Explore Tanah Rata, Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

I’ve had both business and holiday visits to Malaysia, and I liked the place so much that I applied for, and was given, my retirement visa (Malaysia My Second Home, or MM2H).

On one of my holiday visits a couple of friends and I drove up to Tanah Rata in the Cameron Highlands. Here’s where it sits in relation to Kuala Lumpur:

Map: Tanah Rata, Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

We had a hired car, so we drove North from KL heading towards Ipoh on the E1 motorway, and turned off to the East at Tapah to climb up to the highlands and Tanah Rata.

It’s about a 4-hour drive, around 110 miles (150kms), and the climb is steady almost as soon as you leave the motorway.

Altitudes in the Cameron Highlands reach around 6,000 feet (1,800 metres), so it’s almost like going to a different country – at least in climate terms!

Malaysia has had a number of occupiers over the centuries: the Dutch, the Portuguese and the British all left their marks, and these can be seen in different areas of the country, in some of the architecture and administrative processes.

Of course, the Japanese occupied the place briefly during the second world war, but it was returned to British administration when the war ended.

The Cameron Highlands is one of the areas where the British influence is strong. There are Tudor style hotels, and the place could be described as a retirement home for old Land Rovers.

There are lots of them, in a wide range of shapes, sizes and conditions!

The one consistent characteristic is that they are all old – the one in this picture is a mark one or mark two, which makes it somewhere around 50 years old, and still earning its keep!

An old Land Rover in the Cameron Highlands

Honey, Tea and Strawberries

The climate in the Cameron Highlands is perfect for growing tea – and there are lots of big tea plantations:

A tea plantation in the Cameron Highlands

Honey is another speciality – there are roadside villages where we stopped on our way to Tanah Rata and had a honey tasting.

I had always thought that honey was, basically, honey, but at these tastings you can taste the different flowers and plants from the area that the bees inhabited, and from which the honey comes.

Here’s one of the places we stopped and had a tasting:

Honey tasting and other local shops

It was during the Chinese New Year holiday but, even without the red lantern decorations, it was still a fantastically colourful place!

The Old Smokehouse

We were staying at the Century Pines Resort, but we went for a traditional British tea with scones and jam at the Old Smokehouse, between Tanah Rata and Brinchang.

The Old Smokehouse is famous in the Cameron Highlands and it attracts a lot of visitors.

Its architecture is another example of the British influence in this part of Malaysia:

The Old Smokehouse, Tanah Rata, Cameron Highlands

And here’s a lounge area inside the hotel, complete with fireplace:

Lounge inside the Old Smokehouse

Tanah Rata

Tanah Rata itself is small, but very clean and tidy, certainly compared to other parts of Asia..!

This is the centre of the town:

The main street through Tanah Rata

And a bit further down – not a scrap of rubbish to be seen:

Tanah Rata, Cameron Highlands

Being a Muslim country you cannot get alcohol in many places in Malaysia, but there is a strong Chinese community in the country – and in Chinese-owned places beer is available.

So we headed off to our hotel to check in and grab a shower, after which we met up and went looking for a Chinese restaurant – for a beer and some dinner!

Although our visit was quick – just one night – there are a number of different tours and walking trails you can do if you want to stay longer.

Test your knowledge! Have fun with one of our travel quizzes – click here!

Have you visited Tanah Rata? How did you like it? Tell us about it in the comments!

Martin Malden

Martin Malden
The Expat Traveller

What do you think?

4 comments… add one
  • Matt Mar 18, 2020 @ 9:44

    Hi Martin,

    Thanks for this article about Cameron Highlands in Malaysia. I have been to Malaysia many times since it’s not far from my country, but I only stayed in the CBD of KL and Penang without visiting other scenic sightseeing points as you do.

    I read a news in the past that Jim Thompson(the king of Thai silk) disappeared in Cameron Highlands in 1967, so I always got a mysterious feeling about this place. By your article and the photo attached inside, I kinda lost all my concerns because your photos are so nice and decent that I want to visit this lovely place and see all the British buildings in person.

    I would like to know more about the weather and clothes people should bring when they visit Cameron Highlands from KL, and it would be nice you can help us with this.

    Thanks in advance,

    • Martin Malden Mar 19, 2020 @ 7:29

      Hi Matt,

      Because of the altitude in the Cameron Highlands the weather is much cooler and certainly in the Winter months you should be prepared for cold days and nights.

      In the Summer the nights are cooler, but you may only need a light jersey.

      The climate is really nice because the humidity is low, which makes it very comfortable!

      I do recommend a visit 🙂



  • Raymond Philippe Mar 12, 2021 @ 3:33

    Hello Martin,

    this was a trip down memory lane for me. I was born in Kuala Lumpur ages ago. Left when I was ten and only revisited once. Have fond memories of Cameron Highlands. Loved your photos!

    Take care,

    • Martin Malden Mar 12, 2021 @ 7:01

      Hi Raymond,

      Great – glad it brought back some good memories for you..! 🙂



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