Bukittinggi is a city of 117,000 people (2014) in West Sumatra. It is a city popular with tourists because of its pleasant climate and central location. Bukittinggi is also a popular shopping destination for cheap textiles and fashion products, especially for Malaysians.
Bukittinggi (Indonesian for "high hill") is one of the larger cities in West Sumatra. It is in the Minangkabau highlands, 90 km by road from the West Sumatran capital city of Padang. It is located near the volcanoes Mount Singgalang (inactive) and Mount Marapi (still active). At 930 m above sea level, the city has a cool climate with temperatures between 16° and 25°C
There are some interesting legends surrounding the foundation and naming of “High Hill” Bukittinggi. The city has its origins in five villages which served as the basis for a marketplace. The city was known as Fort de Kock during colonial times in reference to the Dutch outpost established here in 1825 during the Padri War. The fort was founded by Captain Bauer at the top of Jirek hill and later named after the then Lieutenant Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies, Hendrik Merkus de Kock. The first road connecting the region with the west coast was built between 1833 and 1841 via the Anai Gorge, easing troop movements, cutting the costs of transportation and providing an economic stimulus for the agricultural economy. In 1856 a teacher-training college (Kweekschool) was founded in the city, the first in Sumatra, as part of a policy to provide educational opportunities to the indigenous population. A rail line connecting the city with Payakumbuh and Padang was constructed between 1891 and 1894. During the Japanese occupation of Indonesia in World War II, the city was the headquarters for the Japanese 25th Army, the force which occupied Sumatra. The headquarters was moved to the city in April 1943 from Singapore, and remained until the Japanese surrender in August 1945.
During the Indonesian National Revolution, the city was the headquarters for the Emergency Government of the Republic of Indonesia (PDRI) from December 19, 1948 to July 13, 1949. During the second 'Police Action' Dutch forces invaded and occupied the city on December 22, 1948, having earlier bombed it in preparation. The city was surrendered to Republican officials in December 1949 after the Dutch government recognized Indonesian sovereignty. The city was officially renamed Bukittinggi in 1949, replacing its colonial name. From 1950 until 1957, Bukittinggi was the capital city of a province called Central Sumatra, which encompassed West Sumatra, Riau and Jambi. In February 1958, during a revolt in Sumatra against the Indonesian government, rebels proclaimed the Revolutionary Government of the Republic of Indonesia (PRRI) in Bukittinggi. The Indonesian government had recaptured the town by May the same year.
Bukittinggi is located about 2 hours north-east by road from the international airport. The only way to get there is by car. But all the roads are good and smooth. As Bukittinggi is a tourist destination, try to avoid traveling on weekends as the traffic can be quite bad especially when climbing uphill.
By chartered minivan
Known by the locals as "Travel" is cheapest way to get there. The approximate price is about Rp30,000/person for one way. The vehicle is a Honda Odyssey 2.4 minivan with a capacity of 7 seats. Keep in mind that the bus driver usually waits until the chair occupation is about 75%. Once the car is "full", the minivan will depart and take the passengers to their destination.
Jasa Mulya and Annanta run a SUV service between Padang and Pekanbaru via Bukittinggi. Journey time to Pekanbaru around 6 hours in normal traffic. Fare Rp. 150,000 or 180,000 depending on vehicle type as of December 2023. Contact them on Whatsapp a day or two (or more during peak season) before departure for the actual schedule.
For Kersik Tuo near Kerinci Park, minivans depart throughout the day, leaving the bus station and also picking up at hotels if booked by phone. Travel time is 8 hours, cost is Rp130,000 (2019), and the trip is relatively comfortable, with stops at roadhouses.
The main bus station is at Aur Kuniang, 2km southeast of the town center. Many services are minibuses and shared cars, which stop at the bus station but will also collect and drop passengers at their accommodation if booked by phone.
Hotels in Bukittinggi can organize a door-to-door transfer from your hotel in Bukittinggi to your hotel in Padang. Departs hourly. Approximate price: Rp40,000 to 50,000 as of 2017. Hello Hostel might be among the cheapest especially if you stay with them.
Several bus companies (such as ALS) run buses from Parapat near Lake Toba. The trip is very winding and rough, and takes approximately 15 hours. Be prepared for bus sickness, and to pay around Rp250,000. As the trip is uphill from Lake Toba, the one-way fare is more expensive this way than coming from the south.
