Is Langkawi a place you should visit? Does it have beautiful beaches? Is there anything to do? I have spent a week in the island and that’s what I found out
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If you are planning to visit Langkawi you have read and mostly probably thought that this is an island north of Malaysia. It is in fact quite a big archipelago, right on the border with Thailand, not just a single island. In saying that most of the traveller tend to visit Palau Langkawi, the biggest island, where most of the population is.
This is a duty free island and it may appeal the tourists looking for tax free bargains or just after cheaper alcohol. I am not usually a party animal when travelling I must say however I quite enjoyed my cheap sunset cocktails in Pantai Cenang, the main beach in Langkawi.
Langkawi Island expectations
When we planned our trip to this island I was not really sure what to expect. I usually check the social tourist websites to have an idea about the best locations, best routes and of course the best hotels. It’s quite amazing how different is nowadays the travel planning phase compared to just 5-10 years ago where the guide books as Lonely Planet were almost the bible and the only source of information. Are you still buying them?
Comments on the island were quite mixed. There was not really a pattern that would highlight the best beach or the best time to visit the island. Few travellers were not happy about how the island was over developed by the big hotel chains. Others, instead, mentioned how you could find nice little beaches in Langkawi.
We visited the island in April, just after the high season, and we did not have any trouble to find a hotel to stay and, best of all, the island had a small amount of tourists. Pantai Cenang, the most famous beach, was of course quite busy, but never at levels I experienced in some Thai or Balinese beaches. We decided to stay in a small hotel in Pantai Tengah, just 1km from the main busy area and it was a good choice, one of the quietest places I have ever been on vacation. I enjoy going to restaurants, having a drink at the beach, spend the night in a bar, but once back in my bed I love a quiet place to have a rest, something that in Thailand is getting harder and harder to have.
We had a scooter for a week and we travelled all around the main island. We also booked few trips by boat. I think we did cover the island quite extensively at the end. What are the best 7 places to experience and make a photo in the Langkawi Archipelago?
Quite predictable I would say. Unless you are in the island for the solar New Year or the Chinese New Year, this is a beach which will be busy only in the weekend when the local population comes down for a easy relaxing day. It gets busier around sunset time, be there and ready for few nice photos with the archipelago in the background and the local life in the foreground.
Pantai Tengah Island hoping pier
Come here late in the afternoon for few shots of the local boats used for fishing or island hoping. The vegetation is extremely green and you will feel like shooting in a mountain lake. If you are lucky you will encounter also fishermen getting ready for work in the night. It’s not too far awaya from Pantai Cenang, however you will need a scooter or a bike to come here
The animals of the archipelago
There are many unique species you can photograph here. You can organise your own boat trip through the archipelago or you can join a group. For the best photos rent your private boat, it is of course more expensive but you will be able to stop as much as you like in any place. The boat trip will take you to a monkeys community, to the feeding of some beautiful eagles and it will stop in an island cave to watch the huge hanging bats
The Tasik Dayang Bunting lake
This is an extremely popular destination for tourists. It is situated in the Palau Dayang. The unusual thing is that almost everyone stops at the start of the lake, where the man made swimming pools are. Take a walk around the lake and experience the beauty of this area.
The local golf club
This photo experience is not about the beauty of the place, it is about the documentation of the local life style. By the way, $2 and you can play the all day.
The rice fields
If you visit the island during the rainy season you will have better colours of course. However being the island close to the equator, expect possible rain even in the dry season. It does not last too long, just few hours, usually in the late afternoon
If you have a scooter or a car you can venture right in the middle of the island. The alternative is to visit the rice museum in Pantai Cenang. It’s free to enter and if you are lucky there are locals working in the fields as it is a live museum
The Panorama viewpoint
Take the cable car from the Oriental Village to the top of the highest mountain in the island. You will be rewarded with a 360 degrees view of the Langkawi archipelago. Plan your visit as late as you can, based on the opening hours, that may vary depending on the season. Try few shots from the cable car itself, the view is to die for.
Staying in Pantai Cenang or what other area? Good question!!
I like to have few drinks, spend the night at a bar, enjoy some local restaurants however at the same time I love to sleep once I am in my room, without the loud noise of a nearby club.
For this reason I decided to stay in Pantai Tengah. This village is still walking distance from Pantai Cenang, the main centre, however very quiet and relaxing with a beautiful beach as well.
After some investigation we decided to stay at the Tropical Resort. There are few reasons I would suggest this place. Super quiet during the night. Great breakfast all included. Facing the beach (there is a green tree area between the bungalow and the beach). Amazing price for what you get. There is only one drawback, it is quite often booked out. The rooms are extremely clean and on the basic side. I loved the patio in front of the bungalow
The massage shop next door is also another spot to visit for some relaxing time. I do not remember the name however it is really bordering the resort on the left side (it is not part of the resort though)
Travel and Photography Tips
- Stay in Pantai Tengah for a more relaxing and quiet experience
- If you decide to go for an island hoping tour ask few agencies. Prices may vary, although the tour is run by the same company. Go to the Pantai Tengah island hoping pier to book direct, you may have a discount
- Visit the Panorama viewpoint late in the afternoon, you will have the best light. Avoid the middle of the day when it can be misty. Plan it early in your stay as you may have rain in the afternoon and you would have to re-plan the trip
- Make some photos from the cable car, you will experience a lovely view. Remember to set your camera with a shutter speed over 1/500sec for a sharp image
- I have got my best rice fields shots in the Pantai Cenang Rice Museum. Easy to reach, fantastic location. Have a tour there. Early in the morning is better
- The Tasik Dayang Bunting lake may look as a no-go place to visit. You will experience a massive amount of tourists, however they will all be attracted by the local fresh water pools. Have a walk around the lake and you will be alone!
- Pantai Cenang has some magic light on sunset, not to be missed. Include people, it does not have to be just the beach!
- Langkawi is situated close to the equator and the sunset/sunrise is quick. Don’t take it too easy as the best light comes and go very very quickly. Be ready for it
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