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  4. Sumatra Island in Indonesia: how to get there, hotels, transport, attractions

The hard-to-reach island of Sumatra is beautiful, large and still not fully explored. It is covered with lush jungles that hide high mountain lakes and spectacular waterfalls, volcanoes that remain active, and is inhabited by unique representatives of flora and fauna.

It is this beauty and power of nature that makes Sumatra such an attractive destination for active and inquisitive travelers. What else is hidden in this marvelous and mysterious corner of the planet? We will tell in this article.

Choose and book hotels in Sumatra.


General information

  • Area: 473,481 square kilometers.
  • Population: 59,185,500 as of 2021.
  • Location: Western Indonesia.
  • What languages are spoken: officially - Bahasa Indonesian , but given the large number of ethnic groups living in Sumatra, more than 50 languages of the Malayo-Polynesian branch of the Austronesian language family are used here.
  • Religions: Predominantly Islam, but also Christianity, Buddhism and Hinduism.
  • Currency: Indonesian rupiah.


How to get to Sumatra

If you are traveling to Sumatra from Malaysia, you can use the ferry service. However, the most convenient way to get to Sumatra is by air.

There are several international airports in Sumatra:

  • Kualanamu is about 23 kilometers from the center of Medan. This airport is the main gateway to Sumatra.
  • Minangkabau is about 23 kilometers from the city center of Padang (West Sumatra).
  • Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin II near the city of Palembang (South Sumatra).
  • Sultan Iskandar Muda is about 13 kilometers from the city of Banda Aceh.

Flights arrive here from a number of countries, including Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, as well as from Jakarta.


Hotels in Sumatra

Sumatra offers a fairly wide range of accommodation options. The cost of living depends on the needs of travelers. Prices are formed taking into account several factors, such as location, seasonality, category of housing, and start from $5. But such accommodation options are more suitable for unpretentious travelers.

Comfortable accommodation, for example, in the city of Medan, which is the main transport hub in the country and often serves as a starting point for exploring popular tourist locations, will cost an average of 30-50 US dollars, and an expensive hotel in the same city will cost about 100 US dollars per night for a double room.

Here are some examples of hotels with estimated prices for accommodation in popular cities of Sumatra.

  • OYO 621 Vania Residence (Medan) - inexpensive hotel within a few kilometers from many attractions. Clean, comfortable, friendly staff. From 23 USD.
  • Ibis styles Medan Pattimura (Medan) is a 3-star hotel in the city center that bills itself as a "design budget hotel for creative types". There is a restaurant, indoor pool, gym and children's corner. Near a supermarket. From $30 with breakfast.
  • Hotel Deli River (Medan) - a small, cozy hotel surrounded by a tropical garden, where many flowers, fruits and more than 20 species of exotic birds grow. The distance from the center is compensated by the peaceful atmosphere and magnificent views from the outdoor pool to the Delhi River and the lush jungle, as well as the opportunity to go on an exciting personalized tour of Sumatra, which can be organized by the hotel at the request of guests. There is a restaurant serving traditional Indonesian and Western dishes. From 50 USD.
  • Four points by Sheraton (Medan) - 4-star hotel located in the business district of the city, within walking distance of many attractions, including the Royal Palace of Maimoon and the Great Mosque of Medan. Elegant rooms with discreet interiors, a spa and fitness center, an outdoor pool, a wide selection of food and drinks. From $50 with breakfast.
  • Garden Inn (Bukit Lawang) - cozy bungalows in a flower garden on the banks of the river overlooking the national park. An ideal place to observe wildlife, sometimes even orangutans. All rooms have a king-size bed, a private bathroom and a balcony. The hotel serves Western and Indonesian cuisine. From 25 USD.
  • Green Travelodge (Bukit Lawang) - colorful bungalows with a thatched roof, lots of greenery, helpful staff. Near the river, it is possible to organize rafting, hiking in the jungle and other activities. From 20 USD.
  • Algorithm Hotel (Palembang) - 3 star hotel with modern design and clean rooms. There is free parking, a mini market, a restaurant. From 30 USD.
  • Freddies Santai Sumurtiga (Sabang Island, also known as Pulau Weh) is a 3-star beach hotel built in a traditional style with maximum use of natural materials. Located right on the beach where you can wear bikinis and swimwear. There are restaurants, necessary beach equipment, ramps for wheelchairs, two decorative fish ponds, beautiful places for photo shoots. About 25 USD.
Choose and book hotels in Sumatra.


