Attractions Nearby Georgetown, Day Trips and Excursions
(Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia)
Given that it would take less than a day to get around the entire island, spending a little time at each major attraction, excursions on Penang are likely to involve beach pursuits, long lunches and laid-back strolls once the main sights in Georgetown have been taken in.
Winding your way along the coast roads or back into the foothills, you will find unspoiled nature attractions, pristine rainforest, little towns, isolated villages and hidden temples, all within reach of Georgetown. For those into hiking and trekking, forest trails open up sightings of rare birds, animals and clouds of butterflies. Particular highlights include the Penang Botanical Gardens, the Penang Hill Funicular Railway, the Teluk Bahang Forest Reserve and the Kek Lok Si Temple.
As most of Penang's centres of population lie along the sea coast or just inland, there are many beaches to choose from. The most secluded, Pantai Kerachut, Muka Head and Teluk Kampi, lie along the northern coast, where they are only accessible via a long hike or a shorter boat ride. If you are looking to explore under the water, then excursions to nearby Pulau Payar offers superb snorkelling and scuba diving opportunities, being famed for its coral reefs teeming with marine life.
Open hours: daily
Penang Botanical Gardens / Waterfall Gardens
Address: Waterfall Road, Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia, MY
Tel: +60 04 227 0428
The Penang Botanical Gardens just outside of Georgetown, locally called the Waterfall Gardens, were established in the late 19th century and focus on plant conservation and breeding. Set in a valley and covering some 75 acres / 30 hectares, the park's lush foliage and tranquility attract thousands of tourists and locals for its famous species, such as the 'Cannonball Tree', the black lily and the slipper orchid. Popular attractions within the Penang Botanical Gardens include landscaped cacti gardens, a colourful orchid house, a traditional palm hothouse and lots of friendly long-tailed macaques. Close by, you may also like to pay a visit to the Nattukotai Chettiar Temple and the Waterfall Hilltop Temple.
Open hours: daily - 05:00 to 20:00
Penang Jungle Treks in Teluk Bahang Forest Reserve
Another famous natural attraction on Penang is its inland tropical jungle, which is particularly impressive and based within the protected Teluk Bahang Forest Reserve. Visitors can expect to find some good trekking and walking trails through pristine rainforest, along with a diverse selection of wildlife. Local tour operators can provide guides, and camping is permitted, suiting those planning a longer excursion.
Open hours: daily
Admission: free, charge for guided treks
Penang Hill Funicular Railway
Address: Ayer Itam, Near Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia, MY
Although it is possible to hike the steep slopes to the 760-metre / 2,500-foot summit of the Penang Hill range, a much more pleasant way to reach the top is to take a ride on the funicular railway. This scenic ride departs from its terminal close to the Botanical Gardens, at the foot of the hill. The basic tarred road to the summit is only open to those with homes on the hillside.
Open hours: daily
Temple of Supreme Bliss (Kek Lok Si Temple)
Address: Ayer Itam Hill, Penang, Malaysia, MY
Kek Lok Si, the Buddhist Temple of Supreme Bliss, lies on a hill close to the Botanic Gardens and is just beyond the edge of Georgetown. This huge and spectacular temple complex sits in exquisitely landscaped gardens and is a pilgrimage destination for many thousands of Fukkienese Chinese. Amongst the other splendours, you can't miss the 30-metre / 98-foot tall image of the Ten Thousand Buddhas Pagoda (Ban Po Thar), said to be the image of Kek Lok Si. The Kek Lok Si Temple is actually Malaysia's biggest Buddhist temple and dates back to 1890, becoming an iconic and famous structure. Cable car rides are available and transport passengers to the highest level, where a giant statue of the Goddess of Mercy (Kuan Yin) awaits.
