Sumatra travel guide, lesser-known but the best islands in Indonesia.

Sumatra is a must-visit island in Indonesia.

Sumatra Island is one of the most beautiful islands in Indonesia. It is basically one of the chain islands of Sunda and also the world’s sixth-largest island. When it comes to Indonesia, we just talk about Bali, no doubt Bali is a top favorite destination for tourists but there are also a few other islands that are equally good as Bali. Let’s try to know more about the island in this Sumatra Travel Guide article.

Sumatra island is the only island in the world where tigers, orangutans, elephants, and rhinos are living together and has different varieties of animals, most famous are the Sumatran orangutan, ground cuckoo, etc. but most of them had already disappeared because of climates. Still, you can spot a few in national parks better take a guide along with you to show you these species.

Things to know

Time zone: Sumatra (GMT+7)

Currency: Indonesian Rupiah, (Current exchange rate)

Languages: Bahasa Indonesia

Country calling code: +62

Police helpline: 110/112

Medical helpline: 118/119

How to reach Sumatra island?

Sumatra Travel

Flight services to Sumatra

Sumatra island is well connected by air routes, and you will find regular flights from the major cities in Indonesia. So if you are planning to go to this island the best option is a flight because of less travel time. You may not get a direct flight from your home country, so take a flight to Kuala Namu International Airport or Medan. The island has flight services from Singapore and Malaysia, so you can take transit to these countries on the way to Sumatra.

Indonesia domestic airlines

Garuda Indonesia

Lion air

Ferry services to Sumatra

Sumatra island can be reached by ferry from Bali, Jawa, and a few other islands in Indonesia. If you are traveling from the capital Jakarta, you’ll have to catch a train to Merak, and then a ferry to Bakauheni on Sumatra. Ferry service providers operate in the daytime, a small suggestion here before you plan a ferry trip just check the climate because you may not get a ferry if the sea is rough.

Once you land in Bakauheni catch a local bus to Bandar Lampung which will take another 2 hours. There are some ferry services available from nearby countries, like Malaysia and Singapore. Please check the travel guidelines before traveling, you can also book ferry tickets online.

Bus services to Sumatra

The island is well connected by the road network, and you can either drive or take a bus to reach Sumatra. An Indonesian interstate bus service called DAMRI provides service from Jakarta to Bandar Lampung via Java. Bandar Lampung is on the southern side of Sumatra, and you can continue your island journey once you reach the port. There are many bus services available from Jakarta, and these buses will drop you at the ferry terminal.

Online ferry/bus service providers



What is the best time to visit Sumatra?

Sumatra is close to the equator, so you will experience tropical weather. Weather changes very often here, you will experience hot and humid and heavy rain on the same day.

The best time to go to Sumatra, Indonesia is from May to June or from September to October. The weather is extremely hot and humid throughout the year, so be ready to prepare for that.

Best places to explore on Sumatra Island

Sumatra has a lot to see and experience, from beautiful beaches to ancient temples. The island is one of the biggest in the world, so it’s always advisable to plan the trip before so that you know what to see and what to keep for the next time.

There are Hot Springs and beautiful lakes, animals like orangutans, and the best surfing experience in the Mentawai Islands. Underwater diving in Pulau Weh and the white sand beach of Medan, Sumatra have all been stored for you.

Bukit Lawang Village in Sumatra

Sumatra Travel

Bukit Lawang is a village that is famous for Orangutans, this village is very close to Gunung Leuser National Park. These species are very rare and can only be found in this region, the locals do play an important role to protect these animals. So if you are in Sumatra, do visit this village to see Orangutans and experience the local culture.

I will suggest you take a local guide along with you, who will give you a tour of the jungle. Local guides know the best places to explore the forest, and you can road without worrying about where to go and what to eat. If you are lucky then you can see Orangutans, Cuckoos, Elephants, and also a few other rare animals. Don’t forget to wear comfortable shoes and clothes as you will have to trek in the jungle.

The best way to reach this place is to take a bus from Medan to Bukit Lawang, there are also taxi services available to visit this village. If you want to stay in Bukit Lawang, please book hotels in advance through hotel booking websites, you will find a number of available hotels in this village.

Address: Google map location

Popular for: Orangutans

How to reach: Take a taxi from Medan

Lake Toba, the world’s largest crater lake

Sumatra Travel

Lake Toba, the world’s largest crater lake, is located on the northern side of Sumatra island and is surrounded by natural beauty. This lake was created through eruption and it was the largest volcanic eruption on earth. Here you can experience an Indigenous group called Batuk and their lifestyle, like how they live, and their houses which is altogether different from learning with this pristine view. The panoramic view of the island from its top and the water activities in the lake makes the place worth visiting.

You can take a flight from Kualanamu International Airport in Medan to the Sisingamangaraja XII International Airport and after that, you can take a taxi to reach the lake. The distance is around 80 km and it’ll take around 2 hours to reach Lake Toba. There are many hotels and resorts available near the lake, so you can stay overnight.

Address: Google map location

Popular for: Scenic volcanic crater lake 

How to reach: Take a taxi Sisingamangaraja XII International Airport

Mentawai Islands, the best place for surfing

Sumatra Travel

Mentawai Island is one of the best places to surf as the waves are perfect here for a surfer. You can also explore marine life and experience scuba diving. The beautiful Mentawai island was formed with a lot of volcanic lava. The best season for surfing is between March and November, this is the dry and the best season in Indonesia for surfing. Mentawai is not an ideal place to learn surfing, so if you are a beginner or learning how to surf, please avoid surfing on this island.

