Alor Setar is a peaceful city, with most of the areas being villages surrounded by green paddy fields. There a lot activities to do and exploring around town and enjoy some of Kedah’s best nature activities. For thrill seekers, try and take a 1 hour drive to Mount Jerai now known as Jerai Geo Park, a prominent place for hiking and camping among the locals. The peak of Mount Jerai is about 1200 metre above sea level. If you are more interested in nature, you can also make a road trip to the nearby town of Merbok. By car, it takes a 1 hour journey from Alor Setar to Merbok. Here, you can do nature activities and explore the Merbok Mangrove Forest by a river cruise. Along the banks and mangrove swamps, you will get to see plenty of wildlife too! Tupah Recreational Forest in Merbok is also a great place for outdoor and nature exploration, or even for family picnics. If you plan to stay here longer, make a trip to Langkawi Island. From Alor Setar, head to Kuala Kedah Jetty and take a ferry ride to this duty-free island, also known as the jewel of Kedah.
ALOR SETAR, WHERE TO GO
Located 100 metre away from Keriang Hill, The Kedah Paddy Museum is nothing to do with Irishmen. It is dedicated to the rice plant, paddy, the world’s most important crop. The word “paddy” is derived from the Malay word padi meaning rice plant so it is appropriate that one of the world’s few rice museums should be in Malaysia. The other rice museums that I am aware of are the Gohan Museum in Yurakucho, Japan and IRRI’s Rice World in Los Baños, Philippines.
Pusat Sains Negara
Located 150 metre away from Keriang Hill. You will enjoy this with your family with young children as this will keep them occupied for an hour. Bring your children to Pusat Sains Negara, lots of game for kid to play and experience.
The landmark featured in tourism promotions around Malaysia is our favourite must-visit attraction in Alor Setar. Moorish Zahir Mosque exhibits decorations and intricacies even the most complex Gothic Cathedrals of Europe would be proud of. After opening in 1912, Kedah’s National Mosque served as Alor Setar’s central hub for local Muslims. Sat on the eastern flank of Dataran Alor Setar (Alor Setar’s square), we recommend coming during both daylight and after sunset.
Menara Jam Besar, or Big Clock Tower in English, stands next to Zahir Mosque. The pale orange and yellow, almost colonial-like structure dates back to the same time as the mosque. In the 1900s, the mosque’s muezzin rang the bells to call the city’s Muslims to prayer. We recommend capturing the elegance of this structure on film in the early morning. Apart from rating as one of the must-visit attractions in Alor Setar, The Big Clock is one of Malaysia’s beautiful clock tower.
The Royal Hall or locally known as ‘Balai Besar’ is the grand traditional-kampong style building opposite Zahir Mosque. In the past, state events such as royal weddings and coronations took place inside. It was painstakingly rebuilt after almost complete destruction from the invading Siamese (today’s Thailand) in the early 19th century. Check out the distinct rows of patterns and designs decorating the roof.
SULTAN ABDUL HALIM GALLERY
The Gallery sits on the northern quarter of Dataran Alor Setar with Zahir Mosque to the left and the Royal Hall on the right. Displays include collections of the Sultan’s Abdul Halim possessions (everything from clothes to cars), photographs and official documents and also an insight of his lifestyle and the responsibilities of a Sultan and King of Malaysia. We suggest stopping by to cool down for half an hour after exploring the square.
KOTA KUALA KEDAH
Fort Kuala Kedah sits approximately 13 kilometres west of Alor Setar on the Straits of Malacca. Dated back to the 17th century, this holds the title as the oldest fort in northern Malaysia. Built initially by Kedah’s Sultan, the fort has witnessed countless bloody battles. Walk through the complex and snap pictures of the elegant archways, crumbling fortress walls and views of the Kedah River’s mouth. We recommend a trip to Fort Kuala Kedah as one of the top things to do in Alor Setar for history lovers.
Menara Alor Setar
Alor Setar Tower along with Zahir Mosque rate as the top two must-visit attractions in Alor Setar. The telecommunications tower reaches 165.5 metres (543 feet), forming the city’s central focal point. For RM6 ($1.50 USD), visitors can go to the observation deck halfway up the tower. We recommend this on a cloudless day for views of Alor Setar and the surrounding paddy fields.
Rumah kelahiran tun mahathir
Alor Setar-born Tun Dr Mahathir Bin Mohammad served as Malaysia’s Prime Minister for 22 years between 1981 and 2003. In 2018, Malaysians re-elected him as their leader for the second time at the age of 93. This makes Dr Mahathir Malaysia’s longest serving Prime Minister and the world’s oldest leader. The city proudly proclaims his family home as one of their must-visit attractions, which has transformed into a mini-museum cum shrine. Galleries and exhibits inside range from his possessions and memorabilia to photos and documents on Dr Mahathir’s childhood and life.
Nobat Tower is another historical landmark inside Dataran Alor Setar. The three-tiered circular structure rises 18 metres (59 feet) and is crowned by a yellow dome. Dated back to 1906, the yellow and white building once stored instruments used during royal visits. This ranks as one of our must-visit attractions in Alor Setar for its majestic appearance and photogenic nature. Pro tip: combine Nobat Tower with photographing the Big Clock Tower, Zahir Mosque and the Royal Hall.
Stand to the exact where kedah was born
In the middle of the 18th century, the Sultan of Kedah moved to the present day city where he later commissioned a palace. A plaque near Dataran Alor Setar by the stream commemorates the exact spot where the city was founded. Setar trees grew on either side of the stream (called Alor), giving rise to the city’s name today. While this isn’t a must-visit for everyone, it does provide a sense of the city’s origins.