Must see attractions in Sumatra

  • Top ChoiceSights in Jambi

    Muara Jambi

    This scattering of ruined and partially restored temples is the most important Hindu-Buddhist site in Sumatra. The temples are believed to mark the location of the ancient city of Jambi, capital of the kingdom of Malayu 1000 years ago. Most of the candi (temples) date from the 9th to the 13th centuries, when Jambi’s power was at its peak. Grab a bicycle (per day 10,000Rp) at the entrance to explore the immensely peaceful forested site, marvelling at the temple stonework

  • Top ChoiceSights in Banda Aceh

    Mesjid Raya Baiturrahman

    With its brilliant-white walls, ebony-black domes and towering minaret, this 19th-century mosque is a dazzling sight. The best time to visit is during Friday-afternoon prayers, when the entire building and courtyard are filled with people. A series of retractable shades in the tiled courtyard offer all-weather protection for worshippers. A headscarf is required for women.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Tanjung Pinang

    Pulau Penyenget

    Pulau Penyenget, reached by frequent boats (7000Rp) from the Tanjung Pinang pier, was once the capital of the Riau rajahs. The ruins of the old palace of Rajah Ali and the tombs and graveyards of Rajah Jaafar and Rajah Ali are signposted inland. The most impressive site is the sulphur-coloured mosque, with its many domes and minarets.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Bengkulu

    Fort Marlborough

    Set on a hill overlooking the Indian Ocean, the star-shaped Benteng Marlborough, a former British fort, became the seat of British power in Bengkulu after 1719, when it replaced nearby Fort York. Despite its sturdy defences the fort was attacked and overrun twice – once by a local rebellion just after its completion in 1719, and then by the French in 1760. It was also used by the Dutch, Japanese and Indonesian military.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Gunung Sitoli

    Museum Pusaka Nias

    This superb museum, housed inside several traditional-style buildings, offers an in-depth introduction to the indigenous culture of Nias. The displays run the gamut from jewellery worn by noblemen, weapons, crocodile-hide battle armour and traditional fishing and hunting equipment to headhunting sculptures and paraphernalia, wood carvings used in ancestor worship, ceremonial drums, nifolasara (boat-like) coffins with dragon heads, and microliths (anthropomorphic stone figures found on top of megaliths throughout Pulau Nias). One room features beautiful scale models of traditional houses.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Banda Aceh

    Tsunami Museum

    A visit to this beautifully designed, hard-hitting museum commences with a walk through a dark, dripping tunnel that symbolises the 2004 tsunami waves. This is followed by a powerful set of images of the devastation projected from tombstone-like receptacles, and a circular chamber engraved with the names of the lost. Upstairs a very graphic short film is shown, along with photographs of loss, displacement, rebuilding, hopefulness and reunited families.

  • Sights in Bengkulu

    Beringin Tiga & Curug Embun

    A straightforward hike here through coffee and palm-sugar plantations finishes at a campsite near an idyllic natural hot spring, from where you can take short hikes to the Beringin Tiga falls and the remarkable Curug Embun falls, which comprises two falls: one cold and the other fed by hot springs, with great swimming where the two meet. Safety ropes assist descents to Curug Embun. It's 33km south of Curup. Wild Sumatra Tours can arrange day trips here from Bengkulu (US$100 per person).

  • Sights in Banda Aceh

    Rumah Aceh

    In the same compound as the Museum Negeri Banda Aceh, the Rumah Aceh is a fine example of traditional Acehnese architecture, built without nails and held together with cord and pegs. Inside is a typical traditional kitchen and living area with hanging crib, among other traditional Acehnese pieces. Out front is a huge cast-iron bell, the Cakra Donya, said to have been a gift from a Chinese emperor in the 15th century.

  • Sights in Banyak Islands

    Pulau Sikandang

    This largish island with pristine beaches takes a couple of hours to walk around. It's one of the most popular places to stay with several guesthouses set up here. Snorkelling is possible but there’s a steep drop-off near the shore off the main beach.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Berastagi

    Gunung Sibayak

    Famous for its steamy sulphurous fumaroles, Gunung Sibayak (2094m) is one of Indonesia’s most accessible volcanoes. Getting to the summit for sunrise is a popular time to go, but you'll have to take private transport at that hour – 500,000Rp (four to five people), from where it's a one-hour walk from the car park. Solo travellers can join an existing group to keep costs down. Be prepared for abrupt weather changes: pack warm clothing, rain gear, a flashlight, snacks and drinking water.

  • Sights in Medan

    Istana Maimoon

    The grand, 30-room Maimoon Palace was built by the Sultan of Deli in 1888 and features Malay, Mughal and Italian influences. Only the main room, which features the lavish inauguration throne, is open to the public. Traditional music performances usually take place at 10am and 2pm Monday to Friday, and at 2pm on Saturday and Sunday.

