At 1,100 miles long and 270 miles wide (1,770 by 434 kilometers), Sumatra is the sixth-largest island in the world, and home to 50 million people. Originally named "Samudra", for ocean, Sumatra sits astride the Straits of Malacca, a maritime choke point through which all seaborne traffic to and from East Asia must pass. Long contested by a variety of colonial powers, including the Dutch, British, Japanese, and Chinese, Sumatra today is a major tourist destination. While it sustained severe damage and loss of life in the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, Sumatra has since begun a slow recovery, and tourism is again on the rise.

Particularly noteworthy sights and activities include a visit to Bukittingi, home of the matriarchal Minangkabau people; touring coffee plantations and sampling the notoriously expensive kopi luwak; and a wildlife safari in Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park.


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Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park

Perhaps the best example of the astonishing diversity of plant and wildlife on Sumatra, Bukit Barisan Selatan is home to the Sumatran Tiger, Sumatran Rhinoceros and Sumatran Elephant. Nature lovers and photographers will be happy to see that the Tiger, Rhino and Elephants live freely within their natural habitat, and are protected within the bounds of the park - designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Additionally, coffee is also grown in the park –about 450 square kilometers.


Visit Bukittinggi, home of the Minangkabau people, who are excellent craftswomen and live in one of the world's last true matriarchal societies. Once a major destination on the Southeast Asian travel circuit, Bukittingi has slowly fallen from prominence, though there are a number of interesting attractions in the area. Among them are the Lubang Jepang, or Japanese caves, a series of tunnels dug by the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II, and considered a marvel of military engineering; Lake Maninjau, a large crater lake an hour from Bukittingi; and the Jam Gadang, a cluster of food stalls surrounding a clock tower built by the Dutch.

Coffee Tour

Sumatra is the largest producer of Indonesian coffee. Tour the coffee plantations and taste some of the choicest blends, including Arabica, which is exported to countries around the world.

Lake Toba

Part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, Sumatra is known for its heavy volcanic activity. One former volcano is Lake Toba, which, 70,000 years ago, erupted in a massive explosion that killed off almost all plant and animal life at the time – including much of the human race. Today, however, the crater is a gentle, picturesque lake ringed by forests and the distinct, angled houses of the Batak minority.

Orangutan Rehabilitation Center

Visit the Orangutan Rehabilitation Center at Bukit Lawang, located 45 miles, or 72 kilometers, from Medan. You can go rafting on the river nearby and watch the orangutans as they come up to the riverbank. From here, travelers can also make a two day overnight hike into Gunung Leuser National Park.


Sumatra features some of the largest surfing swells in the world, rivaling Hawaii and Australia. Catch massive waves under the brilliant sunshine.

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