Venture out to the Places of Interest in Johor, you will find Malaysia’s hidden gem of tourism. Johor was founded in the early 16th century, establishing itself as an important maritime power in the region. Through the tin and rubber boom and spice trade, Johor would not only persevere but excel. After Malaysia’s independence, Johor would be one of the first states within the Federation of Malaya.
Ever since then Johor has undergone a significant amount of development and modernization. When it comes to tourism, Johor has plenty to offer with a vast number of different types of attractions. There’s a little something for everyone here, regardless of whether you enjoy relaxing vacations or thrilling adventures. Today, we’ll be going through some of these attractions, compiling the best of the best into neat little lists.
Must Visit Places of Interest in Johor
As we mentioned earlier, Johor’s got a lot to offer people when it comes to attractions and places of interest. Here, we’ve rounded up some of the best the state has to offer. These attractions cover a variety of different niches, though we consider all of them to be must-visits. If you’re in Johor and you don’t go to these spots, then you’re missing out on some of the best the state has to offer!
- Endau-Rompin National Park
Endau-Rompin is believed to be around 130 million years old, making it one of the world’s oldest rainforests. Nature enthusiasts will appreciate the diverse flora and fauna, including endangered species such as the Sumatran rhinoceros and Malayan tiger. Endau-Rompin also boasts fascinating cave systems adorned with stalactites and stalagmites, as well as several breathtaking waterfalls including the spectacular Buaya Sangkut Waterfall.
- Legoland Malaysia Resort
Legoland Malaysia Resort is a popular theme park and resort located in Iskandar Puteri. The centerpiece of the resort is the Legoland Theme Park, featuring a variety of rides, attractions, and shows inspired by the iconic Lego bricks. Adjacent to the theme park is the Legoland Water Park, offering a refreshing aquatic experience with water slides, wave pools, lazy rivers, and interactive play areas. A great place for a fun family outing.
- Desaru Beach
One of Johor’s premier beach destinations, Desaru Beach is renowned for its white sandy shores and clear blue waters. Visitors can engage in a variety of water activities, including jet skiing, kayaking, banana boat rides, and parasailing. If you’re a fan of water parks, Desaru Beach is also home to the Desaru Coast Adventure Waterpark. In the evenings, take a firefly cruise to witness fireflies lighting up the night, it’s a dazzling display!
- Gunung Pulai
A prominent mountain located in the Kulai District, Gunung Pulai provides hiking enthusiasts with various trails of different difficulty levels. The trails take you through dense forests, and as you ascend, you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. Keep an eye out for various species of birds, butterflies, and other creatures during your trek!
- Kota Tinggi Waterfalls
The Kota Tinggi Waterfalls are set amidst the background of a tropical rainforest, creating a tranquil and picturesque environment. The waterfall consists of multiple tiers as the cascading water flows over rocks, creating a series of pools. To reach the waterfall, visitors can take a short hike through the jungle, though the trek is relatively easy. Practically anyone of any fitness level can complete it and reap its cool rewards.
- Kota Tinggi Firefly Park
Kota Tinggi Firefly Park is a popular eco-tourism attraction, known for being a natural habitat for fireflies. Visitors to the firefly park join guided boat tours, taking them through the area’s mangrove forests. Firefly-watching tours usually take place in the evening when the fireflies are most active. Once the fireflies begin lighting up the evening sky, it’s a mesmerizing display!
Best Cultural Attractions in Johor
Ask anyone from Johor, and they’ll tell you about how Johor is rich in cultural attractions that reflect the diverse heritage of the state. These cultural attractions cover a wide spread of cultures and religions, all coexisting harmoniously. Give these a visit if you’d like to catch a glimpse of Johor’s rich cultural heritage!
- Sultan Abu Bakar Mosque
A stunning architectural marvel, the Sultan Abu Bakar Mosque is known for its distinctive design. It combines various architectural styles, from Moorish to Victorian to even Mughal, serving as a testament to the rich heritage of the state. While primarily a place of worship, the Sultan Abu Bakar Mosque is open to visitors outside prayer times. Visit if you’d like to appreciate its architectural splendor!
- Arulmigu Sri Rajakaliamman Glass Temple
Like the Sultan Abu Bakar Mosque, what sets the Arulmigu Sri Rajakaliamman Glass Temple apart from other temples is its architecture. The entire temple, both exterior and interior, is adorned with intricate glass mosaic artworks, featuring vibrant colors and detailed designs. It wasn’t simple, as the Glass Temple began construction in 1996 and was only completed in 2008. It’s a unique cultural and artistic experience you won’t want to miss!
