Langkawi’s archipelago of 99 islands has a starring role in an abundance of Malay myths and legends – as well as those of its northern neighbour, Thailand. It’s easy to see why – the cluster of forested islands, with sandy white beaches, craggy mountains and spectacular waterfalls, form the perfect mythical backdrop. These days, those same features have made Langkawi a holiday destination beloved by locals and tourists alike. And one crucial new feature: Langkawi’s duty-free status.
Visitors may come for the airport shopping, but they stay for the laidback vibe of the main island. Langkawi is named for the Brahminy kite, the eagles that can be seen wheeling around mountains and best viewed from the cable car that goes up Gunung Machinchang. (Legend has it that this mountain was once a quarrelsome giant.) The surrounding seas are rich in underwater wildlife, while the beaches are home to some of the most luxurious resorts in the country.