Versi Bahasa Indonesia: https://indonesia.tripcanvas.co/id/sumatra/wisata-tersembunyi-sumatera-barat/
Written by Sahiri Loing
Edited by Laura Jodoin
When anyone mentions Sumatra, the first place that often comes to mind is Lake Toba.
But that’s not the only attraction in Sumatra. How about venturing westward? Did you know that West Sumatra is home to dozens of enchanting sites? And there’s more than just rendang, the spicy meat dish native to this corner of the country.
You will be amazed by the rich culture and beautiful natural attractions you can find here.
Thankfully, you won’t have any trouble getting here! Many local airlines offer a direct flight to the region from Soekarno-Hatta Airport to Minangkabau International Airport located in the capital city of Padang, with flight rates ranging from USD $37 to $61, and it takes you less than two hours.
From land to sea, there are plenty of breathtaking sites to explore across West Sumatra, and the sights you’ll take in along the way will have you thrilled that you stuck around to see it all – and make the most out of your time in West Sumatra!
1. The Bull-Horned Houses: Kawasan 1000 Rumah Gadang
Small, quaint villages aren’t only found in the Western world! We promise you’ll love the rustic, tropical charm of West Sumatra’s small towns just as much as those in Europe.
Take a trip to Solok Selatan regency and you’ll be rewarded with a delightful sight of preserved traditional houses called Rumah Gadang (famous for their pointy rooftops called gonjong, said to resemble a bull’s horn) of the indigenous Minangkabau tribe. The houses are pretty sparse in the regency but there is a more notable cluster in the Koto Baru Village.
Since this complex boasts of 174 houses in total, you can get the full experience while you’re there, and tourism is highly encouraged – you are invited to stay in the houses, watch traditional dances, and learn the customs of the indigenous tribe!
At Harau Valley, you can expect a land of natural beauty and hidden treasures.
Magnificent waterfalls? Check. A sea of green rice paddy fields? Check. Beautiful pond? Check. Majestic mountains? Check! There’s something for every nature lover, no matter what you crave for.
For avid rock climbers, the steep cliffs are a popular spot for a bit of a challenge. Some even claim that the colourful granite rocks here rival the ever-famous Yosemite Valley in the US!
3. A treehouse in the hills: Taruko Café & Resto
For a laid-back chill-out spot inside the city, head to Taruko Café and Resto, only a 20-minute drive from Bukittinggi that sits comfortably at the base of Ngarai Sianok Valley. Be prepared for a bit of a challenge as you descend the rocky terrain, but we promise it’s worth the trek!
This great little spot has an awe-inspiring view of lush forest, hills, rice paddy, fields, and rivers. You will also be surrounded by architecture resembling the pointy-roofed Rumah Gadang, so you will feel immersed in the true Indonesian culture.
The café is built to resemble a treehouse from every kid’s wildest dreams, so you can eat and enjoy your West Sumatra dish (we recommend nasi dendeng batokok) or sip your coffee with your legs dangling. For those who would like some tunes while they eat a satisfying meal, groovy live music performances will help to create a soothing vibe.
4. Turquoise lake with fruit garden: Lawang Adventure Park
You can’t miss the turquoise-coloured Lake Maninjau, seen from Lawang Park.
From the park, you can also see the mountains, sugar cane plantations, and there’s even a stunning spot where you can watch the sunset!
You can pick strawberries, apples, and oranges straight from the garden if they are in season. Imagine licking the sweet juices of fresh fruit from your fingers and tasting pure, natural flavours as you watch the sun sink below the horizon. Simply paradise!
There are also restaurants and cottages at Lawang Park, with prices ranging from IDR 65,0000 (USD 45.50) to IDR 200,000 (USD 140).
5. A cave under the waterfall: Air Terjun Lubuk Bulan
If you’re looking for something magical, you will want to make the trip to Lubuk Bulan.
The waterfall’s stream falls from 50 metres high into a crescent-shaped pool below. You’ll be enchanted when you realize that there’s a hidden cave underneath the pool! The water, after rushing down from the waterfall, flows through a 1 km-long passageway and comes out to water the nearby rice paddy fields.
It makes sense that the locals called it “Air Hilang” (or Missing Water)!
This is a beautiful spot to sit and relax as you listen to the soothing, relaxing sounds of the rushing water – or to pose for a few selfies, whether you’re alone or with friends!
6. View from the top: Bukit Guguak Sarai
This hill is a hikers’ delight (and will please any photographer!) with an amazing view from the top.
