West Sumatra: Top 6 must-see spots

Nila Tanzil
From gigantic granite cliffs and palm-tree lined beaches, to historic palaces and architectural feats, West Sumatra has it all

Indonesia’s West Sumatra has it all. From volcanic highlands and clear blue lakes, to cryptic caves and palm-tree lined beaches, not to mention mouthwatering cuisine and heritage sites steeped in history.

With so many options, it’s hard to choose a jump-off point, let alone map out a path. To help you pick one, or if your schedule is tight and can only drop in a few places, here’s a list of my 6 favorite spots when it comes to exploring the province:

1.  Harau Valley

EMERALD FOREST. Harau Valley's gigantic granite cliffs. All photos by Nila Tanzil/Rappler

Harau Valley is a must for anyone looking to get away from the city and quickly reconnect with nature. The often-overlooked canyon is blessed with lush green rice paddy fields and surrounded by gigantic granite cliffs. Everywhere you look, you are reminded that you’re in the foothills of a emerald rainforest. The valley is home to a handful of gorgeous waterfalls ranging from 80 to 300 meters in height. Some of the misty waterfalls are remote and off-the-beaten path, so if you time your trip right you will have them all to yourself.

If you are looking for fresh air, cool breeze, and the peacefulness that comes with embracing nature, make sure to take a few days to explore all that Harau has to offer. Forget the busy life of a big city. Enjoy the sound of exotic birds, gibbons, and macaques chattering high in the treetops. Ever elusive Sumatran tigers, of which only 350 still exist in the wild, roam West Sumatra and are still spotted from time to time. If anything, you might be lucky to spot a paw print in the mud.

2.  Maninjau Lake
Branded one of the most tranquil spots in all of Indonesia, Maninjau Lake is definitely worth a visit. Set within a volcanic crater, the lake is located in the mountain highlands, some 461 meters above sea level, and offers the peace and quiet postcards are made for. The lake is surrounded on all sides by sloping jade mountains and rolling hills, making this spot the perfect getaway for shutterbugs.

TRANQUIL SPOT. Maninjau Lake is set within a volcanic crater,  located in the mountain highlands, some 461 meters above sea level.
There are more than 20 flights a day from Jakarta to the provincial capital, Padang, with roundtrip airfares starting from as low as IDR500,000 ($41)

The quickest way to get to Lake Maninjau is to take a car from Padang to Bukittinggi. Drive downhill and roam around the famous Kelok 44. Buckle up as the road has sharp twists and turns, not too different from some of the challenging Formula One tracks. That is also where the road’s name comes from – kelok means turn. But don’t let the pins and turns take away from the unforgettable scenery. Make time to stop every once in a while to take in the backdrop.

When the twists and turns of Kelok 44 begin to get tiring, stop by one of the small food vendors along the road to enjoy a cup of local brewed coffee and a local donut topped with just the right amount of powdered sugar. Take a moment to feel the calmness of the place. The gorgeous scenery, the cool, earthen breeze, and the peaceful vibe will do nothing if not relax you.

3.  Air Manis Beach

AIR MANIS. The unofficial paragliding capital of West Sumatra.

If the beach is what you’re after, drop by Air Manis (which translates to Sweet Water). A favorite among locals, the beach is tied to the legends and lore of “Malin Kundang,” a folktale woven around the main character who was cursed by his mother and turned into stone due to his disobedience. On the beach, people can see the Malin Kundang stone and several others representing pieces of equipment from his ship. The legend is one of Indoensia’s most famous, reminding children to listen to their mothers and to never forget where we come from, no matter how rich and successful we may grow up to be.

Air Manis is the unofficial paragliding capital of West Sumatra. From atop the hills, amateurs and experts alike take flight, enjoying a bird’s-eye-view of the staggering hills and endless beach. 

4.  Kelok Sembilan

ARCHITECTURAL FEAT. Kelok Sembilan is a popular spot for taking photos.

Locals take pride in this incredible architectural achievement! Located in Lima Puluh Regency, Kelok Sembilan (Flyover Nine) has long been a popular spot for tourists to stop and take photos. Many a living room in Indonesia, whether on Java, Sulawesi or Flores, are decorated with framed family photos taken from atop the overpass, which offers a charming view overlooking mountains and valleys.
 
5.  Istana Baso Pagaruyung

HISTORIC PALACE. Istana Baso Pagaruyung is the former royal palace housing the Pagaruyung Kingdom

For those who would like to embrace local culture and explore heritage sites, Istana Baso Pagaruyung, designed in the traditional rumah gadang style of the Minang people, is a must. Istana Baso Pagaruyung (istana means palace) was the former royal palace housing the Pagaruyung Kingdom. The cultural gem now serves as a must-see tourist destination.

Upon entering the complex, you’ll feel the grandness of the palace. Home to a vivid and lush garden, the complex is the perfect place for families with little kids who love running around while parents immerse themselves in history and local customs.      

LOCAL 'BIG BEN'. Jam Gadang in Bukittinggi, West Sumatra.

6.  Jam Gadang

This 26-meter tall clock is the cultural touchstone of Bukittinggi. Built in 1826, the iconic clock was a gift from the Dutch Queen to the city secretary. Locals actually insist the clock is the twin sister of the Big Ben in London!

Locals and tourists alike love to bring their families and friends to the square to play in the shadow of the clock tower. It’s easy to lose a day in the square, lounging on the green grass, enjoying a cold drink and watching the world go by.

The best part is that it’s so easy to get to West Sumatra. There are more than 20 flights a day from Jakarta to the provincial capital, Padang, with roundtrip airfares starting from as low as IDR500,000 ($41). – Rappler.com

 


An Indonesian traveler, avid scuba-diver, and a travel blogger, Nila Tanzil has done solo travel to 28 countries in the world. She enjoys trying new experiences, understanding the local culture and getting to know the local people during her travels. She is also an education advocate with a mission to nurture children’s interest in reading through her initiative in Indonesia called Taman Bacaan Pelangi (Rainbow Reading Gardens), which builds children libraries in remote areas in Eastern Indonesia. Follow her on Twitter at @nilatanzil