Sumatra was once a popular place for backpackers on their overland South East Asia trip - orangutans, jungle and volcanoes are just some of the many attractions. The Bali bombings in 2002 and 2005 has seen a huge drop in tourist numbers to the island. It's a shame as the island has some fantastic places to visit and the region desperately needs some dollars from tourism.

Sumatra is easily accessible from Malaysia, Singapore or Indonesia's capital city Jakarta. Many travelers travel down from Thailand, into Malaysia and then it is just a short flight or ferry ride from Malaysia's island of Penang across to Sumatra's capital and Indonesia's third largest city, Medan. The other entry point is PadaBecak Medanng in West Sumatra, where you can then travel north.

Indonesia's third largest city, Medan is the usual base for travel in North Sumatra. Most travelers don't spend more than a night in the city, but the city can be interesting place to spend a few days.
Medan has an interesting mix of ethnic groups including Chinese, Indians, Malay and Batak people, who add to the variety of food options available in the city.

If you want to do some shopping in Medan, be sure to check out Sun Plaza Mall, which is one of the best in Medan. If you want to go out for a drink at night and listen to some live music, the Tavern in Danau Toba Hotel is a great place to go for a drink and dance.

Lake Toba is one of North Sumatra's most popular tourist destinations. It is about a 3 hour drive from Medan to the town of Parapat. See here for more information on how to get to Lake Toba. While Parapat does have a good market and some hotels, most people stay in Tuk Tuk on Samosir Island. Regular ferries travel between Parapat and to the various hotels in Tuk Tuk.

Lake Toba was formed from a gigantic volcanic eruption. It is truly a beautiful and quiet place to visit. The lake is great for swimming and fishing. Lake Toba is home to the friendly Batak people, who are mostlOrangutany Christians. The restaurants in Tuk Tuk serve basic but delicious food. Be sure to try the barbeque fish! Lake Toba is hot during the day, but quite cool at night and you won't need air conditioning there.

Bukit Lawang is the small town about 3-4 hours from Medan where you can see the endangered orangutans in the wild. Bukit Lawang is a small town on a river and sits right beside the massive Gunung Leuser National Park. The orangutans can be seen by taking a hike in the jungle or by visiting the feeding station.

Park rangers feed the orangutans two times a day. Once in the morning around 8:30 a.m and again in the early afternoon. Walk past the Jungle Inn hostel and you will find a small boat which takes you across the river to the entrance of the park, where you need to pay an entrance fee. Park rangers then guide you to the feeding station.

Seeing orangutans in the wild is truly and amazing experience. The orangutans are an endangered species and because of loss of habitat from illegal logging and palm oil plantations, they could be extinct within the next few years.

For travelers who make the effort to visit North Sumatra, they will be rewarded with beautiful wildlife and scenery and friendly people. Tourism is down in the region, ensuring you will be warmly welcomed and guaranteed an unforgettable journey.