I recently returned from a nine-day, eight-night holiday in Northern Sarawak, and here is our Sarawak travel guide.
This article is the summary of the itinerary. Besides, we wrote separate blog posts about Miri, Mulu Cave, Niah Caves, Bario, and Brunei, which you can read for more detailed information with the link provided in the respective section. We also created videos at each location, which you can watch on YouTube by following the link at the end of each blog post. The purpose is to provide a comprehensive guide with written and visual details to plan your trip to this region.
So, without further ado, let’s dive into the specifics of our journey.
How did we plan our Sarawak travel itinerary?
We planned our trip in March earlier this year when we were aimlessly wandering at the Matta Fair held in Kuala Lumpur. Initially, we considered taking a holiday in Sarawak, including Kuching and Miri. However, we ended up at Brighton Travel & Tour’s booth, which specializes in inbound Sarawak travel. Wilson, the owner, informed us that the distance between Kuching and Miri is too far, and the places worth visiting are scattered.
Wilson showed us a map of Sarawak and suggested that we focus on Northern Sarawak this time. He recommended that we make another trip to Kuching and the surrounding areas on a separate occasion. After some discussion, we agreed to a bespoke itinerary that included Miri, Mulu, Niah, Bario, and Brunei.
Bario was particularly intriguing to us as Wilson mentioned that the food, scenery, and the Kelabit culture were all exceptional. However, getting there proved challenging due to the airport’s short airstrip. Only MasWings’ Twin Otter plane with a capacity of 18 passengers would be allowed to land at Bario airport. Additionally, only nine passengers were permitted to board the flight according to the present regulation. He had to secure our return air tickets before our finalized itinerary.
Below is the itinerary for our recent holiday. This itinerary summarizes all the places we visited, including a day trip to Brunei. We scheduled only a few activities daily and took time to rest and relax in the hotel.
Day 1- Miri city tour
- Arrival at Miri
- Tamu Khas
- Malaysia’s 1st oil well, the Grand Old Lady, located at Canada Hill.
- Tua Pek Kong Temple
- Local Handicraft & Souvenir Centre
- Miri City Hall
- Coco Cabana
- Transfer to Imperial Hotel
We flew from Kuala Lumpur and arrived in Miri by noon. We were excited to explore Miri City with our guide, Andy. He took us to all the places according to our itinerary, and we had a great time.
The weather was sunny, and we particularly enjoyed visiting Tamu Khas and Canada Hill. If you plan on doing a city tour, I recommend wearing a hat or cap and applying sunscreen as needed.
The highlight of the day was watching the sunset at Coco Cabana. The temperature had cooled down, and there was a nice breeze. This beachfront spot offers an unobstructed view of the sunset over the sea, which is truly beautiful.
Check out our article: Places to visit in Miri- 10 top tourist attractions.
Day 2 – One-day tour in Brunei
- Pick up at the hotel and head to Bandar Seri Begawan.
- Photo stop at The Billionth Barrel Monument
- Visit the Empire Hotel of Brunei
- Royal Regalia, which houses the Coronation and Silver Jubilee Chariot
- Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddien Mosque, which is one of the most magnificent mosques in South East Asia
- Sultan Haji Omar Ali Saifuddien Bridge
- Jame Asr Mosque, which is Brunei’s National Mosque and Brunei Museum
- Photo stop at Kampong Ayer, the “Venice of The East”
- Transfer back to Miri
Our Sarawak travel itinerary includes a detour to Brunei on the second day of our trip. Although it’s advisable to stay overnight, we opted for a day trip due to our tight schedule. We started early in the morning to make the most of our time.
Our focus in Brunei was mainly on the grandeur of the buildings and the breathtaking mosque. We also visited the museum to learn about the royal family’s history. However, the most fascinating part of the trip was visiting the water village. We would love to hear what caught your attention the most during your visit to Brunei!
Check out our article: Best places to visit in Brunei for a day tour.
Day 3- Exploring Bario
- Transfer to Miri Airport – arrival at Bario – transfer to local homestay for check-in.
- Visit the ‘salt spring’ to witness the Kelabit way of producing mountain salt.
- Tosari Farm, Pa’ Ukat, Bario
- Transfer back to homestay with a cultural performance by the Kelapit people.
During our third day of the holiday, we headed towards Bario, the most captivating part of the trip.
Boarding the small Twin Otter plane, which had only 18 seats, was an experience. However, only nine passengers could board at a time due to aviation regulations. The flight was at a low altitude, providing us with a breathtaking view of the mountains and the sea of clouds. The airport was a simple building with a single runway, and all the processes, ranging from ticketing to luggage claims, were handled manually.
Aside from the flight experience, the cultural performance was the highlight of our day. Usually, I am not a fan of cultural performances, but the performers invited us to dance and play games as if we were part of their family.
They didn’t treat us like guests or tourists, which created a magical atmosphere that allowed us to feel at ease and immerse ourselves in the cultural performance.Booking.com
Day 4- Visiting the longhouse
- Twin Pioneer Wreck, Bario
- Pa’Ramapuh Waterfall
- Visit Bario Asal Lembaa Long House
We woke up early at Nancy Harris Guesthouse and were greeted by stunning views of paddy fields, misty mountains, and the constant crowing of roosters. Since we had free time in the morning, we took the opportunity to capture some aerial shots with our drone. We took photographs of the scenic surroundings, especially the Twin Pioneer Wreck, located right next to our guesthouse.
