Explore lush jungle landscapes, come face to face with rare wildlife, and learn about fascinating indigenous traditions on this weeklong tour of North Sumatra. You'll go from the city of Medan, home to one of Indonesia's grandest mosques, to the rainforest, where you'll explore the landscape in a Jeep, encounter elephants, and observe orangutans in their natural environment. Spend the second half of your trip on the volcanic Lake Toba and Samosir Island, where you'll learn about ethnic Batak history and traditions.

Highlights

  • Interact with elephants at a rehabilitation center
  • Look for orangutans in their natural habitat
  • Sleep on an island in the middle of magnificent Lake Toba
  • Immerse yourself in tribal culture on Samosir Island
  • Tour a 200-year-old wooden house that was once home to tribal chiefs
  • Discover the Sumatran jungle on a Jeep tour

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Sightsee in Medan Medan, Sumatra
Day 2 Get Up Close With Elephants at Gunung Leuser National Park Tangkahan, Sumatra
Day 3 Explore the Jungle in a Jeep Bukit Lawang, Sumatra
Day 4 Spot Orangutans in the Wild Berastagi, Sumatra
Day 5 Ride the Ferry to Samosir Island  Samosir Island
Day 6 Discover Indigenous Culture on Samosir Island Samosir Island
Day 7 Depart Samosir Island – End of Trip  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Sightsee in Medan

Great Mosque
The ornate Great Mosque dates back to 1906

Welcome to the island of Sumatra, Indonesia! Meet your English-speaking guide at the airport and drive to the center of North Sumatra’s capital of Medan. The city is a melting pot of Chinese, Malay, Indian, and Batak cultures, dotted with reminders of its Dutch colonial past. Start with a walking tour of the city, beginning at the central Merdeka Square and the colonial-era buildings lining Kesawan Street, then continuing to the old post office and city hall. Break for lunch at a historic 1930s restaurant, where you’ll enjoy a delicious meal.

Check in to your hotel and relax until the mid-afternoon, when you’ll resume your tour of the city. The first stop is the Maimoon Palace, the seat of the Sultanate of Deli. This grand and colorful building is still home to the sultan, who acts as a figurehead of the Malay community. Continue on to the Great Mosque — one of the most beautiful mosques in the country — and end your tour with a stop at the impressive Chinese temple known as Vihara Gunung Timur. You’ll have the evening free to explore at your own pace. If you're hungry, take a stroll through Chinatown to sample some of the island's best street food. 

Day 2: Get Up Close With Elephants at Gunung Leuser National Park

Elephants
Elephants taking a bath

Wake up early for breakfast before a long drive west to the village of Tangkahan, the gateway to the rainforests of Gunung Leuser National Park. After registering at the visitors’ center, cross the river to your rustic lodge by raft (if the water isn’t too high) or suspension bridge. You’ll have lunch at the lodge before heading to the rehabilitation center, where you’ll meet elephants and watch them bathe in the river. After interacting with these gentle giants, make your way back to the lodge on foot with an easy half-hour walk. Take the rest of the day to explore on your own. Wander the paths around the lodge, where you can spot monkeys in their natural habitat, or opt for a refreshing dip in the river and its hot springs. Then enjoy dinner at the lodge.

Day 3: Explore the Jungle in a Jeep

Traditional Batak architecture on the banks of the Bohorok River
Traditional Batak architecture on the banks of the Bohorok River

After breakfast at the lodge, a Jeep will take you off-road to the village of Bukit Lawang on the eastern edge of Gunung Leuser. Along the way, you'll see rubber plantations and lush jungle vegetation, and you'll stop for a refreshing tropical drink at a coconut farm. To reach your eco-lodge, you'll need to walk across a suspension bridge high over the Bohorok River. Settle into your accommodations and break for lunch before traveling by motorized rickshaw, or becak, to an eco-farm in the nearby village of Timbang Lawan. On your tour of the farm and village, you'll see how the locals make brown sugar and tap rubber. You'll have the evening to relax.

