Itinerary 1: Java and Sumatra Vintage Tour
Itinerary Type: Forests, National Parks and Temple visits
Places Covered: Medan (1night) – Tangkahan (2nights) – Bukit Lawang (2nights) –Jakarta (1night) – Bandung (1night) – Yogyakarta (3nights)
Highlights: Tracking down orangutans in the dense Sumatra forests, riding on elephant back through the rainforest and rivers of Gunung Leuser National Park, and visiting ancient Buddhist relic of Borobudur.
No. of Days: 10nights/11days
Day 1: Medan: Arrive at Kualanamu International Airport in Medan, capital of North Sumatra. Our representatives will receive you and transfer you to the hotel. Get acclimatized with some rest.
Later in the day visit Marian Shrine of Annai Velangkanni, a Catholic Church looking like a Hindu temple with intricate drawings and cravings. This church showcases a unique blend of Indian and Bataknese culture. Afterwards, visit Tjong A Fie’s Mansion, the luxury and charming house of Tjong A Fie (1860 – 1921), a Hakka merchant who became a famous businessman of Medan. Take a guided tour of the mansion, look at the artifacts and furniture preserved and try to grasp the story of each room.
You can also visit Maha Vihara Maitreya Cemara Asri, a Buddhist temple, and the Grand Mosque. Overnight in Medan.
Day 2: Medan – Tangkahan: After breakfast start on a four hour drive to Tangkahan, a village often referred to as the hidden paradise of Gunung Leuser National Park. Situated at the edge of the National Park, around 20km north of Bukit Lawang, in the Langkat district of North Sumatra, Tangkahan is an ecotourism area worth a visit. Check into a resort there.
A guide will take you for a walk into the rainforest later in the day. Overnight in Tangkahan.
Day 3: Tangkahan: Start the day early for a full day excursion with a guide all along. The excursions here include an Elephant trek. Cross the remote rivers of the national park in a tube. Enjoy swimming, and visiting waterfalls and hot springs. Overnight in Tangkahan.
Day 4: Tangkahan – Bukit Lawang: Set out after breakfast on a bumpy three hour ride to Bukit Lawang. Check into a hotel or resort on arrival. Afterwards, head straight to the nearby rainforest with your guide to look for orangutan and other wildlife. Overnight in Bukit Lawang.
Day 5: Bukit Lawang: Full day to search for the orangutan that live in the rainforest around Bukit Lawang with your guide. There are, however, baboons, various macaque species and the elusive Thomas leaf monkey as well to see in the forest. If you do not see the orangutans whilst you are walking in the rainforest, you may see them at the feeding platform where bananas are left daily for them.
There are other activities like river rafting, hiking and camping possible in Bukit Lawang. If time permits you can explore bat cave, which is an impressive cave system with many stalactites and stalagmites. Local guide will show you bats resting in the day time and also help you locate other cave inhabitants like swallows, snakes and cave crickets. Overnight in Bukit Lawang.
Day 6: Bukit Lawang – Medan – Jakarta: After breakfast drive to Medan, a drive of nearly three hours. Catch flight from Medan airport to Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia. Check into a hotel in Jakarta. Rest of the day at leisure. Overnight in Jakarta.
Day 7: Jakarta – Bandung: After breakfast, check out and start for Bandung – a drive of four hours. Bandung, set amid volcanoes and tea plantations, is the capital of West Java province. Check into a hotel on arrival in Bandung. In the afternoon for a traditional Javanese dance performance and learn about the local crafts at a traditional arts centre located just outside Bandung. Overnight in Bandung.
Day 8: Bandung – Yogyakarta: Take an early morning train from Bandung for Yogyakata, the main gateway to the Central Java as it stretches from Mount Merapi to the Indian Ocean. The train journey is through scenic terrains across western Java. Check into a hotel on arrival in Yogyakarta, often pronounced Jogjakarta or Jogja.
Towards the evening, go and explore Malioboro Street. Overnight in Yogyakarta.
Day 9: Yogyakarta: Morning after breakfast, set out for a full day sightseeing tour of Yogyakarta, a city known for its traditional arts and cultural heritage. First visit the Kraton (Sultan’s Palace). Keraton Yogyakarta tells us about history of Jogjakarta Sultans and castle. Intricate wood work can be shown in all architectural works here. These show definite influence of architectural styles of the Dutch, British and Japanese.
Afterwards visit Ullen Sentalu, a museum which tells about history of Mataram Kingdom, about kings and queens of Keraton Jogjakarta and Surakata. It also tells us about the Javanese culture, arts, principles and way of life.
Spend the evening at your choice at your own pace. You may also choose to relax at your hotel. Overnight in Yogyakarta.
