The best Sumatra travel destinations to visit

Weh Island - The picture I took on my trip (for many times)

Sumatra lies in western part of Indonesia consisting of 9 provinces. The lush and pristine rainforest, world class surfing and diving sites are just some of Sumatra travel attractions offered.

Even Though it is not as popular as Bali or Lombok but it is surely have nothing less compared to those two tourist destinations.

So, are you now thinking about packing your bag and travel to Sumatra?

Here’s the list of best Sumatra travel destinations that worth visiting!

1. Weh Island, Aceh, North Sumatra

Weh island is where the zero point of the westernmost Indonesia located, the small and peaceful island offering the world class diving site and pristine tropical beach.

In old time you had to transit in Banda Aceh first before taking boat or ferry to Sabang. The great news is that now, you don’t have to travel to the mainland as it used to be, but you can fly straight away from Kuala Namu airport Medan to Weh Island. Garuda Indonesia, the most reputable airline in Indonesia serves flights 3 time a week from and to Weh Island (Wednesday, Friday and Sunday). And the the budget airline wings air, also serves 3 time a week (Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday).

However, from the mainland Banda Aceh to Weh Island has also easy access, you may take either fast boat (45 minutes) or ferry (2 hours). This makes sense to do if you want to visit Bukit Lawang before or after Weh Island trip.

Therefore, if you love pristine tropical island, and if you are travelling up into North Sumatra, it perfectly makes sense to visit this beautiful island.

You will enjoy all the nice atmosphere of island life offered here, there are great choices for bungalows and guesthouses at affordable prices. And the reputable scuba diving centres are also available in Weh Island.

Weh Island - The picture I took on my trip (for many times)
Weh Island – The picture I took on my trip to Weh Island

2. Banda Aceh

Banda Aceh is the capital of Aceh Province where the most affected city by tsunami happened in December 2004.

This city has many things to offer, if you want to get the picture of tsunami that hit here in 2004 you may visit Tsunami Museum located in the centre. Grand Mosque (“Mesjid Raya Baiturrahman) is another great attraction not to miss, the very beautiful mosque, the pride of Aceh and one of the most beautiful religious attractions in Indonesia.

And don’t leave the city before trying the superb original Aceh coffee, the coffee shop is almost at every corner of the city. Aceh coffee is popular not only all over Indonesia but also in the world. Kopi solong is the legend coffee shop that you might want to try.

Banda Aceh is also the mainland where the harbour connecting the city and Balohan (Sabang, Weh Island) harbour located.

Banda Aceh Grand Mosque Credit to Fred Gaghauna
Banda Aceh Grand Mosque Credit to Fred Gaghauna

3. Gunung Leuser National Park, North Sumatra

Did you read about the an environmentalist and actor Leonardo DiCaprio short and pleasant visit to Gunung Leuser National Park in North Sumatra? Yes, it is indeed a special place as mentioned by this hollywood actor.

Gunung Leuser National park covering 7,927 km2 lush rain forest in northern Sumatra, Indonesia. It is the home for endangered Sumatran orangutans, ancient elephant migratory, many more important wild flora and fauna.

This national park is located in the Barisan mountain range, is named after Mount Leuser (3,119 m), and Bukit Lawang is also part of the park. It is also a World Heritage Site together with Bukit Barisan Selatan and Kerinci Seblat National Parks.

Sumatran Orangutan Credit to Erik B
Sumatran Orangutan, Gunung Leuser National Park, North Sumatra – Credit to Erik B

4. Bukit Lawang, North Sumatra

Bukit Lawang is another one of the main attractions in Sumatra and is a small village that sits on the outskirts of the Gunung Leuser National Park.

This protected area of jungle stretches all the way from Sumatra up into Aceh Province and is the home of a plethora of local flora and fauna.

The main reason why many people come here is to see the local orangutans that live here and you can travel to their feeding platform twice a day to see them swing through the trees in search of bananas.

