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Air Itam Dam and the road to Balik Pulau


The trail from Air Itam dam to Balik Pulau is more challenging. The start of this bicycle journey starts at the Kek Lok Si temple. This is a very busy urban area which might turn you off. However, once passed the market to the car parking area and the road starts climbing and traffic disappears except for an occasional motorbike, hikers and cyclists.

Air Itam Dam, Penang

Air Itam dam, your best view is in the mornings.

There are two ways to reach the dam: the main road for cycling and a hiking trail, see this page for details.

It's 3.5km to Air Itam Dam and it's almost all the way climbing but apart of a few places it's quite doable. The first kilometers goes quite steep up so you need to be sure you can use the smallest gear you have available.

Kek Lok Si in Air itam, Penang
Kek Lok Si

The asphalt road is in fine condition. After the steeper parts, the road levels a little and climbs slowly up until you reach the dam. Just before you reach the dam you will have to cycle another 140 meters which is quite steep but than it 's all over with the troubles. You will reach the dam in a few minutes.

View to Air Itam from the dam

View to Air Itam from the dam, this view is the best in the later afternoons

Once at the dam, take a break and enjoy the views over the reservoir. If you come early you will see quite a few local Malaysian cyclists.

The forest trail around the Air Itam reservoir
The forest trail around the Air Itam reservoir,
only accessible for motorbikes, bicycles and hikers.

Unfortunately it is not possible to cycle around the reservoir but it is possible to hike it which takes about 45 minutes. However, if your target is Balik Pulau, follow the main track after gate near the parking space. Do not take the asphalt road that leads steep up next to it.

This steep road leads to the 3 telecom towers but do not offer any views or continuation to any other place to cycle. It is however possible to hike this road and just under the top cross the hill to the Cheng Kon Sze temple (the Hokkien name is Cheng Ji Chan, which is written on a marker board.) It's not possible to cycle to the temple as once you cross the hill, the path changes into stairs. You can cycle from the other side of the hill as described here.

At the "pass" and junction to Air Itam Dam, Balik Pulau and Ngoh Han Temple
At the "pass" and junction to Air Itam Dam, Balik Pulau and Ngoh Han Hill Temple

So take the smaller asphalt road and cycle along the reservoir until you see a junction to your left. This small road goes quickly up and swindles to the highest point where there is a shelter to take a rest.

Ngoh Han Temple view to Balik Pulau

You can decide to take the junction to your right. This is a small road that takes you to the Ngoh Han Hill Temple with spectacular views to the Balik Pulau area. From the junction it's about 2 km. There is no continuing road so you have to cycle back. For the hikers, there are two alternate ways to hike down to Balik Pulau, see this page for details)

An interesting alternative is to take a forest trail to 5 Way Junction. This is a degrade trail that for the most slowly ascends to the junction. From there you can either go to Tiger Hill, Balik Pulau or back to Air Itam Dam. I've written a page about this trail.

Back at the junction, follow the main path downwards. At points it is quite steep so make sure your breaks are in perfect condition. You are leaving the forest behind. This part of the trail goes through fruit orchards (banana, durian, nutmeg, ginger flower). In the season you can especially smell a lot of durian.

Going down to Balik Pulau
One of the few moderate parts of the descending to Balik Pulau

On the way down you will come at a T-junction. The road here is new, go right and further down. In another 10 minutes you have arrived in Balik Pulau.

Going back to George Town, take the direction to George Town, see this page for details.

Air Itam to Balik Pulau map

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Special Hiking Tours in Penang

Join us on our special hiking tours in Penang. We will bring you around in the jungle of the Botanical Gardens. Our tours include:

  • Botanical Gardens: Lily Pond - Waterfall
  • Moongate - Hikers Resting Spot #5 - Youth Park
  • Trails to Crag Hotel and Penang Hill

Read more and book your hiking tour.

Hiking in Penang around Botanical Gardens

or check the hiking and biking pages


Hiking to Tiger Hill and Penang Hill

This is a reasonable popular hiking trail in the hills. The trek takes about 3-4 hours to Tiger Hill and another to Penang Hill.

Hiking to Tiger Hill and Penang Hill


Balik Pulau, Ngoh Han Hill Temple, Cheng Kon Sze and Paya Terubong

This is a challenging hike of 5-6 hours through orchards, farms, secondary rainforest and back via the United Hokkien cemeteries to Paya Terubong. It's a beautiful hike!.

Balik Pulau, Ngoh Han Hill Temple, Cheng Kon Sze and Paya Terubong

View to Paya Terubong


The Nibbinda Loop

An interesting 3 hours hike steep up to the Nibbinda Forest Monastery and further through the Bukit Relau Forest Reserve back to Balik Pulau.

The Nibbinda Loop

Nibbinda Forest Monastery


Cheng Kon Sze (Ching Ji Chan)

The Cheng Kon Sze temple as is, is already a good reason to hike or bike up. However, the trails are worth exploring too.

Take the bike and cycle steep up or go on foot from the main road and hike all the way to Air Itam Dam. You will have a very enjoyable hike or bike adventure.

Cheng Kon Sze


Air Itam and the Old Ridge Path

Another trail to Tiger Hill following the Air Itam side of the hills towards the Old Ridge Path from where you can hike further to Tiger Hill, Balik Pulau or back to Air Itam via 5 Way Junction

Air Itam and the Old Ridge Path


Trails to Sungai Pinang

There are two excellent trails leading from 5 Way Junction to Sungai Pinang.

5 way junction to Sungai Pinang


5 Way Junction to Balik Pulau

This is, if you can't find the right trail, a very crazy trail. Take the right trail and it takes 3 hours, the wrong trail takes almost double. Here's the story:


Hiking to Ngoh Han Hill and Ngoh Han Hill Temple

This 3-4 hours hike is a great alternative if you don't want to do the Tiger Hill hike but still want your adventure in the hills of Penang and find some awesome jungle waterfalls.

Waterfall to be found on the hike to Ngoh Han Hill

Hiking to Ngoh Han Hill and Ngoh Han Temple


Balik Pulau to the Relau Pass

This is a challenging hike which will take about 4 hours depending on how easy you can pass the secondary rainforest

5 Way Junction to Sungai Pinang

Balik Pulau to Relau pass