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Outdoor Activities in Penang – Adventure City Guide

Scaling Penang Hill to Turtle Beach in Penang National Park, these are the best Outdoor Activities in Penang to try on your next travel adventure.

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Outdoor Activities in Penang

Are you looking for an insider’s adventure travel guide for the best outdoor activities in Penang?

As part of our Adventure City Guide series, Lina from Erohisms provides us with her expert insider tips on the top adventure and outdoor activities to do in Penang.

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Why visit Penang for adventure?

Nobody comes to Penang primarily for adventure, as it’s the food that draws you in. Arguably the best place in SE Asia to eat authentic street food that effortlessly blends the Malay, Indian, and Chinese cultures, Penang often gets shortchanged as a place “just for food.”

But staying here for two+ weeks has shown us that there’s a lot more to Penang than laksa, ais kacang, and char koay teow. Just a few kilometers away by bus, there are jungles and rainforests to be discovered.

Outdoor Activities in Penang

Take a Hike and Swim in Penang National Park

Penang National Park in HDR

Penang National Park is Malaysia’s smallest, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t visit. Only 25km from Georgetown, the park has three accessible but hidden beaches and tons of trails for trekking. All in all, it covers a bit more than 1200 hectares, but it really packs in the jungle!

It’s hard to believe how close you are to the hustle and bustle of the city once you step foot into the park. It brought us right back to trekking in Borneo, but with the added benefit of no leeches due to the saltwater from the ocean.

Whether you do the easy hike to Monkey Beach or the more challenging trek to Teluk Kampi (past Turtle Beach), allow a few hours to explore what this park has to offer. We saw tons of monkeys, and a turtle crossing the trail. If you’re lucky, you can also see baby turtles hatching at Turtle Beach!

Penang Youth Park inhabitant

While the water isn’t crystal clear, if it’s hot enough, nobody will blame you for wanting to take a dip. Keep in mind that you are in a predominantly Muslim country, so more conservative bathing options are recommended.

Travel Tips for getting to the adventure activity

The cheapest way to get to the park is to take RapidPenang bus 101. It’s 4MYR each way and takes about an hour depending on traffic.

Cost of doing the adventure activity

Entry into the park is absolutely free! The only thing that costs money is the canopy walkway, but it was closed due to rain when we visited.

Penang Hill

Penang used to be home to a British hill station, set up top of Penang Hill and looking over the rest of the island and the city. Nowadays, Penang Hill still boasts those grand views and even a few leftover British cottages. But the real attraction for hundreds of daily visitors is the cooler air.

The most common way to get up to Penang Hill is to take the funicular and pay 30MYR return. But there’s another way, one most travelers never see. It starts by the Botanical Gardens and it’s called the Moon Gate. From here, it’s around 6km up to the Hill, where you’ll emerge behind a restaurant and in front of a lot of amused Malays who’ve never seen someone so sweaty.

The trek shouldn’t be undertaken lightly. It’s steep, muddy, and hot as hell, so bring lots of water and wear hiking boots if you have them. You’ll meet some Chinese locals on the way who’ll be happy to point you in the right direction if you’re lost. But mostly, you’ll be on your own, with the grand views of Georgetown all to yourself.

Short Holiday

If you’re in a hurry to get down or just want to avoid the mud, you can take the paved “Jeep Track” back to the Botanical Gardens. Just walk past the Hindu temple (opposite direction from the line for the Funicular) and start heading down. You’ll be sharing the road with tons of cyclists and a lot of Chinese locals walking backwards. It’s that steep! But the descent will take less than an hour, which is much faster than taking the trail all the way back down.

Travel Tips for getting to the adventure activity

Do NOT take the bus to Penang Hill if you want to do the hike, as the bus only takes you to the Funicular. Instead, take the #10 bus to the Botanical Gardens. It costs 2MYR but takes an insanely long two hours to drive the 8km. Alternatively, you can rent bikes, but after climbing that hill, the one hour long bus ride back in AC was much more appealing than pedaling!

Cost of doing the adventure activity

Absolutely free, which means you get the same views as the people who took the Funicular up but without spending a ringgit! You also get a workout in the process, which is a good thing considering the number one activity in Penang is eating.

