Category Archives: Pulau Weh

North Sumatra & Aceh Tour

The 15 day “Sumatran Highlights tour allows you to see all the major attractions of northern Sumatra, while also bringing you very close to the people, history, and culture of the region.

You will

  • meet and stay with local people
  • experience the unique Batak Toba culture
  • spot orangutans in the Gayo Highlands
  • see the world’s largest volcanic lake, Toba
  • encounter endangered wildlife in Gunung Leuser NP
  • hear first-hand accounts of the 2004 tsunami
  • go snorkelling on unspoilt Pulau Weh island
  • and much more

Fast Facts

North Sumatra Tour Map

Tour: Sumatran Highlights
Operator: Intrepid Travel

Length: 15 days
Group Size: 1-12 people
Cost: $1700+, €1000+, £1000+

Provinces: North Sumatra, Aceh
Cities: Medan, Banda Aceh
Major Sights: Lake Toba, Gunung Leuser National Park, Sipisopiso waterfall, Mt. Sibayak, Gayo Highlands, Pulau Weh

Accommodation: 9 nights hotel, 3 nights guesthouse, 1 night homestay, 1 night camping
Transport: Plane, bus, ferry, minivan
Meals: 9 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 3 dinners

Book this tour at Intrepid Travel


Medan Grand MosqueDay 1: Medan. Start off your tour in the North Sumatran capital of Medan; if you’ve arrived early see some sights like Maimoon Palace or the Grand Mosque.

Lake TobaDays 2-3: Lake Toba. Off to world renowned volcanic Lake Toba. Your tour of the Lake Toba area will give you an insight into the distinctive culture of the Batak Toba people.

Dokan HouseDays 4-5: Berastagi. See Sipiso-piso Waterfall and Simalungun Palace before resting at a Dokan village homestay. Then go hiking up to the top of Sibayak Volcano to experience the amazing summit views. Nearby hot springs will afford some relaxation at the end of the day.

Sumatra tiger in Gunung LeuserDays 6-7: Ketambe. Learn about the many endangered species that call Gunung Leuser National Park home, including tigers, elephants, and rhinoceroses. Take a guided walk in search of orangutans, and camp by the river.

Gayo HighlandsDays 8-9: Gayo Highlands. Take in the majestic Gayo Highlands, with undulating hills covered with coffee plantations. Next day visit the enigmatic Loyang Koro Cave.

Banda AcehDays 10-11: Banda Aceh. Visit the Tsunami Musuem and learn of the experiences of local people during the 2004 tsunami catastrophe. Take a tour with Network for Tsunami Aceh to understand more of the calamity.

Pulau WehDays 12-13: Pulau Weh. Visit the tropical island playground of Pulau Weh, and go snorkelling in pristine waters.

Graha Bunda MariaDays 14-15: Medan. Use your initiative to explore the city of Medan, perhaps taking in the Tjong A Fie Mansion, the colonial district, or Graha Bunda Maria.

Book this tour at Intrepid Travel

Read some interesting comments on this tour and Sumatran travel in general: Sumatra For The Intrepid.

Need to book a hotel or arrange a domestic flight in Indonesia? Browse through listings of Medan hotels and arrange domestic flights.

Sumatra For The Intrepid

Intrepid Travel launches a new tour in Indonesia, covering the highlights of (northern) Sumatra.

Intrepid Travel logoFor many years, Australian-owned tour company Intrepid Travel has operated a slowly declining number of tours in Indonesia. Recently, these were almost entirely based around the tourist hub of Bali and neighbouring Lombok.

However, Intrepid recently launched a new tour: Sumatran Highlights.

According to the brochure, it gives:

the opportunity to travel in areas that few people get to visit and to spend time with the people who call this region home.

and was recently selected as one of National Geographic's Top 50 Tours of a Lifetime.

The Sumatran Highlights visited on this trip include:

Orangutan Lake Toba Pulau Weh diving Tsunami Museum, Aceh Mt Sibayak Gayo Highlands

The 15-day tour includes flights to and from Kuala Lumpur, transport, accommodation and some meals. The price is $US1825 / € 1395 / $A1995.

However, Intrepid's tour only covers the island's two northern-most provinces: North Sumatra and Aceh.

This suggests there are six other provinces Sumatran provinces seemingly deemed to have nothing special.

Locals may disagree and point to other noteworthy attractions like the remains of the world's most famous volcano: Anak Krakatau; Lonely Planet's other highlight of Sumatra: Bukittinggi, West Sumatra; and the surfing and stone-jumping mecca of Pulau Nias, despite regular flights there.

Anak Krakatau Bukittingi, West Sumatra Nias Island

If you were constructing a tour of the best of Sumatra, what would you keep, drop and change? Or what undiscovered/hidden gems would you recommend?

Also, are you willing to pay a premium price to be able to visit places that are otherwise difficult to see?

