Go off the beaten path on this nine-day adventure to Sumatra, one of the most beautiful places in Indonesia. It begins in the northern province with a hike through virgin rainforests to spend time with orangutans. Then, take a road trip to West Sumatra, where you'll discover the unspoiled beauty of the Minangkabau Highlands and visit traditional villages where the history is as deep as the culture.


  • See orangutans in Gunung Leuser National Park 
  • Take a boat tour of Samosir Island on Lake Toba
  • Visit scenic villages and historic palaces in West Sumatra

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Jakarta, Optional Activities Jakarta
Day 2 Flight to Sumatra, Transfer to Bohorok Bohorok
Day 3 Orangutan Tour, Transfer to Medan Medan, North Sumatra
Day 4 Transfer to Samosir, Stop at Sipiso-Piso Samosir Island
Day 5 Tour Samosir Island Samosir Island
Day 6 Transfer to Padang Sidempuan Padang Sidempuan
Day 7 Scenic Road Trip to Bukittinggi Bukittinggi
Day 8 Bukittinggi Free Day Bukittinggi
Day 9 Transfer to Padang, Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Jakarta, Optional Activities

Welcome to Jakarta

Welcome to Indonesia! Upon arrival at the airport in Jakarta, you'll board a shuttle bus to your hotel. After settling in, you can head out and explore this city of over 10 million people. Jakarta was founded in 1527, and you can see mosques and temples dating to this time period in and around the historic center of Kota Tua. Don't miss a visit to the Selamat Datang (Welcome) Monument, the city's most famous landmark. Located on a roundabout, it's been a welcoming symbol ever since it was built in 1962.

Other highlights include Istiqlal, the largest mosque in Southeast Asia; the National Monument, a 433-foot (132 m) obelisk in central Merdeka Square; the Jalan Surabaya Antique Market; and the historic Hermitage Hotel. Located in a 1920s Dutch-colonial building, it's a great place to come for afternoon tea. Also in the city center is the National Museum. With well over 100,000 artifacts, this is one of the finest history museums in Southeast Asia.

Day 2: Flight to North Sumatra, Transfer to Bohorok

Bukit Lawang, in North Sumatra

In the morning, take the shuttle back to the airport and catch a 2.5-hour domestic flight to Medan, the capital of North Sumatra province. A driver/guide will pick you up at the airport for the five-hour drive west into the highlands and the district of Bohorok. On the way, you'll pass scenic palm oil plantations and take breaks to try local fruit like rambutans. You'll also get to tour a cacao garden.

Eventually, you'll arrive at Bukit Lawang village and check in to your accommodation. This village is the gateway to Gunung Leuser National Park, which protects some of the most virgin tropical rainforests in Southeast Asia. It's also a habitat for rare animals like monkeys, hornbills, sun bears, and the last remaining populations of Sumatran elephants, rhinos, and tigers. However, the most famous resident here, which people come from all over to see up close, is the Sumatran orangutan. Get plenty of rest tonight because tomorrow, you'll search for these animals in the wild. 

Day 3: Orangutan Tour, Transfer to Medan

See orangutans in the wild

After breakfast, you'll meet a local ranger who will lead you on a three-hour hike through the Sumatran rainforest. During this excursion, you'll spot much native flora and fauna, which includes 4,000 species of plants, 380 types of birds, 200 mammals, and 190 reptiles. It's a scenic journey during which, with a little luck, you'll encounter Sumatran orangutans and can spend time with them in their natural habitat.

After the trekking, return to Bukit Lawang and transfer by car back to Medan. Upon arrival, you'll transfer to your hotel in the city center and can then head out and explore. Medan is a dynamic place—a melting pot of different cultures, ethnicities, and delicious cuisine to match. You can walk to the Kesawan district to see old buildings dating to the Dutch colonial era. Perhaps try the notorious durian fruit—you'll either love it or hate it.

Day 4: Transfer to Samosir, Stop at Sipiso-Piso

Enjoy the views at Sipiso-piso

In the morning, you'll hit the road again on a drive through Sumatra's rainforest mountains to Berastagi. This highland district boasts magnificent mountain scenery and cooler weather compared to the tropical lowlands. When you arrive, you'll have time to relax and explore. Highlights include Berastagi's massive fruit market and Taman Lumbini, an impressive replica of the Buddhist Shwedagon Pagoda in Myanmar.

