Travel

This Is the New Island Jewel of Southeast Asia

08/03/2015 04:12pm ET | Updated December 6, 2017

by Cynthia Drescher, Condé Nast Traveler

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Photo by Cynthia Drescher

Travelers to Southeast Asia often flock to Bali or Phuket, in search of great food and picturesque beaches, but Malaysia has an underrated island that's been called the "Jewel of Kedah"--and its popularity is on the rise. Here are a few reasons why Langkawi should be your next stop.

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Photo by Cynthia Drescher

1. Langkawi itself is actually a collection of 99 islands, an archipelago of geologic and ecologic significance showcasing a purity of nature not necessarily seen on Malaysia's mainland.

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Photo by Cynthia Drescher

2. The most popular tourist site on Langkawi is the Sky Bridge atop the peak of Gunung Mat Chinchang. The 410-foot curved cable bridge sits 2,170 feet up and has portions of glass floor so you can appreciate the view down as well as around. The way up just happens to involve one of the world's steepest cable car rides and, from an even higher observation point (where we snapped this photo), visitors have a view to the nearby Thai islands of Koh Tarutao, Koh Adang, and Koh Lipe.

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Photo by Cynthia Drescher

3. The Kilim Karst Geoforest Park in Langkawi is an UNESCO-endorsed Geopark, the first in Asia. Home to mangroves, macaque monkeys, tree crabs, freshwater lake oases, bat-filled limestone caves, and channels of swooping white-bellied fish eagles and brahminy kite eagles, the Geopark is best explored by small boat tours or private Jet Ski safaris.

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Photo by Cynthia Drescher

4. The Kilim Karst Geoforest Park in Langkawi is an UNESCO-endorsed Geopark, the first in Asia. Home to mangroves, macaque monkeys, tree crabs, freshwater lake oases, bat-filled limestone caves, and channels of swooping white-bellied fish eagles and brahminy kite eagles, the Geopark is best explored by small boat tours or private Jet Ski safaris.

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Photo by Cynthia Drescher

5. There are no high-rise buildings in Langkawi, and much of the island is still given over to traditional buildings. The Four Seasons Resort, for example, is a low spread of rumah melayu(traditional, Malay-style houses) and villas within the palms and privacy of the island's northern coastline. High ceilings, wooden floors, pebble-bottom reflecting pools, and Spanish marble bathrooms naturally cool the villas and suites (of course there's also air conditioning).

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Photo by Cynthia Drescher

6. There are no "regular" rooms at the Four Seasons. In keeping with its luxury retreat design, all rooms are either suites occupying an entire floor of a Malaysian house (pictured), or entire villas, all equipped with beach cruiser bikes for navigating the sprawling compound of pools, restaurants, lounges, and activity centers. Stays begin from $470 per night.

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