon Alor and Petaling street are touristy, but they are well known and have some great food. Be adventurous, if you see a bustling street-side café, go in and eat. You won’t be sorry.
- Visit the Islamic Arts Museum. IAMM has more than 10,000 artifacts ranging from jewelry and clothing to scaled-down models of the most significant mosques around the world. Besides all the exhibits, the architecture and design of the museum are beyond impressive, and we spent hours just wandering aimlessly. It’s also a great way to get out of the midday heat.
- Wander through the incense flooded streets of Little India. The shops are stocked with flower garlands, spices, incense, and traditional clothing and jewelry. Get a henna tattoo and then grab some banana leaf for lunch/dinner. There is a three-story Indian Bazaar where you can sharpen your bargaining skills.
- Check out the Heli Lounge Bar for rooftop sundowners. Or head to Bukit Bintang for a street full of bars and restaurants.
- Go to KLCC and check out the iconic Petronas Towers. They are the world’s tallest twin towers. If you do go at night, time it with the free Symphony Lake Water Show in KLCC park.
- Visit holy sites throughout the city (remember to dress appropriately). There are sooo many religious sites in KL but these are a few of the most unique and important ones:
- Buddhist and Taoist temples – Thean Hou Temple, Kuan Yin Temple, Chan She Shu Yuen Clan Ancestral Hall, Guan Di Temple, Sin Sze Si Ya Temple
- Mosques – Jamek Mosque, National Mosque of Malaysia (Masjid Negara), Wilayah Mosque
- Hindu sites – Sri Mahamariamman Temple
- Train it out to the Batu Caves. It is one of the most unique Hindu temples in Malaysia and one of the most significant pilgrimage sites for Hindus around the world, especially during Thaipusam. With its rainbow staircase and the giant statue of Lord Murugan, it’s an impressive way to spend a few hours. Try to go early in the morning when the heat isn’t as oppressive, and neither are the crowds.
Where to stay in Kuala Lumpur for 3 days:
Ipoh has one of the prettiest natural landscapes in peninsular Malaysia. Imagine craggy limestone hills that give way to rolling green hills. The panoramas driving into town are very dramatic, and it seems like the limestone karsts jut into the sky out of nowhere.
In some ways, Ipoh feels like George Town’s little sister, with its cool street art, food, and cafe culture. But the vibe is totally different because it is much less touristy and trendy.
Best things to do in Ipoh in 3 days:
- Find the Gua Tempurung Cave and go spelunking. There are four different tours, but only two go through the river, which was my favorite part. There are massive caverns, stalactites and stalagmites, and narrow little tunnels you have to shimmy through. If you are claustrophobic, this isn’t for you.
- Get your big kid on and go to the Lost World of Tambun theme park.
- Trek the Ulu Geroh Rafflesia Trail. The rafflesia is one of the largest flowers in the world and smells rotting dead bodies. It’s also known as a corpse flower, lovely right?
- Walk the Ipoh Heritage Trail, which takes you passed all the famous colonial buildings and shophouses.
- Visit ancient cave temples (Kok Lok Tong Cave Temple, Ling Sen Tong Temple, Sam Poh Tong Cave Temple, Perak Tong Cave, Kwan Yin Tong Temple)
- Check out the 3000-year-old cave paintings in the Gua Tambun Cave
- Stroll along Concubine Lane, a notorious opium den, and where the wealthy Chinese and British officers would keep their mistresses.
- Hunt for street art. Take a walking tour and find it all.
Where to stay for 3 days in Ipoh
- For even more things it do, check out this Ipoh itinerary.Have time for a 3 nights 4 days itinerary for Malaysia? Take a quick side trip to Cameron Highlands.
George Town, Penang
Clearly, this is my fave of all the places to visit in Malaysia in 3 days. But I’ll try not to be biased and gush too much.
There is tons to see on this little cosmopolitan island, but with only a few days, it’s best to stick to George Town, the capital. Walking around is like stepping back in time. As if you’re in a living museum exploring little nooks and crannies everywhere you look.
George Town is traditional yet trendy. It’s steeped in history and modern all at the same time. Get lost in its labyrinth of narrow alleys. Talk to the locals. You can stuff your face full of cheap local delights and discover the UNESCO heritage zone.
There are temples peppered throughout George Town, and you can go inside all of them.