Georgetown Heritage Walk

Can walking be considered an adventure? I think so, especially if it’s 30+ degrees outside and there’s so much to see!

Outdoor Activities in Penang

Outdoor Activities in Penang

The Georgetown area of Penang is where most travelers rightfully spend most of their time. As  a UNESCO Heritage Site, the area boasts Chinese shophouses from the 19th century, temples, clan houses, and mosques for several different ethnicities, more cute coffee shops and boutiques than you’ll ever have time to visit, and an awesome street art scene.

You could do worse than getting lost here for a few hours, either on foot or by bicycle. Start out at the Clan Jetties by the pier, where you can get a sense of how early Chinese migrants lived when they first moved to Malaysia. Each of these jetties belongs to a separate clan, or family, and as the name suggests, they stretch out over the water. Most of the jetties were occupied by fisherman, but now the occupants are as likely to own motorbikes and work in town as they are to gut fish.

From there, follow the Art Walk through the historic part of Georgetown and discover the many murals that decorate Georgetown’s beautiful old buildings. You’ll also have a chance to peek into the clan houses that abound in Georgetown, the most famous being Khoo Kongsi off of Cannon Street. These houses, which to us look more like temples, are places of worship and offering for the many members of the family.

Georgetown, Penang

A good way to understand Georgetown’s mixed heritage is to take a walk on the Street of Harmony. Here, you’ll pass a mosque, a temple, a church, and several clan houses that bring to life how diverse life on this island really is. It’s a fascinating mix of cultures and religions, all on one street.

Travel Tips for getting to the adventure activity

You’ll likely be staying in Georgetown, so all you have to do is walk out your guesthouse’s door in order to start the walk. Make sure to wear a hat and sunscreen; this island is really hot!

Cost of doing the adventure activity

Free, though some clan houses like Khoo Kongsi do charge an admission fee.

Additional contact information for the adventure activity

Make sure to pick up maps from your hotel or from any tourist information center in town. There’s an Art Walk map, a Georgetown map, and a food map that all come in handy!

Best time of the year to visit Penang for adventure?

You can pretty much visit Penang any time of year, but keep in mind that October and November tend to bring heavy rainfall.

Penang

Finally, the reason I love Penang for adventure is because…

There’s nothing like coming back from a challenging hike and being able to gorge yourself on delicious freshly-made food that makes your mouth and head explore with flavor. With prices so low, nobody’s going to blame you for having two or three dinners to reward yourself for all those calories burned. And make sure to end your meal with ais kacang–there’s no better way to cool off in the tropics!

BIO:

Lina Eroh is the voice behind Erohisms. In February 2013, Lina and her husband Rob quit their tech jobs, rented out their San Francisco apartment, and set off for a year of travel. With a flexible timeline and a budget of $1000pp/month, their goal is to show others how affordable exploring the world can be. You can also follow them on Facebook or Twitter (@erohisms) or sign up for their travel newsletter.

Have you been to Penang before? Have you tried any of these outdoor activities in Penang?

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8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Kristy of Family Visa

    September 9, 2013 at 7:51 AM

    I really adore their dishes especially their noodle dish and those street food is delicious and cheap too.

  2. Makis Giokas

    September 16, 2013 at 9:14 AM

    That seems like the perfect day! Hiking and enjoying the outdoors and then returning to an amazingly rewarding meal. It just feels very fulfilling! Thanks for this post, it was very fun to read!

  3. Debbie

    September 20, 2013 at 9:12 AM

    I love the laksa in Penang. And I do not know about the challenging trek to Teluk Kampi or the easy hike to Moneky beach. I think I should try it when I visit Penang again.

  4. Jonathan Look, Jr.

    September 26, 2013 at 7:41 AM

    I am convinced! Penang is definitely on my list of must dos in the next few months. Nice rundown.

  5. Alex | Partial Parallax

    September 26, 2013 at 11:09 AM

    Penang looks to be a fantastic place to visit and hike around. It’s true many people write it off for just the food but you’ve proved you can actually have a great time around the place and end it with some amazing food! sounds like a great place to travel!

