Get off the tourist trail in Bukittinggi, a hidden gem nestled in the Minangkabau Highlands. The city bursts with charm and offers an authentic taste of life in West Sumatra. Hike to the summit of an active volcano, explore a network of World War II bunkers and enjoy mouthwatering Minangkabau cuisine.
Things to do in Bukittinggi
Jam Gadang soars over Bukittinggi and recalls the city’s Dutch heritage. The clock tower was built in the 1920s and combines a European façade with a Minangkabau-style roof. Colourful lights illuminate the tower after dark. Learn more about the island’s colonial past in Koto Gadang, a charming village dotted with centuries-old Dutch houses.
Mount Marapi and Mount Singgalang loom over Bukittinggi and are two of the most coveted hikes in West Sumatra. Singgalang is the more challenging of the two and requires a good level of fitness. The views are spectacular and stretch across the surrounding rice fields. Hire a guide and climb it in a day or camp overnight by the cobalt-blue crater lake. Marapi is considered active, and furls of smoke can often be seen above the summit. Sianok Canyon is another beautiful hiking destination that immerses you in a landscape of jungle-covered cliffs and snaking rivers.
Visit Gua Jepang and explore a network of subterranean tunnels and bunkers from World War II. They were carved into the cliffsides by the Japanese and used as living quarters, armouries and prisons. Hire a guide or explore the tunnels solo.
Bukittinggi is a great place to try traditional dishes from West Sumatra. The cuisine is heavily influenced by the indigenous Minangkabau people, who champion ingredients like coconut milk, chilli and fragrant spices. Try dishes like “rendang” meat cooked in coconut milk and seasoned with ginger, lemongrass and garlic.
Getting around Bukittinggi
Bukittinggi is pedestrian-friendly and easy to get around on foot. Taxis and “sado” horse-drawn carriages are another option. The city is in West Sumatra, a 2.5-hour drive from Padang. Hire a private driver or take a bus or minivan. Minangkabau International Airport is a two-hour drive away.