The only way you can reach this island is by ferry, there are ferry services available from Padang. The public ferry operates on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays to Siberut, and the rest of the day it goes to Tuapejat. Fast ferry services are available throughout the week and can be a quick option to reach Mentawai.

Address: Google map location

Popular for: Surfing

How to reach: Take a ferry from Padang

Padang, famous for sunset beaches

Padang is one of the most popular cities in Indonesia and the capital of West Sumatra. The city is famous for its sunset beaches, where you can experience the best sunset in the country. Indonesian beautiful coastal town is also well known for its Minangkabau culture and cuisine, Adityawarman Museum is another popular spot amongst tourists.

There are many airlines that provide their services to the island city, Citylink, Batik Air, Garuda, and Lion Air operates regular flights from Jakarta to Padang. Air Asia has direct flights from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Padang, it has also road connectivity from some of the major cities in Sumatra.

Padang has an airport so one can take flights from Jakarta, Medan, or countries like Malaysia. But they have very limited flights. Once you get down, book a taxi either to your hotel if you are staying there or else just take a taxi to the ferry stand for your next visit.

Address: Google map location

Popular for: Dutch buildings and beaches

How to reach: Take a flight from Jakarta

Medan, a city with diverse food and culture

Sumatra is popular for its beautiful beaches but there are some cities like Medan that are popular for their rich food culture. Medan is the capital city of North Sumatra and has some of the most amazing beaches in the country. Maimun Palace and the Grand Mosque of Medan represent the cultural values of the city.

If you want to experience traditional food, you can visit the famous Jalan Selat Panjang street and can eat ethnic food in any of its stalls. Some of the mouthwatering delicacies which you should not miss while traveling to Medan are coconut milk-based soup, Soto Medan, Curried fried noodles, and Nasi Padang

Medan is well connected by air route, there are multiple airlines operating from the capital city of Jakarta. If you are in Sumatra, you can reach Medan by road also, there are many public buses available. You will also get direct flights from Singapore and Malaysia to Medan.

Address: Google map location

Popular for: Grand Mosque of Medan and Indonesian cuisine

How to reach: Take a flight from Jakarta

Best island for scuba diving in Indonesia, Pulau Weh, Sabang

Sumatra Travel

Pulau weh is also known as sabang. Sabang is a well-known island for scuba diving and snorkeling. You can experience Manta rays, sharks, and beautiful coral reefs, which is going to be an unforgettable experience. This place is still unexplored, so you will not get many tourists around its beaches. There are many scuba diving and snorkeling shops/schools available around the city.

This city is also known as an active volcanic island. The beautiful beaches and lust green forest makes this island even more natural. There are many beach resorts and hotels available to stay in the city. You just need to keep in mind that every Friday till 2 pm, you are not allowed to do any leisure activities or religious activities. The best and fast way to reach is by flight, take a flight to Banda Aceh and then a ferry to Sabang.

Address: Google map location

Popular for: Scuba diving and active volcano

How to reach: Take a ferry from Banda Aceh

Hot Spring in Dolok Tinggi Raja (Simalungun)

Sumatra Travel

Tinggi Raja is a natural hot water spring in the northern province of Sumatra. This hot spring is not as popular as other places in Indonesia but the experience would be much different. The hot spring’s white terraces are formed of hard calcium carbonate deposits.

Tinggi Raja hot spring is also popular among bike riders. It’s a 2.5 hours drive from Berastagi and the ride goes through some beautiful landscapes. You can also take a taxi to reach the spring, there is no entry fee to access the Dolok Tinggi Raja hot spring.

Address: Dolok Marawa, Silau Kahean, Simalungun Regency, North Sumatra, Indonesia (location)

Popular for: Hot water sprin

How to reach: Bike ride or take a taxi from your hotel

Sipiso Piso Waterfall, the tallest waterfall in Indonesia

Sumatra Travel

Sipiso Piso Waterfalls is the most beautiful and tallest waterfalls in Sumatra. The waterfalls are highly popular for trekking, so if you are a trekking enthusiast do visit the Sipiso Piso waterfalls. This waterfall is formed from a small underground river that connects to the famous Lake Toba. You will get some small shops selling snacks, fruits, and juice near the waterfalls. So if you want to eat anything specific please carry that with you.

Address: Pengambaten, Merek, Karo Regency, North Sumatra, Indonesia (location)

Popular for: Waterfall

How to reach: Take a taxi Sisingamangaraja XII International Airport

Mount Sibayak, a sunrise hike to the active volcano

Mount Sibayak is a stratovolcano located in Berastagi, northern Sumatra in Indonesia. The place is safe for visitors and the last volcano eruption took place a century ago. Mount Sibayak is famous among the locals and you will find very few international tourists around this place. The best time to start the trek is early in the morning as the day progress, the weather gets hotter and you may feel uncomfortable. This place is close to Lake Toba and easily accessible by road.

Address: Sempajaya, Berastagi, Karo Regency, North Sumatra, Indonesia (location)

Popular for: Active volcano

How to reach: Take a taxi Sisingamangaraja XII International Airport

Important apps to download

GrabFood online food delivery app

Android / iOS

GrabTaxi app-based taxi

Android / iOS

Google translate

Android / iOS

Bus services DAMRI


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