2 weeks or 15 days Itinerary in Sumatra

Planning to take a trip to Sumatra for about 2 weeks (15 days)? Don’t worry as we are here to help you sort it out. As Sumatra is not a well-trodden tourist trail in Indonesia, in opposed to Java or Bali, it may be a little difficult to plan out your days here.

In this itinerary you will cover some of the top 10 must-visit places in Sumatra in the northern part of Sumatra. The attractions are such as the buzzing city of Medan, the Karo highlands of rice fields at Berastagi, the largest volcanic lake in the world Lake Toba, the conservation area with treks to seek out the Sumatra Orang-Utan at Bukit Lawang, the less congested Sumatran city Banda Aceh and diving off the volcanic island Pulau Weh.

The plan is to fly into Medan and then leave flying out of Banda Aceh to save on the land travel in Sumatra, which may take a while due to road conditions.

Sumatra Travel Map

Sumatra Travel Map

Sumatra Travel Map

Week 1 Itinerary

First fly into Medan, one of the major city in Sumatra and known to the locals as a culinary hub. You will spend your first week here and its surrounding.

Day 1 and 2 – Medan

May not be the favourite of many tourists but Medan does hold some charm with its colonial Tjong A Fie Mansion, grand Mosque and old palace. It also packs a punch in the food department, like its famous Soto Kesawan.

Tjong A Fie Mansion in Medan, Sumatra, Indonesia

Tjong A Fie Mansion in Medan, Sumatra. Photo by Pratyeka, via Wikimedia Commons

Day 3 and 4 – Berastagi

Heading here with 2 hours ride up to the Karo highlands, you will find yourself relaxing to the cooling atmosphere. There is the Gunung Sibayak mountain to hike and the Sipiso-sipiso waterfall to marvel at.

Gunung Sipiso-piso Waterfall at Berastagi, Sumatra, Indonesia

Sipiso-piso Waterfall at Berastagi. Photo by Ronald Tagra

Day 5 and 6 – Lake Toba

This famous lake of Sumatra beckons us to come and just sit down and idle our time away. It is the largest volcanic lake in the world and a wonder to reckon with. Besides chilling by the lake, the Tuk-tuk village is also worth to check out for its rich Batak culture.

Lake Toba, Sumatra, Indonesia

Lake Toba, Sumatra, Indonesia. Photo by Holmes Nainggolan

For a detailed itinerary on this first week, check out our 1 week / 7 days in Sumatra itinerary.

Week 2 Itinerary

On the second week, we proceed onwards to the north of Sumatra.

Day 7 and 8 – Bukit Lawang

Head on to Bukit Lawang from Medan, you may hire a car or taxi to get here for the quickest option or there are several buses plying this route. The ride will take about 3 hours. Many come here specifically for Orangutan trekking, which is quite an experience itself.

Mother and Baby Orangutan @ Bukit Lawang

Mother and Baby Orangutan. Photo by Arian Zweger

Day 9 and 10 – Banda Aceh

Buses also run from Bukit Lawang to Banda Aceh, so head onwards here to northern Sumatra trip. At this fairly less chaotic city of Sumatra in comparison to Medan, one can find many things to do in Banda Aceh, such as the beautiful mosque, historical sites, musuems and coffee shops for the famous Aceh’s coffee beans.

Masjid Mosque Banda Aceh, Indonesia

Aceh great mosque. Photo by Vidi Agiorno

Day 11, 12 and 13 – Pulau Weh

Take a ferry out of Banda Aceh to Sabang, to get to Pulau Weh, with fast ferry with only 45 minutes and slow ferry/boat for 2 hours. As one of the best diving site in Indonesia with 20 diving spots, Pulau Weh is worth to take a trip out to. Off the beaten track from Sumatra and one of Indonesia’s beautiful islands, this jungle island house many rare species from the land to the sea.

Sabang, Pulau Weh, Sumatra, Indonesia

Sabang, Pulau Weh. Photo by Franc López

Day 14 – Banda Aceh

Get back on land to Banda Aceh and fly out at the airport here onwards to other places in Indonesia or elsewhere. There are frequent flights to Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur from Banda Aceh.

If you have some more time, do consider adding more days in Pulau Weh or Lake Toba for relaxation, as they are one of the favourite gems of travelers in Sumatra. As you can see, there are more than Sumatra that meets the eye, with 2 weeks we are only barely scratching the surface of northern part of it. But with that, we have covered a lot of the best of what Sumatra can offer and it’s good enough as a tasting tour of Sumatra.