Open hours: daily - 09:00 to 18:00
Tropical Fruit Farm
Address: Teluk Bahang, Penang, Malaysia, MY
Tel: +60 012 497 1921
Penang is famous for tropical fruit, with an amazing 370 varieties grown on the island. Eco-tourists will love the Tropical Fruit Farm, which covers around 25 acres / 10 hectares and was founded not just to grow 250 varieties of fruit, but also to protect and develop Penang's unique green heritage. The refreshing 'Exotic Fruit Juice' drink is well worth sampling. Fruit tasting tours are available and include a barbecue lunch with lots of tropical fruit.
Open hours: daily - 09:00 to 18:00
In the southern reaches of Penang Island and just a few kilometres from the Snake Temple are several traditional fishing villages, including Batu Muang, where life goes on unchanged, almost untouched by the demands of modern-day tourism. The gaily-painted fishing boats bring the day's catch to little local restaurants, considered to be some of the island's best seafood eateries. Look out for the seaside temple at Batu Muang, which is dedicated to Admiral Cheng Ho. Close by are the villages of Gertak Sanggul and Teluk Kumbar, as well as a scattering of pretty beaches.
Jerejak Island (Pulau Jerejak)
Tel: +60 04 658 7111
This little island lies a short boat journey from Bayan Lepas, and is a former penal colony made good, with mangrove swamps, millions of birds and butterflies, virgin rainforests and many rare and endangered species of flora and fauna. There is also an upscale resort (the Jerejak Resort and Spa) with furnished chalets, suiting those who need to stay over. Day trips to Pulau Jerejak are popular and regular boats depart from the jetty on Penang island, departing approximately every two hours.
The Snake Temple lies around 3 km / 2 miles from the airport and also goes by the name of the Temple of the Azure Cloud. Whilst there are some snakes in the temple (often rather lethargic due to the burning incense), don't expect any giant serpents or monster pythons slithering about the grounds. The Snake Temple dates back to the middle of the 19th century and is dedicated to renowned Buddhist priest Chor Soo Kong. For a small charge, you can access a snake exhibition, where you can have your photograph taken handling a snake.
Open hours: daily
The town of Balik Pulau comes with a small selection of attractions, which include a daily market and a number of very notable restaurants, with 'laksa balik pulau' (rice noodles with fish broth, pineapple and chillies) being something of a local speciality. For sightseers, the Holy Name of Jesus Church stands out and was completed in the 1850s, while others may be pleased to simply wander around the orchards of clove, durian and nutmeg trees. Buses regularly travel to Balik Pulau from Georgetown, Batu Feringghi, Bayan Lepas and Kek Lok Si. Nearby Sungai Pinang and Pantai Acheh also hold further appeal.
Close to Pantai Acheh and within easy driving distance of Georgetown is Titi Kerawang, reached by a drive along some tropical jungle roads, with small glimpses of the coastline in the distance. Titi Kerawang offers a number of surrounding attractions, each of which is well worth a visit. The Teluk Bahang Forest Reserve features jungle trails and small waterfalls, as well as a Forestry Museum. Rather closer to the seafront is the Penang Butterfly Farm on the Jalan Teluk Bahang, where more than 150 different species of butterflies live. The Craft Batik factory outlet and the Orchid Garden complete the main places of interest here.
Teluk Bahang contains a small and charming beach, which usually remains fairly quiet and overlooked, since most people heading here visit the Penang National Park (Taman Negara Pulau Pinang). Covering an area of roughly 5,685 acres / 2,300 hectares, the Penang National Park is actually Malaysia's smallest and boasts some popular jungle trails, which are often known to be a little challenging. Notable treks lead to attractions such as Muka Head, Pantai Keracut, the Pinang Cultural Centre and the Tropical Spice Garden.
The resort strip of Batu Ferringhi (Foreigner's Rock) is to be found approximately 13 km / 8 miles to the north-west of Georgetown and comprises a mixture of coves, beaches and scenic coastline. The main stretch is the Jalan Batu Ferringhi, where a noticeable concentration of hotels, eateries and shops reside. Although the beach may not be Malaysia's finest, being a little rocky and coarse, it is quite pleasant and offers a very reasonable choice of water sports, such as water skiing, jet skiing and parasailing.