An ancient archipelago of 99 islands in the Andaman Sea, Pulau Langkawi (or Langkawi Island) is one of those places whose name brings up images of tropical romance under swaying coconut palms. Only two of the islands are inhabited, although all are blessed with vast stretches of powdery-white beaches, jungles and waterfalls. It's not hard to see why Langkawi is Malaysia's best-known beach destination.
Apart from its breathtaking scenery, the 'Island of Legends' is thick with ancient folklore tales that add to its mystique. Probably the most famous is the curse of Mahsuri, a beautiful woman who was falsely accused of adultery over 200 years ago. According to legend, when executed for this crime she bled white blood as proof of her innocence, and cursed the island with her dying breath for seven generations. Perhaps due to this, Langkawi escaped much of the rapid development undergone by the rest of the country for many years.
Looking at Langkawi today however, the ‘curse’ has been clearly broken, as the island is now a hub of activity and economic development. In 1987 Langkawi was declared a tax-free zone and today offers a wide array of sightseeing attractions and duty-free shopping. Step away from the built-up areas however, and you'll find that Langkawi is still very much a rural Malay island of kampung villages, rice paddies, water buffaloes and a relaxed way of life.
The real draw here is Mother Nature – from pristine white beaches to some of the world’s oldest rainforests and geological formations (dating back an incredible 400 million years), Langkawi is incredibly diverse and worthy of its designation as Southeast Asia’s first UNESCO World Geopark. Besides the main island, the Pulau Payar Marine Park and its scattered islets provide plenty of opportunities for sailing, snorkelling and scuba diving. However, most come here for the sole purpose of escaping from it all, and holing up in one of the island’s several gorgeous resorts is an activity we certainly can condone.
Mystical Langkawi is made up of 99 islands filled with beaches, ancient rainforests and a UNESCO geopark.
When to Go
Langkawi's dry season lasts from November until April. The peak tourist season being January to March. These months see hot, sunny days with little or no rain (in other words, perfect beach weather), although temperatures can rise up to 34 degrees celsius (93 fahrenheit) during the daytime. Hotels are often fully booked weeks in advance during this season, so advance booking is necessary. Mid-April until August is the regular season, with days of intermittent rain and sunshine. The rainy season lasts from late August until October and is best avoided.
Things to Do
Take a tour of Langkawi's 99 islands by boat or jet ski, stopping off at the nearby islets of Pulau Dayang Bunting (with its Lake of the Pregnant Maiden) and Pulau Beras Basah along the way.
Admire the views
Ride the Langkawi Cable Car from Oriental Village to the summit of Mt. Mat Cinchang, one of the oldest rock formations in South-East Asia. Marvel the views from the Langkawi Sky Bridge, a 410ft-long curved pedestrian bridge located 2,300ft above sea level, offering panoramic views as far north as Thailand.
Visit the Langkawi UNESCO Geopark
Containing some of the earth's oldest rock formations, this national park showcases some 550 million years of geological history and is now home to incredibly diverse natural habitats. Discover everything from mangrove forests to jungle waterfalls, sandstone mountains, tidal flats, caves and reefs.
Take a drive
Rent a motorbike, car or bicycle and drive up to Gunung Raya, the highest peak on the island, to spot endangered hornbills and enjoy great views over the rice fields. Head down to Kuah Town for lunch, passing by rustic stilted wooden houses, lush padi fields and fishermen returning home with their catch.
Take a dip in a waterfall
Cool off in the beautiful cascading waterfalls of the mystical Telaga Tujuh or 'Seven Wells', said to be the bathing pool of fairies.
Explore the mangroves
Take a leisurely walk or boat cruise along Langkawi's beautiful mangrove swamps and spot weird and wonderful wildlife, including walking fish, horseshoe crabs and kingfishers.
Go jungle trekking
Explore the ancient rainforests and geological formations led by an expert jungle guide, catching glimpses of curious Dusky Leaf Monkeys, eagles and giant flying squirrels along the way.
Go snorkelling or diving
Spend a day underwater at Pulau Payar Marine Park, one of the most beautiful marine parks in the region, just under an hour’s boat ride away.
Enjoy a sunset cruise
With its four marinas and calm, crystal-clear waters, Langkawi offer visitors the perfect conditions for sailing. Charter a private yacht, moor on a deserted sandy bay for a picnic and swim in a tranquil lagoon before witnessing the magnificent sunsets.