  • Top ChoiceSights in Kerinci Seblat National Park

    Gunung Kerinci

    Dominating the northern end of Kerinci Seblat National Park is Gunung Kerinci (3805m), Southeast Asia’s tallest volcano and one of Sumatra’s most active. On clear days the summit offers fantastic views of Danau Gunung Tujuh and the surrounding valleys and mountains. Summit treks usually start from the national park entrance, 5km from Kersik Tua, and tackle the mountain over two days, camping overnight. A fully guided trip with food, permits, transport and all gear costs anywhere from 900,000Rp to 1,500,000Rp per person.

  • Sights in Bengkulu

    Seblat Elephant Conservation Centre

    The Seblat Elephant Conservation Centre is a conservation project set up to manage human-elephant conflict, as well as to protect the forests and wildlife. Here you can assist mahouts on elephant treks, on anything from two-day trips to 10-day jungle patrols on the lookout for wild elephants and tigers. While the centre is one of only a handful of legitimate elephant conservation centres in Indonesia, note that elephant rides present various animal-welfare issues, so you might want to reconsider taking part.

  • Sights in Pasemah Highlands

    Tinggi Hari

    Tinggi Hari, 20km from Lahat, west of the small river town of Pulau Pinang, is a site featuring the best examples of early prehistoric stone sculpture in Indonesia. The Pasemah carvings fall into two distinct styles. The early style dates from around 3000 years ago and features fairly crude figures squatting with hands on knees or arms folded over chests. The later style, incorporating expressive facial features, dates from about 2000 years ago and is far more elaborate.

  • Sights in Bukittinggi

    PT Studio Songket Palantaloom

    Handicraft and textile fans should not miss this place near Simpang Bukit Batabuah, 7km southeast of Bukittinggi. Dedicated to revitalising the traditional Minangkabau art of weaving songket (silver- or gold-threaded cloth), the studio has trained young weavers (aged 18 to 28) in the art of producing Sumatra’s finest. Phone ahead, and catch a yellow opelet from the Aur Kuning bus terminal to Batu Taba (4500Rp), getting off at the SMKN1 (high school).

  • Sights in Danau Toba

    King Sidabutar's Grave

    Located 5km southeast of Tuk Tuk, near the Tomok ferry terminal, is a complex of royal Batak tombs and houses. At the entrance you'll pass sarcophagi of royal members and family, but to find the tomb of King Sidabutar you'll need to go 500m past the souvenir stalls and look for the sign.

  • Sights in Kerinci Seblat National Park

    Danau Gunung Tujuh

    At 1996m, the beautiful caldera of Danau Gunung Tujuh is the highest in Southeast Asia and makes for a pleasant day ascent or part of a multiday trek. It takes 3½ hours to climb to the lake from the park entrance, which is 2km from Pelompek village. Camp near the lake if staying overnight. An ojek to the trailhead costs around 15,000Rp. Homestays in Kersik Tua and Palompek can organise two- or three-day treks (from 300,000Rp per day), including a canoe crossing.

  • Sights in Bukittinggi

    House of Rafflesia Luwak Coffee

    At this plantation in Batang Palupuh, friendly owner Umul Khairi is happy to explain the process of harvesting, drying and roasting kopi luwak – a smooth, earthy brew produced from coffee beans ingested and excreted by civets (cat-like mammals). While the luwak coffee industry has come under fire for ‘farming’ civets to meet demand for the brew, the House of Rafflesia still operates in the traditional way, collecting wild civet ‘poo’ off the jungle floor.

  • Sights in Bukittinggi

    Batang Palupuh Nature Reserve

    This reserve, 16km north of Bukittinggi, is home to many orchid species, as well as the massive Rafflesia arnoldii and Amorphophallus titanum, the largest flowers on the planet – the latter endemic to Sumatra. The rafflesia blooms throughout the year, if briefly, whereas you have to be incredibly lucky to catch the Amorphophallus titanum in bloom at all. Both flowers reek like roadkill. Local buses to Palupuh cost 10,000Rp, a taxi is 10,000Rp and a Grab online taxi 40,000Rp.

  • Sights in Berastagi

    Rumah Bolon

    Located between Berastagi and Danau Toba, this impressive, well-tended palace complex sits on the edge of the village of Pematang Purba. It was the home of the Simalungan Batak chiefs until the last one died in 1947. It's a peaceful site to explore and you can go inside a number of the magnificent traditional buildings. Most people visit as part of a tour from Berastagi, but otherwise you can take an angkot to Kabanjaje (5000Rp), from where there are connections to Rumah Bolon (10,000Rp).