With its intriguing mix of colonial grandeur and modern multiculturalism, Penang makes a charming proposition, marooned off the northwest coast of peninsular Malaysia and linked to the mainland by a single toll bridge. Malaysia’s second-largest island was the region’s first British settlement, and it remains a cultural melting pot, with strong Indian, Malay and Chinese influences, plus a vibrant art and craft-making heritage. Affectionately known as the Pearl of the Orient, Penang is one of the most-visited corners of Malaysia.
Start your explorations in the UNESCO-listed capital of George Town, where the striking guildhalls, Chinese shop-houses and temples are dotted with tempting food stalls, fascinating museums and mosques, then venture inland to admire the views from Penang Hill or discover historic sites like Fort Cornwallis. The island is rich in natural wonders too, so take time to hike through the tropical forests of Penang National Park, spot nesting turtles along the coast, snorkel amidst a kaleidoscope of fish at the Pulau Payar marine park or stroll the palm-hemmed beaches.