Penang Island is a tourist hotspot. Visitors arrive in their thousands to enjoy the beautiful sandy beaches, a wide range of water sports, excellent dining choices, traditional markets and a wealth of attractions.

The island is separated from mainland Malaysia by a shipping channel which is just three miles wide and the port sees commercial and passenger ferries dock on a daily basis. During the peak season, the number of visitors to the island often doubles the number of inhabitants.

Georgetown is Penang’s capital and also the economic and commercial heart of the island. The town represents cultures from all across Asia, with Chinese and Indian immigrants having made lives for themselves here over time. This blend of cultures is seen everywhere from the architecture to the food. You will find intricately designed Chinese temples next to colonial buildings and Indian curries being served next door to burger joints. Penang has something for everyone. The beaches are idyllic and for those who do not want to spend days on end sunbathing, there are a number of sights and attractions to enjoy. Top-class resorts are found in abundance and natural reserves are equally as common.

Don’t miss a trip to Penang Hill for the best views of the island and a fun ride on a funicular to the top. Also not to be overlooked is the island’s colonial heritage in the form of Fort Cornwallis, a well-preserved defense that was commissioned by Captain Francis Light.

There is a wealth of shopping opportunities in Penang although the most authentic and usually the most worthwhile include trips to the two local markets. Little India and Little Penang Street Market are large open-air markets which sell a wide variety of items such as handicrafts, local food, textiles, clothing and jewelry.

Travel to Penang - Getting there

It is possible to fly into Penang’s international airport, which is short hop from Kuala Lumpur (just 30 minutes). Many people, however, arrive by ferry from Butterworth after catching a train or bus from within Malaysia or from Thailand or Singapore.

  • Worth it? It is a popular holiday destination, with many people making repeat trips on an annual basis.
  • What to do: dining out, sunbathing and enjoying a cocktail on the beach, visiting the temples, sightseeing, shopping in the markets
  • Best time to go: Penang enjoys good weather all year round.
  • How Long? Anything from two days to two weeks or more.
  • Trivia: Penang was named the Prince of Wales Island by Captain Francis Light in 1786.

Penang Attractions

  • Islamic Museum: this fascinating museum details a number of old Muslim artifacts in a stunning old colonial exhibition building.
  • Queen Victoria Clock Tower: this was a gift to Queen Victoria in commemoration of her diamond jubilee in 1897. It has since become one of the most famous landmarks on the island.
  • Little Penang Street Market: a must-visit for anyone who wants a glimpse at local life and purchase souvenirs.
  • Batu Ferringhi: a nice white-sand resort in the north of the island.
  • Botanical Gardens: beautiful gardens hosting a range of floral exhibitions as well as stray monkeys.
  • Kek Lok Si: this beautiful building claims to be the largest Buddhist temple in Southeast Asia. That fact is unproven, but it is certainly large and definitely worth a visit.
  • Chinatown: covers a large area of the island and is well preserved. Much of the architecture dates back to the 19th century and allows visitors a glimpse into life as one of the first Chinese immigrants.
  • Youth Park: this is Penang’s biggest recreational park, which is popular with visitors and guests alike. There are numerous facilities available which include outdoor exercise equipment, children’s play areas, outdoor swimming pools and stunning tropical gardens.
  • Penang Hill: for the best views of Georgetown head to the summit of this peak via funicular.
  • Fort Cornwallis: this well-preserved 18th century fort was built by the British under Captain Francis Light.

Onward Travel