- Johor Bahru Old Chinese Temple
This historic temple, dedicated to the Five Deities, is one of the oldest structures in Johor. Dating back to the mid-19th century, its construction reflects the look and architecture of the time. The temple showcases traditional Chinese temple architecture, featuring ornate carvings, colorful decorations, and intricate details. Over the years, the temple has undergone renovations and restoration efforts to preserve its value.
- Bukit Serene Palace
Bukit Serene Palace, also known as Istana Bukit Serene, is the official residence of the Sultan of Johor. Originally built in 1933, the palace’s architecture shows a blend of modern and classical styles. While the palace is occasionally open to the public during special events or celebrations, it primarily functions as a private residence for the Sultan and his family. Visitors may admire the architecture and grandeur from a distance.
Best Vacation Islands in Johor
Thanks to its location on the southernmost part of the Malaysian peninsula, Johor is home to several beautiful and pristine vacation islands. Despite rampant development around the mainland, these islands remain untouched, their picturesque beaches and rich natural ecosystems being a huge draw for tourists. You need to ride boats or ferries to get to these islands, so keep that in mind if you’re planning to visit!
- Pulau Besar
Pulau Besar (which literally translates to “Big Island”) is well-known for its pristine beaches, clear turquoise waters, and lush greenery. The island is accessible by boat, and visitors usually take a ferry from Mersing or Tanjung Leman to reach Pulau Besar. The waters surrounding Pulau Besar are rich in marine life, making it a suitable destination for snorkeling and diving enthusiasts.
- Pulau Rawa
Pulau Rawa’s white sandy beaches and crystal-clear waters make it ideal for relaxation, sunbathing and other beach activities. Like Pulau Besar, there’s a heavy dose of snorkeling culture here thanks to the vibrant coral reefs around the island. You won’t want to miss out on the Rawa Safari, a little tour of the island on a small boat that’s memorable for just how charming it is.
- Pulau Sibu
Comprising several islands, Pulau Sibu offers a mix of secluded beaches and gorgeous landscapes. Again, snorkeling and diving culture is a huge part of the culture on these islands, especially with its diverse marine life and coral reefs. Pulau Sibu Besar interestingly houses a traditional village, where visitors can enjoy a slice of local life. If you’d like to stay, there are several chalets and beachfront resorts available on the islands.
Best Marketplaces and Malls in Johor
Johor is home to vibrant marketplaces where you can experience the local culture, shop for unique items, and savor delicious street food. The malls meanwhile offer a comforting reprieve from the hot Malaysian weather, as well as offering some of the modern amenities and attractions we’ve come to enjoy.
- Pasar Karat (Johor Bahru Old Market)
Pasar Karat is a flea market in the heart of Johor Bahru, near Jalan Tan Hiok Nee, a street known for its heritage buildings and cafes. The market has a rustic charm, offering an eclectic mix of items, including antiques, vintage collectibles, second-hand goods, clothing, accessories, handicrafts, and more. Alongside the array of goods for sale, Pasar Karat is known for its street food stalls offering local delicacies and snacks.
- Johor Bahru City Square
The defacto shopping mall of Johor Bahru’s business district Johor Bahru City Square offers various entertainment options. These include a cinema to catch the latest movies, an arcade for gaming enthusiasts, and occasional events or performances. The complex also hosts a lively market area where you can shop for clothing, accessories, and local souvenirs. It’s close to many attractions, so it’s a good spot to rest.
- Johor Premium Outlet (JPO)
Johor Premium Outlet (JPO) is a popular shopping destination located in Kulai. JPO is a designer outlet that features a collection of international and luxury brands, offering shoppers the opportunity to purchase high-end fashion at discounted prices. Visitors can find products from fashion giants such as Coach, Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Adidas, Nike, and many more.
Foods You Must Try in Johor
Sandakan has many fishing villages, and naturally, this means that Sandakan has a ton to offer in the way of seafood. Ocean produce makes up a majority of the town’s specialties, so you definitely don’t want to miss out on the seafood while you’re here! We’ve made a list of some of the best Sandakan has to offer down below.
