The sixth largest island in the world at 473,481 km2 with a population of 50,365,538 has an incredibly diverse range of peoples and cultures. Sumatra is divided into nine provinces: Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam, North Sumatera, West Sumatera, Riau, Jambi, Bengkulu, Bangka-Belitung, Lampung and South Sumatera and the people represent many different ethnic groups, speaking 52 different languages. Most of these groups, however, share many similar traditions and the different tongues are closely related.
Sumatra has a huge range of plant and animal species but has lost almost 50% of its tropical rainforest in the last 35 years and many species are critically endangered such as Sumatran Tiger, Sumatran Rhino and Sumatran Orangutan.
Sumatera is a paradise for nature lovers. National parks cover regions from the northern until the southern tip of the island. Taman National Gunung Leuser in Aceh, is one of the largest national parks in the world and home to a variety of primates, such as gibbons and orangutans, the Sumateran rhinoceros, tigers and elephants. In North Sumatera, the Great Bukit Barisan Forest Reserve is a must for naturalists. The Bahorok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center at Bukit Lawang near Medan is also worth a visit. One of the most exciting river adventures can be found in this region. About 10 hours' drive from Padang, the Kerinci Sablat National Park covers the area around the active volcano, Mount Kerinci (3805 m). The largest park in Sumatera, Kerinci-Seblat contains areas of lowland rainforest home to rhinoceros, tigers, clouded leopards, elephants and a wide variety of bird species. To the east of the mountain is a botanists' haven, a high-altitude freshwater marsh known as Lake Bentu. White water rafting down the rapids and bends of Krueng Tripa and the River Alas is an experience that will make you soaking wet and breathless.
Sumatra is the largest island in Indonesia and has a number of interesting places which can make your tour a lasting memory. Some most popular attractions in Sumatra are described below. During your visit to Sumatra, you must visit these places.
Medan was once the site of a battlefield between the Aceh people and the neighboring Deli Kingdom. Medan is the capital of North Sumatra Province, a trading center and important harbor. Once Medan was part of the Deli Sultanate. What is historically most interesting are the Mesjid Besar (Grand Mosque) and the Palace of the Sultan of Deli, which has been restored to revive its past grandeur.
Medan's harbor town is called Belawan, which is the sea link to Penang, Malaysia. Medan, Indonesia's western international gateway maintains regular flight to Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Amsterdam and Vienna. Additionally, there are several air connections between Medan and Jakarta, and other destinations in Sumatra.
Medan has the largest crocodile farm in Indonesia. Here one can see how the crocodile eggs are hatched, and then reared somewhere else. This farm is located at Asam Kumbang, 5 km from the heart of the city, and has nearly 2000 crocodiles of different kinds.
This place is for the adventurous, accessible through Sumatra's inland wilderness, crossing rivers and going over steep hills. The area lies south of the Mount Leuser National Park, a rehabilitation center for orangutans in Bahorok, which was inaugurated in 1973, Orangutans living here are of Sumatra and Kalimantan origin.
Great Bukit Barisan Forest Park
Located at Tongkoh village in the district of the Karo highlands, approx. 59 km from Medan. Formerly Tahura Bukit Barisan since 1916, known for its location called “Arboretum Tongkoh Brastagi”, however since 1989 renovated and renamed Great Bukit Barisan Forest Park. Found there is the zoological museum and a gazebo with Karo ornaments designed on the top of the roof, painted with various writings of typical welcome greetings in Tapanuli, which is “Horas.”
Brastagi, a tourist town, is another lovely town located in the Karo highlands. The town is known for its plantations and various kinds of flowers, vegetables and fruit, most famous of which is the “Marquisa” passion fruit. It's 66 km southwest of Medan and is 4.594 feet above sea level. There is a pleasant colonial-style hotel with a golf course. Other new hotels can also be found. From Gundaling Hill a clear view of Mt. Sibayak and Mt. Sinabung volcanoes can be seen.
The Village of Lingga
Located some 15 km from Brastagi, is a unique Batak Karo village where traditional houses are still well preserved and inhabited today. Five to six families live in each house, un-separated by any partition, while each family have their own stoves.
