Just off the northwestern peninsula of Malaysia where the Indian Ocean narrows to meet the Straits of Malacca, this sleepy archipelago of 99 islands (104 at low tide) was re-imagined as an eco-conscious tropical getaway in the mid-1980s and continues to trade on its natural charms. On June 1, 2007, UNESCO declared the entire island of Langkawi a World Geopark, and each of the three distinct areas make for a spellbinding hike.
Strap on your walking shoes to explore the rugged beauty of the Kilim Karst Geoforest Park. Venture through mythical forests to the shores of the vast freshwater Lake of the Pregnant Maiden at the heart of the Dayang Bunting Marble Geoforestpark. Step aboard the 2.2-kilometre-long SkyCab cable car for dramatic views over deep chasms and dark caves, cliff overhangs and isolated pinnacles as you ascend 708 metres above sea level to crest the 400-million-year-old Machinchang mountain ranges.
You can also hike through the Sungai Kilim Nature Park or take a kayaking tour of Langkawi's mangrove forests to meet some of the island's more colourful locals; or simply opt to take it easy – pack a picnic and find a local boatman to drop you at a remote beach for the day.
While Langkawi is known for its wildlife rather than wild nightlife, the island's tax-free status mean that drinks here are cheaper than the mainland (shoppers will be pleased to hear that goods are tax-free, too) and there is some entertainment to be had.
Pantai Tengah's slightly steeper gradient and deeper water makes it a popular spot for water sports as well as dining, while Pantai Cenang on the west coast is home to Langkawi's most happening beachside pubs and bars: La Sal's sunset cocktails accompanied by a Malaysian tapas platter served on the sand are to die for, and the Cliff Restaurant & Bar, perched on the rocks at the end of this stretch, is a great place to move to for a candlelit dinner
PERFECT FOR COUPLES WHO:
Want to surround themselves with rugged beauty.
MOST BEAUTIFUL BEACH:
Peaceful, casuarina-lined Pantai Tanjung Rhu.
The Canopy Adventure – a flying fox run that takes you through the forest canopy 10 metres off the ground – with hypnotist and Iron Man participant Jürgen Zimmerer