Kek Look Tong Cave

Ipoh, Malysia

Ipoh (pronounced e-poh) is the capital of the Malaysian state of Perak, known as ‘The City that Tin Built’ thanks to the rich tin deposits that were mined in the area. Situated close to the Cameron Highlands and halfway between Penang and Kuala Lumpur, it is often bypassed by backpackers travelling between these more popular destinations. 

However, stopping here for a couple of nights will allow you to discover a different side of Malaysia. With plenty of sites to explore but few tourists, the city of Ipoh is a great place to experience authentic local Malaysian life. It also has plenty to offer on the food scene and is one of the best gastronomy destinations in the country.

Ipoh, Malaysia – Travel Guide

Ipoh Map & Resources

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Best Time to Visit Ipoh

March-September is Malaysia’s dry season and the best time to visit. However, temperatures are fairly consistent year-round, so if you don’t mind the odd thunderstorm, visiting between October and February is also pleasant. 

Ipoh’s attractions get busy with domestic visitors around national holidays, particularly Hari Raya (celebrating the end of Ramadan). Although this means places like the cave temples become crowded, it does offer the opportunity to see Malaysians enjoying their local treasures, a refreshing change from the often tourist-heavy attractions elsewhere.

Kek Look Tong gardens 2
Visit Ipoh during the dry season for (mostly) sunny days!

Where to Stay in Ipoh

Ipoh’s traveller scene is still developing so there isn’t a huge range of hostels or a backpacking neighbourhood as such, but most budget accommodation is located a kilometre or two east of the Old Town.

Best Hostels in Ipoh

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The Brownstone Hostel & Space is the most popular choice for hostellers, and while it isn’t the cheapest in the area, it is immaculately clean and offers excellent value for money. The dorms are comfortable and private and the social spaces are excellent. A cosy lounge area makes for a good place to relax with games, and the kitchen area provides a good spot for a social breakfast (which is included). Plus, you can use the onsite washing machine for free! A bonus for those who’ve been on the road for a while. 

Concubine lane Ipoh
The bustling streets of Ipoh.

Beds in Garden Hostel is a slightly cheaper option with dorms and budget private rooms in a good location. The dorms are private and they are all single beds rather than bunks so no worries about being given the top bunk! The staff are highly rated, there is a well-equipped kitchen and nice social area.

Homey Hostel is a good option for shoestring budgets and offers basic, but clean and comfortable, four or eight-bed dorms with bunkbeds and no privacy curtains. It’s located very close to Old Town and lots of Chinese food outlets.

Cute Hotel & Dorms has good-value-for-money capsule-style dorms. Free snacks, juice and tea and coffee are available in the shared lounge between 3 pm and 10 pm each day. Note that the hotel is close to the bus station but a 20-minute drive from Old Town.

Dé Cafe & Rest House is situated right in the centre of Old Town and within walking distance of the train station so makes a great base for exploring the area. With single-sex capsule style dorms, it is highly rated by guests for comfort, cleanliness, location and staff. The attached café also serves great food!

For those seeking more privacy, M Boutique Hotel offers stylish and comfortable rooms at reasonable rates, including single and budget double rooms (without a window). It also has an onsite restaurant and fitness centre.

Railway station Ipoh
Most of the budget accommodation options are centrally located.

MU Hotel offers comfortable beds, a good breakfast and a modern design. It also features a fitness centre! MU Hostel is a good option for those seeking a little more comfort near the heart of town. They even offer a free shuttle to explore the city.

Things to Do in Ipoh, Malaysia

1. Walk the Ipoh Heritage Trail

Spend a couple of hours strolling around the Old Town and explore Ipoh’s history on the 4-mile-long Heritage Trail. Admire the colonial architecture of Ipoh Railway Station (the starting point) before following the trail through the historic city, which takes in 27 points of interest. Maps are available for free from the tourist office at the railway station and the trail is well-signposted.

2. Visit the Cave Temples

Ipoh is perhaps best known for the magnificent cave temples that dot the surrounding landscape. These religious structures are built into the limestone cliffs and each has its own character. 

Some of the best are Perak Cave Temple with its beautiful cave paintings and viewpoint; Kek Look Tong Temple, the most natural in design with an enormous cavern housing religious statues and immaculate gardens at the rear; and Sam Poh Tong Temple with its impressive pagoda that sits quietly against the towering limestone cliffs.

Sam Poh cave temple 2
The beautiful Sam Poh temple stands out for its epic backdrop.

3. Follow the Mural Art Trail

Follow the trail created by Lithuanian street artist Ernest Zacharevic around the Old Town and enjoy his murals of coffee bags, paper planes and hummingbirds among other things. Also, don’t miss Mural Arts Lane where the length of the street has been brought to colourful life with dozens of murals created by many artists.   

4. Go Spelunking at Gua Tempurung

Gua Tempurung, 25km south of Ipoh, is located within the Kinta Valley Geopark and is one of Peninsular Malaysia’s largest caves. It is around 4.5km long (although only 1.9km is accessible to the public) and contains a mile-long underground river. 

The cave complex is formed of five giant domes that are said to resemble coconut shells from the inside (Tempurung means coconut shell in Malay). Along with limestone, the cave contains deposits of marble and tin, a material for which the area is famous.

5. Discover a Scottish Mansion at Kellie’s Castle

Kellie’s Castle was built by Scotsman William Kellie Smith (for whom it is named) in the early 20th century. Part unfinished mansion and part ruins, the site is an intriguing mix of architectural designs with a fascinating and tragic story. Take a walk around the historic house and look out for the ghosts that are said to roam the corridors.

