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Your guide to Penang Island
All About Penang Island
Sitting off the coast of Malaysia’s mainland facing Malacca Strait, Penang Island is best known for its capital city, George Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site and a cultural hotspot, where a mix of modernist-style mosques and intricately crafted, 19th-century temples represent the region’s unique heritage. George Town’s city center is a work of art in itself, where you will find sprawling murals covering everything from building walls to sidewalks throughout the city center.
A group of historic, Chinese-settled clan jetties from the 1800s sit along George Town’s waterfront, each named after a family clan. The small, grouped neighborhoods are set over the water on stilts, with food stalls and wooden homes where residents still live today. Opposite George Town, the 3,000-acre Penang National Park lies on the northwestern coast of Penang Island, packed with hundreds of plant species like palm and seraya trees. As you enter the park, you will trek through dense jungle to the white-sand Pantai Kerachut Beach, with dusky leaf monkeys poking through the lush terrain along the way.
When is the best time to stay in a vacation rental in Penang Island?
Penang has tropical weather year-round, staying hot and humid throughout each season. Penang Island remains slightly warmer than mainland Malaysia, and the rainiest time of year usually lasts from April to November. In December, the Penang International Dragon Boat Festival takes place, where dozens of decorated dragon boats race against others across the open waters to the beat of a drum, a Chinese tradition dating back more than 2,000 years. One of Penang Island’s most notable summer events is the George Town Festival, celebrating the arts and hosting programs from local musicians and theater to photography and film.
Penang celebrates Wesak Day in May with a vibrant festival where extravagant floats come alive with lights, flowers, and Buddhist symbols to celebrate Buddha's birthday. During the rainy fall season, the George Town Literary Festival takes place in November with literary forums with writers from the region.
What are the top things to do in Penang Island?
Penang Night Markets
Night markets are open every day of the week on Penang Island, where you can try local cuisine from pop-up vendors cooking street food on the spot as you order. At the Chulia Street Night Hawkers Stalls, you will find some of the most-loved local items like char kway teow, a rice noodle dish stir-fried with shrimp and bean sprouts.
Leong San Tong Khoo Kongsi
This temple is one of the most famous clan temples in the state, built by the Leong San Tong Chinese clan nearly 700 years ago in historic George Town. The gold-embellished temple houses a museum detailing the clan’s history amid stunning craftsmanship, complete with stone pillars, hanging lanterns, and intricate altars used for worship.
Penang Island’s Little India neighborhood is teeming with local shops selling goods from handmade sari dresses and jewelry to specialty spices and Indian cuisines like tandoori chicken and samosas. Although George Town is usually known as the main hub for street art, Little India boasts its own impressive murals throughout the neighborhood, with several on Clive Street and Kerbau Road.