The path to the summit was trail blazed by the residents of Koto Sungai Lasi. You can reach the top quickly (around 15 to 20 minutes to the summit) where you’ll get the best view around of the miles of lush, endless greenery below you. You’re on the top of the world!
7. Sail away to pristine shores and clear water: Pulau Pagang
Pristine white beaches are abundant in Indonesia, and West Sumatra is no exception! Just catch a boat to Pagang Island and—voila!—white sand beaches and crystal water await you (perfect for beach bums!).
The water is so blue and clear that we’re sure you’ll want to jump right from the boat even before you set foot on the island. The underwater landscape is teeming with delightful little colourful fishes, making this a top destination for snorkeling fans!
This is also a great location for those who like to travel a little more independently – since the island is largely untouched by tourism, this is a great spot to pitch a tent and stay a night or two (just be sure to bring supplies – and food!).
8. Tea plantation near the lakes: Kebun Teh Alahan Panjang
Tea lovers unite – we’ve found a perfect spot for you. Located at 1400 to 1600 metres above sea level, the tea plantation of Alahan Panjang (in Gunung Talang Solok) will provide a relaxing and cool respite from both heat and crowds.
We love the verdant landscape with that wonderful tea smell wafting in the air, and we’re sure you will too! From here, you can watch expert tea farmers pick only the best tea leaves.
A regional bonus in visiting this sweeping tea garden is that it’s not far from not one, but two gorgeous lakes: the Danau Kembar (Twin Lakes). Like the tea plantation, these lakes are located on high land, making this a perfect spot for you to work a little camera magic!
9. Blue lake at the top of the mountain: Danau Laut Tinggal
This lake, called Danau Laut Tinggal and nicknamed the Virgin Lake, is a scintillating, azure-coloured dream at the summit of Mount Malintang. It’s surrounded by rich, emerald-green landscapes that will provide a heavenly shelter from busy city life.
While the lake itself (around 2 km in diameter) isn’t swimmable due to its high sulphur content, don’t worry too much – the view will surely be enough to quench your thirst for natural beauty!
10. Falls from the cliff: Air Terjun Gadih Ranti
These magnificent waterfalls rush down a cliff wall nearly 50 metres in height, brushing its surfaces and making the surrounding cream glitter and glisten with a refreshing spray of water.
The higher the wall, the greater the waterfall is, which means this is a great spot for a zoom lens on your camera! We know you’ll love the lush vines and creepers that wind and weave throughout the wall, giving the rock face a magical feel not unlike that of an enchanted fairytale forest!
According to local myth, the name is derived from a queen who ruled the region (FYI: gadih means “girl” in Indonesia!) and the pond located high above the cliff was used as her bath. Care for a dip?
11. Step into an enchanted forest: Hutan Lumut Singgalang
If you’re a fan of Lord of the Rings, don’t miss this stunning location. Escape into the Third Age of Middle Earth in this wild, brambly forest that strongly resembles Fangorn Forest!
Mount Singgalang is a forest lover’s dream; a cool, moss-covered, soft-to-the-touch, highly Instagrammable sea of trees. If it wasn’t freezing cold (Singgalang is 2,877 metres above sea level) we’d be tempted to pitch a tent and stay the night – so be sure to layer up if you decide to visit!
If you’re a botany enthusiast, or just like plants, then you’ll be pleased to know that this magical forest is filled with exotic plant species and also boasts some seriously cool waterfalls and lakes.
Feel free to Instagram on-site; thanks to the nearby cell phone tower, you’ll have a great mobile signal!
12. Limestone hill: Puncak Microwave
We’ve yet to discover who first coined the nickname “Microwave Hill”, but once you get here you’ll probably be more focused on the astounding view than the silly name!
The rocky limestone hill—like Guguak Sarai—provides plenty of prime spots for pictures, and if we were to guess the origin of the name, we’d assume it has something to do with how the rocks can be quite hot to the touch on a sunny day (so better plan your trip here in the morning or evening)!
13. Hidden blue lake: Danau Biru Talawi
For those looking for a feast for the eyes, you’ll definitely want to stop here – especially if you like hiking! Trek 13 km from the Sawahlunto city centre, down a dirt road, and you’ll discover this beauty, a little hidden gem tucked away in secret.
Danau Biru Talawi is actually a man-made lake, gradually formed through years of excavation from mining activities in the nearby coal mine (which is still active even today!).
Just find a spot and enjoy this magnificent dream shot in heavenly blue – a magnificent place to relax surrounded by nature. The nearby trees and shade also make this a great stop for a picnic lunch!
