Discover hidden paradises of North Sumatra (part 2, Bukit Lawang-Tangkahan-Medan)


Before reading this post, you should read the first part to understand the whole content.

The next destination shall be Bukit Lawang. It is the only original habitat of Orangutan left in Sumatra. Bukit Lawang is located in the Gunung Leuser National Park on the border between North Sumatra and Aceh. You must go back to Medan first which take around 4 hours driving from Parapat, then continue 3 hours driving through palm and rubber plantation. Since the road is quite poor, especially on the plantation area, you should arrive Bukit Lawang before night. It means you shall start your journey at 10 am from Parapat or 9 am from Tuk-tuk.

Accommodation area on the riverside of Bahorok River, Bukit Lawang
Accommodation area on the riverside of Bahorok River, Bukit Lawang

The main area of Bukit Lawang is on the riverside of Bahorok river inside the rainforest of Gunung Leuser National Park. Many accommodations here are jungle lodge style, so you can feel very close to the nature. You should take a good rest since you will be very tired after long journey. Moreover, tomorrow will be tough since many activities need more power.

Bukit lawang orangutan
Wild sumatran orangutan on its original habitat in Bukit Lawang

Main attraction in Bukit Lawang is jungle walk to meet orangutan in its native habitat. You can ask your hotel to provide a guide who can accompany you and find the best location to see orangutan. Don’t expect this gonna be easy, however normally local guide have a good knowledge to find the right spot. You can also visit a bat cave, but nothing interesting there. Other interesting activity is river tubing. Basically tube is an internal part of a rubber tire, used as personal floating device. River tubing means riding a tube on a river. Flowing on a fresh and crystal clear river in the middle of dense rainforest is an unforgettable experience. On Monday afternoon, you should pack your bag and move to Tangkahan. It is still located in the National Park, around 2.5 hours driving through the plantation. Otherwise, you can take an offroad tour for more challenging experience, but take longer time.

By the night, you should arrive in Tangkahan. It is more quiet than Bukit Lawang and only few accommodations available. It is located on the riverside of Kualsa Buluh river, still in the middle of dense rainforest. You must cross the river first using a special bamboo raft. In Tangkahan, electricity is fed from small diesel generator which is switched off during the day, so don’t forget to charge your gadget during the night.

Tangkahan jungle lodge, right on the riverside of Kualsa Buluh river
Tangkahan jungle lodge, right on the riverside of Kualsa Buluh river

Main attraction here is riding a Sumatran Elephant through a hilly path in the middle of the jungle. You can also showering the elephant in the river. You can take 1 hour trip or longer duration. It is amazing riding since hard to imagine such a big elephant can walk on a steep path. The elephant will walk slowly but sure while sometimes its trunk taking some leaves and fed into its mouth. By the noon, you should be back at your accommodation and pack your bag. Remember, it is Tuesday and it will be your last day if you plan to catch evening flight back to Jakarta. Journey back to Medan can take 3 hours or more, so before 3pm you should leave Tangkahan.

Sumatran elephant riding on Tangkahan
Sumatran elephant riding on Tangkahan

If you still have some time before catching your flight, you should try some local food. North Sumatran food is heavily influenced by Indian, Chinese, and Malay food, so it has distinctive taste. You can also buy special cake like Bika Ambon as a gift. Catching the last flight from Medan to Jakarta is the best way to ensure you have plenty time in Medan.

This itinerary is a bit tight, so you have to manage your time very well. However, within 4 days 3 night, it is considered the best way to explore the hidden paradise of North Sumatra. Happy exploring.

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