Sumatra is the third largest island of the Indonesian archipelago and the main commercial focus of the country. Located between the island of Java, the Malay peninsula, and Borneo, it was once of the axes of the trade route that united India and China, which has led to its current prosperous situation.
However, development is not always good. Many of its natural areas of virgin forest were threatened during the twentieth century by the indiscriminate advance of farmland. Nowadays, the situation has changed and all efforts are invested in maintaining one of the most important historical and natural legacies of Southeast Asia.
WHAT TO SEE
Mount Leuser National Park is a good example. It occupies about 9,500 square kilometers and is home to the Bohorok Station for Rehabilitation of Orangutans. This center welcomes orphaned animals to breed and, once prepared, reintroduces them into the wild. The river Alas crosses the whole extension of the park and it is possible to travel in canoe.
Another attraction of the northern region of Sumatra is Lake Toba, which is more than 450 meters deep and is the deepest in the world, and covers an area of 1145 square kilometers. Seated on its shores, the small town of Parapat feeds on lake fishing, which can also perform all kinds of water sports without motor.
For trekking enthusiasts, the best corner of the island is the Gunung Leuser National Park. Starting from the picturesque village of Karo (only 70 kilometers from Medan, capital of the region), the explorer can discover a landscape dominated by the volcanoes that make up the Bukit Barisan mountain range, which divides the island into two.
WHERE TO SLEEP
Sumatra has not traditionally been a destination for international tourism, so some years ago, it was difficult to find hotels that met expectations. However, the increasing demand has lead to the construction of new complexes able to offer visitors all classes of comforts.
- Hotel Danau Toba International (****) / Medan / Telephone: (061) 557 000 / Fax: (061) 530553 / More information: www.hoteldanautoba.com
- Hotel Novotel Soechi (****) / Soechi / Telephone: (061) 33 26 214 / Fax: (061) 568106 / More information: www.novotel.com
- Hotel Asean International (****) / Medan / Telephone: (061) 521 125 / Fax: (061) 521125 / More information: www.bestwestern.com
- Hotel Natour Dharma Deli (***) / Medan / Telephone: (061) 547 744 / Fax: (061) 544477.
- Hotel Garuda Plaza (***) / Medan / Telephone: (061) 711 411 / Fax: (061) 517656 / More information: www.garudaplaza.com
WHERE TO EAT
The best places to eat are in Medan, the capital of northern Sumatra, and in the small fishing villages around it. The diet is based on seafood and Asian style cuisine, although it’s also possible to find all kinds of Western specialties in one of the cities’ hotels.
- Nelayan Restaurant / Asian / Jl. Thamrin, 55 / Medan / Tel: (061) 523684.
- Ria Restaurant / Asian / Jl. M.T. Haryono / Medan / Tel: (061) 575575.
- Garuda restaurant / Indonesia / Jl. Gajah Mada, 8 / Medan / Tel: (061) 550447.
- Miramar restaurant / Indonesia / Jl. Pemuda, 11 ABC / Medan / Telephone: (061) 512197.