The traditional meets the modern in Sumatra’s cleanest city
Pekanbaru, the capital of Sumatra’s Riau Province and situated on the Siak River, was once the chair of the Kingdom of Siak. Since then it has become known as one of Indonesia's most spick and span cities, being awarded the Presidential Adipura (cleanest city) award seven years running.
Historically, Pekanbaru exported coal and coffee from the Minangkabau region along the Straits of Malacca but after oil was discovered in the 1930s, the region began trading in the petroleum industry. The fruits of such trade include modern buildings like the Soeman HS Library which sit alongside the more traditional including the An-Nur Great Mosque, said to be one of Indonesia’s finest.
Things to do
The An-Nur Great Mosque – a combination of Malay, Turkish, Arabic and Indian architecture – is a stunning turquoise and white building, topped with onion-shaped domes and towering minarets. Be sure to visit at night when the mosque is aglow with lights.
An open book
The six-floor Soeman HS Library opens in new window is Sumatra’s largest library with its design taking inspiration from the Quran plinth and resembling an open book. The library includes special literature on Malay culture as well as a nod to the region’s resource extraction activities with the Chevron Energy Corner.
Two hours from Pekanbaru are the Muara Takus Temple Ruins opens in new window – the largest brick buildings found in a Sumatran jungle clearing. Situated by the Kampar River, the ruins are an enigma for archeologists who date them somewhere between the 2nd and 9th century.
Pekanbaru’s oldest market, Pasar Bawah opens in new window, is a favourite amongst travellers for its wide range of products and bargain prices, from handwoven carpets to antiques to fresh fruit and vegetables. It’s also popular for its excellent local snacks.
In the Valley
Three hours from Pekanbaru, near the western province town of Payakumbuh, lie the granite cliffs, waterfalls and lush, green valleys of the Harau Valley opens in new window. Sometimes called the ‘Yosemite of Indonesia’, this nature conservation area is home to gibbons, macaques and other wildlife, as well as being Sumatra’s best rock-climbing destination.
Distance to city centre 10km
Taxi A taxi to the city centre will take around 20 minutes and cost about IDR 70,000. Stick with Blue Bird, the most reliable taxi company.
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When to go
Pekanbaru has a tropical, rainforest climate with relatively consistent year round temperatures with average lows of 23°C and highs of 31°C. While there is no distinct dry season, the region’s driest month is July, while November is its wettest.
The Riau region’s most unique event, Bekudo Bono Festival, happens every November in the village of Teluk Meranti along the Kampar River. With increased rainfall, the river’s bono tidal waves produce huge surf reaching as high as 10 metres, drawing surfers from all over the world hoping to ride the freshwater waves.Back to top