Day 10: Yogyakarta: Rise early for the journey to Borobudur in time for sun rise at the largest Buddhist sanctuary in the world. This is about one and half hour journey. Borobudur is a 9th-century Mahayana Buddhist Temple in Magelang, Central Java, Indonesia. The magnificent temple is a three-dimensional mandala (diagram of the universe) and a visual representation of Buddhist teachings.
Later visit Prambanan Temples, the largest Hindu temple in Indonesia built in 9th century. The architecture of these temples is amazing. Some parts of the temple was destroyed by an earthquake a few years ago. You can spend the evening watching Ramayan Ballet at Prambanan.
Overnight in Yogyakarta.
Day 11: Yogyakarta – International Return Flight: After breakfast leave for airport to catch flight for your onward destination.
Itinerary 2: Exhilarating Sumatra
Itinerary Type: Forests and beaches of Aceh
Places Covered: Medan (1night) – Samosir Island (2nights) – Berastagi (including visit to Sibayak Volcano) (2nights) – Ketambe (2nights) – Takengon (2nights) – Banda Aceh (2nights) – Pulau Weh (2nights) – Medan (1night)
No. of Days:14nights/15days
Highlights: Treks through forest, visiting rocky outcrops of Gayo Highlands, enjoying pristine beaches and seeing Sibayak Volcano up close. A visit to authentic Sumatran villages to see their life from close quarters is also a bug highlight of the tour.
Day 1: Medan: Arrive at Kualanamu International Airport in Medan, capital of North Sumatra. Our representatives will receive you and transfer you to the hotel. Get acclimatized with some rest. Visit Tjong A Fie’s Mansion, the luxury and charming house of Tjong A Fie (1860 – 1921), a Hakka merchant who became a famous businessman of Medan. Take a guided tour of the mansion, look at the artifacts and furniture preserved and try to grasp the story of each room.
Enjoy some Sumatran delicacies at a city restaurant. Overnight in Medan.
Days 2-3: Samosir Island: Check out after breakfast and head for Parapat – a scenic drive of a little more than four hours. Parapat is the primary transit point by ferry for visitors going to Samosir Island in Lake Toba, the world’s largest volcanic lake supposed to have formed by a supervolcano some 75,000 years ago.
From Parapat take an hour long ferry or a boat service to reach Tuk Tuk, a small town on Samosir Island. Check into a hotel or guesthouse in Tuk Tuk. Try out some local Batak food delicacies at one of the several eateries around the lake.
In the evening take a stroll along the lake or go to Tomok, a place to buy souvenirs and visit a tomb.
Next morning, after breakfast embark on a full day tour of Samosir Island. Some of the biggest attractions are – ancient and modern grave sites and traditional architecture with boat-like houses having roofs looking like buffalo horns. Visit Batak Museum and if possible, watch Batak dance performances. Do not forget to take a dip in the cool waters of Lake Toba.
You can go to hot springs if you so want. Enjoy traditional song and music in the evening. Have a feast on local dishes. Overnight on Samosir Island.
Days 4-5: Berastagi (Sibayak Volcano trek): Take hour-long ferry or boat service in the morning and return to Parapat. Start for Berastagi, a drive of over three hours. Berastagi, usually pronounced Brastagi, literally means “rice store”. This is a town situated on crossroads on the main route connecting Karo highlands of North Sumatra to Medan.
On the way to Berastagi, stop at the first Simalungun Palace, that was home to the last Batak king. Also visit Sipiso – piso waterfall (literal meaning ‘like a knife’) on the way. This 120m high waterfall is located on the northern edge of Lake Toba. This is formed by an underground river which flows out into the Toba caldera.
Check into a hotel on arrival in Berastagi. Take a walk in the city in the evening and interact with the friendly locals.
Start quite early in the morning for a trek to the top of Sibayak Volcano. It is considered fairly easy trek but you need to be careful of slipping as the route can be muddy at places. The four hour trek passes through shady jungle path, giving opportunities to watch animals like gibbon, Thomas Leaf monkeys, loris and lots of birds.
Take a nice view of the Karo Highlands from the top of Sibayal Volcano. You can see vapours emanating from the volcanoes, show it is still an active one.
Descend down the other way which ends at the hot springs. Take a dip in the hot springs – a nice way to shed away all tiredness. Reach the hotel and take some well deserved rest. You can take a trip to the local fruit market in the evening.
Days 6-7: Ketambe – Gunung Leuser National Park Camp: Check out from the hotel in Berastagi in the morning and head off to Ketambe in Aceh Province, an Indonesian province which is partly governed by Muslim Sharia laws. This is quite a long drive of more than eight hours via Kutacane.
Ketambe is a nice small village used as a base to explore Gunung Leuser National Park, home of the Sumatran orangutan. This is relatively less touristic compared to Bukit Lewang, another place used as base to explore the National Park.