- Mee Rebus Johor
Mee Rebus Johor is a popular and flavorful dish, featuring yellow noodles served with a thick, sweet, and spicy gravy. The sauce is usually made from a base of sweet potatoes, giving it its signature thick and hearty consistency. It is then flavored with a mix of spices, including galangal, lemongrass, and dried shrimp. A protein is then added, with the usual suspects being boiled eggs, tofu, and sometimes prawns or beef.
- Nasi Briyani Gam
Fragrant basmati rice and biryani spices come together to create a unique Johor spin on this popular dish. Unlike traditional nasi briyani, Nasi Briyani Gam has its rice and meat cooked separately. Meats like beef, chicken and mutton are cooked in rich sauces, and then served alongside the aromatic rice. Accompanying it are sides such as poppadoms, cucumber acar and potato curry.
- Laksa Johor
What sets Laksa Johor apart from other laksa varieties is its thick and rich coconut milk-based gravy. It’s heavily spiced with a blend of aromatic herbs and spices, then infused with seafood broth and fish meat. Interestingly, Laksa Johor is served with the option of rice vermicelli or spaghetti. Once you’ve got your carbs, the dish is topped off with cucumber, long beans, hard-boiled eggs and fish cakes, as well as other garnishes.
- Asam Pedas Johor
A local classic, the defining characteristic of Asam Pedas Johor is its sour and tangy flavor, achieved through the use of tamarind. Red chilies are commonly used in the preparation, adding heat to the dish. Other herbs and spices are thrown into the mix, along with a protein. Typically, fish is used for asam pedas, though chicken, beef and seafood can be swapped in. This is all served along with a bed of steaming white rice.
- Kacang Pool
Kacang Pool is a flavorful and hearty dish that originated from the Arabian Peninsula and has since become popular in Johor as a breakfast item. The main ingredient in Kacang Pool is typically fava beans or broad beans, which are cooked until soft and mashed. The dish is then flavored with a variety of aromatic herbs and spices. Kacang Pool is commonly served with bread or toasted buns, making for a hearty breakfast.
When is the Best Time to Visit Johor?
The dry season in Johor typically occurs from June to September, which is exactly when you want to go. During this period, you can expect lower rainfall and more sunny days, making it an excellent time for outdoor activities and exploring attractions. Outside of that, avoid school holidays or public holidays, as the roads will be extra-packed with tourists from both Malaysia and Singapore alike.
How Many Days Do You Need In Johor?
If you’re truly keen on exploring everything Johor has to offer, then you’ll need at least a week. Activities like nature reserves, island tours and culturally significant spots are spaced out by distance and have strict time schedules. If you’re only looking to explore Johor Bahru’s center and sample the local delicacies however, then a 3 day stay is more than enough.
Where to Stay in Johor?
Finding accommodation in major cities like Johor Bahru is simple. They tend to have a concentration of hotels, ranging from comfy budget lodgings for the everyman, all the way up to luxurious 5-star experiences. When it comes to island stays, most tend to offer simple chalets, though some islands have nicer beachfront resorts if you choose to indulge. As per usual, check up on reviews online before making a decision!
Pulai Springs Resort – Upscale 5-star hotel in Johor Bahru with all the amenities you could ask for.
Midori Concept Hotel – Visually stunning 3-star hotel with comfortable lodgings for relatively affordable prices.
Redpine Boutique Hotel – Cozy 3-star hotel that’s cheap and cheerful in Skudai.
My Capsule Hotel Malaysia – Incredibly affordable, clean and comfortable capsule hotel.
TROVE Johor Bahru – Modern 4-star hotel with relatively affordable pricing in Johor Bahru.
Bayu Lestari Island Resort – Affordable 3-star island retreat in Pulau Besar.
Rimba Resort – The premier resort in Pulau Sibu, offering a dive centre, spa, and tour packages.
How Do You Get Around in Johor?
Renting a car or motorcycle is the ideal option if you want the flexibility to explore Johor at your own pace. Many international and local car and motorcycle rental companies operate in Johor, and the road infrastructure is well-developed. For island visits, you’ll want to check ferry pickup times before you go to the jetties, as well as check whether you need a booking in advance.
Johor stands proud as a multifaceted gem within Malaysia’s tourism landscape, offering a captivating blend of cultural richness, natural beauty, and modern attractions. From the bustling cityscape of Johor Bahru, to the pristine sands of Desaru Beach, to the rich cultural tapestry woven through its historical sites, Johor beckons travelers of all backgrounds with its variety of attractions.