Cameron highlands: choosing a tour … not always a bad thing

by Dave from The Longest Way Home ~ April 28th, 2011. Updated on October 5th, 2013. Published in: Travel blog » Malaysia.
View of the Cameron Highlands Malaysia

Welcome to the cool air of the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia

Cameron Highlands Malaysia, land of tea plantations, strawberry fields and tours

Nested high above the central area of western Malaysia’s hot peninsular is a land of cool air, mist, lush forest and history. The Cameron highlands heralded a strange call to me the moment I read about them. They spoke the soothing instinctive words of relief, and relaxation.

They told me that in over 3 years I could rest my sweat glands and wear a coat. Something I found immensely stimulating to the point of giddiness.

The untold effects of prolonged humidity and heat

I’ve joked with a friend that one day I could make a fortune by taking part in a medical study on the effects of long-term no-return travel. No respite of home, mixed in with a lifestyle few if any other have ever lived.

Strawberry and strawberry shake from Cameron highlands Malaysia

The fresh strawberries and shakes were a lot more interesting that the actual strawberry farm!

And of course, the uniqueness of all this makes such a study a moot point anyway

I’ve been sweating pretty much everyday for the past 3 years. And before this 2+ years of extreme sweating/diet/life in West Africa. This takes a toll, physically on one’s body, let alone mentally.

Air-conditioning is always around and a mild relief. But for anyone who’s not native to, but lived in high humid / heat environments with air-conditioning will know what I mean when I say:

“You can only stick air-conditioning for so long ….”

It has a dehydrating, factor that also takes a tole on you. Even the Bukidnon highlands in The Philippines was positively hot compared to the Cameron Highlands in Malaysia. So, enter my near on gasping excitement to arrive in the cool Cameron highlands in Central Western Malaysia.

Rain may come and go, but the Cameron Highlands live on

Wearing my windproof jacket I sat out in the cool lush breeze of the hostel balcony area. There were electrical sockets for laptops by every seat and WIFI that let me upload photos with ease. Birds sang on overhead tree branches, and a green mountain surrounded me.

Had I discovered a non tropical real Malaysian paradise for a while?

The answer is of course no. The hostel had no food, but the town was so small it did not matter. What did matter were the horrible amount of tours passing by like clockwork.

Tanah Rata town, a nice place made ugly by being plastered in tour agency signs

Even the lovely black and white town houses were plastered in tour signs, hotels and company names. I was in a “tourist land” town. The third biggest income generator of the Cameron Highlands.

Cameron Highlands is the salad bowl of Malaysia

A lesser known fact is due to its cooler climate the Cameron Highlands produces most of Malaysia’s fresh vegetables. A drive around the mountain area will reveal both small and large farms alike. Most covered in huge plastic sheets to protect the produce from heavy rains.

Meanwhile, the rest of the mountainous region is made up of lush bright green tea plantations. Which is perhaps the areas most famous export, and largest tourist attraction.

Choosing the right tour of the Cameron highlands in Malaysia

Everywhere you look in this area you will see signs all offering the same tours at about the same price. It goes something like this:

Sample day tour prices in Cameron Highlands :

Rafflesia Jungle trek

Full day tour with 4×4 vehicle

  • Aborigine Village
  • Waterfall/Swimming
  • Jungle Trekking
  • Blow Pipe Hunting
  • Boh Tea Plantation
  • Tea Factory Tour
  • Mossy Forest
  • Rafflesia Flower (seasonal)
    the world’s biggest flower
Garden full day tourFull day tour with 4×4 vehicle

  • Tea plantation
  • Honey Bee Farm Tour with demonstration
  • Visit Waterfall
  • Visit Aborigines (Orang Asli) Village
  • Flowerpot planting farm tour
  • Vegetables Farm Tour
  • Orchid Flower Farm Tour
  • Watercress Farm Tour
  • Strawberry Farm Tour

Half day tourHalf day tour with van 

  • Tea Plantation
  • Tea Factory Tour
  • Rose Garden
  • Butterfly Farm
  • Bee Farm
  • Market Square
  • Buddhist Temple
  • Strawberry Farm

Cost: 108 RM Cost: 98 RM Cost: 25 RM

All tours exclude entrance tickets etc (usually around 5-8 RM) In the off season prices are sometimes reduced

Note: there are dozens of tours on offer in the Cameron Highlands. But, they basically all boil down to a half day tour, a jungle trekking tour, and a Rafflesia tour.