ALS also runs a service to Medan from its branch on Jalan Raya Batusangkar.
Numerous buses go from Medan to Jakarta and stop on the way at Bukittinggi.
At PDG (Minangkabau International Airport) of Padang, there are several desks and individual operators where you can order taxis but they all ask around Rp300,000, including Grab and Gojek. There is also a train right at the airport that charges Rp5000 to go to Kayutanam, about half the 70 km to Bukittinggi, from which you can hail a minibus the rest of the way. As of June 2022, there are three trains per day, leaving at 9:25, 14:00, and 19:10, and they take about an hour and 10 minutes. (Going back, trains leave Kayutanam Station at 06:50, 11:30, and 16:20.)
An alternative is to take a motorcycle taxi for Rp20,000 about 4 km to the main road (the Duku turn-off) and hail a passing minibus to Bukittinggi for another Rp20,000. (Warning: they can be crowded.)
Angkot shared taxis may be an affordable way to get around the city, if you happen to know which route stops by where you are staying. Route number and destination are shown on the windshield. Paint colour indicates their terminal in the city - the red ones terminate at Pasar Bawah. A single trip within the city costs Rp 4,000 as of December 2023. Shout out ''siko pak'' (''stop here driver'' in Minang) when you reach your destination. Pay the fare when you get off.
Besides city transportation (Angkutan kota), bus charter and car rental are solutions for getting around in this city. If you want to rent a car, it's best to do so at Minangkabau International Airport. Rent a motorcycle is also possible in Bukittinggi for Rp70,000 a day (more expensive than Kuta), and you should have booked certain hotel in Bukittinggi first. Please also make certain with motorcycle rental that a day is 24 hours and not 12 hours.
Ojol (motortaxi e-hailing) platforms Gojek and Maxim are available in the city. As of December 2023, Maxim offers more competitive fares with rides under 3 km costing Rp 8,900. Unlike Gojek, Maxim has yet to offer card payments. Carry enough small notes and coins for your ride unless you are happy to tip double of the actual fare.
Bukittinggi is a small town, so these places are within walking distance with each other (15-30 minute walk).
- 1 Sianok Canyon (Ngarai Sianok) and the Japanese Caves (Lubang Jepang). A network of underground bunkers and tunnels built by the Japanese during World War II. There is a two-story observation tower that overlooks the Sianok Canyon. Ticket price: Rp20,000 (Aug 2017). During dusk you can observe megabats flying from the gorges to the forest in order to feed from the fruits on the trees. This is also a good place to get in contact with guides for tours such as to Lake Maninjau (see below) or jungle/hiking trips through the Canyon.
- 2 Fort de Kock. A fort built by the Dutch (nothing is left, only a water reservoir is on top of the hill) and Bundo Kanduang Park. The park includes a replica Rumah Gadang (traditional house), used as a museum of Minangkabau culture (many curiosities, such as stuffed animals with two heads and six legs, model houses and traditional dresses, foreign currencies. Entrance fee an extra Rp15,000 [Aug 2017]), and a zoo with a few very sad Orang Utans, a few expired species which are still rotting in their cages, two obese bears - not exactly an example in modern animal keeping. The Dutch hilltop outpost Fort de Kock is connected to the zoo by the Limpapeh pedestrian overpass. Ticket price: Rp20,000 (Aug 2017).
- 3 House of Bung Hatta. The house of Mohammad Hatta, the first Vice President of Indonesia.
- 4 Clock Tower (Jam Gadang = Great Clock). It is a clock tower and major landmark and tourist attraction in Bukittinggi. It is located in the centre of the city, near the main market, Pasar Ateh, and palace of Mohammad Hatta. The structure was built in 1926, during the Dutch colonial era, as a gift from Queen Wilhelmina to the city's controleur. It was designed by architects Yazin and Sutan Gigi Ameh, reportedly at a cost of 3,000 guilder. Originally a rooster figure was placed on the apex, but it was changed into a Jinja-like ornament during the Japanese occupation (1942–1945). Following Indonesian independence, the tower's top was reshaped to its present form, which resembles traditional Minang roofs. Tourists visiting the tower were once allowed to climb to the top, but as of 2016 require written permission to do so.
