The Archipelago of Langkawi Malaysia
The Island of Pulau Langkawi is a tropical paradise located some 30 kilometers off the northwest coast of Malaysia. Considered the jewel in the crown of the state of Kedah it is in fact an archipelago of some 104 island in the Andaman Sea, with Pulau Langkawi being the largest inhabited in the Archipelago. Many refer to it as the Hawaii of South East Asia, but to me that title does not do it justice and having visited both I prefer Langkawi for the diversity of it landscape, wildlife and rain-forest. Mainstream tourism tends to concentrate around Pantai Cenang beach area and although this is a good base when visiting the island, being close to all the best eating and drinking establishments, there is so much more to explore and see not far beyond and all within short driving distances. I would recommend if you intend visiting Langkawi that you hire a car for at least some of your stay, if not all, as this will allow you to explore the Island more fully and freely. Driving in Langkawi is also a much easier and safer experience than what you might experience on mainland Malaysia. Being a duty free island expect to find lots of cheap tobacco, booze and chocolates.
Offering a range of accommodation types from the cheapest budget places Langkawi also plays host to some top class and secluded luxury resorts, with the most highly rated probably being the Datai and closely followed by the Danna and the Four Seasons Langkawi. Links to all can be found at the end of this post.
A couple of places not to be missed I would suggest are the Langkawi Wildlife Park, and my favourite Gunung Raya.
Telaga Harbour Marina is also well worth a visit with a nice stretch of usually fairly quiet white sand beach just beyond the harbour area, although it’s not great for swimming as the as the base sand is muddy and slimy, I presume from pollution. There is also free parking on the beach edge at this place.
Tanjung Rhu Beach
My favourite beach would have to be Tanjung Rhu Beach as the waters are crystal clear and it tends to be very quiet, unlike Cenang which always seems to be packed.
Langkawi Wildlife Park
Gunung Raya The road up to Gunung Raya is in pretty bad shape and there are a number of signs along the way advising you not to go, but I would persevere and make the trip as it offers the highest viewing points on the island with stunning views to some of the other islands of the archipelago. There is also a watch tower offering stunning views, shelter from strong winds on a windy day, and endless cups of herbal tea and all for RM 10, well worth the small fee on a clear day. You may also be lucky enough to spot lots of wildlife along the way. My advice, drive slowly with the window open listening out for bird and primate calls with cameras at the ready.
Horn-bill photographed mid flight on the road to Gunung Raya
Views from the tower
The sun sets on the Archipelago
Wat Koh Wanararm is also worth visiting, but watch out for the crazy turkey!
This Buddhist Monk spends his day stamping prayers and offerings onto thin metal sheets.
A quiet spot along the road
There are a number of ways or reaching the Island of Langkawi with ferry options from Kuala Kedah, Kuala Perlis, Penang and from Satun in Thailand and operating around the clock, or by air from Penang or Kula Lumpur with flying time taking roughly 30 minutes or less. Air Asia offers very good deals on flights if booked in advance. Malaysian Airlines also fly into Langkawi, but tend to be a lot more expensive. Silk Air also flies from Singapore direct to Langkawi. Hiring a car is quite easy and if arriving by ferry you will find quite a few car hire desks across the road to the right once you exit the ferry terminal. Don’t be afraid to haggle, but equally a word of warning ask to see the car and inspect it carefully taking pictures of any damage before agreeing to hire. There are also some private operators who can be found easily enough using a quick search of trip advisor and these tend to be cheaper, but fine none the less, but do ask via email to see their licence to operate and hire cars and make sure they have all the relevant insurances prior to committing to booking.