Related articles:
Sumatra 7 days (1 week) Itinerary
Sumatra Travel Guide

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Author: Pearl

Living in Jakarta for more than 20 years now, she still have not manage to cover the tip of Indonesia’s diverse destinations, people and even food! Pearl loves shopping as much as enjoying luxury but she knows all these have to be done sensibly and on a budget. Therefore you may find the best scoop and offers in Jakarta and beyond with her.

Pekanbaru, Sumatra

Pekanbaru is one of the largest cities in Sumatra, Indonesia and as a capital of Riau. It is well known for being modern and clean yet maintaining many of it’s unique heritage architectures.

Somewhat like a typical Southeast Asia city, it is not exactly a tourist spot but serves as transit points for many tourists from Singapore or Malaysia. You will be surprised to find that people here are really friendly and helpful as city folks.

Why go

Map @ Pekanbaru, Sumatra, Indonesia

Map of Pekanbaru, Sumatra, Indonesia

This city serves as one of the most popular international airport in Sumatra, paving as a gateway to explore north, south and west Sumatra. Smack right in the middle of this huge island, you can make way to see Sumatran Orang Utan at Bukit Lawang, or head out to chill at the famous Lake Toba. It serves as a good alternative to Medan which overcrowded and chaotic.

How to get there

Alun-alun (park) @ Pekanbaru, Sumatra, Indonesia

Alun-alun (park) of Pekanbaru, Sumatra, Indonesia

Flights
Fly into its international airport – Sultan Syarif Kasim II International Airport, which serves flights from Malaysia and Singapore. This airport also serves domestic flights from all over Indonesia such as Jakarta, Surabaya, Yogyakarta and so on. This airport is a pleasant stopover in comparison to other nearby airports as it is fairly new, with a new terminal just opened in 2012.

You can catch airport taxi to get into town, which is about 10km away, and charged at around 60,000RP.

Boat / Ferry
There are boats going to Pekanbaru from both domestic and also international. Internationally you may take boats from Batam, Malaysia to the Riau Islands (which would need a further 3 hour minivan to get into town).

How to get around

Catch an opelet (angkot/bajaj or minibus) to go around town (just 2000Rp). Blue opelet serves between port to Pasar Pusat on Jalan Sudirman while the green opelet serves between bus terminal to Jalan Nangka.

Architecture  @ Pekanbaru, Sumatra, Indonesia

Architecture of Pekanbaru, Sumatra, Indonesia

What to do

If you are only here for a stopover you must be wondering what is there to do in Pekanbaru. Fret not, you may just relax a little, soak in the atmosphere and then head out for a little sightseeing if you are bored though there aren’t many exciting attractions. Else you can do some shopping like what the locals like best, you can find good malls here like Mall SKA or Mall Ciputra Seraya.

Traditional House @ Pekanbaru, Sumatra, Indonesia

Traditional House of Pekanbaru, Sumatra, Indonesia


Where to stay

There are choices from budget to luxury, but I would suggest staying in the mid range hotels like the rest of the small cities of Indonesia, such as Novotel * or FOX Hotel *, as they offer great value for the comfort they provide.

-> Find the best hotel deals in Pekanbaru *

Where to go nearby

Morning  @ Pekanbaru, Sumatra, Indonesia

Morning of Pekanbaru, Sumatra, Indonesia

Head to Bukit Lawang for Orang Utan Trekking where you can have a good hike through the lush natural forests and if you are lucky you may sight the Orang Utan living in their natural habitat. Read the guide to Bukit Lawang’s Orang Utan to find out more.

Make your way to Lake Toba, north of Pekanbaru, though a long journey you will find it worth it once you reached the breathtakingly beautiful place to chill out. Read the guide to Lake Toba, Sumatra for more information.

All photo credits: fitri.agung

Related articles:
Lake Toba
Sumatra Travel Guide

Sumatran Orangutan Trekking at Bukit Lawang

Bukit Lawang is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Indonesia, on the eastern side of Gunung Leuser National Park which is one of the three National Parks in the UNESCO listing for Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra.

With its name literally means “door to the hills”, Bukit Lawang is an Orangutan sanctuary, therefore, many people come for trekking in hope to have sightings of the rare Sumatran Orangutans.

