To be honest, we’d never even heard of Langkawi before we got to Asia, but it is certainly a major destination, receiving daily domestic and international flights to its airport. Due to its accessibility we knew that it would be quiet touristy, and, ostensibly we visited because we wanted to border hop from our island paradise of Koh Lipe in Thailand. This was because our Thai visa was running out and we wanted a fresh 30 days. Langkawi popped up on our radar as it is incredibly close to border and we could access it by a boat ride in the Adaman Sea of about an hour. Luckily for us, it also has some stunningly cinematic natural beauty to be explored! So, if like us you have only a few days, these are the top things to do in Langkawi for three days.
Where to stay.
We chose to stay near the main tourist beach of Pantai Cenang which turned out to be a good choice in terms of affordability, amenities like restaurants and shops and vicinity to the long strip of white sand beach.
Langkawi is a much bigger island than our previous destination of Koh Lipe, so we rented a scooter from our accommodation. Of course, as is our curse, on the first day we got caught in a thunderstorm! Soakings aside, we found our two wheels to be a very easy and cheap way to get around.
What to see in 3 days?
Day 1 – Into the skies
There are three geoforest parks on Langkawi, of which we managed to visit two. The first, Machinchang Cambrian Geoforest Park, is where the Langkawi cable car is located and this activity is a great way to get a panoramic view of this part of the island. Think Jurassic Park’s lost world and you are pretty much there!
Don’t be put off by the veritable theme park that has been created at the foot, go early and get up the mountain before the crowds descend. We bought the express ticket so we just breezed to the front of the queues for each of the two cable car portions. It’s a little more expensive but definitely worth it when you start to see the mammoth queues later in the day.
The cable car is split into two short portions and both bases have stunning views of the surrounding geoforest park with its lush karsts, the lowlands below and the turquoise sea. The bases themselves are architecturally pleasing and don’t feel like they are spoiling the nature (that’s the job of the other noisy tourists!).
For a small extra fee you can also walk on the structure called the Sky Bridge which is reached via a short walk or a funny little funicular. The bridge is good fun although it does wobble a little and you can scare yourself by standing on the glass windows!
Grab a quick lunch at one of the stalls at the foot of the cable car, there are some cheap eats, but also restaurants. If you are with kids then some of the other activities might be good fun. A couple of things are included within the ticket for the cable car. We did the SkyRex (a 3D dinosaur experience) which lasted 5 minutes and was a bit laughable!
A good afternoon activity that will help you cool off is to visit the nearby Seven Wells Waterfall. After a steep 10 minute walk uphill you reach a small but pleasant waterfall with a cool and refreshing pool.
Day 2 – An activity tour
We chose to visit the second Geoforest Park named Kilim Karst Geoforest Park on an organised tour. The sort of tours you can do on Langkawi involve cycling, walking and kayaking, and we chose a mangrove boat tour with animal spotting and a secluded beach swim. We recommend Dev’s Adventure Tours.
The tour took us through the mangroves which are an essential part of Langkawi’s ecosystem. They played an important role in protecting the island during the 2004 tsunami caused by the Indian Ocean earthquake, along with the hundred or so islands around its coast; the tsunami hit at low tide so the islands offered more resistance to the wave and the mangroves absorbed the rest of the impact. In fact only one person died in the tsunami, nothing short of a miracle.
Our guide informed us about the mangroves and saw the waterways surrounded by limestone outcrops, visited a bat cave, spotted monkeys, iguanas, kingfishers, mud crabs, eagles (make sure your company does not feed them), snakes and fish.
After a short swim at a secluded beach we had a simple lunch in a floating restaurant.
Day 3 – Beach and shopping
Unfortunately, although the beach at Pantai Cenang is pretty, and a long expanse of white sand, the water is a little muddy and the area is geared up for water sports like jetskis and banana boats. That means that there is no snorkelling and the beach can get quite rowdy, not our cup of tea! We are also not the sort of people who like to get burnt to a crisp all day long on the beach, but we do like enjoying a cocktail at sunset. And there were some glorious sunsets to behold!
There are many resorts on the island and they probably have nicer, more secluded beaches.
Langkawi is famous for its shopping, because it has duty-free status. We didn’t find that there was much interesting to buy, but if you wanted to you could stock up on alcohol, cigarettes and chocolate!
We felt that 3 days on Langkawi was enough for us, although, if you had a good budget you would do well to join a couple more tours of the beautiful geoparks and coastline. Just be aware that as the island is very developed for tourism and quite westernised, the prices are automatically higher. There are some slightly dubious attractions on the island which we avoided. The aforementioned noisy watersports were immediately off our list and we didn’t want to visit any of the themed or animal parks. So, in conclusion, Langkawi is very developed, but the natural beauty is there to be discovered if you can manage to dodge the crowds or find a good eco-tour.