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Sumatra Travel Guide

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Bukkitinggi, Sumatra © Judith Duk

Sumatra is the second largest island in the Indonesian archipelago and is about the size of California, formed by a longitudinal spine of mountains including 90 volcanoes. Sumatra is a beautiful island with volcanoes and hot springs, lakes and rivers, rolling green foothills, plantations and wild jungle scenery. Many reserves protect the island's wealth of indigenous wildlife, and elephants, tigers, rhinos, orangutans and tapirs can be seen on organised safaris within protected reserves.

The majority of the population lives in the foothills, plateaus and highlands of Sumatra, working as farmers. The entire island was once covered in dense rainforest, but today most has been destroyed by the need for agricultural land, which is the country's prime earner, with key exports including palm oil, rubber, tobacco, coffee and tea.

The island is home to numerous peoples and cultures, among them the Muslim Minangkabau and the great highland people, the Batak, inhabiting a fertile volcanic plateau, who have a language, dress, religious belief, architectural style and culture all their own. Lake Toba, the spiritual centre of the Batak, is a major tourist destination lined with resorts. The busy hill town of Bukittinggi is the hub of the Minang culture, surrounded by spectacular scenery and close to Lake Maninjau, a sparkling volcanic crater lake surrounded by jungle-covered crater walls.

This is an island of plenty: with its scenery, wildlife, natural resources, cultural diversity and extraordinary architecture Sumatra has much to offer the visitor. Though not as popular a destination as neighbouring Bali or Jakarta, Sumatra is an increasingly fashionable eco-tourism destination, and cycling or riding a scooter through the mountains and valleys can be a great way to see Sumatra's natural beauty.

Become our Sumatra Travel Expert

We are looking for contributors for our Sumatra travel guide. If you are a local, a regular traveller to Sumatra or a travel professional with time to contribute and answer occasional forum questions, please contact us.

Indonesia Travel Plan

Footsteps across the rumbling volcano. Sleep in Bali beach bungalows and cycle through rice paddies. Build your own Indonesia adventure.

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