A do it yourself tour in Cameron Highlands

If you are driving, you’ve just made life very easy for yourself. Everything in the Cameron Highlands is quite far apart. And certainly many people do choose to walk, or bicycle around. Just be very aware that the weather is temperamental here. And, it most likely will rain at some stage. While this can seem nice after the heat of other parts of Malaysia, I ‘ve seen a lot of miserably tourists looking very wet and muddy.

If you do like trekking though, you might just have found the best place in Malaysia to enjoy some great jungle and independent walking.

That said, you’ll need quite a few days to get everything in if doing it yourself without gasoline powered transport.

To take a tour or not?

Tea plantation cafe overlooking the highlands

After years of heavy humidity and heat the cameron highlands can offer blissfully cool days over wonderful landscapes

I’m not here to break my rear end and work up a sweat walking around the mountains. I’m here to stop sweating. And, truth be told, I don’t have a huge interest in anything on offer here other than the climate. I’ve seen plenty of rainforest, jungle, bee farms, butterfly farms and even the raffelisia in my travels.

I also know how these tours operate, and it’s never exactly “exciting stuff”.

No, I am here to relax back and let my body’s sweat pores go into hiding for a while.

I took the 25 RM half day tour for the sole purpose of a cheap way to see the lay of the land. And, to visit the historical Boh tea plantations.

And, in hindsight, for me, it was the best tour to take. It gave me a brief look at the major attractions on offer in the Cameron Highlands.

A small review for those planning a tour in the Cameron Highlands

  • Tea Plantation – very nice views of the mountains, stop your mini van and get out for as long as you can!
  • Tea Factory Tour – 10 minutes of mildly interesting tea information
  • Rose Garden – An interesting looking flower garden built on a hill
  • Butterfly Farm – Nothing exceptional, there’s an insect section here too if you want to see Malaysian tour guides pull at insects for gasping tourists – note the damage done to the insects
  • Bee Farm – mesmerizingly boring, boxes with the odd bee and expensive honey
  • Market Square – If you’ve seen one market, you’ve seen this one
  • Buddhist Temple – again, if you’ve seen a Buddhist Temple this one is not so special in any way
  • Strawberry Farm – More of a strawberry shop tour than a “farm tour”, but the treats are nice if you are not used to strawberries

It’s all about the climate in the highlands

So yes, I am very glad I only spend 25 RM on a half day tour. The rest of the day I sat on a balcony reading a book, sipping on a hot chocolate and enjoying the cool breeze of mountain air.

While the average tourist might find this boring in comparison to a “jungle trek”, for me the respite has been overwhelmingly relaxing. More over, I even need a blanket in bed at night!

To me, this feels as good as a beach side resort!

Hotel search at the Longest Way Home

Planning on booking a hotel room in the Cameron Highlands?

Looking for the best online rates?

I recommend you try my own hotel search for the Cameron Highlands, Malaysia. The best online rates guaranteed!


Coming soon:

A hitchhike and a walk through the tea plantations meeting some tea leaf pickers

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29 Great responses to Cameron highlands: choosing a tour … not always a bad thing

  1. Thanks for the detailed options and prices! This is super helpful. I’ll keep this in mind when I visit Ciki– eventually :)

  2. what an interesting place (barring those awful tour buses)…and WONDERFUL to be cool!

