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20 Top Things to Do in Sumatra, Indonesia (No.12 is Very Beautiful)

by steve

Sumatra is the largest island in the western part of Indonesia and the sixth largest island in the world. Due to its strategic location in the Straits of Malacca, Sumatra has been interacting with the foreign world since ancient times. A lot of traders from Arab and China stopped by in the northern part of this island during their voyage. As such, Sumatra possesses a long history, interesting cultures, impressive natural beauties, and also endemic flora and fauna. In ancient times, people found quite a number of gold deposits in Sumatra’s highland. Because of this, Sumatra earns an epithet in Sanskrit; Swarnadwipa and Swarnabhumi, which means Island of Gold and Land of Gold, respectively. The first recorded usage of the word Sumatra was in 1017, when the King of Srivijaya sent an envoy to China, bearing the title Haji Sumatrabhumi or King of Sumatra.

The island of Sumatra is prone to earthquakes. The earthquake comes from the high amount of volcanic activity, due to the Sumatra’s location on the Pacific Ring of Fire. The entire island also lies between the Great Sumatran Fault and Sunda megathrust, which contributes to the earthquake and tsunami frequency in the area. The greatest of these earthquakes that ever happened recently is the 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake, with more than 170.000 Indonesian casualties and lasting for more than 500 seconds. Other high-magnitude earthquakes that happened recently in Sumatra includes the 2005 Nias Earthquake and the 2010 Mentawai Earthquake.

Sumatra is the number one coffee producer in Indonesia, with the Arabica variety commonly found in the highlands, and the Robusta in the lowlands. Sumatra also produces oil in great quantity; both from underground in the form of fossil fuel and above the ground in the form of palm oil. In fact, the palm oil industry is one of the reasons why this island is of great economic importance to Indonesia. Due to the massive deforestation to open up new palm oil fields, Sumatra often causes a serious haze to neighboring countries such as Malaysia and Singapore.

The strategic location of Sumatra enables it to support a wide array of ecological biodiversity. A lot of endemic animals are native from Sumatra, such as the gigantic Rafflesia Arnoldi, Sumatran Orangutan, Sumatran Ground Cuckoo, and more. The island of Sumatra itself is divided into ten provinces, each with their own unique tourist destination and attractions. All of these wondrous kinds of stuff surely will give every visitor and tourist a thrill of their lifetime. In this list, you can find a lot of things to do in Sumatra Indonesia to make your visit more memorable and interesting.

As the northernmost province of Sumatra and the northwesternmost region of Indonesia, Aceh is one of the three-province in Indonesia that holds a special status. Due to the strong Islamic heritage, the people of Aceh use Sharia law instead of Indonesian law like in the other provinces. These are the most interesting places to visit in Aceh as part of your Sumatran trip.

1. Baiturrahman Grand Mosque
baiturrahman grand mosque
This magnificent mosque is the greatest icon of Acehnese people. It symbolizes religion, culture, peace, spirit, strength, and nationalism and one of the landmarks that survived the 2004 tsunami. This majestic-looking mosque was originally designed by Gerrit Bruins, a Dutch architect. The grand domes and minarets are the perfect example of Mughal revival style. The Grand Mosque was built using exotic and rare materials, such as Chinese marbles for their floors and staircases, Belgium stained-glass windows, ornate bronze chandeliers, decorated wooden doors, and stones from the Netherlands. The mosque is very popular among the locals as the place to spend time during the fasting period of Ramadhan. It is truly the pride of Aceh province.

The Grand Mosque was built using exotic and rare materials, such as Chinese marbles for their floors and staircases, Belgium stained-glass windows, ornate bronze chandeliers, decorated wooden doors, and stones from the Netherlands. The mosque is very popular among the locals as the place to spend time during the fasting period of Ramadhan. It is truly the pride of Aceh province.

2. Weh Island

weh islandWeh Island is the northwesternmost outpost of Indonesia and is popularly known for its ecosystems and natural beauties. There are lots of coral reefs surrounding this island, making this island a good spot for snorkeling and diving. The beaches are beautiful as well, most of them are still in a pristine condition due to the remoteness of the island and rarity of tourist around here. A sparkling blue water that is clear as a crystal will surely make your snorkeling and diving trip more enjoyable. As there is no public transport around this island, visitors are advised to rent a vehicle. This island is one of the 26 places in the world where you can spot megamouth shark, a rare kind of shark that eats krill and planktons just like a whale shark.

As there is no public transport around this island, visitors are advised to rent a vehicle. This island is one of the 26 places in the world where you can spot megamouth shark, a rare kind of shark that eats krill and planktons just like a whale shark.

