Known as ‘the jewel of Kedah’, Langkawi boasts some of the best beaches in Malaysia along with rainforests teeming with wildlife, villages preserving local traditions and impressive limestone caves. Once a haven for pirates, the 99 tropical islands of this archipelago lying off the northwest coast of Malaysia are fringed with white sand beaches and clear waters ripe for snorkeling and diving. Inland, tangled jungle hides exotic birdlife such as hornbills, while colugos (flying lemurs) swing from tree to tree. If you prefer a more lively atmosphere, you can head to Pantai Cenang beach with its bars, restaurants and live music, while spending days exploring on kayaks, quad bikes and cable cars.
Malaysia specialist Mark
Langkawi has some of the best beaches in Malaysia, offering long stretches of white sand, particularly in the Pelangi area. I also love trekking through the vast rainforest that surrounds the main island, spotting wildlife such as macaques and hornbills in the trees.
Things to see and do in Langkawi
Ride the cable cars at Panorama Langkawi
A collection of far-reaching viewpoints over the island, Panorama Langkawi offers a wide range of mainly outdoor pursuits for all ages. You can take part in quad biking and various lake-based activities, follow the nature trails and visit a 3D art museum. It also boasts the SkyBridge, a 125 m (410 ft) long curved pedestrian bridge that has been built on top of Mount Machinchang at an elevation of 100 m (328 ft), providing views over the tree-covered hills.
The attraction is best known for the SkyCab – one of the world’s steepest cable car rides. It takes you up to the summit of Mount Machinchang at 708 m (2,322 ft) above sea level, where you’ll be greeted with panoramic vistas out over the surrounding islands. Afterwards, head to the Chocohouz shop and cafe to taste Belgian chocolates or enjoy drinks and snacks at SkyBistro, accompanied by sweeping views.
Kayak through Kilim Geoforest Park
In the north of Langkawi Island, Kilim Geoforest Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, featuring diverse flora and fauna, striking limestone karsts, caves, lagoons and mangrove forests. The 100 sq km (39 sq miles) area is made up of three river estuaries that attract wildlife such as hairy-nosed sea otters, brown-winged kingfishers, sea eagles and swimming macaques. On land you may see monitor lizards and bats.
You can explore the reserve’s channels and waterways by kayak. A five hour guided tour takes you along a maze of trails, through the mangrove jungles lining the water and into limestone caves, including the Bat Cave (Gua Kelawar). Here you can view stalagmites and stalactites as well as hundreds of insectivorous bats.
Cycle through the paddy fields and villages
Taking the time to enjoy Langkawi’s peaceful rural scenery makes an excellent alternative to exploring its coastline. Cycling through the interior, you’ll pass rolling green paddy fields and sprawling rubber plantations where you can try your hand at rubber tapping. Visiting the kampungs (villages) with their busy markets, you’ll see local people going about their day as they have for centuries. Guided bicycle rides last about four hours, or for more flexibility you can navigate your way around the countryside yourself, exploring at your own pace.
Hike up Telaga Tujuh Waterfalls
On the west side of Langkawi Island, the Telaga Tujuh (‘seven wells’) Waterfalls cascade 91 m (298 ft) down Mount Machinchang. The name refers to seven natural pools that are fed by the waterfalls, set at different levels in the rock.
While the trek to the top of the falls is a steep one hour climb up more than 600 steps, you’ll be met with sweeping views over Burau Bay and Pantai Kok below. During your descent you can cool off in the refreshing water of the pools. The area, being part of the Machinchang Forest Reserve, supports a variety of wildlife, from macaques and hornbills to black giant squirrels.
Take an island hopping trip
Embarking on a boat ride allows you to explore the archipelago: snorkel, swim and relax on the beaches of islands such as Beras Basah. You’ll find a diverse range of marine life here, including many species of tropical fish, which dazzle in the clear waters.
You can also visit Pregnant Maiden Island (Dayang Bunting) with its fresh water lake surrounded by forested hills. Legend has it that a maiden blessed the water of the lake so that it has a magical effect on infertile women, earning the island and the lake their name.
Visit Laman Padi Rice Garden Museum
This hands-on museum in Pantai Cenang aims to educate visitors on the process of rice cultivation – both past and present. The museum features a collection of tools, photographs and other artefacts related to rice cultivation. There’s also a herb garden, floating rice garden and the Paddy Gallery, which has a viewing deck overlooking a tiered rooftop rice garden.
For us, the highlight of any visit is being led out into the museum’s own working paddy field to try your hand at rice farming techniques. Standing knee-deep in water as you plant rice seedlings is surprisingly fun and gives you a real appreciation for the work that goes into producing Malaysia’s biggest export.
Play a round of golf at the Els Club Teluk Datai
Designed by champion golfer Ernie Els, this 18 hole, par 72 golf course is part of the Datai resort on Langkawi Island’s northwest coast. Els has ensured that the course embraces its tropical rainforest surroundings, using natural vegetation and streams as a substitute for the usual sand bunkers.
Each hole is named after wildlife you may spot as you make your way around the course, and you can take in views over the Andaman Sea and Mount Machinchang. The open-air clubhouse serves drinks on the terrace and all-day fusion dining, alongside views over the fairways and the sea. There’s also a well-stocked shop selling the latest high-quality golf equipment.
Best time to visit Langkawi
November to April is the best time to visit Langkawi, as this is when Malaysia’s west coast receives the most sunshine and the least rain. Winds begin to pick up in May, and there’s more chance of thunderstorms. In June and July you may experience short, sharp showers. Between August and October heavy downpours become more common.
Festivals, events and seasonal reasons to visit
- In April, the Langkawi International Festival of Art (LIFA) takes place. Held in the Ibrahim Hussain Museum and Cultural Foundation in the Datai Bay area, this 10-day event sees talented artists and artisans from around the world participating in painting, sculpting, dance, music and poetry.
- The Langkawi International Water Festival also takes place in April. It features water sports activities such as island-to-island kayak races, fishing competitions, underwater treasure hunts and sand castle building. Activities are organised around the island, but most of the action takes place at Telaga Harbor Park.
- Every December, the Langkawi Craft Complex hosts the Langkawi Craft Festival. It gives retail space to local businesses for showcasing and selling local arts and crafts. Items can include batik prints on silk as well as silverware, wood and paper crafts.
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