Top things to do in Kelantan Malaysia

Top things to do in Kelantan Malaysia

Kelantan Darul Naim is one of the most conservative and traditional states in Malaysia. There is plenty to do in Kota Bahru, the capital of the state. Kelantan is well known for its living culture and unique Kelantanese cuisine.

Where is Kelantan?

Most travelers use this beautiful city as an entry and exit point for their trip to the Perhentian Islands.

There is plenty to enjoy explore in Kota Bahru. You will experience the rich culture of East Malaysia.

Top things to do in Kelantan

Conservative Kelantan on the east coast provides you with a peek into a fascinating culture.

The most distinct and surprising thing you will observe is the language.

Climate and Weather in Kelantan

Kelantan experiences hot and humid weather all year round. The average temperature is 27C with heavy rains that are expected during the monsoon season period.

The monsoon period for the east coast occurs in November and ends in February.

Rains will become lesser during the months from April through March and again during October and November.

Top things to do in Kelantan

The vibrantly painted boats docked at the jetty at Kampung Pulau Gajah.

Kelantanese Malay people Speak Bahaso Kelaté

Orang Pantai Timur (People of the East Coast) is the Kelantanese Malays, Terengganuan Malays, and Pahang Malays.

Orang Melayu Kelantan or Kelantanese Malays speak Bahaso Kelaté. The Kelantanese have a distinct identity than those of other parts of Malaysia.

What are the Top Things to do in Kelantan Malaysia?

We know Kelantan as the ‘Cradle of the Malay Culture’. Kelantanese keep alive beautiful traditions which include batik design, songket weaving, and wayang kulit. These traditional games are Traditional Kite Flying (Wau Bulan) and Kelantan Spinning Gasing.

Kelantan is blessed with romantically named beaches, rustic fishing villages, challenging mountains and waterfalls, and mystical caves.

The Kelantanese’ way of life is reflected in the arts, customs, dialects, and cuisine.

Kelantanese one-of-a-kind mouthwatering food                                   

In Kelantan, centuries-old recipes are kept alive in the preparation of local traditional cuisine with a unique, unforgettable taste.

My first taste of Malaysia’s scrumptious delights, specifically Kelantanese dishes was at Ramadan Bazaar during the fasting month.  You can enjoy a range of toothsome local foods that are exceptional to the state of Kelantan.

Top things to do in KelantanDining & Eating Out in Kelantan

The staple in Kelantan is rice. The rice dishes are the delicacies that Kelantanese eat even for brunch.

There are 3 delicious types of rice dishes that you must try.

  • Nasi Dagang
  • Nasi Kerabu
  • Nasi Tumpang

Nasi Dagang

There most popular delicacies in Kelantan is its Nasi Dagang. Translated as “Trader’s Rice”, Nasi Dagang is a famous East Coast breakfast dish loved by the Kelantanese.

‘Beras Nasi Dagang’ has a mix of white rice (Beras Wangi) and red-grain glutinous rice (pulut) cooked with coconut cream, garlic, spices, and onions.

Unlike Nasi Lemak which uses Pandan Leaves for flavoring, Nasi Dagang has sliced shallots (Bawang Merah) and Fenugreek (Halba).

This hearty portion of fragrant rice has a semi-glutinous texture, best served with a spicy red curry Gulai Ikan Tongkol cooked with local tuna, and Buah Belimbing Buluh, which is are extremely sour.

The thick full-bodied curry is cooked using coconut milk together with traditional spices. The aroma wafting from a freshly prepared serving of Nasi Dagang will lure you for a satisfactory meal.

Nasi Kerabu

My first taste of this beautiful blue rice with the condiments of raw vegetable and fried fish is most memorable. This is a Kelantanese salad with flavored, colored rice paired with fried chicken or curry fish, cabbage, bean sprouts, various herbs, salted egg and fish fried with Kerisik (roasted coconut flakes).

There are 3 colors of Nasi Kerabu

  • Green (extracted juice from herbs)
  • Kuning (stained yellow with turmeric).
  • Hitam (which is blue and colored with butterfly pea flowers)

The yellow is the most traditional, served in the Kelantanese palace.

The locals eat Nasi Kerabu with a special sauce called Budu (fermented fish sauce) over the rice for an extra dose of flavor!

Nasi Tumpang

Another famous Kelantanese rice dish is the Nasi Tumpang is served in a cone-shaped banana leaf. It comprises rice with an omelet, meat floss, chicken or shrimp curry, and sweet gravy.

Here’s a list of my top favorites starting with Nasi Kerabu and Nasi Dagang.

Top things to do in Kelantan

Nasi Kerabu

Ayam Percik

This popular Malay-style grilled chicken originated from Kelantan. The Ayam Percik is marinated with garlic, ginger, salt, sugar, and soy sauce before it is skewered and sent to the grill.

The Ayam Percik gravy has traditional Malay spices like lemongrass, turmeric leaves, tamarind juice, and cumin powder which makes the dish delectable when served with steaming hot rice.

Laksam Kelantan

Kelantan’s signature culinary delight is a rice noodle dish with a heavenly combination of curry and Asam Laksa. The thick soup is made with Ikan Kembung (Mackerel Fish) with a mixture of coconut milk and spices.

