Langkawi Travel Guide
Overview of Langkawi
Langkawi is an archipelago of 99 islands located in the Malaysian state of Kedah near the Thailand border. In 2008, the sultan of Kedah, Sultan Abdul Halim changed the name to Langkawi Permata Kedah (Langkawi, the Jewel of Kedah) in conjunction with his golden jubilee celebration. The largest island of the archipelago is the Langkawi Island, and it is an administrative district with the town Kuah as its capital.
There are several theories about the origins of the name ‘Langkawi’. One suggests that the name means the ‘island of the reddish-brown eagle'—coming from the malay words 'burung helang' meaning eagle and 'kawi' meaning 'reddish-brown'. This has now become an iconic symbol of the island.
In 1987, Langkawi Island gained its status as a duty-free island. Since then, it has grown into one of the major tourist attractions in Malaysia.
An ancient legend of the island tells the story of a woman named Mahsuri who put a curse on the island when she was wrongly accused of adultery and sentenced to death. Locals believe that Mahsuri’s curse was lifted with the birth of her seventh generation, which interestingly coincided with a boom in Langkawi’s tourism.
Where to Go
Eagle Square is arguably the most popular place in Langkawi with the giant eagle sculpture being an icon of the island.
Pantai Cenang & Other Beaches
There are numerous beaches on the island that you can visit in Langkawi. The most famous beach is Pantai Cenang on the southwestern part of the island. Other beaches include Pantai Tengah, Pantai Kok, Tanjung Rhu, and Pasir Tengkorak.
Langkawi archipelago is one of UNESCO’s officially recognised geoparks. There are three geoforest parks that travellers can visit, including Kilim Karst Geoforest Park, Machinchang Cambrian Geoforest Park, and Dayang Bunting Marble Geoforest Park.
There are also several other nature attractions in Langkawi, such as Telaga Tujuh (Seven Wells) Waterfalls, Gunung Raya, and Temurun Waterfall.
There are several parks around the island, including Crocodile Adventureland, Underwater World, Langkawi Wildlife Park & Bird Paradise, and MARDI Agro Technology Park.
Cable Car Ride and Suspended Bridge Walk
Travellers can ride the SkyCab to the top of Machinchang Mountain. It is the steepest cable car and the longest free span mono-cable car in the world. There is also a suspended bridge on top of the mountain called the Langkawi Sky Bridge. It is the longest free span and curved bridge in the world, and travellers can experience a fantastic view of Langkawi Island.
Ibrahim Hussein Foundation Museum & Galeria Perdana
There are two museums on the island—Ibrahim Hussein Foundation Museum and Galeria Perdana—that visitors can visit during the day. Besides that, there is also Legend Garden that visitors can go to and learn more about Langkawi’s mythical tales.
Visit Mahsuri's Tomb (Makam Mahsuri), believed to be the burial site of the legendary princess Mahsuri; a beloved figure and folktale of the island. Here you can learn more about her story as well as traditional Malay folklore and culture at the cultural centre.
What to Do
Snorkel and Scuba Dive in Payar Island Marine Park
Travellers who want to scuba dive or snorkel can do so in Payar Island Marine Park. Other water activities, such as jet-skiing, banana boating, parasailing, island hopping and fishing are also available in Langkawi.
Langkawi is a duty-free island where travellers can buy chocolates and alcohol at low prices. There are also several shopping malls on the island, as well as a craft complex for travellers to buy handcrafted souvenirs and artworks.
Join Local Tours
There are several travel companies in Langkawi that provide tour packages, including sunset cruises, mangrove tours, and island-hopping tours.
Hike up Langkawi's two tallest peaks, Gunung Raya and Gunung Mat Cincang for spectacular views of the island and surrounding archipelago. You can choose to walk up self-guided provided you have previous experience and are of reasonable fitness. Alternatively you can find a local guide to take you to the top.
There are other leisure activities that travellers can do on the island, such as golfing, go-karting and taking a helicopter ride.
When is the Best Time to Visit Langkawi
The dry season in Langkawi is from November to April, with the peak season between January to March. There is practically no rainfall during this period, and the island will see a massive influx of tourists.
The rainy season falls between September to October where the island sees considerably fewer tourists. This is a good time to visit Langkawi for its rainforests and landscapes as the rain brings lush greenery and blooming flowers to the islands.
