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Perlis in North Malaysia

Few travelers visit Perlis in North West Malaysia. This is basically because Penang and Langkawi are more attractive to travelers because of the beaches, the heritage, the food and other legends. Perlis lacks these legends. In fact, Perlis has very few legends at all. Ask a Malaysian what he/she thinks about Perlis and for the most they'll tell you it's the smallest state of Malaysia. "Anything interesting?", .... "hmm... I don't know", is the usual answer. Yet, there are some things worth to visit, let me explain.

Ostrich farm in Perlis

North Malaysia: ostrich farm close to the Thai-Malaysian border

Perlis is the smallest state in Malaysia with almost a quarter of a million inhabitants. It is mostly overlooked. Capital and largest town of the state is Kangar but the royal capital is Arau, several kilometers east of Kangar. The city, though small is a pleasant overnight stop with some interesting visits to make.

The state borders with Thailand and shares 3 border posts: 2 at Padang Besar (one road, one railway), and Wang Kelian. The nearby Bukit Kayu Hitam is part of Kedah. Here is more about the border posts of Thailand and Malaysia.

Also of importance is Kuala Perlis which provides ferries to Langkawi.

Ostrich farm in Perlis

View over Kangar from Sri Mawarni Inn


Kangar is the capital of the state which was about 200 years ago part of Kedah. The atmosphere in town is relaxed as if people feel life doesn't have to be in a rush. For the cyclist there is good news, in the heart of the city you will find a small but excellent bicycle shop.

Downtown Kangar is a mixture of old and new shophouses. There are some other buildings worth to mention, especially the colonial State Secretarial Building and the clocktower both dating from the 1930's.

No need to worry about accommodation in Kangar. There are several hotels in town. I usually stay at Sri Mawarni Inn which is next door to the building below. I've never found the necessarily to make a booking in advance.

Kangar: a few doors further you will find a Giant bicycle shop

What to do in Perlis

Kangar will be your starting place to explore the small state. One of the most interesting things to do in Perlis is rock climbing, especially at Bukit Keteri. The twin rocks are from afar to be seen. If you come from either Arau, Padang Besar or even Alor Setar you will quickly have a glimpse of the limestone rocks towering over the state.


Arau as a royal city has a royal palace, a galeri diara and a museum both worth visiting. There is a hotel at the railway station (RM 80 per room) but with Kangar at 11 km you might not want/need to stay here.

Bukit Keteri, Perlis
Bukit Keteri

Bukit Keteri has over 50 climbing routes interesting for both beginner or expert climbers. The limestone rocks also house some nice caves.

17km north of Kangar on road #7 to Padang Besar, you will find Empangan Timah Tesoh. It's an artificial lake,. Construction began in 1987 and was completed in 1992. The lake is part of a project of water winning.

Empangan Timah Tesoh
Empangan Timah Tesoh

Along the road you can do some water sports and there are restaurants.

Further north, nearby Padang Besar, you can visit an ostrich farm. It's easy to find as it is located at the roadside (road #7).

Wang Kelian border

Cycling in Perlis

Cycling in Perlis is rewarding. Most of the state is flat but when the road starts curving, towards the Thai border at Wang Kelian, you will loose quite a bit of sweat.

Wang Kelian surrounding

Once you have crossed the Thai border and you're in Wang Kelian, which is no more than a couple of houses, you are surrounded by Perlis National Park. The only way out is to climb to just over 300 meter. The climb from Wang Kelian is not too difficult, 2 km in length.

Once up, you will enjoy a beautiful view all over the state. It's an amazing view over mostly forest.


However, once you're on the way down, you will find this is considerably steeper. You can follow the direction to Kangar (form the Wang Kelian border 45km) via road #7 or cycle the small roads on the west side of Empangan Timah Tesoh via Kaki Bukit (recommended).

Note: Even if you want to visit Langkawi, I would recommend to travel via Perlis using the Wang Kelian border and from there to Kuala Perlis. It's worth the effort.

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