Located to the north of peninsular Malaysia, Langkawi is an archipelago of 99 islands set in the Andaman Sea close to the Thailand border. This island paradise offers affordable luxury stays, pristine beaches, a snap shot of Malay culture and pure relaxation – and just a one hour flight from Kuala Lumpur, it’s an ideal add-on to your Malaysia itinerary.
The largest island is the one that everyone visits, with two thirds of the island dominated by lush forest-covered mountains, hills and natural vegetation such as mangrove swamps and of course, beautiful beaches.
First things first, Langkawi is very easily accessible. There are several flights to Kuala Lumpur every day that are as cheap as £20 one way, taking just one hour. Internationally, you can also fly in from Singapore, Penang (Malaysia) and Guangzhou in China. Cheap ferries also connect Langkawi to Penang, and connect the archipelago to Thailand, with stops in Koh Lipe, Krabi and Phuket among others – so they can be a scenic way to see a bit more of the region. The ferries only operate from November to April.
The climate here is hot all year round, with average temperatures between 31 and 34 degrees. The dry season is December - February and there is a long wet season from March - November with September being the wettest. However, I visited in November for five days and we had very little rain - and when it did it came in a short sharp burst for a maximum of 30 minutes. So I would suggest that travel to Langkawi will be OK anytime, just be prepared for changeable weather (but at least it is warm rain compared to the UK!).
This was my first visit to Langkawi and although I knew a bit about it and have booked many passengers on to trips here, I fell in love with the place even more than expected. The lush rainforest, the stunning beaches, the general ‘Asian’ feel and some great day trips all contributed to this.
We took a half day boat tour by boat and visited some caves and the mangroves, which also included a wide variety of flora and fauna like lizards, snakes, crabs and a huge amount of birdlife. If you’re interested in the local wildlife, I’d highly recommend visiting the mangrove swamps in the north.
You can also take a boat out into the Andaman Sea that stops off at a stunning isolated beach for a quick dip in bath-temperature waters. Next time I do this, I would extend my trip to include a few hours kayaking through the narrow rivers and streams, so you could have a deeper exploration of the area.
For a magnificent aerial view of the island, you can take one of the steepest cable cars in the world up to 708m to reach the second highest peak on the island. Some of the cars have glass bottoms so you’ll have amazing views of the virgin forest passing by below looking like broccoli stalks! We had the eerie experience of taking the cable car through dense cloud cover, meaning we could only see a few metres so it gave the sensation of floating in mid-air. At the top once the clouds began to clear, we were treated to views of the island and some distant beaches. At the top there is the SkyBridge, which is the longest free span and curved bridge in the world; hanging 100m above ground it offers unique views over the island.
Our final trip was a spectacular sunset dinner cruise with Naam, one of the top travel operators in Langkawi. On board their 5 million dollar super-boat, you’ll be able to get a glimpse into how the other half live! We enjoyed a stunning sunset, excellent food, a quick karaoke sessions, a swim in the sea and of course a few Tiger beers to round it off.
The island is easy to get around on good roads and taxis are plentiful and cheap. If you want a bit more independence, you can hire a car or scooter for the day or longer. In terms of accommodation, you’ll find a wide variety of different standards here and it is very affordable, being in Asia.
We were lucky enough to stay in two 5 star resorts; The Danna and The Meritus Pelangi. Located on Telaga Harbour, 15 minutes from the airport on the West coast and just 5 minutes from the cable car, The Danna is a stunning colonial-style property combined with a modern luxurious feel. There are a few shops and restaurants close by and it’s next to a marina and a beautiful bay and beach.
The rooms are beautifully decorated and my tip would be to secure a sea view room with a huge window, so you can enjoy the sunset on your balcony and in late 2016, I know they are building new pool suite rooms. I highly recommend a massage at the spa having tried this out and we tried a sample for the new restaurant, which was delicious. The hotel also has a couple of restaurants and bars, a fitness room and the largest 3-tier infinity swimming pool on the island, which has a truly stunning setting between the hotel and beach.
This hotel is designed to resemble a traditional Malay village, with views overlooking a stunning stretch of beach at Pantai Cenang.
There are 2 pools, a spa, tennis courts and water sports and it is very family friendly with kids club and good choice of restaurants. If you can afford it, I recommend an upgrade to the beachfront rooms for the best views, and a room that is merely steps from the beach. There is a town just 5 minute walk away with loads of tourist shops, local restaurants and bars so you can feel immersed in the local culture very easily. We found a lovely beach bar just 400m from the hotel with big bean bags to sit on – a great place for an evening cocktail! Both hotels offered a selection of water-sports as well or you could book nearby.
Another bonus of Langkawi is that it is tax free so great for shopping and even the drinks are cheap. You cannot complain when you can have a beer in a 5 star hotel from the mini bar for just £1!
Overall, I cannot recommend Langkawi highly enough. There is accommodation to suit all needs and it’s a great place for a relaxing beach break – something a little different if you’ve previously stayed in the Thai Islands.
I spent my honeymoon in Borneo, and Langkawi would make an excellent twin-centre trip when combined with a trip like mine. Get in touch if you are interested in adding Langkawi island into your Malaysia itinerary and for more trip advice – just contact Chris.