Hit the beach
Pantai Cenang offers many opportunities for sunbathing, waterskiing, windsurfing, jet-skiing, parasailing, snorkelling or kayaking. Fishing and diving excursions can also be arranged.
Spend a day indulging in golf, spa treatments, art museums, go-karting, cooking lessons or shopping activities in the town of Pantai Cenang or the various resorts on the island.
NOTE: Travel information such as flight, train, bus and boat schedules and fares are subject to constant change. The information below is intended as a basic guide only; please check with the relevant companies/authorities before planning your journey.
Langkawi International Airport (LKA) receives both domestic and regional flights. The popular budget airlines AirAsia and Firefly operate services from Kuala Lumpur and Penang, while AirAsia, Tiger Airways and SilkAir fly from Singapore. Other (sometimes seasonal) routes include Hat Yai and Phuket in Thailand.
Ferries are the only other means of getting to and from the island. The Langkawi Express operates frequent services between Penang (2.5 hrs), Kuala Perlis (1 hr) and Kuala Kedah (1.5hrs).
Taxis are the only means of public transportation on Langkawi island. These operate using fixed prices per destination, which results in a pricer but more trustworthy and reliable system.
Renting a car or motorbike is a good idea in Langkawi, due to the lack of public transportation. The vast majority of roads are single-lane and relatively traffic free, making driving a pleasure. Just be careful if driving at night, as roads are seldom lit and animals such as water buffalo and snakes often come out after dark to sleep on the warm tarmac.
Car and motorbike rentals are available at the departure terminal of the airport as well as the ferry harbour and the main street of Pantai Cenang. Prices are very reasonable, at around RM 60-150 per day for a mid-sized sedan and RM40-50 for a 150cc scooter. Petrol (gasoline) is also highly affordable: a full tank of petrol for a scooter will cost you only RM6. Drivers are required to wear seatbelts and helmets (for motorcyclists) and carry their license at all times. Note that cars in Malaysia drive on the left-hand side of the road.
Cycling is another lovely way to explore the island scenery, and Langkawi offers many opportunities for experienced mountainbikers. Bicycle rentals cost approximately RM10-30 per day.
Many nationalities can enter Malaysia without a visa, although we advise visiting the Immigration Department of Malaysia website for current guidelines as well as advance visa requirements for citizens of some 35 countries. Entry permit duration will depend on nationality and entry point; however most nationalities are permitted to remain for either 14, 30 or 90 days.
Restrictions & Laws
As an Islamic country, Malaysia is fairly conservative when it comes to dressing and behaviour. Skimpy clothing, public displays of affection and rowdy, drunken behaviour is frowned upon, while topless sunbathing is a strict no-no. To be respectful to the locals (particularly in rural areas), we advise wearing short-sleeved t-shirts that cover the shoulders and long bermudas or loose cotton pants.
Like most South-East Asian countries, Malaysia enforces a mandatory death sentence for drug trafficking that also applies to foreigners. Prostitution and homosexuality are also illegal while getting convicted of rape, vandalism, illegal entry, bribery, overstaying your visa, and certain other crimes is punishable by jail and/or caning.
Health & Safety
Unlike most urban parts of Malaysia, crime is not a big problem in Langkawi and most dangers here are of the natural kind. Beware of painful and potentially lethal jellyfish stings, especially during the January-June months. Riptides may also be a concern in some beaches. If driving at night, be aware of water buffalos and monkeys crossing the roads. Mosquitos can be a problem in jungle or mangrove areas: use insect repellent when outdoors at all times.
Malaysia uses the Malaysian Ringgit (MYR), where one ringgit is the equivalent of 100 sen. RM1 is approximately equal to US$0.25. Visit xe.com for the latest exchange rates.
Malaysia uses 230V / 50 Hz voltage with British-style, 3-pin plugs.
Sunscreen and insect repellent are a must for Langkawi's jungles and beaches. If you'll be renting a motorbike or cycling then a foldable poncho is also a good idea, as tropical thunderstorms are frequent.
Learn the Lingo
Welcome - selamat datang
How are you? - apa khabar?
What is your name? - siapa nama?
How much is this? - ini berapa?
Excuse me / sorry - maaf
Thank you - terima kasih