-> Jump to the Best Accommodations in Bukit Lawang

Where is it

Bukit Lawang, Indonesia Sumatra Map

Indonesia Sumatra Map

Bukit Lawang is at 90km northwest from Medan, the capital city of North Sumatra and at the eastern side of Gunung Leuser National Park.

Why go

It is one of the last few places on Earth to see the Orangutans live in the wild. It is also famed as one of the top travel adventures to experience.

Mother and Baby Orangutan @ Bukit Lawang

Mother and Baby Orangutan. Photo by Arian Zweger

When is the best time to go

Most times in the year would be a decent for a visit to Bukit Lawang. You may want to take note of rainy seasons at the end of the year but the rain is mainly only in the evening or at night, so do not worry about it impeding your trip.

You may want to check out local Indonesian public holidays, which means that many local tourists will crowd the village, especially on weekends.

What to see


Orangutan drinking from a cup @ Bukit Lawang

Orangutan drinking from a cup. Photo by NYC-MetroCard

Orangutan Viewing Platform where there are twice a day feeding (8 am and 3pm), therefore you will be able to see the Orangutans for sure. Attending the feeding would cost 20,000 Rp though and there is a surcharge for camera at 50,000 Rp. This is usually a good opportunity to learn more about the Orangutans as the national park staff are well qualified and also to take great pictures as the Orangutans normally hang around while munching away the bananas.

What to do

Jungle Trekking
Bukit Lawang is one of the best place for jungle trekking as not only you get to bask in the natural jungle that is full of wild flora and fauna that will wow nature enthusiasts. You may have a chance to sight the Orangutans in their natural habitat, though not guaranteed, but possible if you follow your guides’ advises. There is also a nice waterfall on the way to relax and swim. During the trek your guides will also provide you with nice Indonesian food and fruits!

It is not permitted to go into the jungle without a guide but don’t worry as there are many good reliable guides around. Just make sure to ask questions and choose properly to get a quality guide. It would be wise also to check with your guesthouse for recommendations. The price for a jungle trek is 32 USD per day; 80 USD for a 2 days trek with extra of rafting and 3 days trek with rafting can go up is 110 USD. If going for multi-day treks, please make sure you are in a fit condition.

Community note: Please try to make sure your guides do not feed the Orangutans or other wildlife with common food as it may make them sick and in some cases die. Also please try not to get too close to the Orangutans as this would increase the risk of passing viral infections and diseases to them, which will endanger their chance of survival. Do your bit to protect the Orangutans and other wildlife!

Tubing @ Bukit Lawang

Tubing at Bukit Lawang. Photo by NYC-MetroCard

Tubing
If you have extra time to spend, one quite popular past time is tubing, where one uses an inner-tube to float down the river. Be careful as sometimes the water currents can be strong.

Other activities
You can also visit the bat cave for 5,000 Rp or kayak or just take a walk around the rice fields and rubber plantations, or visit some local projects or shop around the local market.

Orangutan Sleeping, Bukit Lawang, Sumatra, Indonesia

Orangutan sleeping. Photo by idirectori

Where to stay

There are guest houses dotted along the river in Bukit Lawang that are affordable and reasonably priced, therefore choices are aplenty. Availability of accommodations in Bukit Lawang * here is easy to arrange except during the busy tourist season which is June – August.

Hotel Orangutan
This 3-star hotel is well loved by guests for its friendly service. The clean bright and spacious rooms come with mountain views and they also offer treks and tours. Definitely a gem in this jungle!
Check out the latest prices and reviews on Booking.com *
Check out the latest prices and reviews on Agoda.com *

EcoTravel Cottages Bukit Lawang
New and well sought out by travelers, this cozy guesthouse has rooms with tall ceilings and sun terraces overlooking the jungle and mountains. It is located right next to the Bahorok River, lending to its serene atmosphere. Book early to not missed out!
Check out the latest prices and reviews on Booking.com *
Check out the latest prices and reviews on Agoda.com *

-> Find the best hotel deals in Bukit Lawang at Booking.com. Free cancellation *

What and where to eat

Try the local Indonesian food which normally would not disappoint. There are a few restaurants or cafes around that serve good home cook style of Indonesian food. If you want a variety from local food, there are choices of pizza or even vegetarians.