Sipiso-piso Waterfall and Tongging
Tongging is a place to see a waterfall surrounded by beautiful sights in cool mountain air. It is 24 km from Kabanjahe, located at the north side of Lake Toba. The 360 feet waterfall is visible from a gazebo at one top of a hill.
House of Bolon (Rumah Bolon), the long house that belonged to King Simalungun, has now been restored and redesigned into a museum.
Lake Toba - Parapat
The town of Parapat is the main tourist resort and lies on the very shore of Lake Toba. This lake is about 50 miles long and 16 miles across, with a depth of about 1,400 feet. In Parapat live Batak Toba and Batak Simalungun tribes, and are happy and easygoing people. They are known for their lively and sentimental love songs. Recreational sports in Parapat are among others swimming, water skiing, motor boating, canoeing and fishing. Golf is at Sally golf course (19 holes), about 5 km from Parapat. The climate in Parapat is cool and dry, making Parapat an ideal place to relax. Small shops sell souvenirs such as “Ulos” (local woven cloths) and specific fruits locally grown.
The island of Samosir is right in the middle of Lake Toba, covering an area of 329 square miles. This island is the original home of the fiercest but kind hearted Toba Bataks. It can be reached in half an hour by boat from Parapat. The villages of Tomok, Tuk-tuk, Siallagan, Ambarita are recommended for traditional Batak Toba houses, and local dances.
Jangga is a village of native Bataks, located in the hills, on the main road to other Batak communities living separately there, like Lumban Nabolon, Tonga-Tonga Sirait Uruk, Janji Matogu, Sihubak hubak, Siregar, Sigaol, Silalahi Toruan Muara and Tomok Sihotang. There are monuments of King Tambun and King Manurung, traditional houses, cultural and other historical remains left by Batak kings centuries ago. This original native Batak village has complete ornamentation, and is much visited by domestic and foreign visitors. Visitors can watch young girls or old women weaving the beautiful ulos cloth inside the booths their principle livelihood beside agriculture.
Pematang Siantar is the second largest city, lying 128 km to the South of Medan. On the way, you will pass through many rubber, cocoa, palm oil, tobacco and tea plantations. This is the richest part of North Sumatera, because these plantations produce the main export commodities. Then onward to Lake Toba you will see a vast stretch of land covered with thick forests, plantations, terraced rice fields, lush vegetation, green hills and mountains.
A seaside resort with white sandy beaches where a fishing village can be found 11 km from Sibolga. Here the visitors can enjoy the magnificent view of the Indian Ocean and see fishermen in their sailing boats from the beach to the open sea. The restaurants offer you the grilled fresh fish just caught from the sea. Small souvenir shops selling seashells, corals, ring-stones, etc. are available here.
This island lies off West Sumatra in the Indian Ocean. The villages of Bawomataluo and Hilisimae are curions places to visit, where visitors can see performances of traditional war-dances and thrilling high- jump sports, i.e. people making dangerous leaps over 2 meter-high stones. Typical scenes are dancers clad in traditional costumes with bird feathers on their heads, a hall for the Chief-of Tribe built on wooden logs with stone chairs weighing up to 18 tons.
It lies in the southern part of North Sumatra, bordering the provinces of West Sumatra and Riau. This region has a population of about 900,000 and lies on the way to West Sumatra. The sceneries are attractive all the way. Some of the tourist objects are Candi Portibi, Dolok Simago-mago, Pakantan, Husor Tolang, Sibanggor, Adian Lungun Niroha. There is also hot springs at Tor Sibohi. This district is known for its ceramics and handicrafts. The Portibi temple is at Padang Bolak, 78 km from Padang Sidempuan, or 518 km from Medan. There are cultural remnants of a Hindu temple of the Kingdom of Panai, founded in 1039 A.D.
The capital of West Sumatera, Padang has several houses built in traditional architecture including the Padang Museum, which houses objects of cultural and historical interest. Its beach on the bay of Bungus with its white sands is good for swimming, boating or just watching the fishing boats going out to sea in the afternoon. Small boats can be hired from here to some small islands nearby: Sirandah, Sikoai, Pagang, Parsumpahan.
