The December holidays are here and it’s time to start planning those long-awaited family trips!
But what if you can have a fun-filled family holiday without burning a hole in your wallet?
As someone who loves to explore new territories, I decided to pick a lesser-known place this time—Medan, Indonesia.
With plenty of good eats and sightseeing places, we’ve shortlisted 10 things to see, do and eat in Medan, Indonesia. So now you can visit Medan like a true local and go on a well-deserved vacation without breaking the bank!
Now, we know planning a trip from scratch can be quite leceh (troublesome). However, the folks over at TripAdvisor have just the solution for that.
The world’s largest travel platform has a ‘Trips’ feature on its website and app.
With it, you can create and plan your trip itinerary on TripAdvisor itself.
So not only can you read reviews about places online, but you can also bookmark them directly into your Trip.
Additionally, the feature allows you to arrange attractions in the order in which you want to visit them.
With this, you can plan out how your trip is going to be like exactly, day by day.
Last but not least, as the saying goes, teamwork makes the dream (vacation) work. You can share the link to your Trip with your friends and family members. By doing so, they’ll be able to help edit and create the perfect itinerary.
You can also toggle the Trip settings if you want it to be ‘Private’ or ‘visible’ to public users.
With such an efficient tool at my disposal, planning this trip to Medan with my friends couldn’t have been easier.
It’s no secret that traffic in Indonesia is notoriously chaotic. As such, we engaged a private local guide—who was recommended by TripAdvisor users—to bring us around for a 4D3N trip.
We negotiated an all-rounded package (RP$1,500,000/pax) which covered all transportation and attraction entrance fees, as well as hotel stays.
Once we landed at Kualanamu International Airport, our driver picked us up and off we went.
1. Dress Up Like Royalty At Maimun Palace
One of the top bucket list items to check off in Medan City is Maimun Palace (RP$5,000/pax).
At 121 years old, the historic palace-cum-museum features a fascinating antique collection by the kingdom. Think royal gifts, traditional furniture, artefacts, as well as their replicas.
Not only that, but the museum is also the Istana, or royal home, of the Sultanate of Deli.
I bet most of you didn’t know, but the current sultan ascended to the throne at the mere age of eight. Not only that, but he’s also presently 21 years old, making him the youngest sultan in Deli history!
Nevertheless, there’s more to Maimun Palace than antiques and the European-influenced architecture. For a small fee of RP$20,000, you can deck yourself out in traditional royal outfits to take photos in.
So if you’ve always dreamt of dressing up like royalty, make sure you try this out. It’s definitely a memorable way to mark your visit. Book the experience here.
Tel: +62 61 4524244 | Opening Hours: 8am – 5pm (Sat – Thu), 8am – 12pm & 2pm – 5pm (Fri)
2. Challenge Your Spice Tolerance At Mi Aceh Titi Bobrok
Feeling hungry? Then hit up Mie Aceh Titi Bobrok, a popular spot for Mie Aceh in Medan City.
Mie Aceh is a stir-fried noodle dish originating from Aceh, a province in Indonesia. It was clear to us that the Mie Aceh Goreng (RP$12,000) at this eatery was a local favourite; everyone we saw had a plate of it before them.
Just a word of caution, though, this spicy dish isn’t for anyone with weak spice tolerance. The devilish orange hue of the noodles turned out to be an accurate reflection of the spicy kick it possessed.
That said, we braved the heat and managed to scrape our plates clean as it was simply irresistible. I’d gladly go through that numbing ordeal just to have it again.
3. Pick Up Fresh Homemade Cakes At Bika Ambon Rika
No trip to Medan is complete without dropping by Bika Ambon Rika for some local cakes.
With tourists buses and vans lining up outside its premises, the purveyor was evidently a well-known one. Most tourists were coming out with stacks of cake boxes on the last day of their trips to bring home as souvenirs.
Their signature items include the homemade Bika Ambon (RP$120,000).
Perfectly chewy with a strong coconut fragrance, the decadent kueh was simply addictive.
If you’re a fan of pandan, their Bika Ambon Pandan (RP$130,000) is worth a try too.
The kueh tasted strongly of pandan, which was quite refreshing on the palate. However, if you’re a purist like me, I reckon you’ll still prefer the original Bika Ambon.
4. Go For A Massage At Gandara Spa
It’s an unspoken custom for us Singaporeans to go for a massage whenever we’re overseas. Hence, while we were in Medan, a massage was definitely in order.
We found especially good reviews of Gandara Spa on TripAdvisor. Hence, that was where we went to loosen our joints and relax our muscles.
The spa offers a wide variety of packages which include foot to full-body massages. We decided to go with the staff’s recommendation and opted for their signature Aroma Therapy Keraton Massage (RP$310,000/pax).
The 90-minute full-body massage couldn’t have been a better way to pamper ourselves. We felt extremely relaxed and re-energised after it.
5. Hike Up Mount Sibayak
Berastagi is a small town that’s south of Medan City, and approximately a two-hour drive away.