There are horse carriages waiting around the Jam Gadang area. Please be cautioned that the rides are very costly, therefore please ask for their rates first.
There are two tours that hotels and tour agencies try to push, a tour to Minangkabau and another tour to Maninjau.
The Minangkabau tour will visit these places in east area of Bukittinggi:
- The King's palace in Pagaruyung
- Balimbing village with old century traditional house that is more than 350 years old
- Handcraft in Pandai Sikek, such as kain songket (traditional woven clothes), ukiran kayu or bamboo (handmade crafting)
- Traditional coffee toasters
- Bika, traditional sweet made from coconut, rice flour and palm sugar, located in Koto Baru, between Padang Panjang-Bukittinggi.
The Maninjau Tour will visit places in west area of Bukittinggi:
- Lake Maninjau
- Puncak Lawang, a place where you can see a panoramic of Lake Maninjau
- The "44 turns", forty-four numbered(!) hairpin bends up the mountain from where you can see a panoramic of lake Maninjau.
Each tour requires at least 8 hours and usually held from 09:00-17:00 (including a stop at some restaurants). The price is ranging from Rp250,000/pp to Rp450,000/pp (2017 price). Hire a car is highly recommended if you're in a group of more than 4 people. Car's price includes driver, fuel, entry ticket, and parking fee. Tips aren't compulsory, lunch invitation is more than enough. Most of the places require ticket and will charge a parking fee. One tour will require about Rp40,000 only for parking and ticket entry. Another option is hiring a car and arranging with the driver to visit the places in Minangkabau and Lake Maninjau. If you are alone, it is also possible to find guides in the Sianok Canyon park who will take you to Lake Maninjau with a motorbike (ask for Parta e.g., no fixed price, he will take what you give him). In any case, depart earlier, as the tour will take all day.
Famous agencies selling these tours are Lite'n'easy, and Roni's tour and travel (in hotel Orchid). However since they are both recommended by a famous American guidebook, they tend to quote overpriced fees. Hello Hostel (very near both other agencies) seems cheaper.
The budget option to Maninjau is to take the bus (or minibus) from the bus station (get there from the Bemo station near the market) to Maninjau (35 km, 2 hr by bus, 1 hr by minibus). Unfortunately, a tourist racket has been set up so you won't get the ticket for the Rp6000 (Oct 2007) the locals pay. Expect to pay at least Rp10,000 (Oct 2007). Have the right change ready; don't expect to get any from the conductor. To get back, either try to catch a minibus (Rp10,000) or a big bus (Rp15,000-20,000). The big buses you have to catch in the same direction you came, since the narrow road is a one-way for lorries.
The budget option to Minangkabau is to take the Batusangkar public bus for Rp18,000 (Dec 2023) and hire a motorbike (Rp15,000 return as of Oct 2007) from there (or walk the remaining 5 km) to Pagaruyung. You can now also hire one on Maxim for less than Rp10,000 (Dec 2023) one way from Batusangkar city centre. For Minibuses and buses back to Bukittingi leave from the bus terminal or may be flagged down anywhere.
The Harau Valley is a pretty gorge about an hour east of Bukittinggi comprising a valley floor of rice paddy hemmed in by shear sandstone cliffs. There are several waterfalls with pools (both natural and constructed) for bathing, and you can go rock climbing on the cliffs. Harau is reached via Payakumbuh.
If you are interested in visiting the equator, you can take a bus to Bonjol where there is a monument marking the equator built over the main road, good for photo opportunities if you are keen to stand in both hemispheres simultaneously. Theres also a museum on the site which houses a few artefacts of little interest - mainly coins and banknotes. Catch the bus from the Aur Kuning bus station, minibuses depart fairly frequently. Expect to pay Rp10 000 as a tourist. To get back there is a bus which comes from the opposite direction (or northern hemisphere) at 17:00, or alternatively you can wait at the small roadside cafe right next to the monument where locals will help you flag down a bemo which is destined for Bukittinggi (its quite difficult for non-locals to distinguish between a service bemo and a someones car, but the locals seem to know what is what.
- Traditional dances are performed for 90 minutes every day from 21:00-22:30. Each group has its own schedule. If you want to buy a souvenirs or CDs about their performance, wait until the show finish because every dancer will offer you a souvenirs. The prices are, for CD about Rp100,000, for the traditional flute about Rp50,000. It's more expensive because you can get with half price in the town. (No rupiah!)
