The people of the region can be divided into five main ethnic groups and languages: the coastal Malays, living along the Malaka Straits, the Bataks, which comprise sub-tribes around Lake Toba and Samosir Island: the Karo, Toba, Dairi, Simalungun, the Angkola and Mandailing of the southern Tapanuli, and Nias Islanders off the western coast of the province. These groups each have their own dialects, religious beliefs, arts, custom and cultures. Several ethnic groups live in Medan and other towns of North Sumatra, the largest of these being of Chinese and Indian descent.
North Sumatra has long been such an attraction for foreigners. In 19th century Medan is the cosmopolitan city in South East Asia as Singapore nowadays. It’s even more attractive when Jacob Nienhuys, Van der Falk and Elliot, tobacco traders from Holland initiated to open tobacco plantation in Deli. In March 1864, Nienhuys sent a sample of tobacco grown in their plantation to Rotterdam to be tested. The tobacco turns out to have such high quality for cigars. So Deli is unstoppably known in Europe for the best cigar.
The rapid economic growth has turned Deli into a trade center and this land became widely known as “the dollar land”. Those Dutch people then opened new plantation in Martubung, Sunggal in 1869 and in 1875 Sungai Kupang and Klumpang.
The business fuss in Medan was not just the work of Deli Sultanate. Other than Dutch people who own the money, Javanese people as experts on tobacco plantation are sent to Deli whereas the Chinese are in charge of the marketing. This kind of ethnic collaboration is still practiced until this moment.
Mount Leuser National Park
Taman Nasional Gunung Leuser (TNGL) is a natural preservation area of 1,094,692 hectares ide which is administratively under the authority of two provinces: Nanggroe Aceh arussalam (NAD) and North Sumatra. This national park is called Gunung (Mount) Leuser of 3,404meters above sea level in the province of NAD. This park has the original ecosystem from the coast to the high mountain. This area is covered with tropical rain forest that is managed by zone and used for research, scientifi c activities, education, tourism and recreational purposes.
This mountain is located in the upland of Karo at the altitude of 2,094 above sea level. From its peak, tourists can enjoy this mountain with its variety of stones and caldera that produce strong smell of zinc. At sunrise, silhouettes of the rocky mountain create such unbelievably stunning view. The golden purple color blankets the rocks and it happens also when the sun sets.
Raja Berneh Village Cluster
Mount Sibayak is surrounded by dozens of villages that open up to village tourism and of the villages is Raja Berneh Village. The village is so gorgeous with its natural panorama and fields of vegetables, ornamental plants and fruits. The locals are classified as agrarian people who still hold strongly to their tradition with multicultural environment.
Bukit Lawang is about 3 hours by car from Medan. lts main attractions are the Orangutan Rehabilitation Center; crossing the Bahorok River and climbing steep, jungle-clad hills. It is located to the South of Mount Leuser National Park.
The view on top of the mountain is equally lovely. This second highest mountain in North Sumatra is of 2,451 above sea level. After the eruption in August 2010, this mountain has been more visited than ever. At the foot you can find resort with complete facilities ranging from comfortable rooms to entertainments.
Lake Toba is a volcanic lake of 100 kilometers long and 30 kilometers wide and is part of the North Sumatera Province. This lake is the biggest lake in Indonesia and even in Southeast Asia. In the middle of this lake we can find a volcanic island named Samosir Island.
This lake is assumed to have been shaped by a super volcano eruption about 75 thousands years ago. After the eruption, a caldera was formed and filled with water and turned into a lake. This lake is at 906 meters above sea level and it is of 1,700 meters wide. Lake Toba is also surrounded by green hills with its rocky walls. In the middle of Samosir Island we can find another lake so when we get there we are to witness a natural phenomenon of lake on top of another lake.
This lake invites tourists to have a nice swimming time or sailing on boat around the lake. Tourists can also get to Samosir Island. From Parapat you can use ferry which is available in hourly basis to head for Tomok Village. This village is one of the interesting places to visit. In this village you will find some traditional old houses and the graveyard compound of the King Sidabutar
Lake Toba can be accessed from Medan using private car, rental car or public transportation. From Medan you can pass through Parapat and continue your journey either by Tebing Tinggi and Pematang Siantar or by village roads from Pematang Purba-Karo up to Brastagi. Along the road you will stunned by such a beautiful view.
Samosir lsland situated at the middle of Lake Toba, is accessible by regular ferries from Parapat. The original home of the fierce Toba Bataks, the island has many sites of stone tombs and traditional villages. The villages of Tomok, Tuk-tuk, Siallagan and Ambarita are noteworthy. Transportation can be arranged through your hotel or you can rent a motorcycle for a day’s adventure on the island. Accommodation of various styles and standards are readily available.
Jumping Stone - Nias
Stone Jumping in Nias
The island of Nias is known for its diverse festivals and celebrations. One of them is the tradition of Stone Jumping. Stone Jumping is a ritual of initiation to adult age for a male boy. The boy must jump on a two meter high-stone. In the past, on top of the stones over which the young men will jump they put nails and sharp pieces of bamboo.
This tradition used to be performed by a young man of Nias to show that he is already mature both physically and psychologically. Furthermore, if the youth is able to conquer the high piled stone of two meter high and of 40 cm deep in a perfect jump, this signifies that he will a reliable young man in protecting his village when conflict with other villages occur.