Some tourists prefer to visit the island during transitional periods between the two seasons where it is not as crowded with other tourists and the weather is still relatively nice.
How to Get to Langkawi
Langkawi Island has its own airport (Langkawi International Airport), and there are several direct flights to the island from Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Singapore, Phuket, and Hat Yai.
You can also take a flight to either Kedah or Penang and proceed to Langkawi by ferry.
There are three different jetties—in Kuala Perlis, Kuala Kedah, and Penang—that have ferry services to Langkawi Island. The cheapest and closest to the island is the jetty in Kuala Perlis in Perlis. If you are in Kedah, you can go to the jetty in Kuala Kedah instead. The ferries in Kuala Perlis and Kuala Kedah depart every hour, while the ones in Penang only depart twice daily.
By Car / Bus
If you are driving, you can directly go to Kuala Perlis or Kuala Kedah and hop on the ferry there. For those travelling by bus, several bus companies can take you directly from major bus stations in Peninsular Malaysia to either jetty.
You can take the Electric Train Service (ETS) from KL Central to Alor Setar Station in Kedah or Arau Station in Perlis before proceeding to one of the jetties.
How to Get Around
By Taxi / Ride-Sharing Services
Going around Langkawi Island using the taxi services is popular among travellers as the drivers are generally trustworthy and they charge a fixed fare, albeit slightly expensive. An alternative to taxis is the ride-sharing services, which is available across the island.
By Car / Motorcycle
Travellers can rent cars and motorcycles at the airport, near the jetty in Kuah, or from the shops at Pantai Cenang. The rental rates are reasonable, and it is the best mode of transportation if you are planning on visiting many of the island’s places of attraction.
You can also rent bicycles from many of the hotels on the island.
What to Eat
There are many choices of places to eat in Langkawi to fit everyone’s budget and taste.
Those looking for cheap and authentic local food can visit the stalls and restaurants around the island, such as Restoran Fatimah for Malay food or Restoran Nasi Kandar Tomato for Indian food.
Fresh SeaFood and Thai Food
Seafood and Thai food are also famous on the island, and travellers can visit Wonderland Seafood Restaurant and Rose Tea 2 Thai Food Restaurant for a delicious feast.
If you are looking to splurge on your meal, you can visit La Sal at Casa del Mar or Mare Blu at Perdana Quay.
Despite the cheap alcohol, Langkawi Island lacks in nightlife, and there is only a handful of bars open around the island. A few notable bars that you can visit include Lepak Bistro in Pantai Cenang, Sunba Retro Bar in Pantai Tengah, and Marrakesh Musicteque Club & Lounge in Aseania Resort Langkawi.
What to Buy
Since Langkawi Island is duty-free, you can find cheap alcohol and chocolates to buy. Other products that you can purchase on the island are batik clothes and tobacco products. If you are planning to do some shopping, avoid buying from the airport shop as the prices are significantly higher. Instead, go to department stores, such as those in Kuah.
Where to Stay
Langkawi Island is suitable for both backpackers looking for cheap lodgings and families that want to have a relaxing time as there are different types of accommodation for everyone.
You can easily find many cheap rooms across the island, such as those at Pantai Cenang. But if you are going for luxury accommodation, Langkawi has several five-star resorts.
What to Bring
- If you are going to the beach, remember to bring sunblock and proper beachwear.
- You should always have drinking water with you to avoid dehydration due to the warm climate of the island.
- If you are prone to getting seasick during the boat ride, it's good to pack some motion sickness pill with you
- If you are going for a jungle trek or mangrove areas, consider bringing mosquito repellent.
What to Wear
Travellers should not wear any provocative outfit or swimwear. Since Malaysians are predominantly Muslims, it is always a good idea to dress conservatively. Sunbathing naked or topless on the beach is unacceptable.
You should wear loose, comfortable clothing suitable for the warm climate of the island. Those who are looking to walk around the island should also wear comfortable shoes.
Things to Note
- If you are planning to swim, please be careful of jellyfish. Jellyfish season occurs between January to June, and there are several jellyfish species around Langkawi, including the deadly box jellyfish. If you are doing water activities, consider wearing a stinger suit.
- Remember to stay hydrated as the average temperature can be quite high.
- Be careful when driving in Langkawi, especially at night as some village roads are not well-lit. During your drive, you might encounter wild animals and cows lying down or crossing the road at night.