- Bukittinggi and West Sumatra in general also is the great place for adventure, as for rafting, kayaking, surfing, rock climbing, mountaineering and paragliding. See https://www.facebook.com/sumatraadventure for more informatin of adventure activity and other tour.
- There are several rivers for rafting and kayaking, as Kuantan River, Anai River, Sinama River, Ombilin River and many others. The grade of the rivers is varied from grade 2 to grade 5.
- For rock climbing, there is cliff in Baso, Harau Valley and Sijunjuang. The grade of route are varied from 5.8 to 5.14 and the high also varied from 20 m to 150 m.
- There are several place for paragliding, as Puncak Lawang near Lake Maninjau, Pintu Angin Hill near Lake Singkarak and Aia Manih Beach near Padang.
- For mountaineering and trekking there is several volcano with the high more than 2500 m above sea level, as Merapi, Singgalang, Tandikek, Sago, Talang, etc. Merapi is an active volcano.
- Mentawai island is one of the best place in the world for Surfing.
- For local assistance to arrange transportation, get tourist information or arrange guides, the guys of Lite'n'easy are an excellent choice. They are friendly, knowledgeable, speak English and are conveniently located at Bedudal Cafe (see the Eat section below), just ahead of the pedestrian bridge over Jl A. Yani. Ask for Fikar.
Ramayana Shopping Mall accepts credit cards. There are also 2 markets known as Pasar Atas (Upper Market) and Pasar Bawah (Down Market) near Jam Gadang. Pasar Atas is the largest market in Bukittinggi. On Saturdays, Sundays, and Wednesdays vendors sell their goods beside the road.
Pasar Bawah is for fruits and vegetables whereas Pasar Atas is for souvenirs and clothes. Most of the prices in each kiosk are similar, and you should bargain. One wholesale shop located in the middle of Pasar Atas sells souvenirs at the lowest price. A pair of women's slippers is about Rp7,000 and a key holder is about Rp2,000-5,000. Most of the souvenirs sold here are of low quality. Souvenirs of better quality can be found in Pandai Sikek. One men's shirt is about Rp35,000 and a pair of leather women's slippers is about Rp35,000.
Pasar Aur Kuning area is a large group of wholesale ("grosir") sales market/shops. Pasar Aur Kuning deserves a special mention here. It is famous with the local people/season travelers. If you are buying items in bulk, this is the place to visit. Some of the shops will allow you to buy in small quantities "eceran". Please ask the trader if they allow "eceran". For price comparison, if a trader in Pasar Atas (Clock Tower area) sells a cowboy hat for Rp100,000 as the opening price, you can expect to buy exactly the same item at Pasar Aur Kuning for Rp30,000. The price per item may go down further after negotiations. To get to Pasar Aur Kuning, take the red Angkot (minibus) from Pasar Bawah (in front of Pasar Banto). Angkot no. 19 or 13 (Tigo Baleh) charge Rp2000 one way. Pasar Aur Kuning also houses a bus terminal to various parts of Indonesia. Travel to Padang by van is located adjacent to Simpang Rayo restaurant.
- Aishah Chalik Art Shop, Jl. Cinduamato 90. Various souvenirs. There is good quality traditional cloth called kain songket (colorful cloth with golden thread embroidery), as well as shoes, T-shirts, sarongs, prayer rugs, female prayer clothing, etc.
- Toko Tiga Saudara, Pasar Wisata Bukittingi. This is a one stop centre for sovernirs, i.e. woven handbags, keychains, replicas of "Rumah Gadang", miniature bicycles. You can get better prices if you buy in bulk. Look for a guy by the name of Anton. Do ask for a discount. You will notice that item displayed would be of slightly better quality than that offered in smaller shops. Price comparison is essential to enjoy better bargains.
People in Bukittinggi like dry, spicy, and sweet snack foods. They make snacks with different tastes and shapes from ingredients that make the foods here special. For example, from cassava they can make spicy long cassava chips, tasty cubed cassava chips, and sweet round cassava chips. The many others include shredded dry eel, spicy potato chips, sweet potato chips, etc. They can be found in Pasar Atas at low prices, but they are not fresh. On the way back to Padang there are many food shops that sell these snacks of better quality.
