Hiking in Sumatra can be difficult, but that should come as no surprise. The volcanic geography of Sumatra ensures some major adventure on Indonesia’s largest island, which happily still makes the shortlist of the world’s wildest destinations. There are numerous caldera lakes, active volcanoes, and waterfalls. Furthermore, Sumatra’s national parks are home to enticing flora and animals, including orangutans.
Gunung means mountain or volcano in Indonesian, while Bukit means hill; while trekking in Sumatra, you’ll regularly find yourself climbing up one or the other!
1. Gunung Leuser National Park (North Sumatra)
The most common method to enjoy trekking in Sumatra is to embark on a jungle trip from the riverside settlement of Bukit Lawang. In Gunung Leuser National Park, visitors can take a guided half-day “rainforest discovery trek” that is around four kilometers round way or multi-day treks with overnight stays.
In any case, seeing semi-wild orangutans that frequent fruit-feeding platforms, until they are fully healed, is a highlight of hiking in Gunung Leuser National Park. Hiking deeper into the national park can result in sightings of wild orangutans and other fascinating species.
In Bukit Lawang, trekking agencies and unlicensed guides abound. Do it with a qualified guide to achieving sustainability and a safe experience. Resist companies that promote orangutan feeding or interaction.
2. Gunung Sibayak (North Sumatra)
Since 2013, the famed Gunung Sinabung in North Sumatra has been closed and dangerously active. But there’s good news: Gunung Sibayak, its smaller twin, is still one of Sumatra’s most accessible and interesting volcanoes to climb when hiking.
The views from Gunung Sibayak are beautiful, but being in the crater and hearing the roar of pressure escaping from vents in the rocks is the most thrilling aspect of the walk! On some areas of the trail, yellowish water boils. Take caution when you walk because some of the vents release a hot, toxic gas.
Berastagi is the starting point for the 7,257-foot climb up Gunung Sibayak. You may either take a taxi to the trailhead or make your three-hour climb include a stroll through town. Although your guesthouse can provide you with a local guide, many people choose to form groups and climb Sibayak on their own.
3. Bukit Holbung (Samosir Island)
Although it is feasible to hike to the highest point of Samosir Island in Lake Toba, the pathways are not well-marked or attractive. Instead, spend your time hiking up Bukit Holbung, a big grassy hill with spectacular views of Lake Toba and Samosir Island.
You’ll need to drive (or ride a motorcycle) for two picturesque hours around the island’s northern edge before crossing a bridge to the mainland. Explore Huta Holbung, a little settlement near the trailhead, before hiking 30 minutes up the hill for some spectacular views. On weekends, the simpler parts of the climb might become busy.
4. Pusuk Buhit (Lake Toba)
Drive an hour west from Tuk-Tuk to Pusuk Buhit for a considerably more difficult hill to climb on Samosir Island itself. The 6,503-foot “hill” can be ascended on your own using one of the three pathways to the top, but hiring a driver and guide to transport you from Tuk-Tuk is simple and inexpensive. The maze of muddy pathways that run through farms along the way can be perplexing; this is where a skilled local can help.
Although Pusuk Buhit is a day trek, you’ll want to leave Tuk-Tuk extremely early to have a good glimpse of Lake Toba. Regardless of the season, clouds tend to gather in the early afternoon, obstructing the view.
5. Sianok Canyon (West Sumatra)
An adventurous day climb from Bukittinggi in West Sumatra takes you to Sianok Canyon and up the “Great Wall of Koto Gadang.” Although you may “save money” and take public transit to the canyon, walking from town allows you to enjoy the attractions.
The journey across Sianok Canyon in Sumatra combines road walking, forest pathways, and walking on the big wall itself. Along the journey, you’ll pass by little cafes and shops; Kota Gadang is known for its silversmiths. Plan on a half-day hike, depending on how much meandering you do. If you don’t want to complete the loop, you can always grab a ride back to town. Be wary of the aggressive macaques if you bring treats.