In this article I share my Langkawi Tips for Travellers, including the ten must-see sights I recommend you see while visiting.
Over the past decades it has transformed from a quiet fishing and farming community into a major Malaysian tourist destination. A former prime minister, Tun Dato’ Seri Dr Mahathir bin Mohamad, was so fond of the area that he decided to turn it into a tourist mecca for the country.
He designated it a duty and tax-free area in 1987, and created the Langkawi Development Authority. An airport opened and their focus on eco-aware tourist development saw the island quickly become a popular destination. Both for Malaysians, seeking relaxing short breaks from the bustle of Kuala Lumpur, and for premium western tourists drawn to the gorgeous landscape, stunning beaches, prestige golf courses and luxurious resorts. In recent years cruise ships have started delivering significant numbers of day trippers.
Location and Geography
Langkawi’s official title is “The Jewel of Kedah”, the province it’s part of. Located just 30 km off mainland Malaysia, it consists of 100 islands. However, only three are inhabited. The main one is Pulau Langkawi and this is where Kuah (the Capital). Most of the tourist activity takes place here.
Pulau Langkawi is about 15 x 15 miles in size and mostly consists of lush mountains. 65% of Langkawi’s population lives here, around about 65,000 people. It’s about 90% Malay and Islam is the main religion.
Myths and Legends
Langkawi is seeped in myths and legends. These are the two most significant ones:
- Princess Mahsuri: Legend says two constantly arguing families of giants inhabited the island. Many areas are named after the families or outcomes of the arguments. The main story, and the one that locals feel passionately about, is about Princess Mahsuri. She was accused of adultery 200 years ago while her husband was at war, and was sentenced to death by stabbing. When her blood flowed it was white, which meant she was really innocent. As she was dying she cursed the island for seven generations of hardship. Soon afterwards the Siamese army invaded Langkawi and, as the re-emergence of the island coincided with the timing of the end of the curse, it added validity to the legend. There is a museum with a house dedicated to the story and supposed artefacts from the events.
- Pregnant Maiden: The Island of the Pregnant Maiden got its name because it looks like a pregnant woman lying down. The story goes that an eminent local fell in love with a fairy that lived on the island. She had their child but it died after seven days. When buried in the lake it turned into white crocodile. The legend says that any woman who drinks in the fresh water lake at the heart of the island will conceive.
Best Time to Visit
It is a year-round destination with fairly constantly warm temperatures. It’s driest from December to February, so that’s the most popular time for tourists to visit as best for beach and outdoor activities. April to October is the wettest.
There are also many major events to consider linking any visit to. These include: Langkawi International Aerospace Exhibition (LIMA), Ironman Triathlon and the Tour de Langkawi Cycle Race
There is a busy International airport, with frequent connections into the rest of Malaysia. There is also a good ferry service to and from the mainland.
Where to Stay
There are many places to stay, at all budget levels with many luxury resorts including those by leading international chains like Four Seasons.
If you are looking for accommodation you could book promo Langkawi hotel on Traveloka. This is a Malaysian online hotel-booking site so it has local understanding of the region and choices. They charge no booking fee and have a useful comparison system that should help you evaluate different hotel options. To book with them click here.
There is limited public transport and so most visitors use taxis. As these do not usually use meters you should agree to the price before you get in.
Car and scooter hire is also popular. There are many options, although I recommend sticking with established names you recognise. UK drivers will be pleased to know that they drive on the left hand side.
English is very well understood and spoken. The Malaysian school system includes English lessons, and you will find many of the signs are in English although Malay is the official language.
Toilet facilities are not great and in some the some tourist areas they’re not even available. For example even on some of the island beaches that I went to, there were signs warning there were no public toilets. There are facilities in some of the shopping malls and places like McDonalds.
Monkeys can be a problem. There are many of them across the islands, particularly in beach areas or other areas where tourists congregate. They’re well practiced at snatching plastic bags as they have learnt that these often contain food for picnics. Don’t encourage them. Don’t feed them. They are very bold and will try and raid any unattended bags. However, that’s probably the only thing you need to really worry about, as crime is low in the area. It is a safe area to visit.
Ten Must-see Sights and Must-Do Attractions in Langkawi
- Beaches: Pantai Cenang is the most popular beach with about 2 km of beach with beautiful soft sand. Others I recommend visiting are Pantai Tengah and the Kilim Forest Park. The latter was a favourite of mine with good beaches and parkland to explore
- Wet Rice Island (Pulau Beras Basah) is a place that I highly recommend if you’re looking for a day trip. There are stunning white sand beaches that are like walking on wet rice (hence the name). You can reach it by water taxi. It is especially popular with Malay visitors and so lots of the taxi boats head there. On the way back they usually divert past the Eagle hunting grounds ,which are fascinating to watch and take great pictures of.
- Telaga Tujuh Waterfalls are magnificent. You need to be fairly fit to visit them as there about 300 steps to get there and it’s quite slippery but was a highlight of my trip.
- Dayang Bunting Island (Island of the Pregnant Maiden). You get there on fast taxi boats in around 20 minutes. Once there it is a bit of a climb, first up the hill and then down on steps and a winding path. In the centre of this island is a large 14-metre deep natural water lake that was created by limestone caves collapsing and being filed with rainwater. You can swim in a cordoned off area, and it’s a welcome refreshing treat after the walk and climb. Again, watch out for the monkeys here. Of course if you’re a woman and you don’t want to conceive, make sure that you don’t drink it any of the water because of the myth says that you will fall pregnant!
- Panorama Langkawi Sky Cab Cable Car and Sky Bridge. This is in the West of the Island near Pantai Kok. The Cable Car goes up the second highest mountain called Gunung Machinchang and so it has incredible views. The ride is about one and a half miles long and once up top you should head for the Sky Bridge. It is 2,000 feet above ground and is 400 feet long and takes you on a glass walkway over the forest. So if you’re scared of heights, it’s probably not ideal. Both can have long lines so it’s a good idea to get there early in the morning.
- Langkawi Elephant Adventures and Tiger! Tiger! Located together and convenient for the cable car are these are popular attractions. You can ride elephants and get see tigers up close.
- Underwater World. This is Malaysia’s largest aquarium with over 5000 species, including sharks, rays, turtles, large Amazonian fish and even as penguins (bizarrely!). There are three key sections including a tropical rain forest and underwater glass tunnel where you can view sharks and the stingrays.
- Langkawi Wildlife Park and Birds Paradise. This is a remarkable if you’re into bird watching as it has over 2,000 birds. They are housed in a series of recreated natural environments native to the birds.
- Lagenda Langkawi Dalam Taman. This is a theme park stretching along the waterfront. However, it’s not a thrill ride park but focuses on the legends and myths of the Langkawi.
- Bat Cave at Kilim Geo-park. This is not the one where you will find Batman, but you will come across hundreds of bats clinging to the roof of the 196-foot long cave. It was once underwater and so it has seashells on the roof, there are exotically shaped (and large) stalactites and stalagmites. It is a popular and much visited site on the island.
As you can see, there are many sights and things to do in Langkawi. It’s a beautiful place enveloped with myths and stories that add to its exotic flavour. I found it to be a welcoming and memorable destination
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