When is the best time to visit Sumatra? Indonesia’s largest island is divided by the equator and dominated by a tropical climate. In Sumatra, the climate is always humid and, unlike other Southeast Asian countries, there is no typical distinct dry and rainy season. Depending on the season, there are various activities to be enjoyed in different areas of the island. We give you tips on the best time to vist to Sumatra and which highlights are recommended in which month.
Activities depending on Sumatra climate
Due to the southwest monsoon, the island receives rainfall all year round, but not all regions are affected equally. You can travel the island all year round if you are not exclusively interested in a beach holiday. Sumatra offers a wide range of activities such as trekking tours, hiking trips, surfing and sightseeing. Indonesia’s largest island also boasts world-renowned surf spots.
Sumatra’s rainy season
Generally, Sumatra’s rainy season lasts from late October to early March, but the rainfall is heavier only in some areas. In contrast to other countries in Southeast Asia, the rainy season is much less intense and days of rain are much rarer. If you visit Sumatra during the rainy season, expect it to be mostly cloudy with little or no sunshine. However, this is only a disadvantage if you want to swim or sunbathe. As temperatures are high all year round, active holidaymakers enjoy the clouds protecting them from the sun and enjoy activities such as hiking, trekking and sightseeing.
Advantages of the rainy season
During the rainy season, there are far fewer travellers in Sumatra, accommodation is cheaper and you don’t have to dig as deep into your pockets for tours and excursions as in the dry season.
Another advantage of the travel months from October to early March is that the plants are a lush green, which is a real eye-catcher. Especially during the rainy season, trips to waterfalls are even more spectacular! If you are planning a jungle trek in Bukit Lawang during this time, cloudy skies can be beneficial as it is not as hot.
Even if you plan a trip during the rainy season, you can look forward to temperatures between 25 and 30 degrees Celsius and a pleasant water temperature of 25 to 28 degrees. The rainy season offers varied weather with blue skies, clouds, rain and occasional storms. Passionate amateur photographers appreciate the varying weather conditions!
Tips for the rainy season in Sumatra
Check the weather forecast daily and set off early, as most rain falls in the afternoon. Always carry appropriate rain protection with you so that you are not surprised by a downpour.
Dry season – best time to visit Sumatra
The period from the end of April to October is considered the dry season and therefore the best time to travel to Sumatra. In the months of April, May, June and July, you can expect daily highs of 33 degrees Celsius and about five hours of sunshine a day. Temperature fluctuations are low and humidity is high. The months of April to July are ideal if you are planning a beach holiday. Advantageously, the sea has a bathing temperature of 27 to 29 degrees Celsius all year round.
The months of May to June are considered the most pleasant time to travel, as this post-monsoon season is dry. July, August and September are the hot dry season.
The best months to travel are April to October, but this is also when you will meet the most tourists.
Gunung Leuser National Park
This breathtaking national park not only impresses with its intact rainforest, but also with its diverse wildlife. Discover endangered animal species on an adventurous trekking tour through the jungle, admire the wonderful river landscape and the natural habitat of tigers and orangutans.
As Medan has high temperatures all year round, not only the climatically most favourable months of February and March are recommended. You should refrain from visiting the city in September and October, as these are the two rainiest months, during which heavy rainfall is not uncommon.
Due to the high sea temperature all year round, you can swim in Banda Aceh all year round. Rainfall here is not only in the rainy season, but also in the dry season. December is the month with the most rainfall, and you can also expect rain showers a few months before and after.
The month with the least rainfall is June.
In January, temperatures climb to 32 degrees Celsius and the weather is acceptable. The best months to travel are February and March. From April to December, the average rainfall is 160 mm per month and the weather is acceptable. The wettest month is October. You can enjoy temperatures between 28 and 32 degrees Celsius all year round.
The island in the northwest of Sumatra is well-known in the diving scene and offers beautiful snorkelling and diving spots. If you want to discover the underwater world of the Andaman Sea, you should not visit Pulau Weh during the monsoon season, as ferries can be cancelled, it rains almost every day and the sky is usually covered by dark clouds.
The island in the west of Sumatra is a true surfer’s paradise. During the dry season you can ride high waves. From the end of September, the waves are less powerful, the waves are no longer quite too high and rain showers are more frequent. The advantage is that there are fewer surfers in the water during the rainy season!
In the west of Sumatra lies another island that is one of the top spots for surfers. During the dry season you can ride high waves, while during the rainy season the waves are lower and less powerful. From September onwards, fewer tourists and surfers visit Pulau Nias, as rainfall is not uncommon.
Best time to visit Sumatra by month
Sumatra in January
January is a good time for sightseeing in Bada Aceh or Medan. January can see large amounts of rainfall at Lake Toba and the weather can also be quite inclement in Berastagi, and further south.
Sumatra in February
Visit the regions of Banda Aceh or Bukit Lawang in February, relax in the towns and get to know the most famous sights! Likewise, a trekking tour in Gunung Leuser National Park is a good idea in February. In February, expect increased rainfall at Lake Toba, Berastagi, Bukittinggi, and further south.
Sumatra in March
In this month, a visit to Gunung Leuser National Park is recommended. You can also explore the cult highlights in Banda Aceh, Bukit Lawang, Lhokseumwe and Sigli while sightseeing.
Lake Toba, Berastagi, Bukittinggi, and further south experience increased rainfall in March.
Sumatra in April
Despite mostly cloudy skies and some rain showers, you can visit Gunung Leuser National Park. April is a good time for sightseeing and hiking in Banda Aceh, Bandar Lampung, Bengkulu and Bukit Lawang. April is also a good time to explore Lhokseumawe, Medan, Padang and Sibolga.
Not only Lake Toba, but also Dumai, Bukittinggi, Berastagi, Gunungsitoli, Lake Maninjau and Metro are affected by increased rain showers. Increased rain showers also occur in Padangsidempuan, Palembang, Pekanbaru and Samosir.
Sumatra in May
The best weather conditions with high temperatures, little sunshine and rather infrequent rainfall can be found in Gunung Leuser National Park, Banda Aceh, Bandar Lampung, Bengkulu, Bukit Lawang, Langsa and Lhokseumawe. Also available are hiking and sightseeing in Medan, Padang and Banda Aceh.
Sumatra in June
In June you can relax at the hotel pool or swim in the sea/lake on Pulau Weh or Lake Toba. Not recommended in June are trips to Gunungsitoli and Simpang.
Sumatra in July
The best weather conditions are found in Pulau Weh, Bukit Lawang and Lake Toba. Travel to Gunungsitoli and Simpang is not recommended in July.
Sumatra in August
August is high season in North Sumatra. Many tourists visit Pulau Weh, Bukit Lawang, Berastagi and Lake Toba during this month. Berastagi is a little cooler than elsewhere because of the high altitude.
Sumatra in September
In September, the weather continues to be fine in the main destinations in North Sumatra. However, the rain showers increase. It is quite unfriendly south of Lake Toba.
Sumatra in October
The northern tip of Sumatra around Banda Aceh has the least rainfall and the most sunshine hours in October. The most rainfall occurs at Lake Toba, Berastagi, Bukittinggi, Gunungsitoli, Lake Maninjau and Padang.
Sumatra in November
The rainy season is in full swing in North Sumatra. However, it is not as severe as in Thailand, for example, where it rains for days on end. Mostly it rains only 1-2h per day. Sometimes it drizzles a little longer.
Sumatra in December
The rainy season is in full swing in North Sumatra. However, it is not as heavy as in Thailand, for example, where it rains for days. Mostly it rains only 1-2h per day. Sometimes it drizzles a little longer.