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.
If you're walking from Berastagi, guides can be booked at the tourist office and guesthouses for 200,000Rp (for up to three people, three hours walk one way). A guide is only really essential if you're taking the route through the jungle. But if you’re trekking alone it’s still a very good idea as the weather can change quickly; a German tourist got lost and perished here in 2017. 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 a 7km route (about three hours) to the top and fairly easy to follow, mostly along a road.
Rather than trekking from Berastagi, you can catch one of the green Kama minibuses (4000Rp) to the base of the volcano, from where it’s a two-hour climb to the summit. The first bus is at 7am. There are steps part of the way, but this track is narrower and in poorer condition than the one from Berastagi.
The longest option, which should be done with a guide, 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 Gunung Sibayak are neither clearly marked nor well maintained, and it is easy to get lost. During wet season, paths can be extremely slippery or even washed out. Be prepared for abrupt weather changes and bring supplies including food, drinks, warm clothing, rain gear and a torch, in case you get caught out after dark. 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. Don't forget to pack your swimmers and a towel so you can enjoy the hot springs on the way down.