Most people visit Bukit Lawang or Lake Toba in North Sumatra. Berastagi is not on everyone’s Bucket List. To be fair the city itself is a typical city mess in SEA, but if you look beyond the crazy traffic you find some great things to do in Berastagi.
1. Climb the Sibayak volcano
You can opt for the sunrise hike or just go early in the morning. Otherwise it’s just too hot. The hike itself is easy and not to too steep. A path leads through a forest in the beginning and through stone and crater landscapes later on. It takes around 1h from the car park to get to the top and you will be rewarded with awesome views of the surrounding and the currently closed Gunung Sinabung volcano. Many accomodations offer guided treks to the top, but you can also go idependently (never go alone). However, it is still a volcano. A sign at the car park lists names of people who went missing. So your choice, how you want to climb the Sibayak in Berastagi.
2. Indulge in some street food
Along the Jalan Jamin Ginting streetfood vendors open up every day at around 6pm. You can try everything from grilled fish, to soups, to things nobody knows what it is 🙂 Be prepard for the fact that not many speak English, but the food is worth a try and the atmosphere is great. Since many of the people here are from the Karo culture and mainly Christians you can also find pork dished here. Typical dishes from the region are Mie Gomak (a soup with long noodles and veggies als known as ‘Spaghetti Batak’) or Babi Panggang Karo (roasted pork served with a pig blood sauce).
Read also: Sumatra for foodies
3. Visit Lingga village
Lingga is located about 15 kilometers from Berastagi, the Sinabung volcano is close. Researchers estimate that the village is about 250 years old and has been named after the king Sibayak Lingga from the former Lingga Kingdom of Karo Land. You can see some traditional houses here with a characteristic thatched roof and nice paintings on the side. And there are still families living in the few houses that are left. There’s a small fee (ca. 10,000 IDR) if you visit the houses inside. You can get there by private driver, scooter or minibus from Berastagi.
4. Buy some fresh fruits on the market
The fruit market in Berastagi is famous thoughout Sumatra. Thanks to the high altitude and therefore the cool climate in Berastagi you can even find strawberries and other “not so tropical” fruits here. If you’re not hungry already the views and smells of the fresh fruits will leave you mouth-watered. The colours and smells are amazing. Depending on the season you should try snake fruit (small brown fruit with snake-like skin), dragon fruit (the pink explosion), longan (small grape like fruits with skin) or mangosten (small brown fruit with smooth skin). Sadly local guys also offer horseback riding here and the horses don’t look very healthy. We can only ask you to not support that for the animal welfare.
5. Take a bath in the hot springs
Due to the proximity of volcanos you can also find hot springs here. Most of the hot springs have been converted into swimming pools, but you can still relax in some hot water, when the temperatures of Berastagi are a bit too chilly.
6. Check the Buddhist temple Lumbini
Yes you read correctly. There is a Buddhist temple near Berastagi. It has been inspired by the Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar. Next to the templae there is a picturesque garden. It’s definitely worth a visit. From Berastagi you can take a minibus, the journey takes around fifteen minutes. After dropoff just ask for directions.
7. Visit St. Francis Asisi Catholic Church
From Buddhism to Christianity. The majority of people in Berastagi are from the Karo culture and mainly Christians. This church is very unique, built in a traditional Karo Batak style with a thatched roof. Go there for the Sunday service (8-11am) with a gospel-style atmosphere. You will need to hire a taxi or becak to get there.
8. Eplore the ghost towns
The Sinabung volcano errupted in 2013. More than thirty thousand locals from the surrounding villages had to be evacuated. The volcano even entirely buried two villages. The government then declared an area of ca. 4 miles around the volcano as too dangerous to live in. It is now called the ‘red zone.’ Many locals had to leave their villages.
There are now six ghost villages named Gamber, Guru Kinayan, Kuta Gugung, Sibintun, Simacem and Sukanalu. You can go there by taxi, scooter or with a tour guide. Be aware: As every lost place it is a little dangrous. Sinabung can errupt anytime again and some houses might not by as stable as they look.
9. Meet friendly locals
On your round trip through Sumatra you will always meet friendly locals, this also applies for Berastagi. Although it might seem a bit awkward, but they usually ask you where you are from, what is your name and where are you going. Sumatrans are just super curious and want to make sure you have a good time. And the obligatory selfie with locals is for sure here as well.
We hope you enjoyed out list of things to do in Berastagi. Leave us a comment, if you have something to add.
Lumbini: padlifadly, Wikimedia Creative Commons