  6. Timothy W Pawiro

    January 21, 2014 at 12:45 AM

    I love Penang! In fact I just returned home from Penang, and miss it already. Love the food and the street art in Georgetown.

    My friend and I did a trekking to the monkey beach … It’s said the distance is about 2 km but we thought it’s longer than that! Phiew .. I can’t imagine taking the 6 km up to the Penang hill haha!! 🙂

  7. Penelope

    April 6, 2014 at 2:38 PM

    Monkey Beach is one my favourite parts of Penang!

  8. Prabowo

    October 18, 2014 at 3:27 AM

    Penang, one of my favorite place when I visited Malaysia. Last year I really enjoy the food. Its very delicious. With the fantastic beach.

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Adventure Travel

Walking the Camino de Santiago Photos

These are my favourite Camino de Santiago Photos from my pilgrimage along the French Way in March. A truly beautiful way to spend a few weeks.

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Puenta La Reina Bridge Camino Arrow

El Camino de Santiago kicked my ass. Well technically it kicked my feet. Turns out my minimal preparation for the Camino de Santiago was terrible. After a miserable effort of only 4 days, the doctor in Legrono told me that I wasn’t allowed to go on until me feet healed. I had walked just over 100 km’s and my feet were bloodied and blistered.

To be honest, I was relieved.

The thought of putting back on my shoes made my shudder. For the last 9 km’s I had stumbled along in jandals and socks. One of the travelling fashion sins I vowed I would never break.

Jandals on the Camino de Santiago

Jandals on the Camino de Santiago

So while I have unfinished business with the Way of St James (an upcoming post), I did want to share with you some of my favourite photos from the Camino de Santiago. Because I had yet to reach some of the more “unsavoury” parts of the Camino that Sherry Ott had discovered, every step of my pilgrimage had been beautiful.

Puenta La Reina Bridge Camino Arrow

Puenta La Reina Bridge – Camino de Santiago Arrows

There is no way you can get lost on the Camino de Santiago. Arrows, scallop shells and signs point you in the right direction at every bridge, road crossing and intersection.

Camino de Santiago Scallop Shell

Camino de Santiago Scallop Shell

Reaching the top of Alto Pedron gave views back the way I had come from Pamplona, as well as views to where I was going. The rocky path on the way down proved to be my ultimate downfall, as my too small shoes caused my toes to smash into the front.

Alto del Pedron Camino de Santiago

Alto del Pedron Camino de Santiago

Metal Pilgrims on Alto del Pedron

Metal Pilgrims on Alto del Pedron

There were so many beautiful old churches along the Camino de Santiago. But since I was walking in early March, it seemed that most were yet to open for the busier summer season.

Church of Obanos

The Church of Obanos

And between every small village the well-maintained pathways of the French Way wound across the spectacular Spanish countryside.

The French Way - Camino de Santiago

The French Way – Camino de Santiago Photos

Puenta La Reina

Puenta La Reina in the evening

Puenta La Reina has one of the most amazing bridges I have ever seen. It was also the 1st village I had the pleasure of sleeping in after busy Pamplona.

Puenta la Reina Bridge and Sunrise

Puenta la Reina Bridge at sunrise

Most mornings I was up and walking before the sun began to sprinkle across the horizon.

Spring flowers on the Camino de Santiago

Spring flowers on the Camino de Santiago

Pilgrims approaching Cirauqui, Spain

Pilgrims approaching Cirauqui, Spain

Every village and town was built on a small hill. Sure it looks beautiful until you realise you have to go back up again to go through them all!

Church of Santa Maria - Los Arcos

Church of Santa Maria in Los Arcos

While there were only about 20 pilgrims walking each section every day, it wasn’t uncommon for you to encounter them all. The people I met along the Camino de Santiago were some of the most inspiring and remarkable people I have ever spoken to. They are the ones that make the pilrgimage so special.

The endless French Way

The endless French Way

Irache Wine Fountain - Fuente del Vino

The free flowing Irache Wine Fountain or “Fuente del Vino”

Hay bales along the French Way

Hay bales along the French Way

Every village had at least one ancient church and it wasn’t uncommon to find them dotting the landscape in remote locations either.