3. Banda Aceh

banda acehAs the provincial capital of Aceh, this city holds an impressive array of landmarks and tourist destinations, due to its long history. One of the most famous things to do while you’re in Banda Aceh is to visit their keude kupi or coffee shop, where they serve a special brew of coffee. There are several festivals that held annually in Aceh, which definitely is a must-see if you happen to be visiting around the time it takes place. These festivals are the Coffee Festival that is held in May, the Krueng Aceh Festival that is usually held by the end of the year, the

These festivals are the Coffee Festival that is held in May, the Krueng Aceh Festival that is usually held by the end of the year, the Geulayang Tunang Kite Festival that is usually held in the mid-year, and more. Other interesting activities in Banda Aceh includes visiting the Aceh woman revolutionist Cut Nyak Dien’s house, the Indonesian Airline Monument, and the Museum of Aceh.

Places to Visit in North Sumatra

North Sumatra is the homeland of Batak ethnic group in Indonesia. This province is one of the top 10 most visited provinces in Indonesia, according to the Ministry of Tourism. Judging by the amount and sheer awesomeness of the object of interest, that statement is most certainly true. In fact, the tourist’s destinations in this province are so plentiful it might need an article of its own. Here are some of the best of those destinations.

4. Lake Toba

Lake Toba is the largest caldera lake in the world. According to some sources, it was the result of a massive supervolcanic eruption that takes place around 60.000 – 70.000 years ago. The eruption was so catastrophic it wipes out every population nearby and creates a change in climate. Nowadays, Lake Toba is a very popular tourist spot. It offers an impressive view and boasts a wide array of vegetation around and inside the lake. Since the lake itself is poor in nutrient, there are not much fish living in the lake.

In the middle of the lake is the famous Samosir Island, the largest island within an island in the world. The island is pretty famous among tourists as a cultural center for the Batak people and there are a lot of traditional Batak houses still in pristine condition in the island. There is a ferry service that connects the island to the Sumatra mainland that departs every hour during 08.30 to 19.00.

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Things to do in Bintan Island – Things to Do in Gili Islands

Lawang Hill or Bukit Lawang is the largest sanctuary of Sumatran orangutan. It acts as a rehabilitation and conservation center for the critically endangered primate. Around 5.000 Sumatran orangutans live freely inside this area. The rehabilitation center is open to the public; tourists can stay in the nearby hotels and lodging to observe these mammals in their natural habitat.

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Things to Do in Palembang

6. Nias Island

Nias is the largest island in an archipelago of the same name, off the western coast of North Sumatra province. It is the home of the Nias ethnic group. The diverse and unique culture has been the main attraction of Nias Island for centuries. The most prominent cultural shows are their famous War Dance and Stone Jumping ritual, something that they perform regularly for visiting tourists. Another major attraction of the island that’s pretty famous is their waves. The waves around the island are perfect for surfing, a fact that contributes to a number of international surfers that visit the island regularly just to enjoy the thrill.

7. Medan

Medan is the fourth largest city in Indonesia with a population of about 2 million people. Due to the diverse ethnic group that resides in this city, visitors could find a lot of tasty dishes from various regions easily here. This makes the city a popular destination for a culinary trip. Apart from the myriad of delicacies, Medan also acts as the main gateway to other provinces in Sumatra. That is why a lot of tourists choose to transit here on their journey. The city itself boasts a number of impressive landmarks and buildings worthy of a visit. To name a few, there are the Maimoon Palace, Grand Mosque, Merdeka Walk, Water Tower, Shri Mariamman, and the War Museum.

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Places to Visit in West Sumatra

West Sumatra is home to many beautiful natural sceneries such as waterfalls, mountains, beaches, valleys, and more. It is also the province outside Java Island that has the most cities. Most of these cities have a long history and rich in culture. As such, West Sumatra possesses a lot of interesting places that is worthwhile to visit.

[toggle title=”8. Mentawai Islands” state=”opened”]

Homeland to the indigenous Mentawai people. This island is famous among the surfer community as the best place to surf. The wave breaks are so perfect that many surfers from around the world have been visiting this island just to have a taste. However, due to a number of sharp reefs in the waters, only the most experienced surfers should attempt to surf the tidal waves. The island itself possesses sparkling natural beauties in the form of beaches and cultural village. Since the people of Mentawai spend most of their lives isolated from the civilization, the island still retains its natural image in its purest form.

[toggle title=”9. Padang“]

Padang was a very important port-city in the past, especially during the colonial Dutch rule. Its strategic location on the west coast of Sumatra transforms it into a major trade hub for every passing merchant and voyager. As such, the city bears so many historical landmarks that still exists to this day. There are a lot of backpackers making transit in this city while on their way to the Mentawai Islands. The spicy food of Padang is extremely famous in Indonesia. You can easily find a Padang restaurant in almost every major cities in this country. Don’t forget to have a taste when you’re visiting this city to capture the best culinary experience on your travel!