Later, we decided to go on a hike to Pa’Ramapuh Waterfall. It took us over an hour to reach, but the breathtaking views and peaceful surroundings made it worth it. We were the only ones there and enjoyed the tranquility.
The highlight of our trip to Baro was the visit to the longhouse. Our guesthouse owner, Nancy, took us to meet her relatives who lived in the longhouse. She explained their culture and practices and patiently answered all our questions. They also showed us their original kitchen, which they have used for decades.
Day 5 – Met a Kelapit lady with long earlobes
- Street food at the town center
- Visit Kampung Arur Dalan at the foothill of Bario’s famous Prayer Mountain.
- Transfer to Bario Airport – Arrival Miri – Lunch – Check in at Imperial Hotel
Today, we planned to return to Miri by flight. However, before leaving, we decided to explore the town center and indulge in local delicacies like the famous Bario laksa. Later, we headed to Kampung Arur Dalan, near the renowned Prayer Mountain. Due to time constraints, we couldn’t hike up the mountain, so we took a stroll around the village with some friendly locals.
Although we didn’t encounter many Kelabit ladies with long earlobes, we were fortunate to meet one who was delighted to take some pictures with us.
The rest of the day was spent traveling back to Miri and relaxing for the evening.
Check out our article: Bario- best things to do at Kelabit Highlands, Sarawak.
Check out our article: Bario- best things to do at Kelabit Highlands, Sarawak.
Day 6- Exploring Niah Cave
- Pick up at Hotel – Niah National Park
- Registration at Park Headquarters
- Proceed with an 800m walk to the Trader’s Cave, Great Cave, and Moon Cave, Painting Cave.
- Local ethnic lunch to be served in the longhouse
- Walk back to the Park Headquarters on the same plank walk
- Peliau Beach
- Transfer back to the Hotel.
Today is ideal to explore the famous Niah Cave, about an hour’s drive from Miri. We explored the Traders Cave, Great Cave, Gan Kira, and Painting Cave during our visit.
The most awe-inspiring sight we witnessed was the sunlight shining through a hole in the large chamber at the Great Cave. You will be rewarded with a breathtaking view of the magnificent scene if you are there at the right time.
The Painting Cave is a sight to behold, and we were so captivated by its beauty that we took numerous photos of the paintings inside. It is fenced off to preserve the paintings, but fortunately, I captured some fantastic shots and video clips.
For lunch, we enjoy a delicious meal at the longhouse with an Iban family.
Afterward, we headed to Peliau Beach to witness a mesmerizing sunset scene.
Check out our article: Niah Cave- Exploring the cave in Niah National Park (day tour)
Day 7 – Exploring Mulu Caves
- Check out from Hotel – Transfer to Miri Airport
- Departure to Mulu – Transfer to Mulu Marriott Resort & Spa
- Proceed for a plank walk to reach Lang’s & Deer Cave
- After exploring the caves, proceed to the bat observatory to observe the magnificent bat exodus
- Return journey on the same plank walk to Park Headquarters – Transfer back to accommodation for dinner and overnight
I’ve just realized that this Sarawak travel itinerary has so many flights in such a short time. We’re boarding planes three times a week, from large Boeing 737s to small Twin Otters.
This morning, we went to the airport again and headed to Mulu, where we’ll stay for two nights. Today, we visited Langs and Deer caves. We particularly loved Langs Cave’s rock formations and Deer Cave’s incredible water curtain.
It was drizzling in the evening when we observed the bats, but fortunately, it wasn’t a downpour. The bats still emerged from the cave in flocks, forming various patterns.
Day 8- Exploring Mulu Caves
- After breakfast, proceed by longboat to Batu Bungan – Penan Settlement to observe the culture & lifestyles of the Penan tribe. There is also various selection of handicrafts on display for sale.
- Continue the journey by longboat to Wind Cave & Clearwater Cave.
- Lunch at Mulu Cafe
- Proceed back to the resort for dinner and overnight
Our Sarawak travel is coming to an end, as we will be flying back to Kuala Lumpur tomorrow. Today, we visited the Penan Handicraft Center to buy some handmade items and learn how to use the blowpipe.
After that, we traveled upstream along the river to explore the Wind Cave and Clearwater Cave. Visiting these caves brought back memories of when I was here twenty years ago. I vividly recall the underground river, but the rest of the cave eludes me.
Check out our article: Mulu Caves – Exploring Mulu Nationa Park, Sarawak.
Day 9- Return Home
After breakfast, check out and transfer to Mulu Airport for your flight departure back to Miri.
We ended our Sarawak travel, which included visiting Miri, Bario, Mulu, and Niah and crossing the border for a day trip in Brunei. We thank Wilson from Brighten Travel and Tours for arranging this wonderful trip. We plan to return to Sarawak before the end of the year and explore Kuching and its surroundings.
We hope this Sarawak travel guide will help you plan your trip there. Until then, keep exploring, discovering, and enjoying nature and culture.