The 9 Best Places to Hike in Sumatra

A person hiking in Sumatra watches an active volcano

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The hiking in Sumatra can be challenging, but that shouldn’t be a surprise. Indonesia’s largest island—thankfully—still makes the shortlist of the wildest places on the planet with the volcanic topography of Sumatra guaranteeing some serious adventure. Caldera lakes, active volcanoes, and waterfalls abound. Even more, the national parks in Sumatra are blessed with tantalizing flora and fauna, including orangutans.

In Indonesian, gunung means mountain or volcano, and bukit means hill—you’ll frequently find yourself climbing up one or the other while hiking in Sumatra!

01 of 09

Gunung Leuser National Park (North Sumatra)

Orangutan hanging from a branch in an Indonesian forest
Anup Shah / Getty Images
GF97+P97 Barisan mountain range, Aceh 24653, Indonesia

Doing a jungle trek from the riverside village of Bukit Lawang is probably the most popular way to enjoy some hiking in Sumatra. Travelers can do a guided, half-day “rainforest discovery trek” that’s around four miles round trip or opt for multi-day treks with overnights in Gunung Leuser National Park.

Either way, the highlight of hiking in Gunung Leuser National Park is getting to see semi-wild orangutans that frequent fruit-feeding platforms until they are fully rehabilitated. Deeper hikes into the national park are sometimes reward with sightings of wild orangutans and other exciting wildlife.

Trekking agencies and unregistered guides are everywhere in Bukit Lawang. To ensure sustainability and a safe experience, go with a certified guide. Avoid companies that promote feeding or interacting with the orangutans.

02 of 09

Gunung Sibayak (North Sumatra)

Gunung Sibayak North Sumatra Indonesia
Matthew Williams-Ellis / Getty Images
Mount Sibayak, Jaranguda, Merdeka, Karo Regency, North Sumatra, Indonesia

North Sumatra’s infamous Gunung Sinabung, once a popular climb, has been closed and dangerously active since 2013. But there’s good news: its smaller sibling, Gunung Sibayak, remains one of the most accessible and exciting volcanoes to climb while hiking in Sumatra.

The views from Gunung Sibayak are nice, but the thrilling part of the hike is standing in the crater and hearing the roar of pressure escaping through vents in the rocks! Yellowish water actually boils on parts of the trail. Be careful where you walk—some of the vents blast heated, poisonous gas.

Berastagi serves as the base town for hiking the 7,257 feet up Gunung Sibayak. You can catch a ride to the trailhead or include the interesting walk through town as part of your three-hour hike. Your guesthouse can arrange a local guide; although, many travelers group up and climb Sibayak independently.

03 of 09

Bukit Holbung (Samosir Island)

Bukit Holbung at Lake Toba, a hike in Sumatra

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GPM3+RM4, Dolok Raja, Harian, Samosir Regency, North Sumatra, Indonesia

Although hiking to the highest point on Samosir Island in Lake Toba is possible, the trails aren’t very clear or enjoyable. Instead, your time could be better spent going to hike up Bukit Holbung, a large, grassy hill with sweeping views of Lake Toba and Samosir Island.

You’ll have to travel by car (or drive a motorbike) for two scenic hours around the northern end of the island then cross a bridge to the mainland. Wander around Huta Holbung, a small village at the trailhead, then hike the 30 minutes up the hill to capture some amazing photos. The easier parts of the hill can get crowded, especially on weekends.

04 of 09

Pusuk Buhit (Lake Toba)

Pusuk Buhit at Samosir Island in North Sumatra

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Pusuk Buhit Mountain, Pardugul, Kec. Pangururan, Kabupaten Samosir, Sumatera Utara, Indonesia

For a much more challenging hill to climb on Samosir Island itself, drive an hour west from the town of Tuk-Tuk to Pusuk Buhit. The 6,503-foot “hill” can be hiked independently by using the three trails to the top, but hiring a driver and guide to take you from Tuk-Tuk is easy enough and doesn’t cost much. The matrix of muddy trails passes through farms along the way and can be confusing; this is where a knowledgeable local will come in handy.

Although Pusuk Buhit is a day hike, you’ll want to make a very early start from Tuk-Tuk to have a view of Lake Toba from above. Clouds tend to build up in early afternoon no matter the season, blocking the ciew. Plan on walking at least 4 to 5 hours, depending on conditions.