Ermita de San Miguel

Ermita de San Miguel

Iglesia de San Andrés de Zariquiegui Church

Iglesia de San Andrés de Zariquiegui Church

I have travelled through Spain in the past, including cycling in Costa Brava and surfing in San Sebastian with both independent planning and a vacation planner. But having the opportunity to walk at my own pace through some of the most beautiful scenery in Spain on the Camino de Santiago has so far topped them all.

Natural arches - Camino de Santiago

Natural arches on the Camino de Santiago

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Adventure Travel

Hammock vs Tent Camping

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Camping with a hammock is slowly but surely becoming more popular in recent years with new and improved hammock designs being preferred by some campers, compared to the traditional tent.

In this article we will discuss some of the key benefits and drawbacks of sleeping without a tent, and analyze key criteria so that you can choose your preferred shelter choice!

Weatherproof

Most tents work well in the rain; however, you’ll need to bring a tarp if you’re using a hammock. Traditional hammocks are not waterproof, and are generally open at the top, allowing water to find itself inside if you don’t have an adequate tarp. Moreover, a decent under quilt is also a good idea so that you can stay warm and cozy during cold and stormy nights.

Packing up your hammock after a long night of rain isn’t too bad, whereas packing up a soaking wet tent is always annoying. You almost always get wet in the process.

Setup

For first time campers, pop-up tents are the simplest to setup. All you need to do is find flat ground, and bam, your setup is complete! The beauty of pop-up tents is that you don’t need to worry about figuring out where to insert the poles and erect the tent. Although, traditional tents are usually more robust, and have a longer life span.

Essentially, a tent is simple, but a hammock can become a little more complicated for first timers. You’ll need to find 2 trees facing a good direction and tie each end of the hammock to them. If your hammock setup is too tight, you will generally wake up with sore ancles, but if it’s too loose, you run the risk of the hammock touching the floor, and insects crawling in with you.

If your campground doesn’t have many trees, or if the trees are dead (they could break and injure you), hammock stands come to the rescue! Basically, hammock stands allow you to pitch a hammock if there are no trees nearby. They are portable, adjustable, and are easy to setup. The only drawback is that the ground should be relatively flat, whereas if you were to hang a hammock between 2 trees, there won’t be any stands touching the ground, so a rocky floor wouldn’t be a problem.

Comfort

One of the main reasons for choosing a hammock is the comfort that it provides you! It has a basically has in-built seat which is arguably more comfortable than a standard blow up mattress. You need to pick your tree’s wisely though! You don’t want a pinecone falling on your face mid-sleep.

If you have constant back pain and find it hard to sleep inside tents, you should give hammocks a try as they cause you to sleep sideways, similar to a banana shape, which a lot people find much more comfortable.

Price

Hammocks are usually lighter and don’t include a wealth of poles and gear that tents do. Depending on the type of hammock that you purchase, they are usually quite similar to tents. You can however, find very cheap tents <$60, but they most likely won’t last long.

A good tent or hammock can cost between $200-500 without accessories. If you need a hammock stand, that will add to your cost, just like a mattress and other tent necessities will to its cost.

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Adventure Travel

Top of Cappadocia day trek – with Middle Earth Travel

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Trekking through the valleys of Cappadocia’s fairy chimneys with Middle Earth Travel feels more like the set of a Star Wars movie than a historical region once carved out and lived in by humans. Churches, homes and pigeon houses are scattered throughout the valleys, all waiting to be explored. The best part is, Middle Earth Travel know all the hidden secrets.

Standing at the top of Cappadocia

Top of Cappadocia day trek – with Middle Earth Travel

On the 26th of July (which just so happens to be my birthday!) Middle Earth Travel took us on their private and guided Top of Cappadocia day trek. From Pasabag, along the top of Cappadocia and down through the Gulludere Rose Valley to Goreme, we trekked 15kms in one day! (We recommend getting your bearings with this map)

Upon arrival to the Middle Earth Offices, we were warmly greeted by our new friend Atil whom we had met a few days earlier while mountain biking through the Kizilcukur Red Valley. We were then introduced to our guide and given a briefing regarding the day. Normally, the Top of Cappadocia tour would start from Çavuşin, however, since we had already explored Çavuşin Castle, they adapted our tour to compensate ensuring we would explore new terrain!