Day 4: Spot Orangutans in the Wild

Orangutans
Orangutans in Gurung Leuser National Park

Bukit Lawang is a sanctuary for Sumatran orangutans. Today you'll meet some of these playful animals in one of their last remaining natural habitats. Rise early to trek into the jungle with an English-speaking local guide. You'll start behind the lodge with an easy climb into the forest. An expert tracker will walk ahead of the group to scout out the orangutans. Continue to the feeding platform deeper in the jungle, where you'll observe the orangutans for about half an hour. The trail becomes more challenging as you get further into the jungle, and the up-and-down path can be slippery at times, so use extra caution as you hike.

After seeing orangutans, you'll walk down to the banks of the river, where you can relax as you drift back to the lodge on an inner tube. Back at the lodge, relax and enjoy lunch before heading to your next stop in the town of Berastagi in the nearby highlands. You'll travel south, following a scenic route along via the Sembahe and Sibolangit Rivers. Check into your hotel and spend your evening at leisure.

Day 5: Ride the Ferry to Samosir Island 

Lake Toba
Lake Toba, the largest volcanic lake in the world

After breakfast, start your day with a laid-back tour of Berastagi. Visit St. Francis Catholic Church, which features unique Batak architecture set against a backdrop of Mt. Sibayak. Then continue on to the bustling local market for some fresh fruit and people watching. Next, drive to Lake Toba, the largest volcanic lake in the world. Along the way, you'll stop to take photos of Mt. Sinabung and to visit the village of Dokan. Here, the ethnic Batak Karo people still practice their unique customs. 

When you arrive at the lake, you'll pause to view the majestic Sipiso-piso Waterfall in the highlands. It's formed by an underground river that plunges from a cave into bright blue Lake Toba. Then you'll visit the village of Pematang Purba to see Rumah Bolon, a 200-year-old wooden house that was once home to Batak Simalungun tribal chiefs. Break for a late lunch at a local restaurant. Then drive along the lake's eastern shore to Parapat, where you'll board a ferry to reach Samosir Island, located in the middle of the lake. 

Day 6: Discover Indigenous Culture on Samosir Island

An outpost of Samosir Island
A rocky outpost of Samosir Island

Spend a full day exploring Samosir Island, which offers rich insight into ethnic Batak Toba culture and wonderful views of the lake. Your guide will first take you to the village of Ambrarita, where you'll discover a tribunal made of unique stone chairs organized in a circle around a stone table. Hundreds of years ago, the once-cannibalistic tribe would execute and eat enemies and criminals. Then drive to Simanindo to watch a traditional Tor-Tor dance performance, followed by a tour of the village and its small Batak museum. Head along the eastern coast of the island to its capital, Pangururan, for lunch at a local restaurant.

In the afternoon, you'll make the quick trip to Tele, a remote area on the mainland on the southern shore of Lake Toba. To get there, you'll cross a small bridge and drive up the mountain to the observatory tower. Here, you'll find one of the best views of the lake and of Samosir. After taking in panoramic vistas to your heart's content, you'll have the option to unwind in some nearby hot springs. Then make the two-hour drive back to Tuk-Tuk on the island in the late afternoon. On your way, you'll stop to learn about traditional weaving techniques and watch the experts at work. The rest of the evening is yours to explore at your leisure.

Day 7: Depart Samosir Island – End of Trip

Say farewell to beautiful North Sumatra
Towering trees on beautiful North Sumatra

Dig into an early breakfast before checking out of your hotel this morning. You'll take the ferry back to Parapat with your vehicle, and then drive back to Medan. Along the way, take in the lush rural scenery of farms and mountain views. Enjoy one last North Sumatran lunch before ending your journey back at Medan's international airport. Safe travels!

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Map

Map of North Sumatra Adventure - 7 Days
Map of North Sumatra Adventure - 7 Days