Cafes and restaurants in Sumatra

The restaurants of Sumatra offer mainly national dishes, as well as Asian and European cuisine. Indonesian cuisine is somewhat similar to Indian, however, it also has its own characteristics.

The so-called Padang cuisine, which got its name in honor of the city of Padang , the capital of the province of West Sumatra, has gained wide popularity not only in the region, but also in neighboring Malaysia and Singapore. The main dishes are rice, curry, chili, chicken and beef. You can try them in the respective restaurants, which are easily recognizable by the numerous plates displayed in the windows. The peculiarity of these dishes is not only in preparation, but also in the style of serving, called "khidang". So, a lot of plates filled with food are laid out in front of a restaurant visitor. In this case, the client pays only for the plate from which he eats. The remaining dishes are removed and later can be offered to other guests.

By the way, in traditional restaurants, locals eat rice mostly with their hands, so there are usually containers with water on the tables for washing hands before and after eating.

You can try traditional Sumatra dishes in numerous eateries or, for example, in the popular Garuda restaurant in Medan. The restaurant has been in existence since 1976 and specializes in Padang cuisine. It is possible to make an online order and have a bite to eat in a place convenient for you.

As for the prices for food in restaurants in Sumatra, it all depends on the level of the institution and your culinary preferences. Approximately lunch for two in a middle-class establishment will cost around $20.



Sumatra has a number of both natural and architectural attractions. Let's take a closer look at some of them.

Sultan's Palace and Great Mosque in Medan

The buildings are located in the neighborhood and are among the main attractions of the city. Both buildings are of great historical and cultural value and are well maintained.


Bukit Lawang

A popular tourist location located about 90 kilometers from Medan city on the outskirts of the Gunung National Park Leuser, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Numerous species of birds, plants and mammals live here. The main attraction of the park is the Sumatran orangutan. The colony living here has about 5,000 individuals. Since 1973, a rehabilitation center has been operating here, where young orphaned orangutans are trained to live in the wild. Sightseeing trip to Bukit Lavang can include not only observing orangutans in their natural habitat, but also close acquaintance with wildlife, guided hikes in the jungle, a raft ride on the Bokhorok River.


Lake Toba

The picturesque lake, located in the province of North Sumatra and surrounded by green hills, is the largest in Indonesia. Formed as a result of a volcanic eruption more than 70 thousand years ago, the lake has a depth of 450 meters, a length of about 100 and a width of about 30 kilometers. In the middle of the lake is the island of Samosir, which is open to the public and contains many attractions that attract tourists. Also in the vicinity you can visit local villages, the impressive Sipiso-piso waterfall 120 meters high and other interesting places.


Asam Kumbang

The largest crocodile breeding park in Indonesia. The ponds and artificial lake contain a huge number of reptiles of various ages.


Reserve Sibolangit

It is part of the tourist park of the same name. Located about an hour from Medan. Here, travelers will find magnificent nature, waterfalls and forests inhabited by primates and other representatives of the fauna.

Bukit Barisan

Barisan mountain range consists of many volcanoes, including active ones. The ridge is covered with dense jungle and stretches for 1,700 kilometers from north to south. There are beautiful mountain lakes, waterfalls and caves. Three national parks are located on the territory at once, where very rare representatives of flora and fauna are found, including the largest flower in the world rafflesia arnoldi , whose weight can reach up to 8 kilograms.


Weather in Sumatra

Sumatra is influenced by a tropical humid climate, and at the same time is considered one of the coolest regions in Indonesia.

The minimum average air temperature here is about +22C, and the maximum is +31C. At the same time, the water temperature fluctuates in the range of +27…+29С, which makes it comfortable for swimming throughout the year. The mountainous regions are colder and more prone to precipitation than the lowlands.

The island has two main seasons: the dry season (May to September) and the rainy season (October to April). From the point of view of weather conditions, almost all months of the dry season are suitable for visiting Sumatra. However, when choosing the best time to travel , it should be borne in mind that the main influx of tourists in Sumatra falls on July - August. So if you prefer a more intimate getaway, visit Sumatra towards the start or end of the dry season.

Book hotels in Sumatra.


