Ipoh Geography: Malaysia’s 3rd Largest City

Ipoh Geography


Ipoh is Malaysia’s third largest city. As of 2019, Ipoh had a population of 673,318. It is the capital city of one of Malaysia’s thirteen states, Perak. It is 180km north of Malaysia’s capital, Kuala Lumpur, and is located by the Kinta River. Ipoh is twinned with two sister cities: Nanning in China and Fukuoka in Japan. The city has its own flag and official seal as well as a motto, ‘Ipoh Clean, Green and Progressive’ (Ipoh Bersih, Hijau dan Maju).

Ipoh Geography: Rivers

Ipoh has three rivers. The city lies in the heart of the Kinta Valley, by the Kinta River (Sungai Kinta in Malay). Kinta River is a branch of Peninsula Malaysia’s second biggest river, Sungai Perak, which flows 400 km (250 miles) long. Kinta River, in turn, branches into seven tributaries, of which two are located in Ipoh: Sungai Pari and Sungai Pinji.

Ipoh Geography Rivers

Ipoh Geography: Limestone Hills

One of the key characteristics that makes Ipoh stand out is its limestone hills. These hills (or, if you prefer, mountains) feature in many of Ipoh’s stories from Cave Temples to Beansprouts.  Except for the Southwest of Ipoh, the city is surrounded by limestone hills.

Ipoh’s limestone hills are over 250 million years old. Some of them are aged around 570 million years. In total, Kinta Valley has around seventy limestone outcrops that vary in their size and shape. Kinta Valley’s limestone is made largely of calcite (calcium carbonate) or dolomite (calcium magnesium carbonate). Some even have marble. Over millions of years, corrosion at the bottom of the hills has caused the formation of caves.

Lying beneath the hills are vast amounts of limestone deposits. This is both a blessing and curse for Ipoh. Such deposits attract quarrying, and thus eyesores around the city. Continued quarrying can only do damage to Ipoh’s tourism industry. However, on the flipside, quarrying and mining are industries too that provide jobs and economic activity in the city.

There is a significant amount of official and unofficial discourse on how these two industries can both develop in ways that are economically and environmentally sustainable. That said, most of the discussion is coming from non-government sources and there are claims that the authorities have lacked action in conserving the hills and turning them into sites for tourism and scientific research.

Ipoh Geography Limestone Hills


Ipoh’s population varies depending on the source used. The last official census in 2010 put Ipoh’s population at 657,892. However, according to the United Nations’ World Urbanization Prospects (2020), there are 813,553 Ipoh residents.

It is similarly difficult to get precise figures for ethnic breakdowns. The last official source was, once again, Malaysia’s 2010 Census. This placed Chinese as the largest ethnic group in Ipoh: 290,165 (44.11%). The second largest group was ‘Bumiputera’ (Malay and ‘indigenous peoples’) with 253,592 (38.55%). Indians are the third largest ethnic group with 92,587 (14.07%) while ‘others’ (1,559 – 0.2%) and ‘non-Malaysian’ (19,989 – 3.04%) make up the rest.