Please share your thoughts below.

Sumatra For The Intrepid is brought to you by Indonesia Matters, where you can book flights in Indonesia, and features listings of Indonesian hotels, like Kuta hotels, Sanur hotels, hotels in Jakarta and near Jakarta airport, and more.

Lonely Planet’s Indonesia Highlights

Lonely Planets Highlights of IndonesiaA discussion of Indonesia's finest, according to Indonesia's best travel guide, Lonely Planet.

Lonely Planet
The new ninth edition (published January 2010) of "Lonely Planet: Indonesia" recently hit Indonesian bookstores, retailing at e.g. Periplus for Rp378 800.

I will review other parts of the book in future postings, but in this article I will focus on the first few pages:

Highlights of Indonesia.

Here is a list, with links to more detail of each destination. For simplicity, they are split into different themes or sections, in order of west to east.

Parks/Scenery Cultural Diving/Beaches
  • Lake Toba
  • Ujung Kulon NP
  • Mt Bromo
  • Tanjung Puting NP
  • Loksado
  • Komodo NP
  • Mt Kelimutu
  • Ternate Harbour
  • Lake Sentani
  • Borobudur Temple
  • Sukuh Temple
  • Ubud
  • Tanah Toraja
  • West Timor
  • Baliem Valley
  • Clubbing in Bali & Jakarta
  • Pulau Weh
  • Batu Karas
  • Bingin Beach
  • Gili Islands
  • Pulau Derawan
  • Banda Islands
  • Pulau Bunaken
  • Pulau Morotai
  • Raja Ampat Islands
  • Or, if you want to explore a particular region, here they are again, this time separated into islands or provinces:

    Sumatra Java Bali
  • Lake Toba
  • Pulau Weh
  • Ujung Kulon NP
  • Mt Bromo
  • Borobudur Temple
  • Sukuh Temple
  • Batu Karas
  • Clubbing
  • Ubud
  • Bingin
  • Clubbing
  • Kalimantan Nusa Tenggara Sulawesi
  • Tanjung Puting NP
  • Loksado
  • Pulau Derawan
  • Gili Islands
  • Komodo NP
  • West Timor
  • Tanah Toraja
  • Pulau Bunaken
  • Maluku West Papua
  • Banda Islands
  • Pulau Morotai
  • Ternate Harbour
  • Lake Sentani
  • Baliem Valley
  • Raja Ampat Islands
  • Parks/Scenery

    Indonesia's tropical climate and mountainous topography gives it a wide range of highlights; unique flora and fauna, along with some amazing landscapes and scenery.

    Lake Toba
    Lake Toba, North Sumatra
    Noteworthy as the world's largest volcanic lake and one of the largest inland lakes in Asia, it's surrounded by great views and the very friendly Toba Batak people.

    Ujung Kulon Rhino
    Ujung Kulon National Park, Banten
    Home of the increasingly endangered one-horned rhinoceros, and some of the little remaining rainforest in Java.

    Mt Bromo
    Mt Bromo, East Java
    Indonesia's most visited volcano, if not it's most (in)famous. A frequent stopover on the backpacker trail through Java to Bali.

    Tanjung Puting
    Tanjung Puting National Park, Central Kalimantan
    An eco-tourist destination where you can get up close and personal with some of Indonesia's endangered orangutans.

    Loksado, South Kalimantan
    A protected rainforest where the preferred way to travel is by boat.

    Kelimutu Picture
    Mt Kelimutu, East Nusa Tenggara
    Onspiring and similarly noteworthy, a rare combination of three volcanic lakes, each a different colour.

    Komodo Island/Natural Park, East Nusa Tenggara
    Home to the most well-known of Indonesia's many uniques creatures.

    Lake Sentani
    Lake Sentani, Papua.
    Sentani isn't just home to Jayapura's airport, but also this lovely and picturesque lake. I know one person with a middle name "Sentani"; his pilot father remembers how much he enjoyed flying over it.


    The people of Indonesia are certainly multi-cultural; they speak 726 different languages, 247 of them in Papua alone. So whether you're an anthropologist, archaeologist or just interested in learning about different cultures, there is something for everyone in Indonesia.

    Borobudur, Yogyakarta.
    Indonesia's most famous and deservedly World Heritage Listed Buddhist temple, visited by David Beckham in 2007 and soon to be visited by the Obamas. It also is regarded as one of the 1000 Places To See Before You Die.

    Sukuh Temple
    Sukuh Temple, Central Java.
    Arguably Central Java's finest religious monument, near Solo.

    Ubud, Bali.
    Recently voted Asia's top city as well as one of the 1000 Places To See Before You Die, Ubud is justifiably popular as a place to relax, learn/appreciate Balinese culture and handicrafts, or just a change of pace from the south of Bali.

