Guarded by a monumental statue of Hindu deity Lord Murugan, the Batu Caves are a Malaysian national treasure and an unmissable day trip from Kuala Lumpur. These limestone caves harbour Hindu temples where dioramas of mythic scenes glow beneath stalactites, bats flutter in the shadows, and monkeys prey on tourists hiking the 272 stairs to Temple Cave.
American naturalist William Hornaday is credited with discovering the caves in 1878, though they were known to Chinese settlers (who collected guano) and to local indigenous peoples. The caves are always a colourful experience, but never more so than in late January or early February when hundreds of thousands of pilgrims converge for the three-day Thaipusam festival, in which devotees in a semi-trance walk in procession from KL's Chinatown to the caves.
The magnificent Batu Caves are one of the top tourist attractions in Malaysia, partly because they are located only 13km from downtown Kuala Lumpur and easy to get to.
There are 4 main attractions at Batu Caves which is a limestone hill riddled with caves. These attractions are Temple Cave (or Cathedral Cave), Dark Cave, Cave Villa and Ramayana Cave.
The main Cave is known as the Temple Cave or Cathedral Cave and is accessed by a steep flight of 272 steps.
The top of the stairs brings you into a massive cave with a high vaulted ceiling. The cave serves as a Hindu Temple devoted to Lord Muragan whose 42 meter high gold statue stands guard outside.
There is no entry fee for visiting the Temple Cave although you may leave a donation in one of the collection boxes if you wish.
Half way up the flight of stairs is the entrance to the second main attraction, the Dark Cave. This is more of an adventure cave with educational and scientific interest.
It is not always open (on 2 of my 7 visits to the Caves it has been closed) and depends on the availability of a guide without whom you are not allowed to enter.
The Dark Cave is said to be home to the rarest spider in the world, the Trapdoor Spider, and an ancient animal community dating back over 100 million years (which during my visit seemed only to comprise bats and cockroaches!