The heart of the highlands, Bukittinggi is a two-hours drive through beautiful countryside of the Anai valley and up to the Agam Plateau. A center of attraction is the town's clock tower, topped with a horn- shaped roof and referred to by the people as Jam Gadang. It overlooks the market square and the city's magnificent surroundings. Located 930 meters above sea level, Bukittinggi, formerly named Fort De Cock by the Dutch, has a cool climate and is surrounded by three volcanoes: Tandikat, Singgalang and Merapi. In the outskirts of the town is the Ngarai Sianok, a canyon separating Bukittinggi from Kota Gadang, 12 km away overland. Kota Gadang is renowned for its fine silver filigree and hand embroidery. Also worth visiting is the Museum that is a Rumah Gadang, a traditional extended family house built in the 19th century. There are dance performances at the museum's open stage every Sunday and on public holidays. Night dance performances are at Sliguri. It is also worth seeing the bullfights at Padang Lawas (6 km south of Bukittinggi) every Tuesday at 5.00 p.m.
Taman Hutan Raya Bung Hatta
It is a botanical garden covering 70,000 ha, with a rare collection of flora and fauna, situated on the way to Solok, about 300 - 1,000 m above sea level. The cool mountain air and panoramic views make this area a popular resort for both the young and old. Monkeys and other animals can be seen here, and are protected by the Park Warden.
The village of Pandai Sikat is 10 km from Bukittinggi with its hand weaving and carving industry. The village has 1000 looms and turns out richly interwoven cloth. Carved wooden ornaments and furniture are also made here.
A winding road with 44 sharp turns descends to Lake Maninjau, 36 km from Bukittinggi. A crater lake, it abounds with fish. There are also facilities for swimming and water skiing. The village of Matur, overlooking lakes, arranges dance performances on request.
Another ideal place for recreation and water sport is Singkarak Lake, 36 km from Bukittinggi.
A picturesque village and market place. Fine basketry is available here. It is 35 km from Bukittinggi and a little further up is the most dramatic view on the Harau Valley.
Along the road to Harau Valley is a lovely countryside. Steep granite walls shelter the fertile valley. A waterfall, 150 meters high falls into a basin. The Harau Valley is a nature and wildlife reserve, where tapir, siamangs, boars, wild goats and tigers still roam. The Harau Valley is 15 km from Payakumbuh.
Rimba Panti Nature Reserve
Fauna and flora of the Rima Panti Nature Reserve are protected. It is situated 103 km from Bukittinggi. Stop at Batang Palupuh, 16 km from Bukittinggi. There, in a small reserve is the Rafflesia Arnoldi, the biggest flower in existence, which blooms only once a year. Sixty km from Bukittinggi on this road is a small monument defining the equator at the village of Bonjol. The reserve's inhabitants include several species of monkeys, honey bears, tigers, flying squirrels, birds, butterflies, etc. A guide can be obtained from the office at the reserve. The provincial office of the Directorate of Nature Conservation (BKSAA) at Padang can give you complete information.
Pantai Arta and Kata
Both these places are popular beach resorts for the local people. Arta beach is located about 23 km from the center of Pariaman. It is known for its beautiful pine trees along the seashore. The sandy beaches, clean water and bright sunshine are perfect for swimming and sunbathing. The pine trees can protect you from the direct sunrays. Kata beach is about 2 km south of Pariaman.
Four islands make up the Mentawai cluster off the West Sumatra coast: Siberut, Sipora, Pagai Utara and Pagai Selatan. The people of these islands still live in comparative isolation, maintaining their age-old ways. Siberut is well known for its untouched forests; a part of a nature reserve inhabited by a number of animal species not found anywhere else, among them some rare monkey species. Beautiful coral reefs are found offshore.
The surroundings of the Anai Valley are magnificent. The dense tropical forest all around is most impressive and is a nature reserve. Below runs the river Anai with its crystal clear water. Just on the side of the road is a 40 m high waterfall.
Ngalau Indah Caves
On the road from Bukittinggi to Payakumbuh these caves extend deep into the mountainside. The domain of thousands of bats that you won’t see but only hear and sense as they fly close over your head. At the main entrance is a stone with an outline of an elephant visible on its face. The coolness and damp air is refreshing after the tropical heat outside. The path through these caves leads out to the top of the mountain from where it is quite panoramic. The drive up to the hillside is itself worth making because of the variety of the exquisite views along way.