    Tanah Toraja
    Tanah Toraja, South Sulawesi.
    Home to a unique culture where funerals are the biggest party. It also is regarded as one of the 1000 Places To See Before You Die, and the location of arguably Indonesia's most unusual postcard.

    West Timor
    West Timor, East Nusa Tenggara.
    Included in the new edition at the expense of Sumba for its unique culture and bee-hive houses.

    Baliem Papua
    Baliem Valley, Papua.
    Undiscovered until 1945, it is surrounded by amazing mountain scenery and lots of great hiking opportunities. It also is regarded as one of the 1000 Places To See Before You Die.

    Clubbing in Bali and Jakarta.
    A somewhat more controversial choice IMHO (as it's not really unique to Indonesia)... but if that's your thing, then that's another way you will also enjoy your time in Indonesia.

    Diving and Beaches

    These locations are all fantastic, so arguments over which one is the best are futile. Just visit and enjoy as many as you can!

    Pulah Weh diving
    Pulau Weh, Aceh.
    Enjoying a revival in tourist numbers. You can read and see more about it here.

    Batu Karas
    Batu Karas, West Java.
    Near Pangandaran, this volcanic sand beach is a lovely place to sit back and relax. Apparently, it is also a great place to learn to surf.

    Bingin beach, Bali.
    One of Bali's many surf beaches, this one is for the more experienced surfer.

    Gili Islands, Lombok.
    Previously noted for its quiet beaches, the Gili Islands offer a respite from reality for a fraction of the cost of some of its peers next door in Bali. You can now travel there direct from Bali by Perama boat. Read more here.

    Pulau Derawan
    Pulau Derawan, East Kalimantan.
    If it's Lonely Planet writer M. Cohen's favourite place in all of Borneo/Kalimantan (including Malaysia and Brunei), then it must be pretty good. Read more in Best deserted beaches.

    Pulau Bunaken, North Sulawesi.
    Forms part of the famous Coral Triangle, and recently hosted an international conference on ocean protection. Former Miss Indonesia and current WWF Marine Conservation Ambassador Nadine Chandrawinata is apparently a fan, after learning to scuba dive there in 2006.

    Banda Islands beach
    Banda Islands, Maluku.
    It has some very nice and quiet beaches, possibly because it can be very difficult to get there in the first place. Apparently, the diving is spectacular too.

    Ternate Harbour, North Maluku.
    Home to such lovely sea views, which currently adorn the Rp1000 note.

    Around Morotai Island, Papua.
    The unique attraction of diving here is the many World War 2 relics that still dot the marine landscape. Some really nice beaches too.

    Raja Ampat
    Raja Ampat Islands, West Papua.
    A new addition to the Highlights of Indonesia this edition, deposing diving in Biak. Again, its relative isolation can be good (conservation and not crowded) or bad (difficult to go there), depending on your viewpoint.

    Do you agree with Lonely Planet's choice of locations? Why/why not?

    Regardless, please also share your favourite places in Indonesia below.

    Lonely Planet’s Indonesia Highlights is brought to you by Indonesia Matters, which also features listings of Indonesia hotels, like Kuta hotels, Ubud hotels, hotels in Jakarta, and more.

    Great Barrier Reef, Maldives, Aceh

    DivingThe BBC says Pulau Weh in Aceh is the next great location for diving enthusiasts.

    As mentioned in my previous article, the BBC World News show Fast Track featured Indonesia recently.

    A story about Acehnese tourism five years after the tsunami - watch it here - was surprisingly positive.

    It featured some of the dive sites near Pulau Weh, a small island off the coast of Aceh, the northernmost province of Sumatera.

    Pulau Weh Diving
    Diving near Pulau Weh, Aceh.

    According to the feature, unlike more popular locations, its relative isolation has helped it be preserved and not destroyed by pollution, overfishing or tourism. One of the unique attractions in the area is a very rare undersea geothermal vent. While the 2004 tsunami did damage the coral, it has subsequently recovered; some locals have also helped the undersea life by grafting and growing new coral.

    During the report, we meet two dive operators: Pak Dodent, the director of one of only two local dive shops in the area; and Ben Stokes of Dive Safari Asia, an English-based diving company which leads groups to more remote/isolated Asian diving locations.

    It also said while few people come specifically to see the tsunami sites, local residents are surprisingly happy to show you tsunami relics and discuss their experiences. A Tsunami Museum also recently opened in Banda Aceh.

    Tsunami Museum
    Tourists visiting another famous tourist attraction in Aceh

    The question is: Having seen the report above, would you consider visiting Aceh on your next holiday, especially if it was for diving? Why or why not?

    And regardless of your answer to the previous question, what could the Acehnese government do - in your opinion - to encourage more visitors?

    Great Barrier Reef, Maldives, Aceh is brought to you by Indonesia Matters, which also features listings of Indonesia hotels, special discounts on Bali hotels, Kuta hotels, Sanur hotels, hotels in Jakarta, and more.