Things to See and Do in Sumatra Indonesia

Top 10 Things to See and Do in Sumatra Indonesia 2024

Planning your next trip to Indonesia? Make sure not to miss Sumatra. Sumatra is undoubtedly the ideal destination for both peaceful exploration and relaxation. It’s different from places like Bali or Jakarta.

There are many things to see and do in Sumatra Indonesia. If you are in Medan city, you get a mix of old buildings and city life that feels vibrant and full of history​​.

The real magic starts when you head into nature. Gunung Leuser National Park is amazing for seeing wildlife like orangutans. It made me feel like it was connected to something bigger​​.

Then, there’s Lake Toba. It’s the largest volcanic lake and just being there, with its calm water and beautiful views, is so relaxing​​. The food in Sumatra is full of flavor, with each meal being a delicious surprise​​.

In this post, I’m going to talk about things to do and see in Sumatra. It might help you in selecting places to go and things you want to look into. so that you may organize your trip more effectively. Let’s just get started on this adventure.

Best time to Visit Sumatra Indonesia

When to hit Sumatra? Well, Sumatra has two main seasons: The Dry Season and The Rainy season. I prefer the dry season.

The dry Season is from April to October. It is perfect for almost everything – hitting the beaches in Indonesia, exploring jungles, or catching waves. This is the time of year when favorable weather makes exploring easy.

For Surfing the best is from June to September, so if you’re into that, it’s prime time. But it gets hot, so if you need a break from the heat, the cooler highlands like Berastagi or Lake Toba are the places where you can head to​​.

The rainy season in Sumatra is from October to March. I know you are thinking why would anyone go in the rainy season, but let me tell it has its own benefits. The rainy season is much less crowded which means you can visit Sumatra by staying on a budget.

The prices are low and you can explore freely. The views of the waterfall are even more breathtaking because of how lush and green everything is. Sure, you’ll see some rain, but the temperatures stay nice and warm, and there’s still plenty of sunshine between showers.

Things to See and Do in Sumatra Indonesia

Sumatra is packed with cool things to do and see. From hanging out with orangutans to chilling by the biggest volcanic lake you’ve ever seen, we’ve got a lot to cover.

And the food? Trust me, it’s something you’ve got to try. So, let’s jump right in and see what things you can see and do in Sumatra Indonesia.

#1. Gunung Leuser National Park

Gunung Leuser National Park is a unique spot in Indonesia, where you can see tigers, elephants, orangutans, and rhinos all living in the wild. It’s a huge place that’s part of the Leuser Ecosystem, almost three times bigger than Yellowstone Park in the USA. This park is so special because it’s one of the last places where you can see these animals together in their natural habitat.

Gunung Leuser National Park

The best time to visit is from April to October when the weather is dry, making it great for hiking and seeing animals. But, if you don’t mind a bit of rain and fewer crowds, visiting during the rainy season has its perks too, like cheaper prices and even more lush scenery.

To get there, take a flight to Medan and then travel to Bukit Lawang, the main entrance to the park. You can either hire a driver for a more comfortable ride or take a local bus for a real adventure. The journey takes a few hours, but it’s worth it for the incredible experience of waiting in the park.

Once you’re there, you can go jungle trekking to see the amazing wildlife, tube down the Bohorok River to cool off, or even camp out in the jungle for a night or two. Just make sure you’re prepared with good shoes and a guide, as the park is a wild place with challenging trails and all sorts of animals.

#2. The Sipiso-piso Waterfall, Lake Toba

Sipiso-piso Waterfall is right by Lake Toba. It’s super high, dropping water from way up, about 120 meters down. It’s one of those places you gotta see.

You can start from Berastagi or Samosir Island. It costs next to nothing to get in, just about 5000 IDR, which is super cheap. If you’re driving, parking costs the same.

The Sipiso-piso Waterfall, Lake Toba

Anytime’s good to visit since it’s pretty quiet around there, not like the busy spots in Bali. If you don’t like the heat much, try going early in the morning or later when it cools down. It gets pretty sunny and hot, especially when you’re hiking back up from the bottom of the waterfall.

Speaking of hiking, make sure you wear good shoes because it can get slippery. And yeah, keep your stuff dry. A waterproof bag is a good idea. Also, please don’t litter. It’s such a beautiful place, and it’s sad to see trash around.

If you’re considering staying over, there are places in Berastagi or around Lake Toba. From simple homestays to nicer hotels, you can find a good spot to crash after a day of exploring.

#3. Minangkabau in West Sumatra

Minangkabau is a special place in Sumatra because people there follow the mom’s family line for things like family names and who gets what. They have these awesome big houses called “Rumah Gadang” with roofs shaped like buffalo horns. This style shows up all over, from normal houses to big important buildings.

Minangkabau in West Sumatra

One place you really should see is the Pagaruyung Palace. It’s a big, fancy version of their traditional houses and now it’s a museum where you can learn a lot about how people live there. The palace is near a town called Batusangkar and is surrounded by beautiful gardens.