  3. iamthewitch says:

    Love the cool weather and relatively fresh air up in Cameron Highlands. And if you noticed, the people there mostly have rosy cheeks, naturally! Oh how I envy them :) Love having tea and cakes at the Boh plantation, while enjoying the view of the tea plantation from above. I could spend hours there, except that there will be more tourists waiting for my table… :P

    • I see what you mean about the rosy cheek people. All those fresh foods! The Banana Leaf is fantastic there. But yes, those tea plantations really are great to sit back and enjoy! :)

  4. Anna's World says:

    I never heard of this place before! So much about Malaysia is the food, jungle, beaches and islands. Great that you found a spot to cool off!

    You’re turning into my one stop travel agent!

  5. Kelvin says:

    Excellent info. I was trying to look up this stuff online and could only find the usual hype about “everything is great. You’re hands just hit the spot!

    Do you know when the Rafflesia flower is blooming? It says seasonal, but what season?

    • Good question Kelvin, I asked around about the Rafflesia and this “seasonal” blooming note. I was told by more than one person, that it’s rare not to see it in bloom in The Cameron highlands. There’s a lot, and they seem to be able to “farm” them a little. Though this is denied for “touristic” proposes.

  6. Ciki says:

    Love the tea plantations.. did you go up those rickety, narrow one way roads that seemed to go on and on and lead no where? pretty creepy to be stuck out there at night i tell ya.. Great photography – love the 1st shot.. always reminds me of a green carpeting;) So how cool was it? around 15-20C?

    • Yes, I spent time walking around the tea plantations once I knew where everything was. Much better than the “plantation tour” have a post about that next week as I met some interesting people there.

      Night time was below 12C, daytime was around 24C which was very, very, very nice. Big blanket needed for bed!

  7. el buen samaritin says:

    Cameron Highlands? Surely you are in jest. No offense, implied or intended…. REB….And the girls always get prettier at closing time.

  8. Mira says:

    Simply divine! You really helped us out with this information thank you!

  9. T-roy says:

    When I seen this on Twitter I knew I had to read it because I really dug the CHL! I didn’t know a thing about it but met some really cool people there and had a great few days randomly showing up. I kind of laughed at your article because we visited the Boh Tea Plantation as well… but we did it for free by hitchhiking. Was one of the best things I did in Malaysia! You can read about it here:

    One thing that got me by surprise was it was cold compared to the islands I had been at the day before. I was freezing my ass off and even had to buy a jacket to wear! lol Nice write up and break down!

    • Yes, I agree, it’s a great place to cool off, and trek. Funny you should mention hitchhiking, I did the same, journal update about it next week or so :) Some great people working in the plantations!

  10. Ted Nelson says:

    I understand exactly what you mean about sweating constantly in the Southeast Asian humidity. It gets to you after awhile.

    I also understand the need to just chill out and relax and read a book. When you are constantly on the move there are times you do not want to tour.

    I love your review of the market. I can picture it clearly from your description.

  11. suituapui says:

    I was there on a day trip sometime in November last year. Loved the place, loved the food…I certainly hope to go there again and this time at least, spend a night there. Thanks for the info – I would probably go for the half-day tour and spend the rest of the time lazing around, doing nothing…enjoying the cool weather and the beautiful scenery.

  12. Travis says:

    What breathtaking landscape… And that strawberry shake looks amazing. Thanks!

  13. Bryan Norman says:

    What’s not to like about Malaysia? Especially the “ulu” areas like Cameron Highlands, and Endau Rompin too, are still pure and authentic. So much untouched wilderness left to explore and relish.

    We often visit the Malaysian East Coast, in particular a breath-taking pristine cape of coastal wilderness called Tanjung Resang, just north of Mersing.

    Tour or not? I vote tour. If only to stay out of trouble. A mate of mine went on a jungle trek with his family years ago and promptly got lost. A search and rescue team found them several days later, exhausted and dehydrated. It even made the paper in his home country.

    Some of those jungles are too large too fathom. Best be safe eh.

  14. Matthew Leddy says:

    PLease can someone recommend a tour operator for KL to Cameron Highland for someone travelling alone!!



  15. tony says:

    I am planning to visit Malaysia later this year. Is it possible to book a tour from KL to travel to the Cameron highlands and take the Jungle trek and Garden tours for 2 or 3 days. Thank you for a reply which might might help me.