Explore the sights and enjoy the cuisine of the gateway to Sumatra

Located on Sumatra’s northern coast, Medan is Indonesia’s fourth-largest city after Jakarta, Surabaya and Bandung, and the largest Indonesian city outside of Java. It’s a city where Batak and Chinese culture blend seamlessly in its architecture but more importantly for the visitor, in its mouthwatering cuisine.

Medan is the ideal starting point for a Sumatra adventure, as it’s within easy reach of Gunung Leuser National Park, home to Bukit Lawang orangutan sanctuary. Beyond that, just a few hours from Medan is Lake Toba, a supervolcano and crater lake. Relax on Samosir, a volcanic island situated right in the middle of the lake.

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Things to do: Medan

  • Medan

    Get wheel

    Get a ride on a motorised becak to explore the city. Visit Maimun Palace, the royal seat of the Sultanate of Deli. Enjoy its unique interior design, which mixes elements of the Malay, Islamic, Spanish, Indian and Italian cultures. And don’t miss nearby Medan Grand Mosque with its Moroccan-style architecture.

  • Going ape

    Going ape

    Go for a day trip to Gunung Leuser National Park opens in new window, located 86km from Medan. Explore the lush greenery on an elephant trek or check out Bukit Lawang or Ketambe village on foot. Keep an eye out for the park’s gentle-hearted orangutans.

  • Lake over the ashes

    Lake over the ashes

    Head to Lake Toba and ride the ferry to Samosir, a volcanic island located on the lake. Samosir is the centre of Batak culture and many Toba Batak traditional houses can be seen here. You can easily find a place to stay in the small town of Tuktuk.

  • On the double

    Be amazed at the beauty of two-coloured Sibolangit waterfall at the foot of Mount Sibayak, which is about an hour from Medan. Be prepared for a 2- to 3-hour trek if you plan to visit this stunning waterfall, which is light blue and greyish-white due to the water’s high phosphorus and sulfur content.

  • Vittle signs

    Vittle signs

    If you’re keen to sample a few of the many flavours that Medan cuisine has to offer, head to Merdeka Walk, where you’ll find a wide array of local delicacies all in one place. Be sure to try the Bataknese special arsik, a seafood dish featuring andaliman, a spice closely related to Sichuan pepper, which grows only in the Batak highlands of North Tapanuli and Samosir.

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Airport information

Kualanamu Airport opens in new window (KNO)

Distance to city centre 39km

Taxi A taxi into the city centre will take around an hour depending on traffic, and cost around IDR Rp160,000. Stick with the reliable Blue Bird brand.

Train The Railink opens in new window airport train is the fastest way into the city centre. It takes around 45 minutes and costs IDR Rp100,000.

Bus Damri buses go to Plaza Medan Fair and Ampas bus terminal for IDR Rp10-15,000.

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When to go

Like most cities in Indonesia, Medan boasts sunshine nearly year round, with high humidity and average temperatures of about 23–31°C. Rainy season runs from October to March, though generally there’s no extreme temperature drop during this time.

Medan is home to the International Coffee Festival, Medan Film Festival and Lake Toba Festival.

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Getting around

Metered taxis can be flagged down just about anywhere – stick with Blue Bird opens in new window taxis, the most reliable. They can also be booked by phone. Be wary of drivers who offer a fixed price as this is not a common practice. You can also take a motorised becak, but get ready for a bumpy ride!

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