Check into a guesthouse in Ketambe. Take a well deserved rest in the guest house.
Start next morning with a guide to explore Gunung Leuser National Park, a UNESCO listed World Heritage Site. The Park is home to many endangered species including rare Sumatran tigers, elephants, rhinoceros and, the orangutans. There are more than 300 species of birds here along with various varieties of and plants
The trek will consist of small trails. But overall the trek will last for 6 to 8 hours. The guide can show and explain special plants, including Rafflesia whose flowers are supposed to be largest in the world. Its blooming time is July/August. The main attention is to look for and spot orangutans, gibbons, monkeys and birds. Take a longer break beside the river for lunch. If interested, you can take a bath or swim in the river. In the forest be careful of leeches.
Return to the guesthouse in Ketambe and have a nice sleep after a lovely dinner.
(You can stay in a campsite within the Park. For this you will have to extend your program by one more day)
Days 8-9: Takengon: Check out early from Ketambe and start for Takengon, a long drive drive of over 10 hours. Takengon, one of the main towns of Gayo Highands in Central Aceh, is situated on the shores of Lake Laut Tawar.
Takengon, where Islamic Sharia law is in effect, is a relaxing and charming spot and home to one of the best qualities of coffee in the world. Check into a hotel on arrival in Takengon.
Next morning, after breakfast drive a little up the hill and look at the view of Lake Lut Tawar, whose literal meaning is ‘tasteless sea’. The Lake has an hydroelectric project on one side. Water is supplied from this lake to the people in Takengon and other parts of Gayo Highlands.
Later, go on to visit Loyang Koro Cave (literally meaning ‘Buffalo Cave’), about 6 km from the centre of Tankengon, and adjacent to Lake Lut Tawar. The caves have some interesting stalagmites -water dripping from them has left some smooth and bulbous shaped rock on the floor of the cave. The cave is also home to a large number of wallets, birds similar to sparrows. They build tiny nests from grasses that appear glued to the walls of the cave.
Enjoy the rest of the time in leisure, admiring the wonderful views. Sample the world famous Gayo coffee. If possible, have a look at Didong dance, the most of popular dance form in this region. This is performed in important and special events, such as wedding party or as a welcome ceremony. Stay overnight in Takengon.
Days 10-11 Banda Aceh: Start after quite an early breakfast for Banda Aceh, the capital and largest city in the province of Aceh. This is a long drive of over eight hours. On arrival in Banda Aceh, check into a hotel. Try some delicious Acehnese cuisines. Be at leisure afterwards and go to bed early.
Next morning, start with a visit to Aceh Tsunami Museum. The museum building, made in typical Acehnese style, is itself quite an impressive one. The visit is though more an emotional one as it pays a tribute to those who were killed by the 2004 Tsunami. More than 61,000 people lost their lives here and the city was reduced to rubble. Signs of Tsunami can be seen in many places in the form of a boat over the top of a house or a boat thrown deep inside the land.
Go and visit Lampuuk Beach, one of the most stunning beaches in whole of Aceh. Feast on some seafood here and if interested, go for some swimming too. However, be careful as the waves are stronger here. Also make it a point to visit Baiturrahman Grand Mosque, which survived the Tsumani waves.
Banda Aceh has other opportunities for fun in store. One can get indulged in surfing and snorkeling too. Have a nice dinner and sleep well for another journey next morning.
Days 12-13: Pulau Weh: Morning after breakfast transfer to Uleh-leh port, some 15km from Banda Aceh. Catch a high speed ferry and reach the nearby tropical island of Pulau Weh, also called Weh Island, in about 45 minutes. After reaching Pulau Weh, drive straight to the hotel and check into a hotel.
The island is known for its ecosystem, so much so that the government has declared 60 square kilometres of inland and sea around the island as a wildlife protection area. A rare megamouth shark species is found here and this is also the only habitat for the threatened toad, Duttaphrynus valhallae. Coral reef areas around the island are known for their large variety of fish species.
Today and next day immerse yourself in complete leisure. Enjoy all sorts of seafood. Go for snorkeling, scuba diving, paragliding and jet skiing. Stop at the waterfalls and take dips in hot springs.
Just keep in mind no swimming, snorkeling or diving is permitted on the island from 6pm every Thursday until 2pm Friday because of religious reasons.
Days 14: Medan: After breakfast in the morning at the hotel in Pulau Weh, return to Banda Aceh. Head straight to the airport, and board a flight back to Medan. Check into a hotel on arrival in Medan. Be at leisure and relax in the hotel. You can take a walk in the market or go to a few places of your interest. You are all free to do this. Overnight in Medan.
Day 15: Medan – Onward Destination: Check out from the hotel after breakfast and drive to the International Airport. Catch the flight for your onward destination.