This stone jumping tradition is not performed in all areas of Nias, but only in particular villages like in the area of Teluk Dalam. And one more thing, when it comes to such tradition, it’s only the young men who can participate in it; young women are totally out of the question.
What is interesting about this tradition is that despite the hard trainings and exercises not all young men succeed to jump over the piled stone. It’s quite often that the jumpers break their bone because they happen to hit the piled stones when attempting to leap over it. According to the local belief this has something to do with the genetic factor. If the father or the grandfather of the young man was a brave man and a jumper, then the son or grandson will certainly conquer the high piled stones.
To get the chance to see this Stone Jumping tradition, tourists can travel by air from Medan to Nias Island which takes about 50 minutes. This unique tradition is held every Saturday in Bawomataluo Village, Nias.
Sipiso Piso Waterfall and Crocodille Farm
The Crocodile Farm at Asam Kumbang
The Crocodile Farm at Asam Kumbang is located 10 kilometers from the heart of the Medan city in Jalan Bunga Raya No 54, and home to about 2,000 crocodiles of varying sizes and species. The farm is open to visitors from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm daily.
This water fall is situated in Tongging Village. From this 800m above sea level-falls surrounded by pine trees, you can enjoy the natural beauty of Tanah Karo and the lake as well. Sipiso-piso derives from the word “piso” meaning ‘knife’. The water falling in such speed from the height above 100m is visualized as sharp knife blades.
The City of Brastagi
Brastagi is a lovely tourist town in the Karo highlands and lies off the road from Medan to Lake Toba. Brastagi is famous for its flowers, vegetables and fruit, most famous of which is the ’marquisa’ or passion fruit. The local markets are swarming with activities of traditional Karo life. Days are extremely pleasant and nights can be quite cool. The Gundaling Hills provide a clear view of the volcanoes, Mount Sibayak and Mount Sinabung. There is a pleasant colonial-style hotel with a golf course.
This island has such a lovely beach, clear water and fi ne white sand. As far as you can see, it’s all about the clear blue sky meeting the blue water on the horizon. Despite its remote location and far from luxurious facilities this island still attracts lots of tourists. Walking along its coast line is so worth doing.
Asahan River Upstream
Passing by Tangga village, Aek Songsongan sub district the river is covered with stones and such strong and swift water fl ow. This strong water fl ow of Asahan River (120m³) is extremely challenging for those who love doing rafting. This upstream area is the place where the events of national and international rafting competition known as “Asahan White Water Festival” take place. This is an annual event where the kayak and rafting enthusiasts from all over the world get together to showcase their guts.
This beach is situated in Natal sub district, about 6km from the city of Natal. Like Natal Beach, Sikara-Kara Beach has yet been optimally managed. In the middle we fi nd Unggeh Island where many fowl species live which is why it is called unggeh or fowl. This beach is beautiful with its white sand, particularly when the sun has already set in the west horizon.
Ruma Bolon Simanindo Museum
Huta bolon Simanindo is the legacy of King Sidauruk that since 1969 was turned into open air museum. Ruma Bolon (customary house) is the master piece of this museum. The Sopo (rice barn) is used as the stage for the traditional performance of the Toba people. This museum displays collection of their inheritance of the ancestor in Samosir.
Ruma Bolon Simanindo Museum
Rumah Bolon Purba Museum
Rumah Bolon Adat which is turned into museum was the palace of Pematang Purba King which was built under the government of Tuan Rahalim, the 12th King of Purba Kingdom in 1864. In 1961 this site was stipulated as tourist destination by the Regent of Simalungun. This museum has eight buildings/houses: Rumah Bolon Purba, Balai Bolon, Pattangan Raja, Pattangan Permaisuri, Jambur, Balai Buttu, Jabu Jingga and one lesung.
Museum of Nias Legacy
Since 1972 a Catholic priest named Pastor Johannes M. Hammeris, OFM, missionary, has started to collect cultural, art and historical items of the Nias natives. The collection has grown bigger and bigger and he keeps recording names and functions of the items. The hard work and such great loyalty of this priest has resulted in a museum that keeps all the items he ever collected. The museum is called Pusaka Nias Museum (Museum of Nias’ Legacy).
Jangga Village is located on the edge of Simanuk-manuk Mountain, 24 kilometers from Parapat. lt is famous for its beautiful woven ‘ulos’ cloths. Here, one can see the monuments of King Tambun and King Manurung as well as rows of traditional Batak houses.
Lingga Village is 15 kilometers from Brastagi, a traditional Karo village still preserved and inhabited today.
Asahan Whitewater Festival
Every year, since 10 years ago, the rafting enthusiasts from all over the world get together in the upstream of Asahan River. This river is categorized in the third place for the hardest in the world for rafting hindrances.
The powerful water fl ow of Asahan River upstream is the 3rd after Zimbessy and Colorado rivers.
The typical food of North Sumatra is very much influenced by the location and ethnic for example, nasi lemak which is known as nasi uduk in Jakarta and in Java as nasi gureh. This kind of flavorsome rice is also found in Singapore and Malaysia.
The savory taste of this kind of rice is resulted from the mixing of thick coconut juice, bay leaf and pandan leaf. This savory rice usually is served with chili potato, fried vermicelli, chili egg, chicken or spicy fish meat.
In the north, in Batak and Tapanuli areas, ikan arsik is so popular. This food usually uses catfish, goldfish or cichlid fish with special local spice ingredients like andaliman, turmeric, galingale and lemongrass.