Bukit Lawang is the official orangutan outpost of Sumatra, an Indonesian island known for its rugged, outdoor character. Many would say there is no other place on the planet with such easy access to these primates in their natural habitat.

Gunung Leuser National Park is on the outskirts of Bukit Lawang. The orangutan conservation center is on the eastern fringes of the park, but wild populations are found throughout. In fact, experts estimate there are as many as 5,000 orangutans in the park, making this a veritable stronghold for this otherwise endangered specie.

Spotting orangutans is the high point of visiting Bukit Lawang, and the best place to do this is at the conservation center where the animals are normalized to up-close human contact. Otherwise, visitors can join a trek through the national park or follow a mile-long hiking trail from the Eco Lodge to Bat Cave.

Travel to Lawang - getting there

Bukit Lawang isn’t that far from civilization but it takes a long time to get here. The road from Medan to Bukit Lawang (4 hours) is riddled with potholes, so buses and minivans move slowly. From Medan it is a short domestic flight to Jakarta, although international links to major cities in Southeast Asia are also available.

In brief

Worth it? Anyone with an interest in orangutans will love Bukit Lawang.

What to do: show for feeding time at the conservation center, go caving, hike through the forest.

Best time to go: between April and November (the dry season).

How long? One or two days is enough for the main attractions.

Trivia: when milling around outside Bat Cave, guard your head from falling durian.

Bukit Lawang attractions

  • 2 - Orangutan Center: founded in 1973, this center rehabilitates orangutans and features a twice-daily feeding time that is open to tourists.

Side trips from Bukit Lawant

  • Bat Cave: there is an interesting cave outside of town (roughly a 20-minute walk) in a grove of durian trees. Be sure to bring a flashlight.
  • Gunung Leuser National Park: while visiting Bukit Lawang a trek through Gunung Leuser National Park is a worthwhile diversion. Guides are available in town.