14. Learn about the local tribal cultures: Mentawai islands
If you possess the true spirit of a traveller, we bet you love meeting new people and experiencing different cultures. And there’s no better way to get to know other people’s customs than spending time with them yourself!
The Mentawai tribe has one of the most unique cultures, and some of these customs are still preserved today – namely, their tattoo making!
Their particular practice is among the oldest body art methods around today, using natural ink, and with every motif having different significance. Some advertise rank and profession; for instance, if you were a hunter, your tattoo motif would be an animal-based art.
Though you might find their customs outdated or strange (such as hunting rituals, poison-tipped hunting arrows, animistic beliefs), the experience itself is priceless, and will give you insight into a rich culture that can only be found here.
15. Celebrate with the bull races: Pacu Jawi
You might be familiar with the island of Madura and their famous bull races (karapan sapi), but good news – this incredible sight isn’t limited to Madura! You can also find it in West Sumatra, called Pacu Jawi.
If you’ve never heard of this before, it’s actually not a race! Instead, it’s a sort of a game or celebration held for the young bulls after harvest (no animal cruelty here).
If you don’t mind getting your hands dirty (or your legs), this is an activity worth checking out. But be warned that it happens on muddy ground, so prepared to get splashed!
If you’re looking for a rush, nothing will get your energy up faster than these races. While most games would be a contest to see who can win something first, the point of this particular game is not who reaches the finish line first but who can keep the bulls running in a straight line – which is a lot harder than it sounds!
It is said that this “straight line” is also a local philosophy, to encourage the community to live with integrity in their everyday lives.
16. Hike up the peak of Indonesia: Gunung Kerinci
At 3,805 feet above sea level, Mount Kerinci is an imposing figure for any avid hiker, therefore a must-visit location – especially if you’re seeking a challenge!
Mount Kerinci is in fact the highest volcano in Indonesia, and makes up a part of the conservation area Taman Nasional Kerinci Seblat, located along the border between Padang and Jambi to the south. The summit is a bit of a trek, so be ready for a 9 to 11-hour hike from the entrance (Pintu Rimba) to the third shelter. From there, you only need another 1 to 2 hours to reach the summit.
This might sound difficult, but as any climber will tell you, the view is absolutely worth the challenge to get there. The sight of the clouds, hills, and valleys extending far beyond the distant horizon is worth every step.
17. A quiet tropical getaway: Pulau Cubadak
While we love waterfalls, mountain plateaus and lush greenery, we’re sure you’ll agree that sometimes, all you want is a tropical paradise! This tiny, exotic island getaway off the southern coast of West Sumatra, Pulau Cubadak, is relatively small (only 40 km wide) but boasts of a whole lot of wondrous natural attractions.
You’re sure to fall in love with the unspoilt jungles, soft, white-sand beaches (spanning 1,5km long) and magnificent underwater scenes where you can snorkel or dive your tropical holiday away – or simply float on your back as the warm, welcoming sun warms your salty skin.
The island only has one accommodation: the lovely Cubadak Paradiso Resort. With its 14 bungalows (starting at USD 120, and one built over the water) sporting the traditional Minangkabau architecture, we’re pretty certain that you’re never going to want to leave!
18. Join in the colourful celebrations: Festival Tabuik Pariaman
For a cultural attraction tailor-made for travellers, travel to Pariaman where you’ll find the colourful and fun Tabuik Festival
Held to commemorate the Day of Aisyriah (the death of Muhammad’s grandson, Hussein Bin Ali, in the Karbala War), this the festival starts at 6am from the town’s plaza – so be sure to go to sleep early the night before! Two 12 meters-tall vertical pillars, bursting with colour, will be paraded around town to the sounds of traditional drums (gendang tasa) to energize and excite the huge crowd.
Tabuik itself means wooden casket, and according to urban legend, Hussein’s casket was taken towards the sky by a mythical beast called a buraq (a winged horse with the head of a man). The parade ends down at Pantai Gandoriah where the towers are floated off into the ocean.
If you want good luck, try picking off some of the materials from one of the pillars – made of bamboo, wood, and other decorations – as it’s taken off into the water (don’t worry about this – the locals do it too!)
If you’re in the region, don’t miss this! While we love mountains and waterfalls, the Tabuik Festival boasts of a colourful and exhilarating dose of culture that you can’t find in many other places!
19. A quaint little town: Payakumbuh
Like many other regions all over the world, West Sumatra offers delightful towns and villages with traditional and classic houses. One of these is Payakumbuh, the second most populated town in the region.