If you’re into checking out traditional houses, there are several villages around Mt Marapi, like Pariangan, which is super old and full of cool houses. People there might even let you stay in one as a guesthouse. Then there’s Pandai Sikek, known for its crafts and a special house that’s now a store where you can buy traditional stuff.

Bukittinggi, a big city in the area, has a zoo and a museum in one of these houses, showing off the local history and culture. And in Padang, the big city by the coast, you’ll find the Adityawarman Museum, another great spot to learn about Minangkabau culture and see more traditional houses.

#4. Visit the Largest city Medan of Sumatra

Medan is the third big city in Sumatra, Indonesia. It’s known for being busy but it’s got a lot of cool stuff to see. There are old buildings from when the Dutch were around, a big museum that tells you about the area’s history, and some really pretty temples. There’s even a palace called Maimoon Palace that’s all fancy inside and now works like a museum​​.

Maimoon Palace Sumatra

One neat place is the Tjong A Fie Mansion. It mixes different styles and shows how people used to live back in the day. Also, if you like trying new foods, Medan is famous for having really yummy cakes and other dishes. There’s a place called Tip Top Restaurant that’s been around forever and serves up some tasty treats​​.

For something peaceful, you can check out the Vihara Maha Maitreya temple. It’s a big place for Buddhist worship and it’s got a calm vibe to it​​.

The best time to visit Medan is between March and August when it’s not raining much. You can fly into the city’s airport and then take a train, bus, or taxi to get around. There are lots of places to stay, from cheap hotels to fancier ones, especially near the big mosque and other main spots​​.

#5. Go Surfing at Mentawai Islands

Mentawai islands are a paradise with clear water and waves that suit everyone, from newbies to pro surfers. To get there, you start from Padang on Sumatra’s coast, then hop on a boat to the islands. There are different boats available, so you can pick one that fits your budget and how fast you want to get there.

Surfing at Mentawai Islands

The best time to catch waves at the Mentawai Islands is from March to October, but the truth is, you can find good waves any time of the year. When it comes to places to stay, you’ve got options from simple beach huts to fancy resorts. No matter your budget, you can find a cozy spot close to the surf.

The islands have loads of surf spots. Some spots are perfect for those just starting out, while others are challenging enough for the most experienced surfers. You’ve got spots like Beng Bengs for easy-going waves and others like Bank Vaults for surfers looking for a real test.

People often choose between staying at a surf camp on land or joining a surf charter boat. Surf camps are great if you want to stay put and relax after surfing. On the other hand, charter boats are awesome because you can chase the best waves around the islands every day.

#6. Watch the sunrise at Mount Sibayak

Watching the sunrise at Mount Sibayak in Sumatra is an adventure that combines natural beauty with a bit of a challenge. This active volcano offers a unique experience for early risers willing to make the trek to its summit.

The best time to climb Mount Sibayak for sunrise is during the dry season, from April to October when the skies are clearer and the paths are less muddy. Weekdays are ideal since weekends can get crowded with local visitors​​​​.

sunrise at Mount Sibayak

Start your journey from Berastagi, a nearby town, where you can find various accommodation options ranging from simple guesthouses to more comfortable hotels. I would highly recommended to stay in Berastagi the night before your hike to start early and catch the sunrise at the summit.

Accommodations in Berastagi vary, with some offering beautiful sunrise views right from their terraces​​​​.

The hike itself is moderately challenging, taking about 3 to 3.5 hours one way. The path gets steep in places, and the humidity can make the trek feel more strenuous. It’s crucial to wear appropriate footwear, bring plenty of water, and snacks, and wear warm clothing, as it can be quite cold at the top before sunrise. A headlamp is also essential if you’re starting in the dark​​​​​​.

Once you reach the top, the smell of sulfur is strong, but the views are rewarding. The crater’s steam vents are loud and fascinating to observe, just be cautious not to get too close. For those looking for an even more spectacular view, there’s a higher viewpoint that requires a bit more climbing​​.

Remember to register at the hut at the beginning of the trail for safety reasons and to pay a small entrance fee. The trail is easy to follow, but it’s important to stay on the main path to avoid any accidents. Solo hikers should consider finding a companion or joining a group for added safety​​.

#7. Experience the Tallest Waterfall in Indonesia

Sigura Gura Waterfall, nestled in North Sumatra near the magnificent Lake Toba, is Indonesia’s highest waterfall, boasting a spectacular drop of 250 meters. Its proximity to Lake Toba makes it a popular spot for both local and international tourists seeking to experience the refreshing and cool air that revitalizes the body and mind​​​​.

Sigura Gura Waterfall

To get to Sigura Gura Waterfall from Medan, you have a few options. The most straightforward route is to hire a private car or taxi for the approximately 4-5 hour journey. Alternatively, you can take a public bus to Parapat on Lake Toba and then a taxi or shared minibus to Lumban Hutagalung​​.

The best time to visit Sigura Gura is during the dry season from April to October, when the weather is more conducive for hiking and swimming. Despite its allure all year round, the rainy season may present wet conditions, so prepare accordingly​​.

