The populair holiday island Bali is an amazing place to travel! With the white beaches, the delicious food, beautiful rice fields and authenticity has this paradise won over a lot of hearts worldwide. But a lot of people forget that Indonesia consists of around 13.500 islands, of which approximately 3.000 are populated – and as the population of Indonesia is around 255.000.000 people, the balinese population only represents 1.6% of the whole country’s. So Bali makes a really small part of Indonesia and is actually very different from the rest of the country. Mathias and I went to Sumatra, where we spent around 15 days, before we went to Bali. Here we discovered the big differences and found out, how much else Indonesia has to offer – which you really should check out, if you plan to travel in this amazing country!
FACTS ABOUT SUMATRA:
– It’s the biggest island in the huge archipelago.
– Bali is the only hindu island in Indonesia. The main religion in the country is Islam, which of course is also the case for Sumatra, where a lot of people are muslim.
– Indonesia has 129 active volcanos, of which 40 are to find in Sumatra. Multiple of them can be climbed. Among others the volcano Sinabung often is erupting, which is an amazing sight!
-Sumatra has a lot of different nature phenomenas as volcanos, rain forrests, beaches and Lake Toba, which is the biggest volcano crater in the world. It has water in it, so you can go for a lovely swim here.
As written above, Mathias and I only had around 15 days on Sumatra and it would take a long time, if you wanted to travel all of Sumatra, as the island is three times the size of U.K. SO this was Mathias’s and my route in Sumatra, which was perfect for us, as we didn’t want to take too long transportation trips. Though I would like to make proposes to other routes, if you’re willing to travel longer or have more time.
The Route for Central/Northern Sumatra
All roads lead to Medan, and as this city has the biggest airport with the most destinations, we started our trip here. We had one night in Medan, as there’s is not much to see and we were a bit squeezed on time, but of course you can always stay longer, if you find the city of Medan interesting.
As many other hostels, homestays or hotels our homestay (K77) had a “driving plan”, where you can figure out where to go after Medan.
We wanted to see orangutangs, so we thought we would go a bit north for a start. The choice was between Bukit Lawang and Ketambe. Ketambe is an 8 hours drive from Medan but has more wild orangutangs than Bukit Lawang that is mainly known for its semi-wild orangutangs. But if you want to go all the way north (to for instances Ache), Ketambe wouldn’t be such a bad idea.
After all we chose Bukit Lawang, as it was only a 4 hours drive away from Medan. Here we relaxed and did a jungle-trek, which is pretty much the reason people go there. We saw both wild and semi-wild orangutangs. It was a really nice experience.
After 4 days in Bukit Lawang we went south with a car for 4-5 hours to the volcano town Berastagi. Here the intention was to walk some long walks around the town and see the so called ghost town, which was destroyed, when the active volcano Sinabung erupted in 2014. We also wanted to climb the sulphate volcano Sibayak. I got sick though, so it ended up only being an eruption from Sinabung and a climbing of Sibayak.
After three days in Berastagi we went down to Lake Toba (took around 3 hours). We were really excited about Lake Toba. Beneath the surface of the lake there is an inactive volcano that is so big that it obliterated approximately half of the population on earth, when it erupted thousands of years ago. Lake Toba was pure paradise, where you pretty much just chill and do nothing, which we did for 7 nights, before we had to leave the Toba-paradise.
We went with a boat to Parapat (the pier-town), which took around 1.5 hour. Then we went with a car for 5 hours from Parapat to Medan Airport, where we had to catch a flight to Kuala Lumpur to make a visa-run, as we didn’t wanna “break up” the Bali trip with a visa-run.
So this was the route, which we actually found really nice – even though there’s no doubt that we have to come back some time to explore both the northern part as well as the southern part. The good thing about it is that even though all the tourists are in Bali and Lombok, there are really good transport opportunities for travellers in Sumatra that doesn’t cost you much.