Continue to 5 of 9 below.
05 of 09

Sianok Canyon (West Sumatra)

Sianok Canyon near Bukittinggi in West Sumatra

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M9V5+4WC, Jl. Binuang, Sianok Anam Suku, Kec. Iv Koto, Kabupaten Agam, Sumatera Barat 26181, Indonesia

Walking to Sianok Canyon and along the “Great Wall of Koto Gadang” make for an adventurous day hike from Bukittinggi in West Sumatra. Although you could “cheat” and take transportation to the canyon, walking from town provides a chance to sightsee along the way.

The Sianok Canyon hike in Sumatra is a combination of walking along roads, jungle paths, and on the great wall itself. You’ll pass small cafes and shops along the way; Kota Gadang is famous for the silversmiths who live there. Depending on how much meandering you do, plan on at least a half-day hike. You can always hitch a ride back to town if you don’t want to make the full loop. If you carry snacks, beware of the aggressive macaques that sometimes ambush hikers.

06 of 09

Gunung Marapi (West Sumatra)

Gunung Marapi, a volcano in West Sumatra

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Mount Marapi, Pasie Laweh, Sungai Tarab, Tanah Datar Regency, West Sumatra, Indonesia

Mount Marapi, one of the most active volcanoes in Sumatra, has been erupting somewhat regularly for hundreds of years. The mountain rises menacingly from the highlands about an hour’s drive from Bukittinggi in West Sumatra. Adventurous hikers can summit the 9,485-foot volcano in one long day of clawing and scrambling up a steep trail of roots and volcanic debris.

Along with a feeling of accomplishment, the reward for reaching the top is walking on a forlorn landscape of mud and silt—the plug of the volcano—certain to be blown into the air one day.

Pay careful attention to the spelling while researching your hike up Gunung Marapi. Java’s Gunung Merapi is another famous volcano with similar spelling and the same pronunciation.

07 of 09

Kerinci Seblat National Park (West Sumatra)

Mount Kerinci in West Sumatra
Auscape / UIG / Getty Images
4GV5+46M, Lubuk Minturun, Kec. Koto Tangah, Kota Padang, Sumatera Barat 25586, Indonesia

Kerinci Seblat National Park near Padang is the largest national park in Sumatra and home to Gunung Kerinci, the tallest peak in Sumatra. As far as hiking in Sumatra goes, Kerinci Seblat is an unmatched playground for adventure.

Climbing prominent Gunung Kerinci (12,484 feet) is possible with two days and an overnight (or in a single day with midnight start). But if bagging the biggest volcano on Indonesia’s biggest island isn’t on your list, the national park offers numerous hiking opportunities with less commitment. The hike from Kersik Tuo to Belibis Lake (four hours each way) passes through verdant tea plantations, while the hike to the beautiful volcanic lake at Gunung Tujuh (three hours up; two hours down) is ideal for spotting gibbons and other wildlife.

08 of 09

Mount Kaba Craters (Bengkulu)

Mount Kaba volcano hike near Bengkulu, Sumatra

Barry Kusuma / Getty Images

Mount Kaba, Sambirejo, Selupu Rejang, Rejang Lebong Regency, Bengkulu, Indonesia

Whether the Kaba volcano (2.5 hours driving from the coastal city of Bengkulu) is a hill or mountain seems to be debatable. Locals refer to it as Bukit Kaba while others often call it Gunung Kaba. Regardless, the twin volcano’s three craters make for a beautiful loop that can be hiked in around two hours. The highest point has an elevation of 6,404 feet; however, panoramic views can be enjoyed from many points along the way.

Continue to 9 of 9 below.
09 of 09

Gunung Dempo (South Sumatra)

Gunung Dempo in the distance behind a tea plantation

andris hengki piciza / Getty Images

Mount Dempo, Dempio Makmur, Pagar Alam Utara, Pagar Alam City, South Sumatra, Indonesia

Gunung Dempo in South Sumatra towers over the plantations in Pagar Alam. Clouds collect near the chilly summit at 10,410 feet. Hardcore hikers can top the big volcano in one seriously long day, but the adventure is more often enjoyed with an overnight at one of the shelters scattered along the trails.

Four trails wind to the summit, but the track from Tugu Rimau is perhaps the shortest and most popular proving that you don’t necessarily have to summit a big mountain to experience the adventure of hiking in Sumatra.

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The 9 Best Places to Hike in Sumatra