At 2094m, Gunung Sibayak is one of Indonesia’s most accessible volcanoes. There are three ways to tackle the climb, depending on your energy level; a guide is only essential if taking the route through the jungle, but if you’re trekking alone it’s a good idea. The hike can be done in five hours return, and you should set out as early as possible.
The easiest way is to take the track that starts to the northwest of Berastagi, a 10-minute walk past the Sibayak Multinational Resthouse. Take the left-hand path beside the hut where you pay the entrance fee. From here, it’s 7km (about three hours) to the top and fairly easy to follow, mostly along a road. Finding the path down is a little tricky. When you reach the crater, turn 90 degrees to the right (anticlockwise), climb up to the rim and start looking for the stone steps down the other side of the mountain. If you can’t find the steps, you can also go back the way you came.
Rather than trekking from Berastagi, you can catch one of the green Kama minibuses (4000Rp) to Semangat Gunung at the base of the volcano, from where it’s a two-hour climb to the summit. There are steps part of the way, but this track is narrower and in poorer condition than the one from Berastagi.
The longest option is to trek through the jungle from Air Terjun Panorama; this waterfall is on the Medan road, about 5km north of Berastagi. Allow at least five hours for the walk from here.
Trails on Sibayak volcano are neither clearly marked nor well maintained, and it is easy to get lost. During the wet season, paths can be extremely slippery or even washed out. Be prepared for abrupt weather changes, bring supplies such as food, drink, warm clothing, rain gear and a torch, in case you get caught out after dark. People have died on Sibayak, so seriously consider getting a guide. Before setting out, pick up a map from any of the guesthouses in Berastagi and peruse their guestbooks for comments and warnings about the hike.