One of the reasons that make the province so charming is its coastline. Powerful swells of the Indian Ocean, endless white stretches fringed by lush rainforest and the marvellous Mentawai Islands simply cannot fail to delight.

And to all foodies, Padang offers an extraordinary culinary journey. This is Indonesia`s capital of spicy food that boasts recipes for any gourmet – provided that you like it hot!

Sikuai Island, Padang


The capital of West Sumatra is a great spot for exploration. Although it is a bustling university city with a hectic lifestyle, just like any other Indonesian metropolis, there is something which distinguishes the town from any other in Sumatra.

Padang Beach is a vibrant place – by day and by night

Perhaps it is the picturesque setting, right in-between the aquamarine waters of the open ocean and verdant, jungle-clad volcanoes towering above, what draws the visitors. And the unexpectedly laid-back atmosphere somehow evokes a holiday feel.

Padang is also a town with great history and cultural heritage, not even to mention the finger-licking Muslim halal.

Padang food is based on chilli and spices (Muslim halal)

The city of Padang is a place to stay for a few days. Many would be rushing straight to the beach, yet prior doing that, every visitor should explore the Old Town sitting on the Muaro River: there are numerous museums, mosques, lively markets and Dutch colonial buildings. Chinatown is a popular spot for a quick lunch, shopping and lovely temples.


Padang sits exactly at the antipodes of the Esmeraldas city in Ecuador.

Muaro River Promenade, Padang


  • Padang Old Town Tour – stroll around the old city centre and explore its cultural heritage, including the colonial architecture, Chinatown, Hien Kiong Temple, the Muhammadan Mosque and Aditayawarman Museum
  • The Great Mosque in Gantiang – the pearl of Padang
  • Muaro River – take a stroll along the lovely river promenade lined with the Dutch colonial buildings to the historic harbour of Padang with colourful boats and Sitti Nurbaya Bridge
  • Street Food – try the famous local goodies, g. Nasi Kapau, Nasi Padang, Gulai curry, Balado sambal and the mouth-watering Rendangs
  • Beach TimePadang Beach is typical of “bendi” – a horse-drawn carriage – that can be hired to take tourists along the beach. Bungus Bay/Carolina Beach – crystal water river, Air Manis Beach – black granite stones prostrate on the beach resembling fossilised human beings, Suwarnadwipa Beach has an original sea swing, and Pariaman Beach is known for magnificent sunsets
  • Sikuai Island – take a short trip to this unspoiled island and dive into the Lubuk Minturun River (a natural spa)
  • Pasumpahan Island – the tiny isle is a perfect place for camping

Pulau Pasumpahan, Padang


Although not even 50 km south of Padang, the striking MANDEH BAY is only little visited by the Western tourists. This hidden gem of Padang is filled with forested isles and tiny islets and scattered with rustic eco-lodges, and it somehow resembles Raja Ampat: the jaw-dropping scenery is best to enjoy from Puncak Mandeh.

The coral sanctuary on the CUBADAK ISLAND is a place to be, especially, if you are a scuba diver, snorkeler or beach lover seeking for undisturbed peace.

Cubadak Island, West Sumatra

Further south, the coastal town of PAINAN is another beach heaven. The bay is well-known for the Carocok Beach and its offshore islands, including Cingkuk, Kerabak and Turtle Islands.

Besides, Painan is a fantastic place for nature lovers; the inland rainforest hides nice walking trails and stunning waterfalls, e.g. Bayang Waterfall, Lumpo and Timbulun Waterfalls.

The Langkisau Hill is popular with paragliders, and the outdoor enthusiasts will definitely want to explore the local jungles and do some trekking – a fabulous short trip crossing is the Jembatan Akar living-root bridge, near Painan.

Pantai Carocok, Painan


  • Painan – have a lazy day on the Carocok Beach in Painan and take pleasure in its delightful setting
  • Mandeh Bay – stopping by at Puncak Mandeh is a must-do and if you have some spare time take an excursion to the nearby Cubadak Island
  • Cinguk/Kerabak/Turtle Islands – book a boat trip around Painan`s offshore islands
  • Jembatan Akar – have an exciting walk through the Painan`s jungles, cross the river via a living-root bridge to visit one of the forest`s hidden waterfalls

TO GET THERE: You will need to fly to Padang first. Mandeh Bay is about 2 hours drive by a car/taxi/minivan from Padang. To get to the Cubadak Islands you will need to hire a boat in Mandeh Bay that will take you to the Cubadak Paradiso Village in 15 min. Painan is about 3 hours away from Padang.

