Kedah may be best known for towns with rustic charm and picturesque landscapes of paddy fields, but Malaysia’s rice bowl state is also endowed with a wealth of natural wonders. Whether it is an outdoor adventure for the whole family, a company team-building expedition, or simply basking in the serenity of natural surroundings, here are the places in Kedah where unforgettable adventures in nature await.

Covering 4,114 hectares, the Merbok River Mangrove Forest Reserve is among the largest in Malaysia. Supporting an incredibly diverse ecosystem and animal life populating the area, the mangrove forest is a hotspot for birdwatching and nature photography.

The mangrove forest is accessible at the Semeling Jetty Complex, about 8km from the South and North Sungai Petani highway exit. At the complex is where you will find the Mangrove Forest Reserve Museum and tourist information centre.

Here, take the opportunity to admire the mangrove forest on a long walkway built on top of the swamps. Boats can be chartered at the jetty to take you through the mangrove forest along the Merbok River and to the small islands dotting the coast of mainland Kedah.

Kedah’s oldest hilltop retreat and recreational forests can be found at 1,200m above sea level, on the highest peak in the state. Also known as Kedah Peak, Gunung Jerai is home to several tranquil hiking trails that lead to beautiful waterfalls and panoramic views, making it the ideal getaway for nature-based activities like camping, hiking, and mountain biking. Plus, resort accommodations atop the hill offer a respite from the tropical heat with magnificent views of the sea and nearby islands.

The fastest way to reach the top of Gunung Jerai is by making a 10km drive up a steep and narrow road. The more adventurous travellers may want to opt for cycling or hiking up to the summit. On the way to the top, make a stop at the Forestry Museum to learn more about the surrounding ecology.

Known among the locals as Elephant Mountain because of its shape when viewed from afar, Gunung Keriang is a limestone range that contains a variety of rocks and crystal formations. Situated approximately 8km northwest of Alor Setar, Gunung Keriang is an exciting place for hiking, cave exploration, and jungle trekking.

The Gunung Keriang Recreational Park at the mountain base is the place to start your exploration, with gazebos, a pond, a children’s playground, and walking trails with handrails. The marked trail going up the mountain may pose a challenge with jagged rocky steps and a few steep drops, but there are rest spots with benches along the way where hikers are rewarded with stunning views of sprawling paddy fields.

When you are done exploring the natural wonders around you, be sure to stop by the nearby street market, where unique crystals from the caves of Gunung Keriang are on sale, along with food and souvenirs.

One of the world’s longest tree-top walks is located in the Gunung Inas Forest Reserve, 30 minutes away from Kulim town. The 925m walkway, built of reinforced steel, takes you 50m above ground amidst towering trees and vast green canopies, where various species of birds, butterflies, and monkeys can be spotted.

There are plenty of outdoor activities at the Tree Top Walk, from jungle walks to nature obstacle courses and birdwatching. For water activities, there’s a river crossing, whitewater rafting, and kayaking in the rapid currents of the Sedim River flowing beneath.

Tucked away in the northeastern corner of Kedah, this remote 120,000-hectare rainforest is a sanctuary for endangered and rare wildlife. The conservation area is home to numerous species of mammals, reptiles, fish, birds, and flora, making it a nature lover’s heaven for activities like camping, birdwatching, fishing, animal observation, and taking boat rides down a scenic river.

The park’s entry point is a boat ride from the Muda Lake Jetty in the town of Sik, approximately two hours drive from Alor Setar, Kedah. Once there, camping grounds and accommodation are available for overnight stays.

There’s no better way to end a day of outdoor adventuring or take a break from the daily grind than soaking in the therapeutic mineral-rich waters of a hot spring. Located 22km from Baling, the Ulu Legong Hot Springs is a recreational centre comprising five pools with temperatures ranging between 30 to 60 degrees Celcius.

The centre operates around the clock, with facilities including a 24-hour cafeteria, gazebos, changing rooms, and showers. Accommodation is available too if you intend on extending your rest and relaxation.

The Jewel of Kedah is considered Southeast Asia’s first UNESCO Global Geopark, a status accorded for its geological formations and features. The cluster of 99 islands boasts emerald waters, stretches of white sandy beaches, marinas, mountains, and rainforests, many of which are associated with captivating mythological tales that beckon nature lovers and folklore enthusiasts alike.

You can experience Langkawi’s abundance of natural wonders to the fullest at the numerous geosites around the archipelago. See the oldest geological formation in Malaysia and walk on the oldest grains of sand that rest within the Machinchang Cambrian Geoforest Park. See the wildlife and caves that contributed to the myths and legends of Langkawi within Kilim Karst Geoforest Park. Take a dip in the clear mystical waters of Tasik Dayang Bunting (Lake of the Pregnant Maiden) in the Dayang Bunting Marble Geoforest Park.

Suffice it to say that Kedah’s natural delights are not to be missed by eco-adventurers of all levels.