Trekking is a common pastime here and you can choose from day hikes or longer treks that mean that you can set up camp in the middle of the rainforest.

If you don’t fancy the downhill trek back into Bukit Lawang then you can opt for tubing down the river that runs through the jungle.

The lovely village of Bukit Lawang Credit to Madeleine Deaton
The lovely village of Bukit Lawang Credit to Madeleine Deaton on flickr

5. Lake Toba, North Sumatra

Lake Toba is undoubtedly the main attraction in Sumatra and is around 5 hours away by road from Medan.

The lake has the claim to fame of being the largest crater lake of its kind in the world and is said to be the result of a massive volcanic eruption or, as local legend has it, the result of the wish of a magic fish.

Whatever the true story, the lake that sits in the crater of a long extinct volcano is one of the top sights across Indonesia and you can take a boat out on the water or go for a cooling swim.

On the main island of Samosir you can visit a cultural village to learn about traditional handicrafts like weaving and see some spectacular old fashioned Batak houses made of wood.

You can easily explore the Lake Toba region by car or motorbike and if you travel up into the mountains you will find hot springs and dainty villages dotted around the scenic countryside.

Lake Toba Sumatra Credit to LisArt
Lake Toba Sumatra Credit to LisArt

6. Gunung Sibayak

Gunung Sibayak is one of many volcanoes in Indonesia located on Sumatra island, close to Brastagi town. It is classified as dormant and is one of the easiest volcanoes to climb, even though it has relatively easy trek you will get everything the volcano could offer. Therefore, if you are in the area climbing this mountain is a must.

The hike to the top of Gunung Sibayak is around 7 kilometers long so depending on your fitness levels it should take around three hours to get to the summit.

Even Though the routes is relatively easy to hike but a guide is recommended, especially if you are not an experienced hiker as the it can be slippery when it is raining.

Breath-taking landscaping views of Mount Sibayak North Sumatra - Credit to Seralyn Keen
Breath-taking landscaping views of Mount Sibayak North Sumatra – Credit to Seralyn Keen

Please note that the weather on this mountain is not certain, it can be raining even during the dry season, so make sure to have your rain coat ready in your backpack.

7. Berastagi

Berastagi is the hillside town in North Sumatra and is about only a few hours away from Medan, however the atmosphere and weather are totally different to the busy Medan, Berastagi has more pleasant atmosphere.

Berastagi is also one of the pathways to Mount Sibayak hiking.

8. The Mentawai Islands

The beautiful tropical island and paradise for the surfing lovers, Mentawai Islands are made up of more than 70 little islands off the coast of Padang in West Sumatra, it indeed offer the world class waves to surf, beside, it says that the best surfing conditions in Indonesia.

If you are not into surfing you may also enjoy other activities the islands offered, such as swimming, water sports, and trekking as many of the islands are covered in untouched areas of rainforest.

Mentawai Surfing by Bruno Ahlgrimm
Mentawai Surfing by Bruno Ahlgrimm

9. Nias Island

Nīas ( Indonesian : Pulau Nias and in Nias language called Tanö Niha) is situated on the western coast of Sumatra, Indonesia.

Nias is another island offered outstanding surfing experience for world surfers, it has spectacular waves even though not so many tourists coming here, which are good things for those who are not into touristy area.

Here you will find a less crowded version of Bali and you can easily rent surf or diving equipment and explore the seas around the island.

The area is also famous for its stone jumping tradition where locals have to clear a high stone in a single jump, so make sure to check out this amazing feat of athleticism if you are in the area.

10. Mount Kerinci

Mount Kerinci is the highest volcano in Indonesia, and the highest peak on the island of Sumatra. It is surrounded by the lush forest of Kerinci Seblat National Park, home to the endangered species of Sumatran tiger and Sumatran rhinoceros.

Kerinci and surroundings, Sumatera - Credit to Paul Hessels on flickr
Kerinci and surroundings, Sumatera – Credit to Paul Hessels on flickr
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