Jembatan Akar, Painan


The chain of islands, spanning along the entire West Sumatran coastline, is sort of an extension to the glorious strands of Padang.

The Mentawai archipelago, famous with expert surfers, are not just a big-wave-paradise and brilliant diving location, but also an idyllic holiday spot, offering everything one would imagine to be a dream island; crystal-clear aquamarine waters, radiant corals, white sands, coconut palms, beachfront bungalows and tropical waterfalls.

The Mentawai Archipelago is one of the best Indian Ocean surfing locations

On the top of that, The Mentawai islands are becoming an increasingly popular eco-tourism hotspot. The indigenous Mentawai people still lead a primitive way of life and follow the traditions of their ancestors.

The native tribes are animists, living in the ‘Uma’ longhouses, and the isolation makes them totally self-sufficient. They live across the 5 main islands: Siberut, Sipura, Sibigau, North Pagi and South Pagi, and only Pulau Siberut is fully open to foreigners who can book a tour to visit the traditional villages and learn more about their culture.

Eco-tourism is increasingly popular (Uma’ longhouse homestay), Mentawai Islands


  • Scuba diving – discover secrets of the unexplored underwater word (experienced scuba divers only, guide essential, booking at one of the island`s resort)
  • Surfing – of course! Catch a wave and have an epic surf in the Mentawai (advanced surfers only, make sure you always get updated info, tips and advice at your resort)
  • Cultural encounter – arrange an eco-trip to one of the isolated islands and their villages to interact with local tribes who still live in a way their ancestors used to hundreds of years ago.

Mentawai Archipelago is a household name among experienced surfers

TO GET THERE: You will need to take an overnight slow ferry (the whole night) or day fast ferry (3 hours) from Padang to Pulau Siberut/Mualasiberut if travelling independently.

However, most of the visitors would book a package in Padang or Bukittinggi as it might be a hassle to move around on your own. Otherwise, organise a resort accommodation online prior to arrival and simply hire a boat that takes you to from Padang directly to your resort.

Botik Surf Resort, Pulau Bocek, Mentawai


Only a few hours away from Padang, some of the prettiest natural sceneries are to be found in Bukittinggi, translated as “The High Hill”. This is West Sumatra`s most favourite mountain tourist town.

Bukittinggi is a birthplace of the first president of Indonesia – Sukarno, and an important centre of happening during the WWII.

Sianok Canyon, Bukittinggi

Most of the visitors, however, come to encounter the indigenous culture, traditional architecture, superb natural attractions and finger-licking local cuisine. With excellent infrastructure and plenty of attractions, both natural and purpose-built, it is easily a destination for the demanding traveller.

TO GET THERE: From Padang to Bukittinggi (2-3 hours drive by shuttle bus/car. Alternatively, you can hire a scooter in Padang and self-drive)

The distinct Minangkabau architecture, Minang Highlands


Religion – Sumatra is strictly a Muslim Realm, and conservative dress is expected at all times, especially women. Female travellers occasionally reported feeling extremely uncomfortable at some places, e.g. tried to be touched by the locals due to their skin colour or bright hair, been subject to loud mockery for their “lack of clothing” and so forth. Be aware of the fact that many residents might have never seen a person of a Caucasian race and are not familiar with the “Western fashion”.

Health – There is a high risk of Malaria in Sumatra, particularly during the rainy season (Dec-Feb). Vaccinations such as Hepatitis A, B and Tetanus are recommended.  In some cases, the Yellow Fever Immunisation is required (check with your national health policies).

Transport – The only way how to get around Sumatra is using local public transport/buses (angkot, labi-labi). However, this can often be a gruelling experience – distances are huge, the roads tortuous and the driving hair-raising. On the other hand, it is part of the Sumatran travel adventure. To move around locally, the best way is either to hire an ojek, becak or bendi or rent your own scooter/bicycle (depending on the destination).

Rumah Gadang, Padang


Sumatra is generally recommended to visit between June and September during the dry season.

Especially, scuba diving, snorkelling and eco-tourism are dependent on good weather. In fact, most of the reserves and protected areas are only accessible outside of the rainy season.


Fly to Padang (via Jakarta/Singapore/Kuala Lumpur)

For all international flights go to or

For all domestic Indonesian flights check out

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Eva Bodova

Friday 17 August 2018

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