Running up the central backbone of Pulau Pinang (Penang Island) is a series of granite hills. Situated among these granite hilltops, Penang Hill is located in the central northern half of the island. However, Penang Hill is actually comprised of 4 hills that exceed 700 meters in height. These 4 hills are Laksamana Hill 735 meters, Bukit Bendera 738 meters, Tiger Hill 800 meters and Western Hill 835 meters.
The term “Penang Hill” or Bukit Bendera can refer either to the whole mountain or to the hilltop station at the end of the funicular railway. From the top, the visitor can enjoy sweeping views of Malaysia’s second largest city – George Town. Additionally, there are sweeping views of Penang Strait and Seberang Perai (mainland Malaysia).
Funicular Railway to Penang Hill
There is an easy way and a challenging we to reach the summit of Penang Hill. The easy way is via the funicular railway. Visitors can board the train at the lower Penang Hill Railway Station in Air Itam.
Furthermore, the original funicular railway was constructed in 1924. As a result of improvements made to the railway in 2011, the ticket price for tourists has gone up significantly.
Funicular Railway Ticket Prices
Adults RM 10.00 – RM 30.00
Child (4-6) Years RM 3.00 – RM 5.00
Senior (Over 60 years) RM 5.00 – RM 30.00
Student (school/college/university) RM 5.00 – RM 15.00
One Way Adult RM 5.00 – RM 15.00
Hiking to Penang Hill
However, the more challenging and much more rewarding way is to climb Penang Hill from the Botanical Gardens. There are two ways to get over the first ridge.
- Walk up the paved road which is situated outside the entrance to the gardens. However, no vehicles are allowed without the special permit
- Walk through the gate and make your way to the back of the park where the waterfalls are located. On your left you will pass a secluded stairway which leads to the top of the first ridge.
I personally prefer the stairs just because it is more efficient and gets you through the most grueling inclines much faster.
From the top of the stairs just take a left and follow the road up to Penang Hill. Indeed, this is not an easy hike and you must endure 5 kilometers of steep climbing. However, the temperature will begin to drop as you ascend in elevation and you will enjoy lush forest greenery all the way to the top.
Flora and Fauna to Enjoy
The predominate lowland tree is called Shorea curtisii and their billowing silver green crowns have a conspicuous presence covering about 30% of the hills surrounding the gardens. Additionally, the tree is named after the designer of the Penang Botanical gardens, Charles Curtis. His design of the park was effected between 1884 and 1903 and is mostly still remains intact.
Sporadically mingled along the ridge top with Shorea curtisii is one of the tallest trees in Malaysia named – Kempas (Koompassia malaccensis). Although they can potentially reach a towering 60 meters in height, the ones visible on Penang Hill are about 40 meters tall. Near point 84 on the hill you can view a spectacular specimen.
As you arrive at the top you are greeted with an assortment of festivities to enjoy. There is an Owl Museum, an assortment of cafes and food stalls. Additionally, there is a little square for gathering.
There is also the Hindu Temple (Sri Aruloli Thirumurugan) which is open for visitors.
There is also the Penang Hill Mosque (Masjid Bukit Bendera).
Penang Hill Views
Of course, the main reason to go to the top is to enjoy the fantastic views of George Town, Penang Strait, Seberang Perai, Penang Bridge and Bukit Mertajam.
After you have enjoyed the views and festivities on the top, it is time to go down. If you climbed to the top and are climbing back down (taking the stair route) then you have until 10PM to exit the Botanical Gardens before they close the gate.
However, if you are taking the road the entire way down, take your time because there is no entrance gate to worry about. But if you are taking the funicular railway down the hill, you better get in line. The wait looks like it can be very long, especially on the weekends!