With generally good weather in some of the most popular beach destinations and a host of exciting festivals, January is a good month to visit Malaysia. It's peak season in Langkawi, and Lunar New Year (if it falls in January) brings festive crowds to the cities and areas with Chinese influence, but these all add to the fun of visiting Malaysia in January. Read on to find out more.


As a tropical country that spreads across many islands, it isn't easy to generalize about Malaysian weather. When one part of the country is drier, another may be at its wettest. In general, Malaysia experiences two main seasons: the wet and the dry. However, these seasons don't come at the same time. Meanwhile, temperatures don't vary very much and sit between 71°F (22°C) and 91°F (33°C) throughout the year. Yet, places at higher altitudes are usually cooler. 

January is often said to be a dry month in Malaysia, but "dry" is a relative term and only applies to some parts of the country. The popular cities and regions of Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Melaka, and Langkawi—all on the western side of Peninsular Malaysia—are relatively dry. Visitors should expect some rain, but not in the same volumes as you might encounter in the wet season. On the other hand, the northeastern coast of the peninsula, the eastern islands (including the favored Perhentian Islands), and the western coast of Sarawak (Malaysian Borneo) are all wet in January, drenched by the northeast monsoon.

Crowds & Costs

January is the peak season for travel to western parts of Malaysia, particularly the Langkawi Islands, a popular destination for its beaches. Major festivals—including New Year, Lunar New Year, and Thaipusam, if these fall in January in a given year—bring crowds to many places, particularly Kuala Lumpur and Penang. Hotel prices in these popular western regions will be higher in January than during the wet season. On the other hand, you won't pay peak-season costs for accommodation in Borneo, but the heavy rainfall makes this month a less appealing time to visit. 

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Where to Go

Given the weather conditions in January, it makes sense to stick to western parts of Peninsular Malaysia. Many of Malaysia's most popular travel destinations are in this region—including Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Melaka, and Langkawi.

The island of Penang, in the northwest, is an exciting destination: it has beautiful beaches, fascinating culture in historic George Town, and the jungle-covered Penang National Park. January is a good time to visit because beach activities, city sightseeing, and hiking in the national park are all more comfortable when the weather's dry. Spend a few days in George Town, exploring the colonial-era architecture, street art, clan houses, and markets, then take a break at a resort in or around Batu Ferringhi, a strip of beaches on the north coast.

Active travelers may also like to hike through the national park, which offers shorter and longer trails that lead to look-out spots and beaches.

Alternatively, head to Langkawi, which is both the name of an archipelago and the main island in that archipelago. If beaches are your priority, don't miss Langkawi in January. The beaches are white, the sea is clear turquoise, and there's a good range of accommodation. Pantai Cenang and Tanjung Rhu are great beach options. If you want to take a break from the beaches, spot wildlife such as pythons and macaques in the Kilim Karst Geoforest Park or head to the summit of Gunung Raya, Langkawi's tallest peak, which you reach by hike or car.

What to Do

Travelers who make it to Langkawi shouldn't miss riding the cable car up to the Langkawi SkyBridge, a pedestrian bridge suspended by cables atop Gunung Mat Cincang peak. Enjoy the slightly cooler temperatures at 2,170 feet (660 m) as well as the incredible views from the impressive engineering feat.

One of the reasons January is a popular time for travelers to visit Malaysia is to experience a couple of the country's colorful cultural festivals. Although both Hindu and Chinese festivals follow a lunar calendar, meaning their dates on the Gregorian calendar shift from year to year, the Hindu festivals of Pongal and Thaipusam and the Lunar (Chinese) New Year often fall in January (see more below).

For the best Thaipusam festivities, head to the Batu Caves outside Kuala Lumpur. These caves are worth a visit at any time of year, with the giant golden statue of Tamil Lord Murugan and the hundreds of steps leading up to the cave. At Thaipusam, the complex throngs with devotees and spectators. Devotees perform acts of penance in exchange for their prayers being answered. These acts of penance can range from fasting and shaving the head to piercing the body with hooks and carrying heavy weights. This festival can be rather confronting to the unprepared, but it's fascinating.

Lunar New Year—often called Chinese New Year because Malaysia's Chinese community celebrates it—may also fall in late January. The best places to see colorful parades and dragon dance troupes are the cities of western Malaysia with sizable Chinese communities: Kuala Lumpur, Penang, and Melaka.

Events in January

Pongal, nationwide (in Tamil Hindu communities). This Tamil Hindu harvest festival in mid-January means "overflow," and dishes are prepared with the new harvest of rice and sugar, representing an abundance of food.

Thaipusam, nationwide (in Tamil Hindu communities). This Tamil Hindu festival is held in late January or early February in honor of the Tamil Lord Murugan (Subramaniam). Penants sometimes enact surprising acts of self-flagellation.

Lunar New Year, nationwide (especially in Chinese communities). The lunar new year is celebrated among Malaysia's Chinese communities, although Malaysians from various communities may join in the celebrations. Expect to find parades with floats, dragon and lion dancers, and stilt walkers in the western cities of Peninsular Malaysia. It can fall between late January and mid-late February.

More Helpful Information

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Malaysia in February
Best Time of Year to Visit Malaysia
Malaysia Tours & Itineraries