Coming to Malaysia definitely warrants a 3-day stay in Penang to discover its beautiful blend of cultures, food, and art. Its rich cultural, religious, and social influences from various communities make this island the ultimate melting pot of diversity in Malaysia. It’s always worth the while seeing Penang’s historic streets and modern street art, especially in the UNESCO-recognized George Town that is dotted with a mix of colonial-era British buildings, Hindu temples, and Chinese clan houses. An exciting but leisurely walk introduces you to world-famous murals and graffiti at every corner.
To get the best experience out of your stay in Penang, you can plan a visit between November and the end of January to enjoy cooler temperatures with the least rainfall. Of course, this time also comes with bustling crowds. If you prefer other times, May through November is not as busy, but it’s the time of the annual monsoon rain. Good news? It usually only lasts for a few hours and the rest of the day is considered dry.
If you’re ready to book that flight, you may want to check out this itinerary to make the most of your experience and see the best of Penang in three days. Of course, staying longer is better, but this itinerary is recommended if you are pressed for time.
Day 1 George Town, Auntie Gaik Lean’s Restaurant, Clan Jetties, Pinang Peranakan Mansion, Chulia Street
Exploring Penang’s George Town is a must and deserves to be devoted an entire day. It brims with street art and food that are undoubtedly some of the best in the world. Go around the city’s old streets and see a reflection of George Towns’ humble beginnings in the 1780’s. These UNESCO streets can be explored on foot or aboard a rickshaw like a local to see old houses, shop fronts, and narrow alleyways and streets.
Make a delicious lunch stop at Auntie Gaik Lean’s restaurant—the best Nyonya restaurant in all of Penang. It’s the perfect way to fill your tummy after an entire morning of street art exploration. Nyonya is a cuisine from the Peranakan community which was born out of the intermarriages between local Malays and Chinese immigrants. Auntie Gaik’s Lean restaurant is the most popular in the area, so you should try their Braised Chicken, Nyonya Curry Chicken, and 5-Herb Fried Rice.
Then, continue your journey exploring the city and make a stop at the clan jetties, created by the different Chinese clans in the 19th century and made of wood to facilitate immigration from mainland China. These are basically a floating village composed of Chinese shops and houses and wooden walkways. These jetties are actually the perfect spot for an afternoon nap or lazy time.
Your next stop is the Pinang Peranakan Mansion to revisit the cultural and social history of the city. The mansion was originally owned by a Chinese business tycoon but has now been turned into a museum that showcases Penang’s Peranakan heritage. It serves as a window through which locals and visitors get to see a glimpse of history. Free guided tours in English are available at 11:30 AM and 3:30 PM, though you can also explore it on your own.
As the sun sets, it’s time to eat and drink the night away at Chulia Street. It’s not just one of the oldest streets in George Town, but it’s also famous for its delectable street food. Be lost in an ocean of hawker stalls selling different varieties of street food served till the wee hours of the morning. Tease your taste buds with the Asam Laksa, which is the signature Laksa dish of Penang. You can eat like a local while sitting down in one of the small chairs by the hawker stalls or enjoy some music at a bar.
Day 2 Penang Hill, Kek Lok Si Buddhist Temple, Colonial George Town and Little India
For your second day in Penang, put on your sunscreen and leave the city for a day of exploring Penang Hill. It’s best to beat the heat by going there early and still have time to explore other attractions on this side of the island.
Penang Hill rises 833 metres above sea level, accessible through different walking paths that lead through forests and provide amazing views of George Town. You can go the arduous way by walking or take it easy by riding the funicular train to the summit where you can see some of the most breathtaking and splendid views over Penang. Afterwards, head back down and spend some time exploring the Botanic Gardens that sits at the base of the hill.
With still much time left, make your way to the Kek Lok Si Buddhist Temple, one of Malaysia’s largest Buddhist temples. This place is popularly known as the home of the Pagoda of 10,000 Buddhas, which literally means a pagoda featuring 10,000 Buddhas. Aside from being the main religious centre for a large Chinese community in Penang, the temple is also the venue for many festivals and celebrations.
It’s time to head back to George Town for a unique chance to see the colonial-era waterfront, specifically the Fort Cornwallis and the grand colonial architecture. Then, proceed to Little India to experience its Tamil culture, which continues to thrive in Penang. Admire the many temples, as well as the street parades and festivities that happen especially in the evenings. This is the perfect chance to enjoy a delicious dinner in one of the curry houses. After many tastings of different Tamil food, it’s time to head back to your hotel and call it a day.
Day 3 Taman Negara, Turtle Sanctuary, and Batu Ferringhi
Penang is rich in natural beauty, which you will get to see when you visit the Taman Negara National Park. This is the locals’ favourite hang out place and should be yours too, especially if you love the outdoors. You’ll love getting your dose of vitamin D here under the bright Penang Sun. Travel northwest to Teluk Bahang to find the park entrance and choose the hiking trail you want to conquer.
This national park features beaches; among which is the Monkey Beach. You can take a hike through the humid jungle or opt to take a boat straight to the shoreline of Monkey Beach. Yes, you do have to watch out for the monkeys after which this beach was named.
One of Penang’s most pristine beaches is the Kerachut Beach, which is a favourite nesting spot for turtles. This all-year-round conservation centre is where you can best learn about the turtle visitors of Penang.
On your way back to George Town, make a stop at Batu Ferringhi where Penang’s up-market resorts are located at for its exceptional beach and coastline. Enjoy watching the sunset before heading to the night market for another round of Penang’s delectable and mouthwatering street food.
There you have it! Three days of Penang exploration is indeed an experience you cannot pass up. But you can certainly see more if you add more days to your vacation in this lovely Malaysian island.