While this town that connects Padang and Pekanbaru to the northeast is relatively small, it’s by no means boring! There are several unique sites you can visit to make the most of your journey through Sumatra.
To name a few, we’re sure you’ll want to take note of the majestically-designed Jembatan Kelok 9 (great for photo-taking), or the historical Jembatan Ratapan Ibu (or Bridge of Weeping Mothers), where long ago, local soldiers were massacred by Dutch troops.
If you’re a museum fan, don’t miss the Museum Rumah Kelahiran Tan Malaka, which celebrates the life of one of Indonesia’s founding fathers. There are also flying duck races – and since its location rests on the foot of Gunung Sagu (with Mount Singgalang and Malintang decorating the panorama), the natural, lush surroundings are simply breathtaking!
For ancient history buffs, the megalithic stones strewn in and around town are an absolute must-see (in particular, check out the Negeri Seribu Menhir in the Maek area!)
Another custom originating from the Minangkabau culture is an “art performance” called Randai. This form of moving art performance is indeed a sight to behold – a transfixing combination of dance, martial arts, music, and well-rehearsed choreography.
If you’re a foodie, never fear! You won’t want to skip the local delicacies, like the batiah or sweet rice cookies, and, of course, rendang. You’ll never go hungry here!
20. Weave your own traditional songket: Pandai Sikek Village
If you have a passion for traditional fashion, hop on over to Pandai Sikek Village!
Here, you’ll find many shops offering Minangkabau’s traditional songket (or “balapak” in local vernacular), and you can even see (and learn!) the specific fabrication process, and how the local artisans weave the handmade fabric. So not only can you learn something new – you can leave looking absolutely fabulous!
The prices will vary based on the intricacies of the motifs, since more work means a higher price point. One cloth can reach up to IDR 15 million or USD 1126), but the way we see it, you can’t put a price on a truly memorable souvenir!
The village itself also boasts of wonderful woodcraft, and a stay in the village allows you to be surrounded by rice paddy fields and a faraway view of Mount Singgalang – overall, a truly perfect getaway!
21. Green cave: Goa Ngalau Indah
Right near the entrance to the town of Payakumbuh, a little farther down the road, you’ll find another entrance to a cool green rocky “room”.
That would be Ngalau Indah, a cave with green walls. The greenery is actually due to moss covering the rocks, giving this cave a refreshing feel.
You can also find stalactites and stalagmites, and if you look up, you’ll find a swarm of bats taking a nap! Careful to leave them be, however – the last thing you want is to get chased out of the caves by grumpy bats (you’d be grumpy too, if the bats woke you up from your nap)!
The local management has turned this site into a family-friendly spot by adding amenities such as stairs, a bridge, a playground, and food stalls. If you head to the top of the hill, you’ll be rewarded with a lovely aerial view of Payakumbuh. After all, views make for an excellent way to end the day – especially if you’re there to watch the sunset!
22. Travel back in time: Istana Pagaruyung Batusangkar
If you enter Minangkabau’s very own royal palace, you’ll discover that this picture-perfect sight could be a perfect setting for a whirlwind romance.
Inside, you’ll find past royal artifacts and furniture, though we’re more smitten with the vastness of the space within with 11 gonjong, 72 pillars, and 3 floors, in which the main rooms are owned by the married princess.
If you find this place jaw-dropping, you’ll be surprised to learn that it’s not an original! Istana Pagaruyung is actually a replica of the original palace built by King Adityawarman in 1347. It caught fire not once, not twice, but three times – first by the Dutch in 1804, then again in 1966 and in 2007, the latter due to lightning.
Though it is a replica, the structure is true to original architecture, displaying the stunning pointed roofs famous to this region. Be sure to grab pictures while you’re here; these structures are unique and not something you’re likely to find outside of Indonesia!
23. Oldest village in West Sumatra: Nagari Pariangan
If you’re looking for perfect photography spots, then look no further! A picturesque village sitting at the foot of Mount Merapi, Nagari Pariangan has been dubbed as one of the most beautiful villages in the world by a U.S. travel magazine.
The title is very well-deserved – surrounded by lush trees, sloping rice paddy fields, and beautifully preserved Rumah Gadang, the small village is built on steep land and overall only covers around 18 km wide. Due to a nearby active volcano, there are natural hot springs nearby that locals enjoy as a popular past-time. This is a great spot to relax and melt your troubles away!
Photo by hardiadiyatma