Unlike its neighbouring islands Bali or Java, Sumatra doesn’t attract a lot of travellers and even though this is exactly what drew me to the island, it’s hard to understand why. It’s the largest island in Indonesia and it has plenty to offer; jungles, orangutangs, elephants, volcanos, waterfalls,… Briefly: an untouched paradise full of adventure!
Gunung Leuser National Park
Home to the orangutang and the Sumatran tiger, Gunung Leuser National Park is a wonderful place for a jungle trekking. Don’t be disappointed that you – most likely – won’t see any tigers though, as my guide told me no one ever sees one and it would probably be the last thing you’d ever lay eyes on anyway.
Leaving early from Bukit Lawang, it didn’t last long before we were surrounded by orangutangs and Thomas Leaf monkeys climbing the trees. It was amazing to see how well the guide knew how to behave around each orang tang, as they all have their own personality traits and some of them like stealing bags!
This peaceful village at the border of the Gunung Leuser National Park really stole my heart. There’s plenty to do here; washing elephants, river tubing, swimming in the waterfalls,… all this being surrounded by the beautiful tropical forest. A perfect place to connect with nature.
Although Indonesians are particularly friendly people in general, this is undoubtably the place where you will meet the most kindhearted people ever. Always ready to help and keen to tell you about their culture, the guides will do everything to make your stay truly wonderful.
Also, elephants are wonderful animals and I want to see them happy. I’m not an expert but I do think I saw happy elephant faces in Tangkahan.
Sibayak Volcano, Berastagi
Mount Sibayak is one of Indonesia’s active volcanos and the view hiking up to its crater is astonishing. As you climb up to the top, the smell of sulphur gets stronger and there are steaming vents with yellow coloured rocks all around.
Funnily, as I was applying sunscreen my guide asked my why on earth I was covering myself with this white cream all the time. He first looked at me in shock, then started laughing uncontrollably when I said I’d turn red if I didn’t.
Samosir island, Lake Toba
An island on an island! You will not only find beautiful landscapes here, Samosir is also home to the Batak people, an ancient tribe that will gladly teach you about their culture. With their traditional dances, colourful ensembles and beautiful houses decorated with geometrical designs, their culture will astonish you.
I was a little hesitant at first to put Banda Aceh in my list of favourite destinations in Sumatra but the culture shock I experienced there and the tsunami remains the city holds turned my visit into an unforgettable experience. One day in this city, as a transit point to Pulau Weh, was enough though!
Being governed by strict Sharia law, this destination is not for everyone but if you decide to go there, it will surely leave you in awe.
Banda Aceh was hit by the tsunami in 2004 very badly and the impact it had on the city is still visible. You will find the unusual sight of boats in the middle of the city or on top of a house, left untouched as a memorial here. The Tsunami Museum offers an insight to the horrifying experience the people endured and it’s worth visiting too.
This is a tiny island located right above Sumatra, easily accessible from Banda Aceh by ferry. With its crystal clear water and white sanded beaches, Pulau Weh is a paradise to snorkel, dive or to relax. There are so many exotic fish here that I felt like I was floating around in a natural aquarium!