The Sumatra Travel Guide

Sumatra choukyin / Pixabay

Planing Your Trip to Indonesia’s Sumatra Island: Weather
Rainy Season: Sept-mid/early March. Starts later in SE.
Super Wet Season: Jan-Feb. Rains everywhere.
Dry Season: April – June.
High Season: August. Prices peak in Bali & Gili’s, and are starting to in Sumatra as well – book ahead to ensure you’ve got a place to stay, remote with limited accommodations spots may fill up.


North Sumatra

Medan, Sumatra, Indonesia (great food, major metro area: 2.2 million)


Bukit Lawang, Sumatra Indonesia (sweet little town built around orangutan viewing center and proximity to dense Sumatra jungle of Gunung Leuser NP.)

  • Trekking: Can trek to possibly see orangutans in the wild: requires a guide at $16-20/day to help with navigation and remote villages. True wilderness)
  • Tubing $1.50/day to tube river through monkey/Orangutan habitat. Packed on weekends like a theme park.
Orangutan z0man / Pixabay


Tangkahan, Sumatra, Indonesia (elephant viewing on the wild banks of the Kualsa Buluh River)

  • Help bathe elephants in river for $17/pp
  • Tubing $0.75/day to tube lazy river
Elephant sasint / Pixabay


Berastagi, Sumatra, Indonesia (former Dutch mountain town in cool, lush, volcanic hills.


Parapat, Sumatra, Indonesia (Mainland depart point for Danau (lake) Toba.


Lake Toba, Sumatra, Indonesia (largest crater lake in the world, where amiable Christian Batak people live.

  • Samosir Island, Lake Toba, North Sumatra, Indonesia (Lake Toba is the biggest lake in the world. Island has an old-school hippy vibe. Island is perfect for exploring my bicycle or motor bike)
    • Tuk Tuk, Samosir Island, Lake Toba (town with the most tourist amenities in island. Waterfront rooms from $6-$10/night. Swankiest place on island is $27/night for best room)
    • Tomok, Samosir Island, Lake Toba (main village on east coast of island, few KMs from Tuk Tuk)
Lake Toba, Sumatra 12019 / Pixabay
Samosir Island, Lake Toba, Sumatra danielmorrism / Pixabay


Nias Island, Sumatra, Indonesia (One of the world’s most spectacular surf breaks. Ancient megalithic monuments and traditional architecture too)

Nias Island, Sumatra Jamere63 / Pixabay


Weh Island, Sumatra, Indonesia (Favorite of the backpacker crowd. Ferry from Banda Aceh or direct flight from Medan, northern tip of Sumatra. little slice of peaceful heaven. Perfect to explore by bicycle or motorcycle).

  • Gapang, Weh Island, Sumatra, Indonesia (sandy cove, with a great reef for snorkeling just offshore, beach lined with shack restaurants and guesthouses)
  • Iboih, Weh Island, Sumatra, Indonesia
Weh Island, Sumatra azralsagara / Pixabay


Breueh Island, Sumatra, Indonesia


Aceh’s West Coast, Sumatra, Indonesia (string of little villages and endless beaches)

  • Singkil, Aceh’s West Coast, Sumatra, Indonesia (Remote port town. Departure point for island adventures to Nias, Simeulue and the Banyaks)
    • Swamp motorized canoe tour (All day trips up the Gedand River past two friendly villages in search of wild orangutans and monkeys. Crocodiles. $47/pp.
Banda Aceh, Sumatra saifulmulia / Pixabay


Simeulue Island, Aceh’s West Coast, Sumatra, Indonesia (Generally just a surfing destination, but it has lots of potential, including great beaches and a ring road. Kind of place that will blow up. Camping on the beach permitted)


Banyak Islands, Sumatra, Indonesia (99 mostly uninhabited islands – pop 5,000; arguably the finest beaches in Sumatra, 30km offshore. $24/pp per day for guided all-day kayak island hoping. Multi-day trips or just a day.

  • Asok Island, Banyak Islands, Sumatra (crescent shaped island with pristine beaches and excellent snorkeling)
  • Laman Island, Banyak Islands, Sumatra (fantastic snorkeling, vivid blue coral)
  • Palambak Basar Island, Banyak Islands, Sumatra (Popular backpacker destination, medium-sized island, covered in coconut trees, jungles paths and gorgeous stretch of beach. Bad snorkeling from past dynamite fishing practices. 7 basic bungalows with shared baths, but fronting stunning beach ($14/night)
  • Balai Island, Banyak Islands, Sumatra (One of two inhabited islands, connected to mainland by frequent boats. No attractions, but useful transfer point. Rooms/beds for as cheap as $5, homestay overlooking the water for $3 for private room)
  • Bangkaru Island, Banyak Islands, Sumatra (second largest island, turtle conservation project, so need certified guide.
  • Tuangku Island, Banyak Islands, Sumatra (covered in dense jungle, largest island. Island to get accommodations. Surfer beach and two villages. Super expensive all-inclusive surfer  lodges @ $200/night over 8-11 days, including flights)
  • Tailana Island, Banyak Islands, Sumatra (great snorkeling, renowned for reefs that are waves of color. Simple Beach Hut $7/day, fresh fish lunch and dinner and western breakfast $7/day pp)
  • Sikandang Island, Banyak Islands, Sumatra (pristine beaches on large-ish island that take a couple hours to circle. Oceanfront thatched bungalows with electricity and hammocks on front porch: $14/night)
  • Ragu-Ragu Island, Banyak Islands, Sumatra (Excellent offshore snorkeling. Dugongs are sometimes sighted in the morning off the island’s north shore)
  • Lambodong Island, Banyak Islands, Sumatra (small island with white sand beach with storm garbage. Shack in the palms)
One of Banyak Islands, Sumatra rohitink / Pixabay


Gunung Leuser National Park, Sumatra, Indonesia (UNESCO, under the tourist radar, masses head to Bukit Lawang, but this is virtually the same thing, just much wilder and real. This is the place to spot truly wild orangutans, not semi-wild. One of the world’s most important and biologically diverse conservation areas. Described as a complete ecosystem laboratory. Wild tigers, rhinos, elephants, orangutans. Poachers have wiped out the crocodile and reduced the number of tigers and rhinos. Former stronghold of GAM militants during recent Aceh conflict.


