10 Reasons to Visit Langkawi, Malaysia
Here's why you should vacation to the island of myths, clad in ancient rain forests and fringed by pristine beaches.
An archipelago of 99 magical islets in the Andaman Sea, Langkawi is an idyllic hideaway embraced by nature’s wonders—all framed within a breathtaking backdrop of dramatic mountain landscapes, verdant rain forests, emerald lakes and beaches, mysterious mangroves, rice fields of green and spectacular jewel-tone sunsets.
Legend has it that the name Langkawi is derived from the combination of the Malay word helang, which means eagle (a familiar resident of Langkawi), and the Sanskrit word kawi, for the reddish brown colour of these majestic birds. Here are 10 reasons to visit this enchanting beach destination.
Southeast Asia’s First World Geopark
Uncover some of the world’s oldest and most intriguing geological gems etched in the landscapes of sea cliffs and caves of Langkawi. In June 2007, UNESCO declared Langkawi Southeast Asia’s first World Geopark and ranked it 52nd in the world for its unique geological heritage, which features six geological formations and 90 prominent geological sites said to date back 550 million years.
One of the largest mangrove forests in Southeast Asia, explore Langkawi’s spectacular mangrove wetlands, limestone caves and secluded coves, and discover a natural oasis and unique habitat teeming with wildlife. A magical ecosystem of unexpected surprises, these forests of the sea are veritable mazes waiting to be discovered—from walking fish and fiddler crabs to roots that stand tall and tangled. Immerse yourself in the wonders of Langkawi’s rich ecology and learn how the mangroves contribute to the essential cycle of life. Amid this nursery for reef creatures and marine birds, observe eagles in flight and sea otters and macaques at play. Lucky guests may even glimpse scurrying monitor lizards, dancing dolphins or flapping bats.
Birding on Gunung Raya Aerie
At 881 metres (2,890 feet), Langkawi’s highest mist-covered peak, Gunung Raya, is reached via a winding 13-kilometre (8-mile) road that passes through the tallest mountain in Langkawi, or via an exciting jungle trek before unveiling magnificent views of the islands of southern Thailand, Mat Cincang Mountain and the Kuah harbour. From the foothills of Gunung Raya, find forest birds in their natural habitat. Listen for the unique cackling noise of the great hornbill returning to nest. Bird watching in Langkawi, home to over 190 species of birds, is best between the months of October and April, when the winter migrants visit.
A Cable Car Ride to Mat Cincang Peak
The Mat Cincang mountain range is one of the oldest rock formations in Southeast Asia. To take it all in, experience an exhilarating 2.2-kilometre (1.4-mile) aerial ride in a cable car over the forest canopy and up the mountain escarpment to the summit at 731 metres (2,398 feet). Observe the stunning 550 million-year-old sandstone outcrops, waterfalls and verdant mountain flora. Marvel at the breathtaking 360-degree view of Langkawi’s peaks and coastline as well as the surrounding islands.
Pulau Payar Marine Park
Considered one of the most beautiful marine parks in the region, Pulau Payar is surrounded by well-protected coral reefs that are home to numerous species of underwater creatures. Enter the warm waters for a quick snorkel or slow scuba dive and discover the fascinating marine life of the Andaman Sea. Offering a variety of diving conditions from flat terrain to more challenging steep slopes, visibility can go up to 15 metres. Those who do not wish to get wet can step into the underwater observation chamber to view the marine life surrounding a reef. The largest of three other jade green islands in the marine park—Pulau Lembu, Pulau Segantang and Pulau Kaca—Pulau Payar lies just 30 kilometres (19 miles) southeast of Langkawi and is just under an hour’s boat ride away.
Sailing at Sunset
Calm and placid with moderate winds, the waters off Langkawi make for perfect sailing conditions. In recent years, Langkawi has become a recognised sailing destination with a few marinas located around the island playing host to events such as the annual Royal Langkawi International Regatta. Experience the magic of sailing while cruising the turquoise seas on a chartered private yacht. Moor on a quiet sandy bay for a picnic and a swim in the blue lagoon before setting sail again to capture a magnificent sunset on golden waters out at sea.
Lake of the Pregnant Maiden
Nestled in the verdant valley of Pulau Dayang Bunting is Tasik Dayang Bunting (Lake of the Pregnant Maiden). This tranquil freshwater lake was formed when a huge limestone cave collapsed. The name is derived from the combination of marble and granite bedrocks that formed into a figure resembling a pregnant woman lying on her back. Famed for the legend of celestial princess Mambang Sari, who was disheartened by the death of her first child whom she’d buried by the lake, locals believe that the waters of the lake possess mystical powers—many a childless couple have been blessed with a child after dipping in its waters.
Squid season begins in November and lasts through February in Langkawi, and this is when the seas off Langkawi are aglow from the bright lights of fishing boats. A popular seasonal pastime with local islanders, squid scooping, or sauk sotong in Malay, is a fun nocturnal activity that has become an annual festival (Langkawi Squid Challenge) held every February. This traditional annual squid “harvest” often has fishermen and angling enthusiasts competing to lure as many squid to their nets as possible. Squid like to hide in dark places and are most active at night. The best time to catch squid is on a calm and moonless night. Brightly lit boats are buoyed quietly out at sea. Be amazed by how these squid soon swim toward the light where one should quickly but carefully net them, avoiding being squirted by black ink.
A Slice of Kampong Life
Enjoy the bucolic beauty of rustic wooden houses amid stretches of green padi fields that are charming and unhurried, surrounded by basking mud-soaked water buffaloes. Pedal around on a guided biking trip that leads through Langkawi’s ruralscapes and neighbouring local villages, where traditional wooden houses built on stilts are picturesquely painted into rural vistas of rubber plantations, padi fields and swaying coconut palms. Witness the fishing folk return with their day’s catch at the fishermen’s village, Kuala Teriang, and then break for a local afternoon tea ritual and sample delicious deep-fried banana fritters with local milk tea, freshly prepared and sold in the afternoons only at wooden stalls by the roadside.
Savour local flavours and colourful sights at the Pasar Malam, abuzz with street vendors peddling their wares, from fresh catch of the day to children’s toys to hearty bowls of piping hot noodles. A nocturnal highlight with the local folk, this unique spectacle is held every evening at a different location on the island.