The city of Bukittinggi in Minangkabau Highlands with a population of approximately 117,000 people and covering an area of about twenty-five square kilometers is the second largest city in West Sumatra Province of Indonesia. Bukittinggi is about ninety kilometers from Padang, the provincial capital city of West Sumatra.
Translated literally, Bukittinggi means “high hill” in English. The city is about 930 meters above the sea level, which makes the climate cool and pleasant. The temperature in Bukittinggi range from sixteen to twenty-five degree in Celcius. It rains almost every day in Bukittinggi however the rain tends to be short showers with light to medium intensity.
During the Dutch colonial time, Bukittinggi was known as Fort de Kock and was also nicknamed as “Parijs van Sumatra.” During the Indonesian struggle for freedom, the city was also the capital of Indonesia when Pemerintahan Darurat Republik Indonesia (PDRI) was established. It is also the birthplace of the first Indonesian vice-president, Mohammad Hatta.
Bukittinggi is a renowned tourist destination in the province of West Sumatra. There are many interesting places that you can visit in Bukittinggi. Here, we would like to show you some interesting spots that you will not want to miss if you are coming to Bukittinggi for vacation.
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1. Jam Gadang
Jam Gadang means “The Great Clock” and is the landmark of Bukittinggi itself. Standing proudly at the city center, this clock tower is surrounded by the garden with many trees that will surely make your visit feel more pleasant. Jam Gadang is always flocked by visitors of all ages.
The clock itself has a base structure of 13 x 4 meters with the height of twenty-six meters. Inside there are several levels. At the top most level is where the clock pendulum is.
From the front, you can see there are four clock face, with each has a diameter of eighty centimeters. The Gadang clocks were imported directly from Rotterdam, Netherlands. The machine that moves this clock is very unique. In fact, there are only two such machines in the world with another machine being the one that moves Big Ben in London. The clock’s machine and the clock faces is located one level below the top story of the structure. The clock machine was made by Benhard Vortman in 1892 in the German city of Recklinghausen.
Jam Gadang was completed in 1926 as a gift from the Queen of Netherlands to the mayor of Fort De Kock, Rook Maker. Since it was built, the shape of the roof to the structure has been changed three times. When it first completed, the structure has a round roof shape with a rooster figurine that faces to the east at its top. During the time of Japanese occupation, the roof was changed in shape of pagoda’s roof. Finally, after Indonesia gained independence, the roof is changed into the shape of the roof for traditional Minangkabau house, Rumah Gadang. The structure was last renovated in 2010 as a joint effort from the city government of Bukittinggi and the Dutch Embassy. The renovated building was inaugurated right on the 262 anniversary of the founding of Bukittinggi on 22 December 2010.
2. Ngarai Sianok
Ngarai Sianok or Sianok Canyon is simply the best natural landscape you can find in the entire Bukittinggi area. It is situated at the edge of the boundaries of Bukittinggi city. Ngarai Sianok has a depth of one hundred meters and stretched along a distance of fifteen kilometers with the width of about two hundred meters.
The wall of the canyon is steep and at some parts even vertical, forming a beautiful and lush valley beneath that filled with many greeneries. In the valley, you can find Batang Sianok or Sianok River. During the Dutch colonial time, this valley is also nicknamed karbouwwengat or kerbau sanget due to the abundance of wild water buffalo that roams the valley.
You may want to explore the river with canoe or kayak. Along the river, you will see many peculiar plants like rafflesia as well as faunas like long-tailed monkeys, deer, siamang, simpai, leopard and wild hogs.
You can also visit Panorama Park to observe the beauty of the canyon. In the park, there is a two-story observation tower that enables you to have a panoramic view of the canyon and the valley below. The monkeys in the park are generally docile but can be quite aggressive if they know you have food. At the time of dusk, you can see the megabats leaving their roosts in the gorges to feed on the fruit trees in the forest.
Another way to enjoy the valley is by walking down the canyon. You can go down from The Great Wall of Koto Gadang. As you walk, you can see rice fields with forest and a small river with the canyon in the background. The most famous part of the canyon is a single slim gorge that is surrounded by the canyons, which called Tabiang Takuruang, which means isolated gorge. This gorge cannot be seen from Panorama Park or The Great Wall of Koto Gadang. The only way to see it is by going down to the canyon and go through the village.
3. Fort De Kock
Fort De Kock is an old Dutch fort in Bukittinggi. It is about one kilometer away from the city center of Bukittinggi, on Jalan Tuanku nan Renceh. This fort was first built by Captain Bouer in 1825 to protect the five adat villages around the fort from the padris during the Padri War that lasted between 1821 until 1837. A new settlement was established around the fort and later also incorporated the five adat villages to become what is now the city of Bukittinggi.
