Two weeks is the perfect amount of time to spend in Malaysia, allowing you to explore the region's top wilderness venues and experience many of its cultural highlights. However, you can still enjoy Malaysia with far fewer days: five is long enough for a wildlife-rich rainforest experience, including time for relaxing on white sand beaches and snorkeling the Sulu Sea, while in a week to 10 days, you can dive deeper and experience multiple regions.

Planning Your Trip to Malaysia

Malaysia spans a large—and very diverse—area, and the infrastructure can make getting around fairly slow, so it's best not to pack too much into your visit. The country's attractions are no less expansive: fans of adventure, beaches, culture, history, and wildlife will all find plenty to see and do.

A short stay in Malaysia is possible, including as part of a longer, multi-country Asian itinerary. You'll want to maximize your time by focusing on one region. For example, four or five days would give you enough time to explore Kuala Lumpur and its surroundings. Alternatively, you can enjoy a wildlife-focused experience in Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary in Sabah, in northern Borneo, plus beach time and snorkeling at Lankayan Island in the Sulu Sea.

With 7-10 days, you can explore added regions or focus on a more concentrated immersion. You can snorkel the coral reefs of the Turtle Islands, look for Sumatran rhinoceros while hiking to the Lipad Mud Volcano, and visit the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center.

For a truly satisfying holiday, plan on spending two weeks. This gives you time to explore several wildlife-rich regions, as well as an in-depth immersion in Malaysia's fascinating indigenous cultures. With such a wide area to explore, there's plenty to keep you busy. In two weeks, you can easily visit several distinct indigenous communities in Sarawak and Sabah longhouse villages for fascinating cultural insights while also enjoying jungle treks and boat safaris in Kinabatangan Wildlife Refuge, hiking in Gunung Mulu National Park, and snorkeling in the Mantanani Island and Turtle Island archipelagos.

Malaysia in 4-5 Days

Western clownfish among coral

Malaysia covers a vast area, so spending less than a week can be challenging, as domestic travel can consume considerable time. That said, spending four or five days here is possible, focusing on one destination or as part of a multi-country itinerary that includes one or two of Malaysia's neighbors. Short-stay vacations are especially suited to special-theme journeys.

For example, wildlife enthusiasts might opt for a four-day Borneo Nature Lodge itinerary, which provides an immersive exploration of Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary. Based at a remote jungle lodge, you'll cruise up the Kinabatangan River and set out on forest hikes in search of pygmy elephants, orangutans, proboscis monkeys, Bornean gibbons, and other elusive wild jungle creatures.

A five-day wildlife and marine-life itinerary would permit you to combine two days exploring Kinabatangan with a boat journey from nearby Sandakan to Lankayan Island for two days luxuriating on this tiny tropical paradise. Ringed by talcum-fine beaches that shelve gently into crystal-clear ocean waters, it's perfect for sunning and snorkeling or even scuba-diving to view the magnificent aquatic life of the Sugud Islands Marine Conservation Area. Whale sharks are commonly seen, and you may be lucky to watch green and hawksbill turtles laying their eggs or newborns scuttling to the sea.

If adventure is what you're after, check out this four-day Caves & Pinnacles in Borneo itinerary. You'll base yourself in Gunung Mulu National Park for a hiking foray through the rainforest to Deer Cave—the world's largest cave passage—and by longboat upriver to Wind Cave, with its fantastical stalactites and stalagmites. Plus, you'll hike to the Pinnacles, an area of 150-foot-tall (46 m) razor-sharp limestone spikes, as well as a near-vertical climb of Gunung Api.

Plan your trip to Malaysia
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Malaysia in 7-10 Days

Young Orangutan

With a week or longer, you can see more of Malaysia and experience a range of national parks and mix in some fun activities and cultural encounters, plus chill out with some beach time.

For an active adventure, check out this week-long Cycling the "Headhunter Heartland" itinerary, which follows the so-called "Trail of the White Rajahs." Set off by bicycle from Kuching (capital of Sarawak), take a longboat to Banting (where you'll bed down in a traditional longhouse), and pedal alongside the Batang Lupar River to Sri Aman. Two more days of cycling and travel by longboat are interspersed with nights sleeping and dining in traditional fashion, listening to stories by village chiefs, and immersing yourself in the Bornean lifestyle before ending with a stay at a resort beside Batang Ai Lake.

If wildlife is your desire, consider this 10-day Borneo adventure, which combines wildlife experiences on land and offshore. Begin with two days on Lankayan Island, with its nesting marine turtles plus great marine life to be seen while diving and snorkeling. Then explore Kinabatangan Wildlife Sanctuary—a chance to spot pygmy elephants and proboscis monkeys—before two days at Tabin Wildlife Refuge, where you may spy hornbill, Sumatran rhinoceros, and (fingers crossed) a clouded leopard while hiking to the Lipad Mud Volcano. End with two days in the Danum Valley, with jungle treks to the Coffin Cliff.

And this eight-day Climb Mount Trusmadi & Explore Sapilot active adventure will give you a great workout. You'll focus your energy on a physically demanding four-day trek up Mount Trusmadi, in Sabah, with stays at jungle camps. You'll begin with birding and nature viewing in Trusmadi Forest Reserve and end with a climb up Batu Punggul limestone pinnacle for a panoramic view over the rainforest before spending the next day with Murut tribal villagers and overnight in a traditional longhouse.

Malaysia in 2 Weeks

Sarawak River in Kuching

Two weeks is an ideal amount of time to spend in Malaysia, allowing you to experience a broad range of activities and regions in-depth and at a more relaxed pace. 

For example, this wildlife-rich 14-day Discover Sabah itinerary provides a complete exploration of this off-the-beaten-path northern state of Malaysian Borneo. Beginning in Kota Kinabalu, you'll cruise and snorkel the Mantanani Islands in search of dugongs, then hike to Lupa Masa Jungle Camp for two nights in the rainforest. Next, explore Mount Kinabalu National Park with a naturalist, and Deramakot Forest Reserve by 4WD, then visit the Orangutan Rehabilitation Center and Sun Bear Center. Finally, relax for a day on Libaran Island before exploring Kinabatangan Wildlife Refuge by boat.

For an immersion in Sarawak and Sabah indigenous cultures, check out this 14-day itinerary, which includes a homestay with a Bidayuh family, overnight in a traditional Melanau Tall House, plus a Kiulu farm stay. You'll take craft workshops, learn traditional games, and even plant rice with local communities. Nature isn't forgotten as you'll hike to Deep Cave in Gunung Mulu National Park (including witnessing the evening exodus of millions of bats), enjoy boat safaris and jungle treks in Kinabatangan Wildlife Refuge, and visit the Semenggoh Orangutan Centre and Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre.

More Great Malaysia Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Malaysia? Check out these other Malaysia itineraries, with outdoor adventures, cultural trips, and best-of tours to hit the highlights.