Most tropical of all the islands in the country, Sumatra is located in the North Western corner of Indonesia. It has richest wildlife in entire Indonesia leading many people to describe it as "Africa of Asia". Sri Vijaya empire, which was the first Hindu kingdom in Indonesia had their capital in Sumatra as early as 7th century AD. With large rivers, great flora and fauna, sunny beaches, and a great history, Sumatra is a complete tourist destination. The region could not keep up the pace with its neighbours like Java and Bali in attracting tourists due to political problems and internal violence. If your are looking to have some real fun without being interrupted by the crowds, visit Sumatra, it is a destination for people like you.
What to do
Sumatra as a whole is a wild country with tropical forests all around. Appreciating the wildlife quality of this region is a good way to begin travelling here. Trekking is another option that can be pursued vigorously and you will get so many unusual but breathtakingly beautiful routes to chose from. Heave European architectural styles dominate the cites in Sumatra and some of the buildings gives nostalgic feeling. Make sure that you have some days on the beaches of Sumatra and explored the seacoast well before leaving.
City at a Glance
|Area||473,606 Sq Km |
|Language||Bahasa Malayu |
The first large empire to make Sumatra its home was Sri Vijaya in the 7th century, also the first Hindu kingdom of Indonesia. They controlled not only this empire but also most part of the Indonesia and Malay Peninsula. But by the 14th century, most of the power of this kingdom waned and it came under direct control of Javanese rulers. Marco Polo was the first westerner to reach this place in 1292, followed by the Portuguese in early 16th century,
Dutch at the end of 16th century, and British later on. But, Arabs had already touched down on this land in the 10th century and established their Sultanate of Achin (now Aceh) which reached its height by 17th century. With the arrival of Dutch, most of the native states were controlled by them while a brief region was under the control of British. Japan set foot on Sumatra in 1942 during the Second World War and remained their for around one year. Sumatra became a part of Indonesia,when it was declared an independent country in 1949. But, the Achinese protest against the Indonesian government continued and in 1958 a full scale rebellion was launched by the army officers. Internal struggles and problems have still not waned and it is advisable to check the current situation before going to Sumatra.
Weather and Best Season to Visit
Sumatra is clearly divided into two climatic zones as it has been cut by the equator in equal halves. While October to April is the time of rain north of Equator Heaviest rains north of the equator occur October to April, dry season takes place from May-September. South of the equator, the rainy season is December to February. The climatic conditions west of the Bukit Barisan range is hot, humid, and rainy. The best time to visit this region is from September to October, at the beginning of rainy season. This the time there is no torrential rain, making the travel to inner country quite possible.
Medan is the capital of this Island state and the third largest city in Indonesia. The city architecture has dominant Dutch influence most visible in its affluent suburbs. For most of the tourists coming to Sumatra, Medan makes for an ideal entry-exit point. Some of the better known attractions in the city are Istana Maimoon, Mesjid Raya, building of Bank Indonesia, and High Court, Bukit Barisan Military Museum, and the Museum of North Sumatra.
The beautiful and picturesque town of Berastagi is situated at a distance of around 70 kmfrom Medan. The town is dominated by two volcanoes namely Gunung Sinabung and Gunung Sibayak. The city is home of Karo Batak people who showcase their culture to the fullest length. There are trekking options in the mountain ranges and option of going to Gunung Leuser National Park for wildlife watching.
Situated at a height of around 1000 metres above the sea level, this strange but strikingly beautiful lake is located at a distance of 175 km from Medan. The lake surrounds the densely populated island of Samsoir and its cool upside countryside is covered with tobacco, rubber, and palm oil plantations.
Least visited but strikingly beautiful Aceh lies in the northernmost part of Sumatra. Aceh boasts of the tallest men in entire Indonesia and one of the most complex cultural combinations in the country. Islam is the predominant religion in the country and people represent different ethnicity like Chinese, Indonesian, Tamil, and Arab. Some of the popular destinations here include extension of Gunung Leuser National Park, beaches, Orang-utan rehabilitation centre (one of the largest wildlife rehabilitation centres in the world).
Important Festivals and Exhibitions
Being a predominantly Muslim region, most of the Islamic festivals are celebrated here with much enthusiasm. Most important of festivals is Ramadan followed by Idul Adha, Muharram, Hari Natal, and Isra Miraj Nabi Muhammad. Indonesian Independence Day on August 17 is the most important non religious festival.
The most important place for shopping in Medan is Jln Jend A. Yani which abounds with souvenir and art shops. Some of the souvenirs that you can look for here include paintings, antiques, batik, statues and carvings. Ulos (hand-woven cloths) and accessories made of sea-shells, boar-tusks and buffalo horns are some other good bargains here.
WHERE TO STAY
Good and inexpensive hotels are available at most of the places in Sumatra. Options are wide ranging from Bread and breakfast to luxurious hotels. All the facilities that you expects from a first class western style hotel are available here.
WHERE TO EAT
Beef is the most used material in the cuisine of Sumatra. Food is hot hot and there would ample use of coconut oil in making curries. Like any other place in Indonesia, food is cheap and of quality. International cuisine can be expected in the larger cities only. As pork is prohibited for Muslims you won't find any cuisine made up of pork. Padang food is very spicy and most famous cuisine here.
Air Travel Resources
Medan has an airport connected to Jakarta, Penang, and Singapore. Daily flights from Medan to other cities in Sumatra is available as well. Direct flights to other cities of Sumatra from Java and places outside Indonesia are also operational.
Fast boats, cuises, and ships are always available from Jakarta and other port cities in Java island to ports of Sumatra. These ferries are cheap, convenient, and provides the best way to explore the unknown sea world around this region.
As Indonesia has a very good network of domestic air services, most of the main cities in Sumatra are interconnected by air. Roads in Sumatra are good by and large and buses are the most convenient way of travelling around. You can also hire bikes and four wheelers to move around in this part of the world. Trains are available in Sumatra but they do fare high on the traveller's imagination because of their poor quality of service and speed.