With charged cameras, plenty of water and our running shoes on, we were driven to our starting point of Pasabag. We wandered through the fairy chimneys, coming across camels and markets – then the true hike began.

Pasabag in Cappadocia

The police station in Pasabag, Cappadocia

Camel in Pasabag, Cappadocia

Camel in Pasabag, Cappadocia

It was a slow and gentle incline. With no trees to provide shade, I quickly realised why our tour guide had chosen to wear fully covered clothing! As the sweat quickly set in (a waterfall in Moss’s case) we snapped away with our cameras and enjoyed the entertaining shapes of Imagine Valley and the amazing view. We also passed a lot of rock piles, which according to our guide mean ‘father’ and are built to help lead the way.

Animal shaped formations in Imagine Valley

Animal shaped formations in Imagine Valley

Middle Earth Travel, Cappadocia

Making our way to the top of Cappadocia

Father leading the way (rock pile)

Father leading the way (rock pile)

The higher we trekked, the more breath taking the views became! As we walked along the summit of Bozdag mountain (the Top of Cappadocia) we could see EVERTHING – Pasabag, Çavuşin Castle, Kizilcukur Red Valley, Gulludere Rose Valley and Goreme. We were on the Father of Valleys! After a quick nod of agreement to the guide, we pushed ourselves the extra distance and made our way to the flag, as this HAD to be the highest point and was definitely worth a photo and a selfie or two!

View from the top of Cappadocia

View from the top of Cappadocia

Flag at top of Cappadocia

From the flag we looked down upon Aktepe Hill which is known as a popular destination for watching the sun set and could spot Kizilvadi Restaurant, our destination for lunch! Kizilvadi Restaurant is an attraction of its own. With its own historic winery and Grape church, plus some Middle Earth Travel treks even stay there for the night! After having a massive feed of soup, salad and pasta plus a surprise birthday cake, we made our way down into Gulludere Rose Valley.

Kizilvadi Restaurant

Kizilvadi Restaurant

The scenery is amazing, with strong colours visible in perfect layers on the chimneys, you would wonder what an artist was thinking, had it been a painting. Also, hidden to the side of the track we walked across a little bridge and not expecting anything to be there we were wowed by the massive church carved. It was absolutely huge and hard to believe that its most recent use has been as a pigeon house!

Coloured chimneys in Cappadocia

Coloured chimneys in Cappadocia

Pigeon houses in Cappadocia

Pigeon houses in Cappadocia

Church in Gulludere Rose Valley

Hard to believe this Church is carved inside a fairy chimney!

Middle Earth Travel Review

  • The team at Middle Earth Travel were extremely knowledgeable and certainly know Cappadocia’s hidden secrets. They have friendships with local tea garden owners which is also of benefit as it gained us entry to locked churches and hidden rooms that we would not have otherwise seen.
  • We covered a lot of ground, however we did not feel rushed. The whole day focused on showing us the region, therefore we had as much time as we needed to explore each church and to take ‘just one more photo’.
  • It wasn’t all about trekking. With a whole day and 15kms to cover, there were a few silly poses (especially in Imagine Valley), and we learnt a lot about the myths, legends and way of life in Cappadocia.
  • In conclusion I highly recommend Middle Earth Travel if you wish to go trekking or mountain biking in Cappadocia.
  • Cost: Day treks with Middle Earth Travel range from 50-90 euro, depending on the number of people taking part. This includes lunch, guide, vehicle transfers and entrance fees to historical sites, but excludes alcoholic and soft drinks.
  • Middle Earth Travel are outdoor enthusiasts and offer multi-day over night treks, mountain biking, abseiling, or custom made itineraries, in multiple regions throughout Turkey.
  • www.middleearthtravel.com

Disclaimer: We were provided with a discount for the trek with Middle Earth Travel, however, as always our thoughts on our adventure travel blog our own.

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Meet Cole and Adela

Cole and AdelaWe have been wearing out our jandals (Kiwi for flip-flops) on our travel adventures around the world since 2009. We think our blog is thought provoking and a little witty. But we have been proven wrong before. Find out more about us here...

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