How to get there

Fly in to the nearest city Medan and then from there you can either take a taxi or rent a car/van to get to Bukit Lawang from the airport / hotel.

How to get around

Being a small village, you can cover all around on foot from one side to the other in just 25 minutes. There are three bridges across the river for easy access.

Orangutan @ Bukit Lawang

Orangutan at Bukit Lawang. Photo by Stefanie Weijster

Where to go nearby

On the way back to Medan, stop by the famous Lake Toba for a good chill and relax by the largest volcanic lake.

Also on the way, you can visit Berastagi which famous for locals for weekend getaways. You can hike out to the two nearby volcanoes, Sinabung and Sibayak.

For these, you can check with your transports services back to Medan for a stopover or side trip.

Tips

For solo female travelers, you may try to arrange with your guesthouse to join a group of other travelers for your safety.

Bring mosquito repellants and general sanitary needs as although available for sale here, it lacks in choices.

Related Articles
Lake Toba, Sumatra
Diving Pulau Weh, Sumatra
Top 10 Must Visit Places in Sumatra

Medan Travel Guide

Medan is the main city of Sumatra and is located in Northern Sumatra. It serves as the main hub and gateway with its Polonia International Airport and Belawan. It is the fourth largest city in Indonesia and the largest city outside of Java.

It is not much of a tourist destination but it is where tourists normally fly into get to Lake Toba and Bukit Lawang or some even took off to Penang, Malaysia.

What to do


Tjong A Fie’s Mansion – a two-story mansion built by a Hakka merchant, for those who are interested in old architecture of the past.
Medan Grand Mosque (Mesjid Raya) – this Morrocan style mosque is worth a quick look
Marian Shrine of Annai Velangkanni – an Indo-Mogul style church that is fascinating for history and spiritual buff

How to get there

Map @ Medan, Sumatra, Indonesia

Map of Medan, Sumatra, Indonesia


Medan’s International airport is Polonia International Airport, located about 15 minutes from the city. It has both international and domestic flights. International airlines serving this airport are:

Firefly Airlines – from/to Penang and Subang (KL)
AirAsia – from Kuala Lumpur
Garuda Indonesia – from/to Kuala Lumpur (MAS)
Indonesia AirAsia – from/to Penang, KL, Bangkok and Hong Kong
Lion Air – from/to Penang
Malaysia Airlines – from/to Penang and KL
SilkAir – from.to Singapore
Mandala Airlines – from/to Singapore
Swriwijaya Air – from/to Penang
Valuair – from/to Singapore

Mountain View @ Medan, Sumatra, Indonesia

Mountain View @ Medan

For domestic flights there are many choices flying from various points in Indonesia with several airlines.

Take note of airport departure tax – domestic departures require 35,000 Rp tax while international departures are 75, 000 Rp.

To get to the city, you may take a taxi for around 40,000 Rp and if you scout a bit more, you can bargain down to 20,000 Rp.

If you’re coming via the sea, the nearest seaport is Belawan, with both domestic and international boat and ferry services.

Bus @ Medan, Sumatra, Indonesia

Bus @ Medan

Where to stay

As you would be here for a quick get through to other places, you are most likely to need a place to put up for a night or two. This city is not exactly a backpacking sleep so do not expect much. If you are willing to splurge you will find many hotels that are up to city standards. Else there are a few budget homestays, bed & breakfasts or hostels to choose from.

-> Find the best hotel deals in Medan with Booking.com. Book now pay later! *

Where to go nearby

Head out to the famous Lake Toba for a good chill and relax by the largest volcanic lake, 4 hours drive away by land.

For a quick getaway at Berastagi, famous for locals, about 1.5 hours drive away. You can hike out to the two nearby volcanoes, Sinabung and Sibayak.

Explore the village at the edge of Gunung Leuser National Park about 3 hours drive away, where you can do treks, hikes or just chill by the river. The main attraction here is Bukit Lawang, famous for the Orangutan Trekking and its Orangutan Viewing Platform.

Becak @ Medan, Sumatra, Indonesia

Becak @ Medan


Photo credits from top: Burmesedays, SK Ding, NYC-MetroCar and NYC-MetroCar

Related Articles:
Sumatra Travel Guide
North Sumatra 1 Week Itinerary – Medan, Berastagi, Lake Toba
Going Local in Sumatra: Berastagi and Lake Toba
Lake Toba