Ketambem, Sumatra, Indonesia (between the river and jungle lies a group of guest houses. One of the most chilled-out spots in Sumatra. Best bungalows for $10/night)

  • Rafting  ($30/pp ½ day or $54/pp full-day
  • 6 day guided trek to Bukit Lawang (20 river crossings. Good chance to see wild orangutans and gibbons, plus trek passing through prime elephant habitat. Luggage delivered, $300 includes guide, food, gear, etc.)


West Sumatra

Padang, Sumatra, Indonesia (urban-indo sprawl, handy transport hub with excellent connections to regional destinations. Pop. 877,000)


Mentawai Islands, West Sumatra Indonesia (Ferry to islands, geared toward surfers. Really expensive by SEA standards)

  • Telo Islands, Mentawai Islands, Sumatra (Sitting north of main Mentawai Island Siberut, was all but unknown to the world until recently – almost all visitors are surfers)
  • Siberut Island, Mentawai Islands, Sumatra (biggest island in archipelago, rich bio-zone, UNESCO)


Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia (flamboyant Minangkabau architecture)

  • Sumatera Loom, Bukittinggi, Sumatra (songket – silver & gold threaded cloth – weavings. Re-produce Sumatra’s finest.
  • Koto Gadang, Bukittinggi, Sumatra (silversmiths, intricate and delicate rings a specialty)
  • Pandai Sikat, Bukittinggi, Sumatra (songket weaving and woodcarving – mostly building decorations.
Minangkabau Culture, Sumatra ihsanadity / Pixabay


Harau Valley, Sumatra, Indonesia


Danau Maninjau, Sumatra, Indonesia (volcanic lake)


Kerinci Valley, Sumatra, Indonesia (stunning mountain valley, with many lakes and great coffee)

Kerinci Valley Coffee, Sumatra korintjilandscaper / Pixabay


Kerinci Seblat National Park, Sumatra, Indonesia

  • Danau Kaco (Glass Lake), Sumatra, Indonesia (2 hour jungle trek arrives at sapphire swimming hole)
  • Night Safari (Best way to sight Tigers)
Sumatra Tiger byus71 / Pixabay


Bengkulu, Sumatra, Indonesia (296,000; provincial capital, nice city, not much to do.

  • Pantai Panjang Beach, Sumatra, Indonesia (main beach 7km of clean white sand)
Bengkulu, Sumatra bangrey / Pixabay


Pekanbaru, Sumatra, Indonesia (1,030,000 pop; Indonesia’s oil capital; can take an old-school 70’s type journey by boat from here to Singapore. Best avoided)


Riau archipelago. Sumatra, Indonesia (Close to Singapore)

Batum Island, Sumatra, Indonesia (golf resorts and casinos attract the weekender crowd from Indo and China. Expensive. Flights throughout Indonesia from here)

  • Nagoya, Sumatra, Indonesia (original boom town, dotted with bars, shopping malls, massage parlors. Functional and a good place to dine out and stay overnight)


Bintan Island, Riau Islands, Sumatra, Indonesia (Popular backpacker destination. Across the straight from Singapore, high-end island)

  • Parai Tenggiri beach: limestone boulders
  • Lagoi Area, Bintan Island, Sumatra, Indonesia (Top-end, expensive resorts for rich Asians on north coast)
  • Maura Jambi Temple, Bintan Island, Sumatra (ruined and restored temples are the most important Hindu-Buddhist site in Sumatra. Believe to be the ancient city of Jambi.
  • Pantai Trikora area, Bintan Island, Sumatra, Indonesia (more affordable east coast is laid-back, lined with rustic beaches)
    • Mutiara Beach, Pantai Trikora area, Bintan Island (remote, practically deserted)
    • Pantai Trikora Beach, Pantai Trikora area, Bintan Island (main beach)


South Sumatra

Palembang, Sumatra, Indonesia (1.44M pop; Sumatra’s second largest city. Off the tourist trail)


Kuri, Sumatra, Indonesia (surfer area for most part, but this is the best route if overlanding Sumatra down the south coast to Java)


Pasemah Highlands Megalith monuments, Sumatra, Indonesia

  • Tinggi Hari megaliths, Pasemah Highlands, Sumatra
  • Batu Beribu, Pasemah Highlands, Sumatra
  • Batu Gajah, Pasemah Highlands, Sumatra
  • Gunung Dempo, Pasemah Highlands, Sumatra


Bandarlampung, Sumatra, Indonesia (877,000 pop; can arrange trips to Krakatau from here)

Krakatau skeeze / Pixabay


Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park, Sumatra, Indonesia (south tip of Sumatra, WWF has ranked the park as one of the planet’s most biologically outstanding habitats. Sumatra Rhinos, tigers. Most important park for tiger conservation in the world. A guide is a must, access can be difficult.


Bangka Beltung Islands

  • Bangka Island, Bangka Beltung Islands, Sumatra, Indonesia
  • Belitung Island, Bangka Beltung Islands, Sumatra, Indonesia
  • Bintan Island, Bangka Beltung Islands, Sumatra, Indonesia

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