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Your guide to Kelantan
All About Kelantan
Dotted with settlements surrounded by rice paddies and small fishing villages, Kelantan is a state in northeastern Malaysia with a coastline along the South China Sea and a northern border with Thailand. The cities and towns of Kelantan are known for their decorative Buddhist temples, stately Islamic mosques, and lively marketplaces. The East Coast railway line, known as the Jungle Railway because of its scenic interior route, passes through the state.
Kelantan’s landscape varies from the powder-soft sand of Irama Beach to the challenging trails up Mount Yong Belar in the state’s western reaches. People come here to sample the region’s distinctive cuisine, which is influenced by neighboring Thailand — think rich, creamy curries and rice cooked in coconut milk — and try their hand at playing traditional spinning tops.
The best time to stay in a vacation rental in Kelantan
The climate in Kelantan is decidedly tropical, with warm temperatures to be expected all year round. Most people choose to visit between February and September when the weather is at its best; June through August is the peak visitor season in large cities like Kota Bharu. Like most of the east coast of the Malay Peninsula, Kelantan experiences heavy rains in the monsoon season between November and January. The winter months are warm but very wet, which means fewer visitors.
June brings Pesta Wau, a colorful five-day kite festival that celebrates the end of the rice harvest, while your visit in September may coincide with Karnival Kebudayaan Kelantan, a lively cultural event combining gasing (spinning top) and drumming competitions.
Top things to do in Kelantan
Sitting at the mouth of the Kelantan River near the Thai border, the state capital is home to open-air markets, Muzium Negeri Kelantan’s exhibits on the state’s history, and Istana Batu, a former royal palace that is now a museum. Beachcombers can take a scenic bike ride to Pantai Cahaya Bulan, also known as Moonlight Beach, stopping at craft shops along the way.
Gunung Stong State Park
Situated in the west of the state, Gunung Stong State Park is more than 54,000 acres of wild, verdant tropical forest. Visitors come here to explore seven climbable mountain peaks, the beautiful Jelawang Waterfall, and accessible caves for spelunking. You might even spot native panthers, gibbons, hornbills, and the rare Rafflesia plant, known for its unpleasant scent. Early morning visitors should expect thick fog, which gradually lifts to reveal lush green valleys.
Wat Machimmaram Temple
Wat Machimmaram Temple is located in Tumpat, around 30 minutes’ drive from Kota Bharu and minutes from the Thailand border. This spiritual site boasts a spectacular rust-hued seated Buddha statue that is nearly 100 feet tall, towering above the surrounding countryside. The interior of the temple features Buddhist art in Thai and Chinese styles.