An old small town, 50 km southeast of Bukit-tinggi, it is a centre of the ancient Minangkabau culture. Pagaruyung is the historical site of a Minangkabau kingdom in the 14th century. Nearby is where some archaeological vestiges, such as the Written Stone, the Stabbed Stone and some other relics can be found.
It is said that this little village came into being at the time of the big deluge. It is situated on the slopes of Mt. Merapi, thought to be the cradle of the Minangkabau culture. This historical village still reflects the pure social structure of the Minangkabau conception of a village. A mosque, a council house and traditional houses with rice-barns form the nucleus of the village.
The conservatory of Padangpanjang is a national institute specializing in the Minangkabau music and dances.
Solok, Diatas and Dibawah Lakes
Solok lies on the Trans-Sumatra Highway, 64 km from Padang and 76 km from Bukittinggi. The town has some fine examples of Minangkabau architecture with horn-shaped roofs and outer walls of wood, completely carved and painted in brilliant colors. 60 km from Solok are the Twin Lakes (Danau Diatas and Danau Dibawah) which are becoming popular as a holiday resort. Cool mountain air and beautiful landscapes seen from the hill between the two lakes have made this spot extraordinary. Set only about 1 km apart, one of the lakes is on a slightly higher elevation than the other. The spot offers an impressive panorama of the surrounding countryside and offers itself excellently to hiking or camping.
About 160 km upstream on the Siak river, Pekanbaru, Riau's provincial capital, has a number of buildings in the traditional style of the area, among them the Balai Dang Merdu, the Balai Adat and Taman Budaya Riau or Riau Cultural Park.
The Siak Sultanate's Park
Sultan Syarif Hasyim Abduljalil Syarifuddin built this Moorish style palace of the Sultan of Siak, 120 km upstream from Pekanbaru on the Siak River, in 1889. Now a museum, the palace contains the sultanate's royal paraphernalia and other items of historical interest. Established during the 16th century, the Siak Seri Inderapura sultanate lasted until 1946, when it became victim to the popular upheavals following the Japanese surrender at the close of World War II.
Candi Muara Takus
Like many other structures of its kind in Sumatra, this Buddhist stupa near the village of Muara Takus in the Tigabelas Koto district, was built with red bricks and sand. The temple is believed to have been built at around the 9th or 10th century A.D. when the power of the South Sumatra-based Sriwijaya Empire was at its peak. Excavations are still being made to determine the precise age and function of the stupa.
A busy little town on Bintan Island visited by traders from Jakarta, Medan, Palembang and other big cities in Indonesia. Tanjung Pinang is only a two-hour boat ride away from Singapore. The town has a Museum located on jalan Katamso.
A large section of the old part of the town was built in traditional local fashion, on stilts, over the water. Bintan is a good point of departure to other islands in the area.
This island, six km away from Tanjung Pinang, can be reached in 15 minutes by sampan boat. The seat of the powerful Bugis descended viceroys of Riau during the 18th century; Penyengat still bears the traces of its illustrious past. Ruins, abandoned for almost 70 years, were recently restored. The old ruler's palace and royal tombs, among them the grave of the respected Sultan Haji, author of the first Malay Language grammar book, are among the legacies left by the Riau sultanate. Still in use is the old vice-royal mosque, the Mesjid Raya. A newly built cultural center for stage performances of Malay music and dances can also be found.
Kerumutan Nature Reserve
Located on mainland Riau in the Kuala Kampar district, this 120,000 hectares (30,000 acres) nature reserve can be reached in 18 hours by motorboat from Pekanbaru. The boat sails up a calm river surrounded by virgin forests.
The Island of Batam
A very strategic island in Indonesia, Batam lies close to Singapore, designated as a center of not only industry, but also tourism and trade. It is one among Indonesia's key locations of industrial growth. The Batuampar area is called a pioneer area and is being rapidly developed. While in the region of Sekupang significant projects have been in progress. The Nongsa region has been set-aside as a recreation area. Four golf courses, hotels, motels and marina sports facilities are there as well as a forest reserve managed by the Batam Industrial Development Authority. The Batam Center is designed for the administrative and commercial centre of Batam Island. Hotels of international standard have recently been completed on Nogsa Beach. Batam can be reached in two hours from Tanjung Pinang by ferry, and in about half an hour from Singapore.
