Location & History
The state of Johor is located on the southern portion of the Malaysian peninsula surrounded by the State of Pahang to the north, and Malacca and Negeri Sembilan to the Northwest. Johor is separated from Malaysia’s closest neighbour Singapore by the Straits of Johor to the south.
The Malays have a habit of naming their states after natural objects or anything that is found in abundance. Therefore Johor originated from the Arabic word “Jauhar” which means precious stone or gem. Johor is in fact also the name of a shrub that is abundant in the region.
Johor Bahru, popularly known as JB is the state capital city and the second largest city in the country after the national capital, Kuala Lumpur. Founded as a small fishing village in 1855, JB today is one of the biggest industrial and commercial centres of the country. Being at the entry point from Singapore to Malaysia JB shot to being a major tourism hub once it opened it’s roadways and waterways to its neighbour. 49.9% of Malaysia’s annual tourist footfall comes from Singapore itself, mostly for short day trips and weekend breaks, whilst visitors from further afield will often stay for longer to soak up everything the country has to offer.
Spacious and relaxing with a fine restaurant to boot, Mutiara Hotel (pictured) offers the perfect city stay and holds MalaysiaExplorer.net's top-pick accommodation accolade. You'll also find a gym & pool in this conveniently situated, versatile choice for everyone from business travelers to families.
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Johor is the third largest state on the Malaysian Peninsular and was founded in the 16th century by Alauddin Riayat Shah II, son of the last Sultan of Malacca Mahmud Shah. During its peak, the whole of Pahang and the present day Indonesian territories of the Riau Archipelago and part of Sumatra Island were under Johor's rule. Evidence of its struggle with the Portuguese and its neighbouring islands to maintain its sovereignty can still be seen in modern day Johor.
Things to see & do: Pasir Pelangi
One of the main attractions in the capital city JB is the royal village or Pasir Pelangi, which houses the beautifully designed Grand Palace and the royal museum. The Sultan Abu Bakar Mosque, nestled on top of a hill is considered by many to be among Malaysia's most prized mosques. The mosque overlooks the Straits of Tebrau and boasts remarkable architectural beauty, inspired by both Islamic and western styles and traditions.
Wait until nightfall to experience the sumptuous side of JB. An eclectic mix of hawkers and vendors suddenly appear with traditional freshly cooked local dishes including the ever popular Laksa Johor - a creation of delightful fish and a tasty gravy recipe cooked in coconut milk and generally eaten alongside fresh veg and noodles. A ‘gastronomic’ experience without so much as a dent on the wallet!
The city also has shopping complexes, stalls, bazaars, hawkers and markets that sell everything from branded items to travel souvenirs. The biggest attraction for its next door neighbour Singapore is the JB Duty Free Complex, which is situated at the International Ferry Terminal. Here you'll find 30,000 square feet of pure shopping experience! The complex has branded goods, designer wear, confectionery, glassware and you name it within its retail outlets, department stores and hyper marts, 163 in all.
Nature & National Park
If you like you can exchange 30,000 feet of shopping experience for 50,000 hectares of sheer fauna and flora as Johor is also a haven for nature lovers. Quite a jump but probably a well deserved break for you and your wallet.
The Johor National Park, Endau Rompin National Park is the 2nd largest national park in Malaysia situated at the watershed of the Endau and Rompin rivers. It is North of Johor and south of Pahang and accessible through Kampung Peta and Nitar. Kampong Peta is home to the most remote Orang Alsi (aboriginal) settlement in Johor and is a 2-hour drive from Kluang. The park is also a 8 hour boat ride along the Endau river from Nita.
There are many trekking packages arranged by the forest rangers themselves where you can choose between a camping or chalet experience. These start from Kluang itself and include boarding, food, entrance fee to the park, trekking, rafting and a host of other activities. Independent travellers have to get a special permit to enter the park, either at the Johor National Park Corporation or at the district office. All trekking and river trails are compulsorily accompanied by forest rangers to ensure safety.
The park is a sanctuary of orchids, herbs, medicinal plants and trees, endangered species, variety of mammals and insects and magnificent rock formations dating back to 248 million years.
While on the nature trip, Tanjung Piai, is another national Park not to be missed. Located about 75km from Johor Bahru, the park is accessible by Taxi from Pontian bus station for a mere RM15 for 4 passengers. There is also a nominal entry fee into the park.
Famed as the southernmost settlement on mainland Asia, Tanjung Piai never disappoints lovers of nature and wildlife. The mangroves are home to dozens of unique species of flora and fauna, many of which are exclusive to mangrove areas. In addition, Tanjung Piai is considered a bird watchers hotspot, particularly during Spring and Autumn when migratory birds swarm through the skies.
Johor is also blessed with an uninterrupted coastline along the South China Sea on one side and the Straits of Malacca on the other and has some magnificent islands with beautiful private stretches of soft beaches, clear blue waters and colourful marine life.
A jump off point to most of these islands is through a small charming fishing village called Mersing bustling with boats that travel between the mainland and a number of islands like Pulau Tioman, Pulau Rawa, Pulau Besar, and Pulau Sibu. There are some good beaches nearby as well like Sri Pantai, Sekakap, Air Papan, and Panyabong.
Another very popular seaside family vacation spot is the Islands of Desaru in the South Eastern corner of Johor. Desaru boasts 25 km of white sandy beaches fringed by palms and casuarinas. You can either just soak in the sun or go swimming, waterskiing, canoeing and catamaran sailing. There are also other thrilling adventures like go-kart racing, jungle trekking, horseback riding, archery and even learning to fly an ultra light aircraft.
Its 18-hole golf course is a haven for golf enthusiasts with its magnificent view of the South China Sea. Accommodation here includes hotels as well as budget chalets, dormitories and camping grounds. Desaru is easily accessible by road or by ferry, and from Singapore via Tanjung Belungkor. Tourism in this region is well served by modern infrastructure and local hotels are of an excellent standard.
Getting there & further information
The Johor Tourist Information Centre (JOTIC) can be reached at +607-2242000 for more details on the state and its attractions. Johor is served by Senai International Airport, a secondary hub for some of the nation's carriers and as a result good deals can often be found for flights in from Kuala Lumpur, Langkawi, Penang, Kota Kinabalu and beyond.
Search the widest range of accommodation options and resorts in Johor's capital city Johor Bahru and other areas of the state with MalaysiaExplorer.net's booking partner - also find verified guest reviews™ and image galleries.
Complete your trip with our travel essentials checklist: Tours, Flights and Car Rental
- Tailor all aspects of your holiday or visit to Johor Bahru with comprehensive tour and package choices.
- Read our top tips on car rental to ensure you choose a suitable vehicle at a good price.
- Our guide to Malaysia flights is packed with advice and pointers on finding the best routes and super deals.
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