[toggle title=”10. Bukittingi“]

Bukittinggi is the second largest city in the West Sumatra Province after Padang. The name derives from its location in the Minangkabau Highlands, with the word “bukit” and “tinggi” translates into hill and high, respectively. The place is of economical and cultural importance to the Minangkabau people. During the Indonesian National Revolution, Bukittingi was appointed as the temporary capital of the Emergency Government of the Republic of Indonesia or often abbreviated as PDRI. At that time, the city was using the name given by the Dutch, Fort De Kock. After the Dutch approved the sovereignty of the Indonesian Republic, the city’s name reverts back to Bukittingi.

There are plenty of the colonial heritage that transforms into important landmarks of this city, such as the Dutch Fort de Kock, Japanese Tunnel Caves Network, and more. The most famous icon of this city is the Grand Gadang Clock or Jam Gadang, a clocktower built by the Dutch during the colonial era. You can also visit the birthplace of the first Indonesian vice-president, M. Hatta, in this city.

[toggle title=”11. Harau Valley“]

Harau Valley is arguably the best scenic view of West Sumatra. It is a series of canyons and rock formations that were formed naturally in the past. The most popular thing to do here is to trek around the canyons and see the majestic panorama. You can find several waterfalls on the cliffs in this area. There are plenty of rice paddies and lush greeneries located in between the canyons that add some ambiance to the amazing view. As such, this place is very popular among backpackers and photographers.


Places to Visit in Lampung

Lampung is the southernmost province in Sumatra Island. It is one of the largest coffee producers in Sumatra. While tourism is not the main source of income for the province, it undoubtedly has several interesting places that can be added to the list of things to do in Sumatra Indonesia.

[toggle title=”12. Way Kambas National Park” state=”opened”]

This national park covering an area of 1.300 kilometers square acts as a sanctuary for many critically endangered animals of Sumatra. It includes the Sumatran rhinoceros, elephants, tigers, and several rare bird species as well. The most noteworthy feature in this park is their elephant attraction. Visitors could ride, feed, and interact with these gigantic mammals in their natural habitat.

[toggle title=”13. Krui“]

Krui is a coastal town on the western coast of Lampung Province. The region around Krui possesses a tourism potential in the form of beautiful beaches. At the moment, the beaches are still in pristine condition due to the low amount of tourist in the area. The waves are excellent enough for surfing, and the water is crystal clear. A perfect destination for those who want to escape the daily urban life.

[toggle title=”14. Kiluan Bay“]

This is the place to go if you want to see some oceanic life in their natural habitat. Herds of dolphins are a common sight in this bay, and there are a lot of boats that can be chartered from the locals. This place is also a nesting ground for the sea turtles. You can see them swimming freely in the ocean from a boat ride easily. The beaches themselves are an object of natural beauty. With stretches of soft white sands and sparkling turquoise waters, Kiluan Bay is another paradise to be found.


Other Interesting Places in Sumatra

For other things to do in Sumatra Indonesia, we recommend you these interesting places.

[toggle title=”15. Mount Kerinci, Jambi” state=”opened”]

Mount Kerinci is the highest volcano in Indonesia. It is part of the Barisan Hill Mountains. The surrounding lush greeneries are home to the Sumatran tiger and rhinoceros. The mountain is the highest peak in Sumatra, which makes it popular among climbers and nature lovers.

[toggle title=”16. Belitung Island, Bangka-Belitung“]

This island is famous for its peppers and contents of tin found in the soil. There are plenty of beaches and islets surrounding this island, all of them have a clear blue water and excellent views.

[toggle title=”17. Bintan Island, Riau Islands“]

The largest island in the Riau archipelago. The island is famous for its resorts and natural beaches. Lots of investors from Singapore creates a world-class resorts and golf courses in this island.

[toggle title=”18. Palembang City, South Sumatra“]

Palembang is the second largest city in Sumatra after Medan. As the capital of South Sumatra Province and the oldest city in Indonesia, Palembang city offers a lot of amazing destination. Impressive landmarks such as the Ampera Bridge, Kuto Besak Fort, Palembang Grand Mosque, and others are often visited by foreign and domestic tourists alike. The city is also famous for its unique fish-based cuisine, pempek, which is a must-try if you visit this place.

[toggle title=”19. Bengkulu City, Bengkulu“]

Bengkulu is historically known as the British Bencoolen, which is part of the ancient Srivijayan kingdom in the past. There are plenty of interesting objects in this city, such as the Fort Marlborough, Bengkulu Museum, Thomas Parr monument, and more.


Of all the things to do in Sumatra Indonesia, the list above are the most interesting and most fun to do to ensure you’ll have an amazing journey of your lifetime.

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