An extraordinary journey off the beaten track! Sumatra has everything you need for a perfect backpackers trip : wonderful beaches, jungles, rice paddy fields, beautiful lakes, Batak houses, elephants, its famous orangutans (one of the only places in the world where you can find), its lovely people, its good food, the price of its accommodation (7 euros for a double room with sea view!), and the icing on the cake: the almost total absence of tourists. A paradise for backpackers in search of fabulous scenery and authenticity.
We traveled with 3 friends, with different arrival and return dates, which did not facilitate travel arrangements and the creation of our itinerary. A first group began the journey in the South, around Penang, then to head north where the other group joined them.
Here is our complete itinerary on 3 weeks in combination with a visit to Singapore (which is well worth two days).
- Day 1 and 2: Arrival and visit of Singapore.
- Day 3: We took the ferry at the end of the 3rd day from Singapore to Batam (only 1 hour ferry, about 25 SGD – or 16 euros). Batam is not interesting, except that it offers good prices on luxury hotels for Singaporeans willing to spend a weekend abroad. Flights to Padang are cheaper and direct from Batam, while a flight from Singapore to Padang forces you to lose time in a stopover at Jakarta (Java).
- Day 4: Flight to Padang, visit and overnight in Padang.
- Day 5 and 6: Boat to the beach “Raoul”. It is a beach south of Padang, that you can’t reach by land and has no real name, but it belongs to the hostel Losmen Carlos, whose owner is called Raoul.
- Day 7, 8 and 9: Bus to Bukkitingi and 3 days Bukkitingi. Excursion to the Harau valley, bullfights and a trek to see the largest flower in the world, the Rafflesia. Road to Tangkahan.
- Day 10: Bus early morning from Tangkahan to Bukit Lawang (5h30, 500 000 Rs – or 33 euros). For those who do not have 3 weeks, you can start your trip with Bukit Lawing, accessible after 4 hours drive from Medan airport (400,000 rupees – or 26 euros).
- Day 11 and 12: Departure for a 2-day trek in the jungle of Bukit Lawing to see Orang Utans. The return is early in the afternoon and has allowed us to take a taxi to Lake Toba. The ride is soooooooooo long (10h) to Parapat, the city near Lake Toba. You can either take a bemo for Rs 210,000 per person, or a van for Rs 1 million in total (65 euros). We arrived late in Parapat, there was no ferry so we had to wait until morning to get to the lake.
- Day 13 and 14: We took a ferry to the Lake Toba (Rs 15,000 / person) where we stayed 2 nights. Lake Toba and Batak houses are beautiful. There are not much to do except relax with a massage or take a tour of the island.
- Day 15: The first ferry picked us up early in the morning to take us to Parapat, from there we took a van to to Medan in time for the flight of a friend who had to leave, and for our flight later to Banda Aceh, a city without much interest apart from its beautiful white mosque.
- Day 16: Visit of the mosque in Banda Aceh, then ferry to Pulau Weh: a little corner of paradise with turquoise waters, bungalows with sea view for a few rupees and snorkelling opportunities.
- Day 17 and 18: Island tour by scooter and snorkeling. We took the last ferry late in the day to Banda Aceh, where we spent the night.
- Day 19 and 20: Return flight to Medan, from where you can take your return flight to Singapore, where you will surely spend the night before returning home.