The original buildings of the fort have long gone, but the fortification mound can still be seen, It is located within a park with several species of bird in cages. As Fort De Kock is on top of a hill, you can have a panoramic view overlooking the city of Bukittinggi from here.
4. Limpapeh Bridge
Limpapeh Bridge is a bridge that connects Fort De Kock to Bukittinggi Zoo. It was built in 1995 in Minangkabau architecture and dominant with the color of yellow and red. It is a beautiful bridge made from a steel structure. As you are crossing the bridge you can feel the vibration that gives you some adrenaline rush. From the bridge, you can see the beautiful view of the city of Bukittinggi surrounded by hills and the volcano, Mount Marapi in the distance. Thus, crossing the bridge is of of the things to do in Bukittinggi, Indonesia.
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5. Lobang Jepang
Lobang Jepang is literally translated as “Japanese hole”. It is a series of caves built during the time of Japanese occupation between 1942 to 1945. During the time of World War II, the Japanese mustered Indonesian to work as romusha or forced laborers. In Bukittinggi, they are forced to dig a series of tunnels and bunkers, which is known today as Lobang Jepang by the locals and become a tourist object.
The tunnels have an overall length of almost one thousand five hundred meters and width of about two meters. It is located forty meters below Sianok Canyon. This tunnel was originally built as a warehouse to store food and equipment of Japanese army.
The tunnels were first opened as tourism object in 1984. You will find one of the entrances to the caves in Panorama Park. There are other entrances to the caves, including one in Bukittinggi Zoo and one beside Istana Bung Hatta. Inside there are twenty-one chambers, which served various functions in the past like ammunition room, living quarter, meeting room, prison, dining room, kitchen, and torture chamber.
6. Bukittinggi Zoo
Things to do in Bukittinggi West Sumatra Indonesia, also known as Taman Marga Satwa dan Budaya Kinantan, Bukittinggi Zoo is located atop Cubadak Bungkuak hill right at the opposite of Fort De Kock and is connected by the Limpapeh Bridge. This is one of the oldest zoos in Indonesia and also the only zoo in West Sumatra province. The animal collection in this zoo is one of the best in Sumatra island.
This zoo originated from a park built by the Dutch Indies government circa 1900 with the name of Stormpark, which means flower garden. It was not until July 3rd, 1929 when several animals arrived and the park was renamed as Fort De Kocksche Dieren Park.
While you are in the zoo, you can also visit Rumah Adat Baanjuang, which is a museum.
7. Rumah Gadang Baanjuang
This museum is established by a Dutch named Mondelar Controlleur on July 1st, 1935. The museum was built in the traditional architecture of Minangkabau with the curved roof at its side. Almost all of the building’s elements are made from the traditional material, like the thatched roof, wooden and bamboo mix for wall as well as wooden floor.
The purpose of the museum was to collect historical and cultural artifacts from all around West Sumatra. The museum was originally named Museum Bundo Kanduang until 2005 when the city government of Bukittinggi changed its name to Museum Rumah Adat Baanjuang.
The museum has an area of almost two thousand eight hundred square meters. Most of its collection are in the category of ethnographic, numismatic and preserved animals. Interestingly, the museum also keep preserved animals with abnormal physical conditions like water buffalo with two heads and goat with two faces. Here you can also find miniature of traditional houses and various other traditional structures which becomes more rare and difficult to find nowadays.
8. Janjang Ampek Puluah
The stairs is quite steep with the height of each step is about twenty-five centimeters. You have to be extra careful during the rainy season because the water that flows through this stair is quite a lot and it can become slippery and quite dangerous for pedestrians. If you come here after the rain, we suggest you hold on to the hand rails at the sides of the stairs.
9. Museum Rumah Kelahiran Bung Hatta
The name of this museum means The Birthplace of Bung Hatta Museum. Muhammad Hatta, one of Republic of Indonesia’s founding fathers, who becomes the first vice-president of the nation was born and raised in this place until he was about eleven years old when he went to Meer Uitgebred Lager Onderwijs or MULO in Padang.
The original home was in state of disrepair and collapsed in the sixties, but the house was rebuilt to provide an impression of how the Indonesian vice-president spent his childhood in his hometown. The house begins to be built on 15 January 1995 and finally was inaugurated on 12 August 1995, which is the birthday of Bung Hatta.
The reconstruction of the house follows its original structure which was described by Hatta himself in his memoir as well as various photographs and documents of Hatta;s family. Several of the furniture in the house are still the authentic furniture from the time of Hatta’s childhood. The furniture was acquired from family and relatives of Hatta and is put in their original position.
