Sumatra is the world’s sixth-largest island, yet unlike Java to the west and Malaysia to the north, it remains largely undeveloped. It is a land of active volcanoes and picture-perfect lakes, where ancient communities live as they have done for centuries and primates run wild through dense tropical forest.
Most travelers arrive in Medan in the north of the island. West of here, the Gunung Leuser National Park offers trekking opportunities in majestic and remote rainforest. To the south, find Danau Toba, and spend a day exploring south-east Asia’s largest lake. Also relatively close by is Bukit Lawang, a forest park where you have the best chance of spotting the native orangutans.
Discover Pedang on the island’s west coast and book a boat trip to the enigmatic Mentawai Islands. They hold some of the best surf waves in the world. If you don’t want to get in the water, the islands offer numerous opportunities for exciting discoveries on land. Spot stunning native species of flora and fauna or learn about the local indigenous communities that still live according to their ancient customs.
Divers will love the chance to explore the underwater wonderland at Pulau Weh. For a challenging hike, tackle the volcanic peaks around Berastagi.
Traveling between locations can be arduous in Sumatra as the distances are long and the roads poor. The best way to move between major cities is by plane, which is usually inexpensive. Sumatra is reasonably underdeveloped for tourism, so come prepared for some serious adventure travel. The island’s climate is hot and tropical year-round. March to October is generally the best time to visit Sumatra, as the air is less humid and the views from the mountain tops are clear and more spectacular.
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