On the northern end of Sumatra Island, this Indonesian province is a dream-come-true for travelers who enjoy remote excursions without endless days of transportation. It has everything from national parks to a miniature metropolis as well as plenty of outdoor attractions.

Medan is the capital of North Sumatra as well as the gateway for tourists. It is also a bastion of civilization, with a thriving night scene, ample hotels and an aging colonial district. While visitors seldom spend much time here, Medan is certainly an important stepping stone to the North Sumatran experience.

Other important sites along the way include Pulau Nias, a haven for surfers; Danau Toba, an impressive volcanic lake in the highlands; volcanoes like Sibayak and Sinabung; as well as Gunung Leuser National Park, a stronghold of more than 5,000 orangutans.

The charm of North Sumatra is tied up in its rugged edge. Well-traveled tourists in the area are likely to insist that the island experience here trumps the one in Bali because there are fewer tourists and the experience is more authentic.

The best time to visit this hidden gem is during the April-to-October dry season. Access to North Sumatra is through Medan’s Polonia International Airport. This facility is well-traveled and scheduled to expand in the immediate future.

Currently the airport flies to major destinations across the region including Jakarta (2 hours, 15 minutes), Penang and Singapore (1 hour, 25 minutes). Buses from Medan transfer passengers to all corners of North Sumatra.

Onward Travel