At Sigura Gura, you can marvel at the waterfall’s majestic cascade from a viewing platform or hike down to the pool at the base for a swim in its clear waters. Adventurous visitors can hike to the waterfall’s top for stunning views or take a boat ride on the river below for a different perspective. The nearby village of Lumban Hutagalung offers a glimpse into local Batak culture​​.

Just a reminder, wear comfortable hiking shoes, apply sunscreen and insect repellent, and bring a swimsuit and towel if you plan on swimming. Be mindful of the strong currents in the pool at the waterfall’s base and always respect the local culture and environment​​.

#8. Attend the traditional bull racing (Pacu Jawi)

Pacu Jawi is an amazing bull race that happens in West Sumatra, Indonesia. It is a big celebration for the local people, especially after they finish harvesting rice. The race is unique because it’s done in muddy rice fields, which makes it super exciting and a bit tricky. Each racer, or jockey, rides a pair of bulls and they have to try to keep them running straight and fast, which is not easy at all!

traditional bull racing (Pacu Jawi) in Sumatra

This event is held in different villages in the Tanah Datar area, like Sungai Tarab and Pariangan. It’s about showing off the bulls’ strength and the jockeys’ skill. And there’s a cool part – if the bulls do really well, they can be sold for a higher price afterward. So, it’s also a big deal for the farmers.

Pacu Jawi happens a few times a year, mainly after the rice harvest, but because lots of tourists love to see it, it’s now held more often. If you’re thinking of going, you might want to check when and where it’s happening because the dates and places can change.

Visiting Pacu Jawi is a chance to see something really special. But remember, it’s important to respect the local culture and be safe while enjoying the races. It’s a fun way to learn about the traditions of West Sumatra and see an incredible event​​​​​​.

#9. Spend a Day at Bukit Lawang

Bukit Lawang is a great place in Indonesia where you can see orangutans living freely. It’s right next to a big forest called Gunung Leuser National Park.

The best time to go is from May to September because it’s not too rainy, making it easier to walk around and see animals. But, even in the rainy season from October to April, the place is beautiful with all the plants looking really green and full of life.

Bukit Lawang

To get there, you can take a car or a bus from Medan to Bukit Lawang, which usually takes about 3 to 4 hours. Once you’re in Bukit Lawang, you can walk around most places, but there are also motorcycle taxis if you need to go a bit farther.

If you’re thinking about where to stay, there’s a place called Jungle Inn that’s really close to the forest and makes it easy to start exploring right away. They have comfy rooms and people there can tell you all about the forest and the animals. They also make sure to take care of the environment.

In Bukit Lawang, you can go for walks in the jungle to see the orangutans and other wildlife. It’s a good idea to have a local guide with you because they know the best spots to see animals and can keep you safe.

Remember to bring enough cash because there aren’t any ATMs, and pack light clothes but also something waterproof in case it rains.

#10. Kerinci Seblat National Park

Kerinci Seblat National Park in Sumatra, Indonesia, is a huge rainforest that’s home to the Sumatran tiger and many other rare animals and plants. It’s a great place for those who love the outdoors and want to explore nature.

The dry season from May to September is the best time to visit because the weather is nicer for walking around and seeing wildlife. But even in the rainy season, the forest looks beautiful and green, though some paths might be a bit slippery.

Kerinci Seblat National Park

To get there, take a flight to Padang and then drive for a few hours to reach the park. You can book a ride from your hotel or find a local bus if you want to save some money.

Once you’re there, you can hike up Mount Kerinci, see the biggest tea plantation in the world, relax in hot springs, and try tasty local food at the night market in Sungai Penuh. While seeing a tiger is pretty rare, just being in their home is exciting.

Visiting the park helps support the animals and the people who live nearby. It shows that keeping the forest safe is important for everyone.

Final Thoughts on Things to See and Do in Sumatra

So, here’s the lowdown on Sumatra, Indonesia. You can take Sumatra as your first step into a bigger world, where each person’s adventure is their own, filled with what they love and discover along the way.

I hope this post helps you figure out and plan your trip to Sumatra. It’s an awesome mix of nature, culture, and adventure, all rolled into one amazing place.

It’s where you can go wild in the national parks, meet friendly locals, taste amazing food, and check out ancient spots.

Whether you’re into chilling in beautiful spots, learning about different cultures, or getting your adrenaline fix, Sumatra’s got it all waiting for you.

FAQs Related to Visiting Sumatra

What’s the best time to visit Sumatra?

The dry season, from May to September, is ideal for outdoor activities.

How do I get around in Sumatra?

Local buses, because (motorcycle taxis), and rental cars are common transport options.

Is Sumatra expensive?

Sumatra is generally affordable for travelers, with costs varying by location.

Can I see wildlife in Sumatra?

Yes, Sumatra is home to diverse wildlife, including orangutans, tigers, and elephants.

What food should I try in Sumatra?

Don’t miss trying rendang, nasi goreng, and local coffee.

Is it safe to travel to Sumatra?

Yes, but always take standard travel precautions and respect local customs.

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