My Travels in West Sumatra

Sumatra is one of my favorite parts of Indonesia particularly as many people tend not to go there, choosing instead the idyllic island paradise of Bali; Yogya and Magelang with the Borobudur and Prambanan temples and well known Mount Bromo. As with much of Indonesia, Sumatra has stunning scenery, ancient cultures, wonderful natural beauty and friendly people. One can see impressive mountains and volcanoes, vast swathes of jungle and woodland and beautiful islands and beaches.

I usually visit Sumatra with family or friends and may drive around Lake Toba to visit Batak villages or visit Padang City and head inland to see the amazing scenery. My wife’s family is from West Sumatra, and so we do our part in protecting the Sumatran Tiger as well as donating to charities to help poor children throughout Sumatra and other parts of Indonesia.

But the area that I most enjoy is West Sumatra, the city of Padang, and the surrounding towns, villages and countryside where the people are friendly and the pace of life slow.

This is an account of some of my adventures in West Sumatra with photos and comments that I hope you will enjoy.

As we flew in towards Padang Airport, we saw many small tropical islands dotted about in the sea.

Our driver was waiting for us. We had rented a Toyota Kijang at the rate of Rp350,000 per day and we would arrange his accommodation wherever we stayed.

Driving through Padang City, evidence of the 7.6 magnitude earthquake that struck just offshore in 2009 could be seen by the many damaged houses and buildings that we drove past. Although this damage is bad, it is nothing compared to the colossal damage and loss of life that occurred in other parts of the town during the earthquake.

However, life goes on and the people of Padang rebuild their lives. Our own relatives survived the earthquake and we are thankful for that.

A colourful Metro Mini public transportation bus in Padang

One of the most beautiful parts of Padang City is the old town and along the banks of the Batang Arau River where you can see blue and red fishing boats moored on both sides of the river.

A boy watches his father repairing a boat

Sunrise view from the Siti Nurbaya Bridge in Padang

Old Boat wreck on the river

Houses on the hills beside the Batang Arau River in Padang

A man paints a boat on the Batang Arau River in Padang


I'm so happy I found this post! I plan to go to West Sumatra next year but it's so difficult to find information, I'd be so happy & thankful if you could answer my two questions

1) What's the weather like on West Sumatra in February? Rainy season, dry season…?

2) Is it easy getting around by public transport? Places I want to visit are Bukittinggi/Sianok Canyon, Harau Valley, Lake Singkarak, Lake Maninjau, Sikuai Island + nearby islands Pasumpahan Island and Pamutusan Island. Are there any public buses or angkots and public boats to these places?

I hope you can help me. Thank you in advance,


The weather in West Sumatra depends on where you are. In Padang it is hot pretty much all of the time so expect temperatures of around 31 deg C in the daytime, same as much of Indonesia. In Bukittinggi it is a lot cooler due to the altitude, so expect temperatures of around 23 - 24 deg C in the daytime and around 16 - 18 deg C at night. November to April are the wettest months of the year.

Normally I hire a driver to take me around West Sumatra because that is the most convenient and you can stop and visit anywhere you wish. We pay around Rp350k per day. But there are other ways. When you arrive at Padang Airport there are travel desks where you can buy tickets to many places, and there are also drivers offering to take you to Bukittinggi or Padang City but you'll need to negotiate the price. If you go to Padang Bus Terminal you can get a bus that goes directly to Bukittinggi, but again you won't have the pleasure of stopping off along the way as there are nice sights to see along that road. The bus takes about 2 hours and is really cheap.

The usual route to get to Padang City from Bukittinggi doesn't run past Lake Singkarak but that's a longer route, but at the town of Padang Panjang you can take the left fork and drive all the way along the edge of Lake Singkarak, nice views there.

Sianok Canyon can be seen from the main square in Bukinttinggi, it's a great view and easily accessible from town.

For Lake Maninjau, you can take public transportation from Bukittinggi, you'll find a lot of them in the main square where the Clock Tower is. But of course it is much better if you have rented a car with a driver in Padang, or Bukittinggi. Lake Maninjau is beautiful and the road to get there from Bukittinggi is interesting with great views of the Lake at Puncak Lawang.

Same again for the Harau Valley. It's a bit of a drive and better to use a car with driver. You can climb a lot of steps to get to a good vantage point over the canyon and valley but in February the view will depend on the weather. But it's a nice quiet place to drive around.

I haven't visited any of the islands off Padang because my wife keeps reminding me of tsunami and earthquakes, so we keep putting it off. But you can take a ferry boat from Padang or even a speedboat. The islands are supposed to be very beautiful.

Thank you for taking your time to answer my questions. I don't know if I'd feel comfortable hiring a driver, I'm going to travel solo as a female, Would u say it's safe for solo female travellers in west Sumatra?

Personally if you have the budget then I think that getting a car with driver from a company is safer as you will be on record with that company, and a lot more convenient if it rains. Let someone know the driver's name, telephone number and car registration number. Indonesia is pretty safe though and people in that area are very nice. The drivers that we've always used haven't been creepy at all. They speak a little English which will be good for you and it will be easier to go to those more remote places on your list. For example, Harau Valley feels as it it's in the middle of nowhere with hardly any cars around, so having a driver would be better.

Of course if you have an international driving license and are totally adventurous you could rent a motorbbike in Bukittinggi or Padang and go explore by yourself.

Thank you so much!

Hello, my name is Sazid, stay at village, Jalan Padang Panjang - Solok KM15. This road mainly on the way to Lake Singkarak. If any of you come here, u may knock me. I would love to guide you as base on my ability. By nationality I am Bangladeshi but now i reside here permanently from last two year along with my wife and daughter. Thank you..

A few more pictures taken near the river before moving on.

Sunrise in Padang City

Children playing beside the river

Four Friends

Steep hill beside the river

Some excellent shots there my friend, great work. Thanks for sharing them

It's my pleasure Geoff. Glad you like the pics.

Towards the mouth of the river are just a few small fishing boats and houses.

A fisherman repairs his net

Fisherman's houses on stilts near the river mouth

A kitten from the village, or is it a tiger?

Hi brother I'm Bangladeshi. I need to your help. So how can I contact you?

Had you go to west sumatera?
Just contact me,  and i will let you know anything about west sumatera 😉

Sazid, what is your contact information.  I am interested in visiting there.

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