Transport in Sumatra

Sumatra cannot boast of impeccable roads and a well-organized transport system, and movement around the island has its own characteristics, which we will discuss below.


Buses are the main form of public transport both in the cities of Sumatra and on intercity routes. But traveling by public buses is more suitable for experienced travelers, since the movement of this type of transport often does not correspond to the schedule, and the buses themselves cannot be called comfortable. Based on this, it is better to consider alternative travel options.

Tourist buses

As a rule, these are minibuses that connect the main tourist destinations. You can find out the exact routes, timetables, prices, as well as book a trip at your hotel or guest house.


Taxi services are available in major cities. For example, in Medan, one of the most popular carriers is the Bluebird company, where you can not only order a taxi, but also rent a car.

At the same time, it must be remembered that renting a car or a scooter is a somewhat risky enterprise due to difficult roads and sometimes chaotic traffic for an unusual tourist.

Some hoteliers may offer a private driver service to guests. Thanks to this service, you can organize a comfortable trip according to your interests and budget.

To travel short distances, you can use a vehicle such as a tuk-tuk.


There is a rail link in Sumatra. You can check the train schedule and book tickets with the help of your hotelier or on your own on the website of the Indonesian Railways.


Water transport

This type of transport is a very popular way to travel between the islands of Sumatra, as well as between Sumatra and other regions of Indonesia. As a rule, water vessels are slow ferries, but there are a number of routes that are served by speed boats.

The most popular ferry routes connect:

  • Padang and the Mentawai Islands
  • Banda Aceh and Pulau Weh
  • Sibolga and Pulau Nias
  • Palembang and Bangka Island
  • Bangka Island and Belitung

When planning a boat trip, keep in mind that ferries are often overcrowded and often dependent on weather conditions.



Air travel is the most convenient way to cover long distances in Sumatra. Sumatra's main international airport is Kualanamu in Medan. In addition, airports serve other major cities, including Banda Aceh, Padang and Palembang.

Bookings can be made on carrier websites such as Garuda, AirAsia, LionAir and SusiAir.

Beaches in Sumatra

As befits an island nation, holidays in Sumatra are inextricably linked with a large number of beaches. Large and miniature, popular and secluded, clean and with traces of human presence, they are scattered throughout the northern, southern and western regions of the country.

Among the most attractive places for a beach holiday:

  • Lampuuk is a clean wide white sand beach on the northwest coast of Sumatra in the province of Aceh . Here you can rush on a banana, ride a swing, admire the sunset, have a bite to eat in nearby cafes and take memorable photos.
  • Pulau Karang (Coral Island) is a small and very green island in North Sumatra offering the perfect combination of pure white sand, turquoise water and luscious palm trees.
  • Pandan beach - clean beach of North Sumatra province with blue water and shady trees. Located in a bay, so the water is quite calm.
  • Gandoriah beach - a clean wide beach in the province of West Sumatra, located about 60 kilometers from the city of Padang in the city of Sala Lauak district of Pariaman . There are water activities and plenty of eateries.
  • Carolina beach (Pantai Carolina Bungus) is a location in the province of West Sumatra, about 20 kilometers from the city of Padang. Well-maintained beach, beautiful coastline, opportunities for snorkeling, diving, fishing, rafting, surfing.
  • Tanjung Tinggi beach - the beach of Belitung Island, which until 2000 was part of the province of South Sumatra, and later was included in the newly formed province of Bank Belitung . In addition to white sand, calm turquoise water and coral reefs, this beach features huge smooth boulders scattered across its territory and partially washed by ocean waters. Here you can not only have a good rest, but also take impressive photos for your social networks.
Choose and book hotels in Indonesia.


5 interesting facts about Sumatra

  1. Sumatra is the largest island in Indonesia and the sixth largest island in the world.
  2. There is high seismic activity in Sumatra. The island has suffered numerous natural disasters, including the Krakatau volcano eruption in 1883, the tsunami in 2004, the 2005 earthquake and the tsunami in 2010.
  3. Sumatra is the largest producer of Indonesian coffee.
  4. In local forests, not only the world's largest rafflesia arnold flower grows , but also the world's tallest unbranched flower titanium arum, the inflorescence of which can reach more than 3 meters in height.
  5. The Sumatran tiger is the smallest subspecies of the tiger, but it also has the highest concentration of stripes. The Sumatran rhinoceros is the smallest member of the rhinoceros family.



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