Then, continue south to Parapat, a resort town on the shore of Lake Toba, which is part of the caldera of a supervolcano. On the way there, you'll visit a traditional Batak ethnic village as well as Sipiso-Piso, a waterfall that plunges 393 feet (120 m) over a cliff, making it one of the tallest waterfalls in the country. Once in Parapat, you'll board a boat that will take you to Samosir, an island in the center of Lake Toba. Here, you'll check in to your hotel.

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Day 5: Tour Samosir Island

Samosir Island

After breakfast, you'll embark on a half-day boat tour of the villages and communities around Samosir. First, sail to Tomok, a Batak Toba village. The Toba is the largest tribe of the Batak ethnic group of North Sumatra. At the village, you'll visit the tomb of King Sidabutar, who lived in the 16th century and, as legend has it, was the first man to set foot on the island. On the tombstone is a large sculpture of the king's head. You'll also see other historical landmarks that represent the culture of the Batak Toba people before Christianity came to the island in the 19th century.

Then, ride the boat to Ambarita, a traditional Batak village. The highlight here are ancient stone chairs once used for village councils and, less diplomatically, to torture criminals. After visiting Ambarita, you'll return to your hotel by the same boat. The rest of the day is yours to enjoy Samosir however you like. You can rent a bicycle and ride between villages, go kayaking and jet-skiing, or simply relax on the beach.

Day 6: Transfer to Padang Sidempuan

Traditional Batak homes
Check out of your hotel in Samosir this morning and take a public boat back to Parapat on the mainland. Then, hop in a car for the transfer south to the city of Padang Sidempuan. On the way, you'll pass scenic lakeside villages like Lumban Binanga and Balige, which are famous for their traditional, boat-shaped Batak houses. You'll also drive along vast green rice paddies, clove farms, and coffee and pineapple plantations. Upon arrival in Padang Sidempuan, you'll check into your hotel.

Day 7: Scenic Road Trip to Bukittinggi

The Minangkabau Highlands

Today's journey will take you from North Sumatra down into West Sumatra and the city of Bukittinggi. This scenic, full-day road trip celebrates the natural beauty of Sumatra's interior. It will take you over mountains, into valleys, and along rivers as you pass traditional villages and local farms. One highlight is the terraced waterfall of Aek Sijornih, where you'll stop for a dip. And you'll definitely want to take selfies at the Equator Monument at Bonjol. There's a statue of a globe here that marks the divide between the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.

Once you cross into West Sumatra, you'll pass through the Minangkabau Highlands, a stunning region dotted with coffee, tea, rice, and tobacco farms. The villages here are populated by the Minangkabau people, who collectively represent the largest matrilineal society in the world. Your destination is the region's main city of Bukittinggi, which enjoys a pleasant climate due to its elevation of 3,000 feet (900 m). It's a popular base for excursions and hikes in the surrounding highlands and canyons. Upon arrival, you'll check in to your hotel.

Day 8: Bukittinggi Free Day

Pagaruyung Palace

You'll have the day free to explore Bukittinggi and the surrounding Minangkabau Highlands on your own. It's a treat, as this region is off the tourist trail and thus retains its unspoiled beauty and air of authenticity. In town, you can visit the local markets, botanic garden, the Dutch colonial fort that dates to 1825, and the Jam Gadang clock tower, which is Bukittinggi's most iconic landmark.

Outside of town, you'll find some of the most beautiful scenery in Indonesia. This is exemplified in the Harau Valley, a postcard river valley hemmed in by towering granite cliffs between which are villages and green rice paddies plowed by water buffalo. Speaking of which, there's culture to spare in the villages around Bukittinggi. For example, Koto Gadang is renowned for its silverwork and hand embroidery, Pandai Sikek for its wood carving and weaving handicrafts.

A few miles southeast of Bukittinggi is another cultural highlight: Pagaruyung, a village and the site of the former Pagaruyung Kingdom, where women ruled in a matrilineal society. Its impressive Palace is a replica of the original 17th-century Royal Palace, which was set on fire by Dutch colonists in 1804. It's here in Pagarayung that you'll find the most stunning examples of traditional Minangkabau architecture. At the end of the day, return to your hotel in Bukittinggi.

Day 9: Transfer to Padang, Depart

Farewell, Indonesia

Wake up early for the 2.5-hour drive south from Bukittinggi to the coastal city of Padang. Upon arrival, you'll transfer to the airport, where you'll catch your connecting flight home. Safe travels! 

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