INTRODUCTION
From growing business city of Medan to the forested Sungai Alas Valley to the Islamic stronghold of Aceh, Sumatra's northernmost part is very varied. North Sumatra is tick with virgin forests, abundant vegetation and jungle covered hills, terraced rice fields, cool mountain streams, strong rivers, stunning waterfalls, serene white sandy beaches and large ancient lakes. The people of the region are hospitable and warm and can be divided into following ethnic groups: devout Muslim people of Aceh, the coastal Malays living along the Malacca Straits; the Bataks consisting of the sub-tribes of Toba, Simalungun, Pak Pak (Dairi) and Karon of the highlands around Lake Toba and Samosir Island; the Pesisirs of Central Tapanuli along the Indian Ocean coastline; the Mandailings and Angkolas from southern Tapanuli and Nias Islanders off the western coast. These groups each have their own dialects, religious beliefs and traditional arts, customs and culture. There are also several ethnic groups who live in Medan and other towns of North Sumatra, the largest of these being Chinese and Indian. Other parts of archipelago are represented, but non more strongly than Minangkabau and Javanese who now live in many parts of the area. As a result the area is often regarded as constituting a natural museum of Indonesia's proto-Malay heritage in which ancient customs and traditions have been preserved. The diversity of arts and cultures exactly make this region a paradise for social scientists and culture seekers. It is a treasure chest of culture and tradition waiting to be explored, with ancient graves of Batak kings, unique dances and ceremonies, and beautiful arts and crafts. North Sumatra is also one of the riches provinces in Indonesia for flora and fauna with a wealth of birds, butterflies, buffalo and deer. The province proudly boats of its Orang Utan Rehabilitation Center in the Gunung Leuser National Park which is bordered by the fast flowing Bohorok River and some delightful countryside and of course lake Toba, legendary birthplace of the mountain-dwelling Bataks and the largest inland lake in Southest Asia.

PLACES OF INTEREST

Banda Aceh
Banda Aceh is the capital of Aceh and also the main gateway to this province. The Governor's Residence, was built by the Dutch in 1880 on the spot where the palace of the sultan once stood. This building is known as one of the historical sites with a unique architecture and completed with traditional house equipments.

Medan
Medan is the capital of North Sumatra and the informal capital of entire Sumatra. This town is a centre for trade and commerce, industry, transportation, and entertainment. What is historically most interesting is the Masjid Besar (Grand Mosque) and the Palace of the Sultan of Deli which has been restored to revive its past grandeur.

Gunung Leuser National Park
Park, covered in dense jungle, is the last place on earth where elephants, rhinos, tigers, clouded leopards and orangutans are found in one area. There are around 700 animal species living in the park, between 300 and 400 of them are birds. About 8500 plant species grow in the park, including the biggest flower in the world, Rafflesia arnoldi.

Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre in Bohorok / Bukit Lawang
The orangutans were once living in almost all of Southeast Asia; today they are only left in Borneo and Sumatra. 90% of the total oragutan population lives within the borders of Indonesia. Bohrok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre was inaugurated in 1973. Orangutans arriving to the centre are quarantines, treated for diseases, and trained to survive in the wild.

Danau Toba
Lake Toba is the largest lake in Southeast Asia, once created by an enormous eruption less than 100,000 years ago. The lakes covers approximately 1,265 km2 excluding Samosir Island and is 90 km long. The depth is in on average 450 metre and up to 900 metre in some places. The lake is situated at an altitude of 906 metres above sea level. The steep coastline interspersed with small valleys creates fantastic scenery and isolated areas.

Samosir
Samosir is an approximately 50 km long and 15 km wide island in the Lake Toba, almost as big as Singapore. It is often described as the heartland of Batak Culture. Samosir is actually a peninsula and not an island, as it is divided from Sumatra only by a narrow man-made canal, the Pusuk Buhit Canal between Samosir and mainland, once made by the Datch. Samosir is a perfect place to relax and cool down, it is beautiful and scenic. Visiting the village of Tomok, Tuk-tuk, Siallagan, Ambarita are recommended for traditional Batak Toba houses, and local dances. Tuk-Tuk is a small peninsula in the lake Toba with many places built in traditional Batak style. Ambarita is one of the musts when visiting Samosir. The traditional village with King Siallagan's stone chairs is of interest. Simanindo is a picturesque village and has some of the best-kept traditional houses, including the house of Raja Sidauruk, now a museum. Pangururan is the only proper town on Samosir and also administrative centre of the island.

Berastagi
Berastagi, a former Dutch hill resort 1300 metre above sea level, is a cool and pleasant town. The town is known for plantations and various kinds of flowers, vegetables and fruits.

Sipiso-piso Waterfall and Tongging
Tongging is a place to see a waterfall surrounded by beautiful sights in cool mountain air. It is located at the north side of Lake Toba in a very dramatic setting. You can see majestic Sipiso-piso waterfall.

Nias Island
This island lies off West Sumatra in the Indian Ocean, famous for its surfing and unique culture. Nias regency consists of the island of Nias, Pulau-Pulau Batu, and many other small islands, a total of 132. The main island of Nias is 130 km long and 45 km wide, with Gunung Sitoli as its capital. Southern and northern Nias have each a very distinct architectural style, far apart from each other. In some villages visitors can see performances of traditional war-dances and thrilling high-jump sports, i.e. people making dangerous leaps over 2 meter-high stones. Typical scenes are dancers clad in traditional costumes with bird feathers on their heads, a hall for the Chief-of-Tribe built on wooden logs with stone chairs weighing up to 18 tons.
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