Kellie's Castle Ipoh
Are you brave enough to visit Kellie’s Castle? 👻

6. Shop at Concubine Lane

A narrow street in Ipoh’s Old Town, Concubine Lane has become a must-see site for visitors. This sliver of road is crammed full of pop-up stalls, eateries and souvenir shops jostling for space and attention. Enjoy a wander and soak up the atmosphere. Visit around Lunar New Year and the street will be festooned with lanterns adding an extra layer of charm.

7. Drink White Coffee

Ipoh is famous as the home of white coffee (you’ll see the coffee shop chain Old Town White Coffee all over Malaysia that trades off of this fact). Ipoh’s white coffee is created by roasting the beans in margarine, giving them a buttery taste, and is served with condensed milk. Head to one of the Old Town’s kopitiams (coffee shops) to sample the local offering.

8. Take a Dip in the Hot Springs at the Lost World of Tambun

10km outside of Ipoh city is the Lost World of Tambun Theme Park and hot springs. Relax in the mineral-rich naturally warm waters of the hot springs after a day of exploring Ipoh.

9. Admire the View at Mirror Lake

Tasik Cermin, better known as Mirror Lake, is a large lake surrounded by limestone karsts. The still waters reflect the towering cliffs and lush greenery creating a beautiful and serene environment – a calm spot to enjoy, away from the bustle of the city.

Mirror Lake Ipoh
The beautiful Mirror Lake in Ipoh.

Food and Drink in Ipoh

Ipoh is a great place for foodies. Though it might not be as famed as KL or Penang, locals laud it as one of the best food destinations in Malaysia and it’s easy to see why. 

Most famous for Ipoh white coffee, it is also well known for its delicious plump and crunchy beansprouts (tauge), which are super tasty thanks to the limestone-rich water. Dim sum is another local favourite and a must-eat in the city.

Kedai Kopi Sin Yoon Loong is the coffee shop where Ipoh’s white coffee was created. There’s no better place to sample the famous beverage – also try the caramel egg custard here. Nam Heong White Coffee is another popular choice.

Lou Wong Chicken Beansprouts serves up arguably the city’s most popular version of the local favourite, though some would say that Ong Kee is the best. Cowan Street Ayam Tauge & Koitiau Restaurant is another firm favourite for chicken beansprouts, open only four evenings a week it can get very busy so get there early.

There are plenty of choices when it comes to sampling the local dim sum. Some of the most popular are Ming Court, and directly opposite, Foh San. Chooi Yue Dim Sum is slightly further afield but worth the journey for some of the best dim sum around.

Another famed dish is Ipoh’s salted chicken (ayam garam). Aun Kheng Lim is widely regarded as the best place to try this dish, which involves marinating a whole chicken in rice wine and Chinese herbs before wrapping it in paper and baking it with lots of salt. Generally, the only option is to purchase a whole bird and they are usually only available to takeaway.

Ipoh’s soya beancurd (tau fu fah) is a must-try dessert. Some of the best places to taste it are Funny Mountain, Woong Kee and Ding Feng Tau Fu Fa.

Muzi T@Veggie is a great restaurant for veggies and vegans, where you can enjoy some local dishes without the meat as well as lots of delicious tea options.

Getting Around Ipoh

On foot

The best way to get around the Old Town is by walking. Both the Heritage Trail and Mural Art Trail are best explored on foot, and even aimless wandering is an enjoyable way to pass an hour or two admiring the colonial architecture.


To explore further afield, including the cave temples and Kellie’s Castle, renting a scooter is a good option. Expect to pay around 50 ringgit (approx. $10USD) for a day rental.

Kek Look Tong gardens 1
Scooter is a good option to get to beautiful places off the beaten track.


Taxi-hailing app Grab is an easy and convenient way of getting between places and is reasonably priced.

How to Get to Ipoh

It’s easy to reach Ipoh by bus from Penang (two hours; approx. 25-30 ringgit), Cameron Highlands (two hours; approx. 25 ringgit) or Kuala Lumpur (around three hours; approx. 25-35 ringgit). It’s also possible to travel by train from Butterworth, Penang (around an hour and a half) or Kuala Lumpur (two and a half hours). is the easiest way to book bus and rail tickets throughout Malaysia.

Where to Go Next:

Cameron Highlands – Just a couple of hours east of Ipoh is one of Malaysia’s most popular tourist destinations. Escape from the tropical heat for a few days in the Highlands where you can tackle some of the hiking trails and sample the famous tea.

Penang – In the other direction, the island of Penang sits just off Malaysia’s west coast. Explore Georgetown, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, enjoy the country’s smallest national park and admire the view from Penang Hill.

Kuala Lumpur – Continue south to Malaysia’s buzzing capital and enjoy a few days of big city life. Tuck into the street food, check out the Batu Caves and soak up the cosmopolitan atmosphere.

Lisa Barham author pic
Lisa Barham

Having always dreamt of travelling the world, Lisa finally decided to follow that dream in her mid-thirties when she left her nine-to-five in London for life on the road. After trekking to Everest Base Camp in Nepal and learning to surf in Sri Lanka, she headed for wondrous Southeast Asia, where she can currently be found solo backpacking, navigating through life and unfamiliar streets.

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2 thoughts on “Ipoh, Malysia”

  1. Linda Darnill

    It is definitely worthy of a stopover. We spent 3 nights there and found it a fascinating place to explore.

  2. Food paradise in Malaysia is either Penang or Kuala Lumpur itself. Ipoh, Melacca, Kota Bharu – not bad but very limited. Try again South East Asia Backpacker.

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