Riau with its thousands of islands has plenty of scenic beaches and diving spots, among them Trikora on Bintan and Pasir Panjang on Rupat Island. The first is about 50 kilometers south of Tanjung Pinang on the eastern side of the island. Pasir Panjang, on the northern side of Rupat facing the Strait of Malacca, is a stretched out natural beach with waves that make it attractive for surfing. Good beaches are also found on the islands of Terkulai and Soreh, about an hour's distance by boat from Tanjung Pinang. One of the most popular beaches is Nongsa on Batam Island. From here one can see the Singapore skyline.
Sea gardens with beautiful corals and fish are found in the waters around the islands of Mapor, Abang, Pompong, Balang, and Tanjung Berkait.
The Musi River
By Javanese standards the Musi river is both very broad as well as long, comparable to those found on the big island of Kalimantan, formerly Borneo. The river flows right through the city, cutting it in two halves called the Ulu bank and the Ilir bank and linked by a bridge of considerable size and length, called the Ampera Bridge. If visitors do not care to make an interesting or unique boat trip down the river, they could still take a walk halfway over the bridge to see the vast panorama surrounding them, rare at any other place in Indonesia. Down below they will see unbelievable traffic of boats, big and small, crisscrossing water lines without accidents as if steered by the most able navigators. From the same spot both halves of the city are clearly visible as well. And if the time were right, sunrises and sunsets as witnessed from the bridge would be an unforgettable sight of beauty. Worthwhile noticing are the floating restaurants and shops on both sides of the river, and other curious scenes of daily habits of the city's inhabitants.
An annual event is the Bidar Race, held on or around Independence Day, each 17th of August. Measurements of the competing boats are 24,5 m long and only 0.75 m wide, each boat carrying as many as 50 oarsmen.
"Limas", the traditional house
Another interesting item to see is the Limas house, which are still found, scattered over the province, most of them built on riversides, however, not facing the waterfront. One explanation could be that daily household activities can be done in full privacy, out of sight of passers-by. These very ornate wooden houses built on stilts have rather sizable measurements: from 15 to 20 m in width and from 30 to 60 m in length. A good part of the house has hand-carved columns, door and window frames and cross ventilation between the rooms by placing wooden panels with flow-through carvings just below the ceilings. Indeed, it would almost be a must to observe the architecture and style of these Limas houses, some of them open to the public.
The State Museum
Relatively new the building was erected in 1977 only, however, its collection of around 2000 relics and antiquities originating from the province itself would make a visit here definitely worthwhile. See ancient household articles, utensils and looms, hunting tools, a bridal room and some preserved animals of the region.
Ki Kede Ing Suro ancient cemetery
This cemetery dates back from the 16th century where as many as 38 ancient tombs are found of which one of them belongs to Ki Gede Ing Suro, one of the prominent forefathers of South Sumatera's present society. Notably, these 38 tombs are found under one roof of one building.
Bangka Island's Matras Beach
Bangka can best be reached by air from Jakarta by scheduled flight in just about an hour by jet. However, boat service from Palembang to either Muntok or Pangkal Pinang is adequate and should not take more than an overnight voyage. This island lies right at the mouth of the Musi River in the South China Sea and is one of world's major producers of tin. A beach of exceptional measurements, 300 - 400 m wide and 6 1/2 km long, called Matras Beach is located 44 km north of Pangkal Pinang, the island's capital. Fine, white and clean sands make this beach area most attractive to sun and beach lovers, whereas at this time the Parai Beach Hotel with 35 rooms already exists right on the beach.
On the other side of the island at Muntok you can find the Ranggam House built in 1921 on the hill overlooking the sea.
It is like a big lodging house where at one time the first Indonesian president was held captive along with some of his close followers during the nation's physical revolution.
The President's car at the time has still been kept in tact and can be seen by the public at the House's opening hours.
Closer to the capital is the Pasir Padi Beach, just 7 km from Pangkal Pinang and is merely a place to rest or swim and sunbathe.
There is no accommodation as tourists normally come to this beach from the city and villages around this place, 4 km long and about 20 to 60 m wide with endless coconut trees to give it a genuine tropical setting.