That said, it’s a place where tourists usually make a stop at when they’re in Medan. That’s because the town is home to Mount Sibayak, a popular active volcano and hiking spot for adventure-seekers.
Mount Sibayak’s high geothermal activity makes it a beautiful natural landform to explore. You can expect to see steam vents, sulfur crystals, as well as the volcano crater, up close along the trail.
To aid us in our expedition, we found and engaged a really informative and helpful local guide on TripAdvisor. We began our hike early before dawn and managed to catch the sunrise in time at the top.
To say that the view was simply spectacular is an understatement, for it was beyond phenomenal.
The hike up Mount Sibayak was actually very doable, but don’t just take it from me. Even my travel companions who weren’t that athletically-inclined found it manageable.
So if scaling a volcano has been on your bucket list, Mount Sibayak is the perfect beginner-friendly place to start.
And if you’re intending to catch the sunrise on top, I’d recommend spending the night before in Berastagi. Book the experience here.
6. Soak In Sulfurous Volcanic Water At Hot Spring Pesona Sibayak View
After an exhausting hike, reward yourself with a trip to Hot Spring Pesona Sibayak View.
Like all other hot springs in the area, the hot sulfur-infused water actually comes from Mount Sibayak.
What I personally loved was how there were different pools with different water temperatures. As such, you can choose the water temperature you’re most comfortable soaking in.
In my view, the hot spring was like a magical healing pool. Your sore legs and body will thank you after a good dip in it.
But the best part? It’s open for 24 hours.
Tel: +62 822-9475-9995 | Opening Hours: 24 Hours
7. Relax Over A Cuppa At Biji Hitam
Craving a cuppa? Biji Hitam is a coffee shop in Berastagi which will definitely satisfy those cravings of yours.
With a small space and laidback environment, the cafe offers an impressive variety of drinks.
Amongst the lot, the Matcha Affogato (RP$25,000) was my personal favourite. It came with an espresso shot which gave the drink a satisfying and refreshing bitterness.
Or if you prefer something stronger, I’d recommend the Sanger Arabica (RP$16,000).
The acidity of the espresso made for an excellent contrast with the sweetness of the creamer. Throat-soothing and rejuvenating, the warm drink was perfect for the relatively cool weather in Berastagi.
8. Behold One Of The Tallest Waterfalls In Indonesia, Sipisopiso Waterfall
Another natural landform to check out in the vicinity is Sipisopiso Waterfall, one of the tallest waterfalls in Indonesia.
At a towering height of 120 metres, the plunge waterfall is especially popular amongst tourists.
If your schedule allows, going all the way to the waterfall base will definitely be worth the effort. The trail to the bottom takes about 45 minutes long and allows you to feel Sipisopiso’s full might.
However, if you don’t have the time, don’t worry. There’re plenty of vantage points to admire the waterfall from afar and they all offer an equally picturesque view.
9. Get A Spectacular View Of Lake Toba From Holbung Hill
Lake Toba is Indonesia’s largest lake, as well as the world’s largest volcanic lake. It’s so huge that it houses an entire island that’s almost the size of Singapore within it—Samosir Island!
Most tourists tend to go on boat tours to see Lake Toba. However, we heard that Holbung Hill (RP$10,000/pax) on Samosir Island offers a view of the majestic lake that’s unlike any other.
We spent about an hour or two climbing up the hill and did not regret a single bit. There were very few people on the hill during our visit, so we practically had the entire space to ourselves.
The unobstructed and scenic view of Lake Toba and the surrounding greenery couldn’t have been a better reward. It was definitely worth becoming a few shades tanner by the end, I’ll tell you that. Book the experience here.
10. Cool Down At The Beautiful Efrata Waterfall
Another must-visit location on Samosir Island is the gorgeous Efrata Waterfall.
Efrata Waterfall is by no means as majestic or as large as the aforementioned Sipisopiso Waterfall. Nevertheless, the fact that its base is easily accessible makes it a destination to check off for nature lovers.
The waterfall current was impressively strong for its relatively short height of 25 metres. We felt as if we were taking a refreshing shower when the strong winds blew the water toward us.
If you’re lucky, you might have the entire place to yourself as we did. Try to plan your visit in the late afternoon for a relatively empty space.
Opening Hours: 6am – 7pm (Daily)
Medan, Indonesia was truly an eye-opening and adventurous place to visit, setting it apart from the usual touristy destinations. But what made it so enjoyable was the stress-free planning which TripAdvisor’s Trip feature provided.
I’m a person who appreciates anything which can help me better organise my ideas. So if you’re like me, you’ll definitely appreciate this Trip feature.
That said, if you’re planning to visit Medan for a holiday soon, check out my 4D3N Medan itinerary on TripAdvisor. You can start planning your Medan trip by building off my trip itinerary!
Simply click on ‘Save all items’ on the webpage and start adding or editing the places of interest from there. After all, all good things should be shared, right?
*This post is brought to you in partnership with TripAdvisor.