Penang Hill (George Town) – Penang Attraction

Penang Hill (George Town) - Penang AttractionWith the right dose of history and culture, Penang plays host to a variety of attractions ranging from beaches and historical architecture to cultural hotspots and a smorgasbord of cuisine. Located on the northern sector of the island, Penang Hill – one of Malaysia’s oldest hill resorts – is a hillside retreat comprising Western Hill, Bukit Laksamana, Tiger Hill, Flagstaff Hill and Government Hill. It is not as popular as Genting Highlands or Cameron Highlands but it is one of the island’s most popular tourist attractions.

Six kilometres away from the city centre, Penang Hill – also known as Bukit Bendera – is the perfect way to escape the heat and humidity of Georgetown. Standing apart from the lowlands due to its hilly and forested areas, it is a popular holiday retreat due to its nippy climate. Towering 821-metres above Penang’s capital, this chilly hill station boasts temperatures that are generally about five degrees cooler than at sea level.

Penang Hill History

Penang Hill was discovered by Francis Light when he commissioned the area to be cleared in order to grow strawberries. Yet the hillside – originally known as Strawberry Hill – was never fully developed due to the fact that it was difficult to carve out the forest area.

Penang Hill (George Town) - Penang AttractionAt the foot of the hill is the Penang Hill Railway – a Swiss-built funicular. The most convenient way to get to the apex, this railway system – built in 1897 – starts out from Air Itam. One of the world’s oldest funicular systems, it features a 2,007-metre long track that ascends the hill at a crawling 30-minute pace. The journey takes you past various bungalows originally built for British officials and other wealthy citizens, luxuriant greenery and occasional macaques; passengers have to change trains midway. The hill’s oldest bungalow, ‘Bel Retiro’, is the holiday residence of the Governor of Penang and the queue for the carriages is quite long especially on weekends and public holidays.

Alternatively, there is a five-kilometer road up the hill that is accessible only to the vehicles of hillside residents. This jeep trail is a popular off-road motorcycle track and hiking route – it starts out from the quarry at the entry of the Penang Botanic Gardens.

Penang Hill Topside Panorama

If you’re trying to escape the island’s sticky temperatures, then Penang Hill is the perfect destination for you. Start out your journey to the top with a ride on the funicular railway; later enjoy the cool, unpolluted air as you walk under 30-metre high trees along nature trails.

Upon reaching the summit, the view from the top affords spectacular sights of the island as well as the mainland; at night the sight of illuminated Georgetown is especially rewarding. There’s a food court, fruit and souvenir stalls, some gardens, an ornate Hindu temple, a mosque, a police station, a post office and a hotel – the Bellevue Hotel – at the upper funicular station. The original funicular train is also on exhibit here.

Penang Hill (George Town) - Penang Attraction

Two kilometers away from Bellevue Hotel is the Canopy Walk – this 220-metre walkway is suspended between towering trees 30 meters above the dense jungle. Additionally, you’ll find a rich collection of bird life – over 100 species, ranging from ordinary garden species to exotic deep forest inhabitants – call this hillside home.


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