Take a break from all the exploring to sip coffee at the cool cafes or drink beers on the streets. It’s a quirky, unique, and vibrant city.
George Town is the reason we moved to Malaysia, we were entranced after the first week!
Best things to do in George Town, Penang in 3 days:
- Grab a street art map get lost in the maze of busy streets. There is always something new being painted, so it’s possible to meet the artist if your timing is right.
- Eat. It’s a pastime here. And it’s an integral part of the culture. I’ve written two blogs about it: Best Hawker Food in Penang and Best Places to Eat in Penang on a Date Night. Get ready to drool.
- Visit these holy and cultural sites to get an idea of the history of Penang: Khoo Kongsi, Kapitan Keling Mosque, Cheong Fatt Tze Mansion.
- Walk gingerly down the ancient floating villages known as the Clan Jetties. Each jetty is named after a Chinese Clan, who still reside there today. I would avoid the Chew Jetty as it’s the most touristy. Pick 2-3 and have a wander. Remember that people live here, be respectful, especially when taking pictures.
- Stroll through the Botanical Gardens and spot 2 types of monkeys, flying squirrels, and flora beyond measure. There are dozens of hiking trails that will take you through jungle, streams, waterfalls, and rainforest.
These next two are exactly in George Town, but not including them on this list would be doing you a disservice.
- Check out the treetop walk at the Habitat on Penang Hill.
- Kek Lok Si is the biggest temple complex in Penang and one of the biggest in Southeast Asia. It dates back to 1885. There are over a million images of Buddha within the temple grounds, A MILLION! Crazy right? It also has a 7-story pagoda, a 36-meter bronze statue of Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy, and a turtle pond.
Where to Stay in George Town for 3 days?
Check out Penang: Where to Stay to Make the Most of Your Holiday it’s my super fresh guide to accomodation on the island. Or check out my full on Penang Itinerary for more info.
Which is the best island to visit in Malaysia?
If you are on a Malaysia 3 days 2 nights itinerary, you’ll only be able to choose one island to visit.
The easiest one to get to is Langkawi via very quick flights (17 minutes from Penang and 1 hour from KL).
Perhentians require a flight and then an hour taxi or bus, then a ferry.
Tioman is overland to the pier and then the ferry. The latter two islands will take more than five hours of travel time if you are coming from KL, so keep that in mind.
This island is what dreams are made of; white sand, azure-clear water, and palm trees lining the beaches. Since it is a part of the Sultan Iskandar Marine Park, it is protected. Fishing and motorized water sports aren’t allowed, so the coral and marine life are exceptional.
Best Things to do in Tioman in 3 days:
It’s all about the pale sandy beaches and cerulean water in Tioman.
- Go snorkeling in the clear water to see all the fishies.
- Learn to freedive
- Scuba diving to the shipwrecks and colorful coral. There is a ton of marine life to see.
- Surfing at Juara beach during the monsoon season from November to February.
- Go hiking. Some hikes are in the jungle, others are to the top of the tallest mountain on the island, Ganung Kajang. There are heaps of hiking trails all over the island of varying degrees of difficulty. If you’re into waterfalls, hike to the Asah Waterfall.
- Visit or volunteer at The Juara Turtle sanctuary and see baby turtles hatch.
- If it is raining or you’re sick of the beaches, go to Genting Village and check out Suhadi Mahadi’s Batik center.
- Rent a bike and go beach hopping. Discover as many beaches as you can on your trek about the island.
Where to stay in Tioman for 3 days:
The Perhentians are where you’ll find powdery white sand and the turquoise-blue waters of the South China Sea. This darling little archipelago consists of two main islands Kecil and Besar, which means Small and Big.
Kecil has more backpacker vibes and nightlife while Besar has some larger resorts and is very relaxed. If you’re on your honeymoon head to Besar. If you want to party a bit, Kecil is for you. So, it depends on what you want, but for a Malaysia 3 days, 2 nights itinerary, I’d only choose one to stay on. They are close enough to pop over for a day trip, so you’ll be able to check out both if you want.
Best things to do in Perhentians in 3 days:
- Snorkel until your skin prunes. You can snorkel off the beach or go on one of the many snorkeling trips around the island.
- Learn to scuba by taking a fun dive course. You don’t have enough time to take the full Padi course, but a fun dive gives you all the basics and is, well, fun.