Adjacent to Bangka Island is Belitung Island, another tin producer, with its capital city called Tanjung Pandan. If you are interested in visiting both islands, the best way to do it is to leave by air from Jakarta to either island first, and then cross over to the other one by boat and onward to Palembang to visit the rest of South Sumatera.
To save time, energy and money, it would not be recommended to make a special side trip to either Bangka or Belitung out of Palembang, but rather these three destinations should best be covered in a single line of direction.
The Belitung Tourism Development Corporation is at present in the midst of a huge tourism project at Tanjung Kelayang Beach, half an hour from the capital by car. A complete beach resort hotel with all modern facilities should be finished by 1992 and promises to become a great success for the area because of its proximity to Singapore, Sumatera and Java.
“Punti Kayu” Natural Pine Forest
This recently built recreational complex covers an area of 50 hectares, consisting of four parts: an amusement park, a recreation park, a natural forest, and a man-made lake.
In this complex are to be found a children's playground, a cultural park, a souvenirs shop, restaurants and an information booth. Because of its proximity to the capital and easy accessibility, this complex actually caters mainly to the local inhabitants of the city of Palembang; however, international tourists may enjoy passing a calm day here to watch urbanites amuse themselves.
Rich in the number of small as well as big rivers flowing through this province, waterfalls of various sizes come with them too. The biggest in the region is the “Tenang” waterfall where the water smashes down from a height of 90 meters into a deep pool and further downstream in a strong current. By public transportation it takes 2 hours from Palembang, however, less by private car. Located in the Muara Enim regency.
Forty kilometers from Palembang, Kamero Island is a popular recreation site in the middle of the Musi River. The island has a Buddhist temple.
The capital of Lampung has several interesting places such as the Museum and the Monument of the Krakatau Eruption. Worthwhile seeing or doing is the weaving process of Tapis textile, art and dance performances or just sunbathing on the beach.
Museum of Lampung
Located at Teuku Umar Street, it can be reached within 15 minutes from the centre of Bandar Lampung. It contains ethnographic and archaeological collections, Chinese ceramics, traditional music instruments, ancient Tapis cloth and ornaments.
Way Kambas Reserve and Way Wako River
Way Kambas is a 2-hour drive from Bandar Lampung. 130,000 hectares of area on Lampung's East coast, Way Kambas is the best place to watch wild Sumatran elephants, tigers and many species of birds. Motorboats can be hired at Way Kanan for cruising around and up the river.
Way Kanan River
Here we can sail along Way Kanan and Way Kambas by canoe or boat to watch the surrounding flora and fauna while in the mouth of Way Kambas, it's good for fishing and swimming. In the morning, we can safari for 2 hours through the prepared track and listen to wild animals roaring and birds singing.
Elephant Training Centre
Way Kambas Elephant Training is an international project, which is partly funded by the World Wildlife Fund. The aim of training them is to make the captured elephant be useful to mankind. Most visitors come to Way Kambas to see the training centre and to have an opportunity to ride on an elephant. Simple tourist facilities are available at Way Kanan such as lodges, wooden houses on poles, riverboats and an observation centre. Way Kambas is accessible by car from Bandar Lampung. The activities and special interests are bird watching, jungle tracking, elephant’s safari, and river cruises.
An uninhabited island Krakatoa is located on the southern part of the Bay of Lampung. Krakatoa is reachable in three hours by boat from Canti, a fisherman village near Kalianda, South Lampung. This group of islands consists of four islands; one of them is called Anak Krakatau (Child of Krakatoa), which has grown higher every year.
Anak Krakatau has emerged from the bottom of the sea between three other islands by early 1928 or 45 years after Krakatoa's 1883 formidable eruption.
Pugung Archaeologicai Site
Located in Pugung Raharjo village, 40 km. northeast of Bandar Lampung is a site of megalithic and prehistoric relics as well as of the classical Hindu Buddhist period. There are primitive trenched fortresses, which almost surround its site. Stone inscription, ancient Chinese porcelains, Polynesian statue and the statue of Bodhisatwa are at the museum, a house on poles located on the way to Pugung Raharjo.
Merak Belantung Beach
Located 40 km south of Bandar Lampung on the way to the seaport of Bekauheni. The beach is ideal for swimming and wind surfing. Cottages and equipment for wind surfing are available.