This museum stands on an area of one thousand square meters with the building area of four hundred forty meters. Interestingly there is an old well inside the house. Apparently, the answer we got was, when the house was being rebuilt, the distant to the roadside was too near to the roadside. Therefore, the well that was actually located behind the original home sits inside the museum. The collection of this museum mostly is personal items of Bung Hatta and his family, including Hatta grandmother’s sewing machine.
10. Istana Bung Hatta
The official name of this place is Gedung Negara Tri Agra, but it is most commonly known as Istana Bung Hatta or Bung Hatta’s palace. The building is located at the heart of the city of Bukittinggi, opposite the Jam Gadang.
Bung Hatta resided in this building during the period of June 1947 until February 1948. However, the building was burnt down afterward by Indonesian forces along with other strategic buildings in Bukittinggi to prevent their capture by the Dutch forces. It was finally rebuilt in the sixties.
This place now serves as a place for The Indonesian President, vice-president and foreign guests of the nation when they visit Bukittinggi. You should know thatalthough it has a low wall and open gate, Istana Bung Hatta is not open for public access.
11. Pasar Atas and Pasar Bawah
Across the Jam Gadang square, you can find traditional markets, called Pasar Atas and Pasar Bawah. These markets are also frequented by tourists. Inside you can find many goods like souvenirs and handicrafts, textiles, traditional food, traditional snacks as well as fresh fruits, vegetables, chicken, meat, and fish. Behind the market is the city’s old Chinatown where most of the buildings here are shophouses.
12. Koto Gadang
These buildings were used by the Dutch as villas. After the Dutch left when Indonesia gained independence, the local villagers occupied these houses. The village of Koto Gadang is famous for its silver-works handicrafts.
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13. Kerajinan Amai Setia
This handicraft center was established in 1911 by Rohana Kudus, one of the most important female emancipation figures in history fo Indonesia and is located in the village of Koto Gadang. It was established as an institution to educate and develop embroideries and handicraft of the women in Koto Gadang. Nowadays you can get various souvenirs for your visit to Bukittinggi here. You can also find a small museum that tells the history of Kerajinan Amai Setia.
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14. Anai Valley Waterfall
Anai valley stretched along the road that goes from the provincial capital of Padang to Bukittinggi. As you go through the road you will spot a medium sized waterfall at the roadside. This is one of the locations that is frequented by tourists as it can be easily reached.
Actually, there are two other waterfalls located nearby to the waterfall that is located at the roadside, but to reach these waterfalls, you will need a better stamina and preparation as they are located within the natural reserve forest, which is above the first waterfall. As of now there is no path built to go to these waterfalls yet.
You can also see an old railway track which lies in front of the Anai Valley Waterfall. This track is a rack track which designed to allow locomotives carrying cars to climb a slope. Nowadays the track is no longer in use for regular trains.
15. Rafflesia Flower
If you want to see one of the largest and smelliest flowers in the world, you can do it in Bukittinggi. Going about 10 kilometers north on the road that leads to North Sumatra’s provincial capital of Medan, you will find a signpost that leads you to Obyek Wisata Bunga Rafflesia in a village about one kilometer from where you turn.
You can freely enter the forest on your own, but we highly recommend you to use the service from the local farmer who knows better where and what to look for. The farmer will lead you to the potential spots until you find one that blooms. The flowers only stay alive for one week after they blooms hence they are rarely seen. Best time to see the flower is from the month of October to December with November being the peak time. The cost for the guide is IDR 50,000 regardless of how big your group is.
17. Puncak Lawang
On a bright and sunny day, you can see the far side of the lake. You will need to rent a car or motorbike as it is not possible for you to reach here by public transportation.
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18. Kelok 44
This is a famous steep and winding road that connects Puncak Lawang with Danau Maninjau. The road as its name suggested consisted of forty-four turns. Thus, this could be one of the best things to do in Bukittinggi, West Sumatra Indonesia that is pretty challenging and beautiful.
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19. Danau Maninjau
Danau Maninjau or Lake Maninjau is about thirty kilometers west from Bukittinggi. This lake is created by a volcanic activity some 50,000 years ago, when the volcano erupted and caved in by itself, forming this massive lake at its caldera. The lake is about twenty kilometers in length and eight kilometers in width.
To reach the lake, you can either rent a car or motorbike from Bukittingi. If you are planning to use public transportation you can catch a bus from either Aur Kuning Station or opposite the Panorama Park. Bus ticket from either of this place to Danau Maninjau cost IDR 20,000. Alongside the lake there are plenty of places where you can stop to take a rest or take a picture as well as getting some light meals.
With so many natural and historical tourist attractions, it is no wonder Bukittinggi is the main tourist area in West Sumatra. If you are planning to come to Indonesia, but you have been to Bali or Lombok too often and want to try something new, why don’t you give Bukittinggi a try as it is a charming city with a pleasant and relaxed atmosphere.
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