- If you are already certified, scuba dive the shipwrecks
- Island hop
- Umm hi, be lazy! You’re vacationing in a postcard scene, enjoy it. Plant yourself in the sand and read a book.
- If you are in Kecil, party the night away.
- Watch green turtles hatch with the Perhentian Turtle Project
Important: The Perhentians close from November to February. It’s their monsoon season.
Where to stay in the Perhentians for 3 days:
Langkawi is a little island paradise off the west coast of Malaysia. It’s known for its clear seas and lush interior.
Go below sea level and check out the aquatic life. Soar to the top of the island on the world’s steepest cable car to get a bird’s eye view of the 99 islands that make up the archipelago.
Unlike the rest of Malaysia, beer and booze are cheap here because it’s a duty-free island.
We travel there often. It’s a fun little island, and the flight is only 17 minutes from Penang. The real kicker? It costs about USD$25 roundtrip.
I just wrote The Ultimate Langkawi Itinerary: What to do in Langkawi for 3 Days. It’s a complete guide full of travel tips, fun things to do, and accommodation info.
It’s all you need to know in one place.
Kota Kinabalu is the capital of the state of Sabah, in the Malaysian portion of Borneo. KK is the gateway to incredible wildlife, breath-taking scenery, and its namesake Mount Kinabalu, Malaysia’s highest peak.
You can go from one extreme to the other, climbing the tallest mountain in Malaysia and then scuba diving to the depths of the ocean, all in a few days. It is one of the most beautiful and interesting places to visit in Malaysia.
Kota Kinabalu city itself isn’t anything super special, but it’s the perfect place to start your adventures. Read more about KK in my Kota Kinabalu Itinerary: The Ultimate 5 Day Adventure Guide.
Best things to do in Kota Kinabalu in 3 days:
- Take a wildlife river tour. You’ll see thousands (I’m not exaggerating) of fireflies light up the trees along the river bank. And you’ll see one of my favorite monkeys; the Proboscis. Crazy looking creatures with long hanging noses and big pot bellies.
- Have a sunset cocktail from the bars and restaurants along the Waterfront. I’ve never seen more vibrant orange sunsets like the ones in KK.
- The night market is the cheapest and best place to go for local eats. You’ll be able to eat anything from fresh seafood to vegetarian noodles and wash it all down with a Tiger Beer.
- Island hop to all 5 islands in the Tunku Abdul Rahman National Park. These islands are picture-perfect and only a few minutes away from each other by ferry. The islands rarely get crowded, the beaches are clean, and the water is translucent blue.
- Go scuba diving or snorkeling
- Climb Malaysia’s tallest mountain, Mount Kinabalu. Coming in at over 4000 meters, it’s the 20th tallest mountain in the world. If conquering the summit isn’t enough adrenaline for you, then take on the world’s highest Via Ferrata. It’s a series of cables, rungs, rails, and suspension bridges built into the rock face. You’ll have unfettered access to breath-taking views and restricted areas.
I recommend planning this at least four months in advance. Only 135 people are allowed to climb daily. You will need a permit and a guide to climb. It takes 2 days to climb this beast, so you won’t have time to do much else.
- Go hiking. If you’re not up to trekking for two days on the big daddy, there are short hikes around the base of the mountain.
Where to stay in KK for 3 days:
Have more time in Malaysia?
For a longer Malaysia itinerary, choose your favorite 2-3 places, and voila, you have a week or more planned out.
Obviously, there are more than these 7 places to visit in Malaysia. I narrowed it down to my faves, but if you have more time, add in Melaka and Kuching as well.
I could spend months writing about all the places to go to. Here is my list of places to visit in Malaysia that I’m dying to get to:
- Taman Negara
- Redang Island
- Pulau Kapas
How many days are sufficient to visit Malaysia?
I definitely think Malaysia is the most underrated country in Southeast Asia. Three days means you really only get to choose one place. But in a country with so much to offer, it’s hard to pick just one area, especially when you have to take travel times into consideration.
What I’ve done for you is to highlight the top locations that are not only amazing but manageable in three days. And, I’ve given you a mini-guide to each, so you won’t have to spend time researching. You’re welcome!
Hopefully, I’ve convinced you to stay a little longer here, but if that’s not possible, at least now you’ll be able to narrow it down with ease.
Have I missed any places to visit in Malaysia? Tell me your faves in the comments below. You know I love comments!
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