Laksam Kelantan must be served together with fresh chili paste, laksa leaves, and sliced cucumber as condiments.

Kueh Akok Kelantan

Akok is one of the famous traditional foods in Kelantan, Malaysia. Made with rice flour, sugar, eggs, and coconut milk. Akok is eaten as a snack or dessert. The best Akok Kelantan has a sweet smoky flavor.

Top things to do in Kelantan

Kueh Akok Kelantan

Kota Bharu Walking Tour

Kota Bharu has an interesting city center to explore on foot. You can easily walk around these areas and look for Kelantanese dishes to try.

  • Kopitiam Kita
  • Siti Khadijah Central Market
  • State Museum
  • Markets
  • Grand Palace
  • Istana Jahar
  • State Mosque
  • Kerapu Bank
  • Istana Batu
  • Craft Village
  • Kampung Cina
  • Shophouses

Top things to do in Kelantan

Hike and Explore Malaysia’s pristine nature reserves

  • Gunung Stong State Park
  • Gua Ikan
  • Jungle Railway
  • Gua Musang
  • Princess Cave, Pulai
  • Gunung Reng
Top things to do in Kelantan

Kuala Koh offers activities like Canopy walk, jungle treks, tubing, bamboo rafting, and fishing.

Relax on a Beach in Kelantan

Many people don’t immediately think of beaches when they think of Kota Bharu. If you are prepared to explore outside the main city center, you can enjoy its stretch of sand and rolling waves. This is a perfect place to stop off in the afternoon and relax.

  • Moonlight Beach (Pantai Cahaya Bulan)
  • Beach Of Melody(Pantai Irama)
  • Pantai Sri Tujuh
  • Beach of Whispering Breeze (Pantai Bisikan Bayu)
  • Pantai Mek Mas
Top things to do in Kelantan

The sandhills and dunes are the main attraction for locals at Pantai Mek Mas Photo: Rusliza Salleh

Kelantan’s Beautiful Mosques

You can see beautiful Islamic architecture in the form of graceful mosques in Kelantan. Many of the mosques are historically important, architecturally significant and visually appealing. Non-Muslims are welcomed to visit Malaysian mosques outside of prayer times.

Mosques are primarily a place of communal prayers and worship for Muslims and not a tourist attraction.

Non-Muslims are welcome to visit many of these mosques outside of prayer times.

Dress code for visiting Malaysian Mosques

It is most appropriate to wear modest, loose-fitting clothes.

For men, it is better to wear long pants, and for women to wear pants or full-length skirts or dresses, with long sleeves.

Muslim women typically wear a headscarf.

Non-Muslim women are encouraged to wear a headscarf in the prayer hall

  • Muhammadi Mosque
  • Masjid Ar-Rahman Mukim Pulau Gajah
  • Kampung Laut Mosque
  • Sultan Ismail Petra Silver Jubilee Mosque
Top things to do in Kelantan

Muhammadi Mosque

Shopping in Kelantan

Kota Bahru has large shopping malls and the Tesco, Mydin and the Giant hypermarkets.

An overpass on the second floor connects Pasar Siti Khadijah and the Kota Bahru Trade Center.

Other places to shop include the KB Mall (Pacific), Pelangi Mall, Billion Shopping Center, Pantai Timur, The Store, Kota Seri Mutiara, and others.

Top things to do in Kelantan Malaysia

There are many places of interest in Kelantan to visit. You could even visit a former palace.

Istana Jahar (Jahar Palace)

Built-in 1855, the palace Istana Jahar was the official royal residence in Kota Bahru. The Sultan Muhammad II of Kelantan built it for Long Kundur, his grandson.

Today, the palace is the house of the Museums of Royal Traditions and Customs of Kelantan.

Pintu Gerbang Kota Sultan Ismail Petra

The  Pintu Gerbang Kota Sultan Ismail Petra  Arch was built to commemorate the declaration of Kota Bahru as a cultural city.

Pasar Siti Khadijah (Central Market)

Kelantanese women are entrepreneurs and the Pasar Siti Khadijah is a testament to how the womenfolk are active in the business. This is a great place to shop and browse. Do go up to the upper level for a bird’s eye view of the colorful wet market.

Accommodation in Kelantan

Kelantan offers many hotels to choose from. In recent years, Tourism Malaysia Kelantan has actively promoted Kelantan’s places of interest.

Among the top hotels in Kelantan are the Hotel Perdana Kota Bharu, Grand Riverview Hotel, The Grand Renai Hotel, Holiday Villa Hotel & Suites Kota Bharu, Crystal Lodge Kota Bahru, Grand Riverview Kota Bahru, Suria Hotel, Ridel Hotel and many more.

Top things to do in Kelantan

Tourism Malaysia Kelantan has actively promoted Kelantan’s places of interest. #kelantandihati

Public Transport in Kelantan

Public transport on the east coast is not as well connected as in the west. It is more convenient to join a tour to visit places of interest that are away from the city center.

It is easy to drive around if you have your car. Otherwise, you could rent a car.


Tourism Malaysia 

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