The scenic town of Bukittinggi is the perfect base for a trip to West Sumatra. Its relatively central location allows you to reach many of West Sumatra’s tourist attractions.
Bukittinggi itself is one of the region’s favorite spots for recreational travel. It is not hard to find accommodation to suit all budgets, transportation, tours and souvenir shops.
Here are the top seven places around Bukittinggi to visit.
Istano Basa Pagaruyung
The Minang people used to live in a monarchical society where kings and queens ruled the land.
Istano Basa Pagaruyung (Pagaruyung Grand Palace) is the legacy of such a history – despite the palace having to be rebuilt several times due to natural disasters and accidents.
Located around 40 kilometers southeast of Bukittinggi, Pagaruyung Grand Palace displays remnants of the life that the monarchs lived back then in the three-story building. You can also wear the traditional costume of the Minang people, available for rent in the palace.
Songket weavers in Pandai Sikek
If you arrive in West Sumatra via Minangkabau International Airport, you will most likely travel to Bukittinggi through Padang Panjang. The route will take you along a mountainous path, and halfway from Padang Panjang to Bukittinggi you will pass a village named Pandai Sikek.
Pandai Sikek is one of the best places to obtain the region’s famous hand-woven cloth called “songket”. There is a street in Pandai Sikek dedicated to stores that sell “songket” fabrics.
One of the distinct features of “songket” is the use of glossy threads, giving an elegant shimmer to the fabric. That, and the fact that a “songket” can take at least four months to finish, is why the fabric can cost millions of rupiah.
Around 15 kilometers west of Bukittinggi is the location of Lake Maninjau. The lake is surrounded by hills, and Puncak Lawang is one of the hilltops that you can reach by vehicle and which offers stunning views of the lake.
At Puncak Lawang, there is the newly established Lawang Park, which is a rest stop area that offers lodging, meeting hall and activity packages. Lawang Park offers an amazing 360-degree view, including the picturesque view of Lake Maninjau.
Visiting the Jam Gadang in Bukittinggi is almost an obligatory activity, like how you should see the Eiffel Tower when visiting Paris. The grand 26-meter high clock tower is the town’s most illustrious monument, having been built back in 1926.
Jam Gadang is one of the central points for locals’ recreational walks. As such, the place is always bustling with activities as it also attracts vendors to the area selling things.
The city’s horse-drawn taxis are also one of the services available in the clock tower area. They can be a good choice to tour the city. It will cost you Rp 100,000 (US$8.41) for a one-hour tour around the town on a buggy that can carry two to four people.
House of Mohammad Hatta
Bukittinggi-born Mohammad Hatta is the pride of the town as he is one of Indonesia’s founding fathers and the country’s first vice president. The town is taking good care of his legacy, erecting statues and museums dedicated to his memory.
The house he grew up in at Bukittinggi is also one of Hatta’s historical buildings, now serving as a showcase of his early days – open for public visits every day. At this site, you can see the room where he was born, as well as the room he slept in during his adolescence. On the walls of the house, there are paintings and photos of him in his adult life.
The home might seem like a modest building at first glance, but more than a century ago it was considered a relatively lavish house. There are five bedrooms, a granary and a stable.
Ngarai Sianok and the Japanese Hole
Amid the tall hills of Bukittinggi, lies a picturesque canyon that stretches for 15 kilometers called Ngarai Sianok.
The view when you are looking down the canyon from the cliff top is just majestic; kilometers of lush green canyon, and rice fields built on the canyon floor. A part of the canyon is close to the center of the town, making Ngarai Sianok another popular destination for the locals’ leisurely strolls.
The Japanese occupied Bukittinggi late in World War II, and one of their defensive measures in the area was building a bunker beneath the cliff of Ngarai Sianok. It remains one of the largest bunkers in the country, with a total length of 1,400 meters.
Entrance to the bunker is now located right beneath the sightseeing park. A guide is required for you to explore the bunker to avoid getting lost inside – which very possible due to all the tunnels looking very similar to each other.
The bunker has been renovated to be more tourist-friendly. The place used to emit a horrific vibe due to its infamous history of captivity, torture and forced labor.
If a “songket” is out of your budget, you might want to visit the Kapuyuak clothing shop for an alternative choice of souvenir. The “distro” (distribution outlet) sells printed clothing emblazoned with catchy logos, iconic figures and structures.
The word “kapuyuak” in the Minang language translates into ‘cockroach’. The owner believes Minang people have similar traits with this insect: they are everywhere in Indonesia, and have a high spirit of survival.
They have two stores trading in Bukittinggi, at Jl. Sudirman 19D and Jl. Panorama 4.