Penang Hill is a popular tourist destination located on the edge of George Town on Penang Island in Malaysia. Penang Hill has a number of attractions to visits and several signposted walking trails.
- Opening Hours: The hill itself is open all hours.
- The funicular railway runs from 06:30 to 22:00
- Entrance fee: The hill itself is free to visit.
- A standard return ticket on the funicular railway costs 30 MYR for adults, and 15 MYR for children.
About Penang Hill
The term Penang Hill is generally used to refer to a cluster of hills, the tallest of which is Western Hill that rises to 833 metres above sea level providing visitors with panoramic views across George Town and, on a clear day, even as far as to Langkawi. In terms of tourism the most developed of the hills is Flagstaff Hill, also known as Bukit Bendera, on account of its funicular railway. The funicular railway was original built in 1923 and travels a distance of 2,007 metres to reach near the top of Flagstaff Hill. Following an upgrade to the train service in 2010 the journey now takes less than 10 minutes. It is not compulsory to use the funicular railway. There is a staircase which runs alongside the railway line that you can walk up for free, although doing so is very tiring, and there several walking trails to the top the easiest of which is the ‘jeep track’ that residents of the hill are allowed to drive up and everyone else can walk up. Allow 2 to 3 hours to walk up to the top of the hill via the jeep track including welcome breaks at the two tea stops located on the way up.
Penang Hill started out as a holiday retreat for the island’s British colonial rulers. The first governor of the island, Sir Francis Light, built a residence on the hill as well as a strawberry plantation. Hill stations were popular in other parts of the British Empire, particularly India, and the British colonialists replicated the practice on Penang Island. Because of the altitude the top of Penang Hill is on average 5 degrees cooler than in George Town, and also free of the malarial mosquitoes that plagued the lives of the early European settlers. A number of other Europeans followed Sir Light’s lead and also built bungalows on the hill, with a hotel at one time operated by the famous Sarkies brothers (responsible for Raffles Hotel in Singapore) opened in 1905. Non-Europeans were prohibited from building houses on the upper sections of Penang Hill and had to settle for building residences just below the boundary with European sounding names. Many of these old building are still standing and worth visiting, although sadly their upkeep has been for the greater part neglected and their potential as historical attractions has yet to be fully realised.
There are plenty of things to do when you make it to the top of Penang Hill. The observation deck is very popular. Also popular is the ‘The Habitat Penang Hill’, which costs 49.5 MYR to visit for a standard ticket booked online. The Habitat Penang Hill is a nature reserve with two elevated canopy walkways, zip lines and nature trails. Penang Hill has a rich natural environment with a number of species of rare plants and animals which are protected by law. The hill hosts several species of monkey and a peculiar creature called a colugo, or flying lemur, which is small tree dwelling mammal with a membrane between its body and arms and legs and tail that enables it to glide between trees.
The other notable activity to do at Penang Hill is eating and drinking. There are lots of cafes and restaurants perched on the peaks of Penang Hill. Particularly popular is the three storey Cliff Cafe, which features a range of generally inexpensive food stalls selling European and local dishes, including ice cream made on the hill itself using local grown ingredients like strawberries. For a more refined (and expensive) dining experience you can try David Brown’s Restaurant & Tea Terrace. Set within a colonial era house, David Brown’s Restaurant & Tea Terrace offers classic English food including Sunday roasts at the weekend and high tea replete with sandwiches and scones.
Location of Penang Hill
- Penang Hill is located 7.7 km by road from Chew Jetty in George Town on Penang Island.