Langkawi, officially known as Langkawi, the Jewel of Kedah (Malay: Langkawi Permata Kedah) is an archipelago of 99 islands (an extra 5 temporary islands are revealed at low tide ) in the Andaman Sea, some 30 km off the mainland coast of northwestern Malaysia. The islands are a part of the state of Kedah, which is adjacent to the Thai border. On July 15 2008, Sultan Abdul Halim of Kedah had consented to the change of name to Langkawi Permata Kedah in conjunction with his Golden Jubilee Celebration. By far the largest of the islands is the eponymous Pulau Langkawi with a population of some 45,000, the only other inhabited island being nearby Pulau Tuba. Langkawi is also an administrative district with the town of Kuah as the capital and largest town. Langkawi is a duty-free island.
Another reference found in the book by Tun Mohamed Zahir titled The Legends of Langkawi which says that the name is a mix of two Sanskrit words—"Langka" (beauty) and "Wi" (innumerable).
Langkawi lies north of the Strait of Malacca in the southern Andaman Sea near the border between Malaysia and Thailand. A few kilometres to the north lies the neighbouring Thai island of Ko Tarutao. The island group's main town, on the main island, is Kuah.
Langkawi's highest point is Gunung Raya, rising to 890 m above sea level in the main island's central-eastern area.
The archipelago consists of 99 islands with a total land area of 528 km2 (204 sq mi).
Langkawi is also the site of the Mahsuri legend The legend speaks of a young woman who was accused of adultery and was executed by the public despite her pleading innocence. Mahsuri, before her death, made a curse on the island for seven generations of bad luck. Langkawi eventually came under the influence of the Sultanate of Kedah, but Kedah was conquered in 1821 by Siam and Langkawi along with it. The Anglo-Siamese Treaty of 1909 transferred power to the British, who held the state until independence, except for a brief period of Thai rule under the Japanese occupation of Malaya during World War II. Thai influences remain visible in the culture and food of Langkawi.
From the Kuah jetty, there are high-speed ferry connections to Satun in southern Thailand, Pulau Payar, Penang, Kuala Kedah and Kuala Perlis in the mainland of Peninsular Malaysia. Star Cruises ships dock at the Awana Porto Malai harbour on the west coast of the island. Malaysia Airlines has daily flights to Langkawi whilst AirAsia flies from Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu. SilkAir flies to Langkawi from Singapore and there is a Penang-Langkawi flight route operated by Firefly airline. The Langkawi island has a well developed road network. Taxis and car rentals are available at the Langkawi International Airport.
Sheltered by the mountainous backbone of Peninsular Malaysia, Langkawi escapes the northeastern winter monsoon entirely and enjoys sunny skies when the eastern provinces are flooded.
Langkawi remained a sleepy backwater until 1987, when the island was granted tax-free status with the intention of promoting tourism. Subsequently the island's airport was upgraded and ferry links were increased.
Beginning 1990s, Langkawi competes with nearby Penang for the title of Malaysia's largest tourist draw. Resorts and 5-star hotels line the beaches and in the winter high season, direct flights land from as far as Europe and Japan.
Besides being tax-free, the beach and eagle, another attraction in Langkawi is the Cable Car to the tops of Gunung Mat Cincang at 705 m above sea level. Galeria Perdana a collection of over 2500 gift to the fourth Prime Minister of Malaysia, Mahathir Mohamad.
Langkawi used to be the starting point of the annual international cycling race Tour de Langkawi cycling event, however after 2000, Langkawi was omitted from the race itinerary. Langkawi also hosts the biennial Langkawi International Maritime and Air Show (LIMA).
Langkawi has played host to the Malaysian Ironman triathlon since 2000.