There's small fish named Ikan Bilih (Bilis) or "ikan Danau" in Lake Singkarak that is not found elsewhere. Locals deep fry it or cook it in a sour soup with vegetable. One portion of fried Bilih is about Rp 5,000 and you eat the whole fish, head and bones and all. Most of the restaurants in Bukittinggi serve Padang cuisine which is creamy, spicy, and hot. An average price is about Rp 15,000 per person for one meal. The food unsold is kept overnight and reheated the next day, so it is not recommended for those who like fresh food.
After dark, there are many hawkers near Jam Gadang selling fresh foods such as nasi goreng (fried rice), mie rebus (boiled noddles) Roti Bakar (bun with scrambled eggs), and martabak mesir (beef pancake). One portion is about Rp 7,500 - Rp 10,000 pp.
Do try the local dessert delicacy known as "Martabak Bandung". The same dish is widely known in Malaysia as "Apam Balek" but the Malaysian version is limited to only one flavour i.e. nuts with a mixture of corn. Here in Bukittinggi or other parts of Indonesia, there are no less than 50 flavours of Martabak Bandung to choose from such as chocolate, cheese, strawberry, jackfruit, honey, banana, durian, etc. It should not be confused with "Martabak Mesir" which is a delicacy from the Middle East.
Anti-diarrhea medicine is highly recommended in case you get diarrhea during your food adventure.
- B and J's (formerly Apache Cafe), near Fort de Cock. Great, reasonably priced food and friendly staff that speak very good English. They can also arrange tours and give information on transport.
- 1 Simpang Raya Kantin, 8 Jalan Sudirman, ☏ . 05:30 - 00:00 daily. Traditional Minangkabau food.
- Turret Cafe and Restaurant, Ayani St. 140, ☏ , email@example.com. 07:00-23:00. Traditional Minangkabau and European food. Main dishes: Rp10,000-60,000.
- Bedudal Cafe, Jln. A. Yani No 95/105 (just before the pedestrian bridge). Fruit juices, beer, soft drinks, Indonesian + European dishes - reasonably priced and excellent quality. English spoken.
- 2 TARUKO caferesto (villa), Jalan Taruko, Jorong Lambah, Nagari Sianok Anam Suku, Kecamatan Ampek Koto (15-minute walk on bottom of green Sianok Canyon from city center to the west), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. 08:00-19:00. A unique riverside restaurant at the bottom of the green Sianok Canyon with beautiful scenery and delicious Indonesian, Thai, Chinese, Indian and Western food and drinks. The traditional architecture of the restaurant, surrounded by terraced rice fields and the crystal-clear river crossing beside a beautiful garden. €1.
Sikotang or Sarobat
Sikotang or Sarobat is one of the most famous drinks in Minangkabau. The beverage is made from red ginger (Zingiber sp) and spices such as cinnamon bark (Cinnamomum sp), nutmeg/"pala" (Myristica fragrans), etc. Sikotang is usually mixed with egg, bread, green beans (kacang padi/kacang ijo), and cane or palm sugar. Such a hot drink is useful for keeping your body warm during a cold highland night like in Padang Panjang, Batusangkar and Bukittinggi. Price Rp 5,000-15,000.
Daun Kawa (coffee leaves)
Daun kawa is made from roasted dry leaves of the coffee tree. The dried leaves are boiled in hot water and put into sections of bamboo and drunk from a "cawan tampuruang" (coconut shell). It can be found in Bukittinggi, Payakumbuh and Batusangkar. Please ask anyone, especially people over age 40. They will show you where a good place is to taste Daun Kawa! Price Rp 5,000-15,000 in 2009
Jus Pinang (Pinang juice)
Juice of Pinang (betel nut, the Areca catechu seed) is a bitter tasting drink available in Padang, Bukittingi, and other areas that is believed to have an effect on sexual stamina. Pinang has a biological effect as a stimulant like tobacco, coffee, and tea. Its chemical contents are arecolin, arecain, tannin, and flavonoids. Just try it and feel the difference! For beginners, don't drink more than one pinang seed. Price Rp 5,000-15,000 in 2009.
Teh Talua (egg tea)
This is a special Minangkabau drink made from egg mixed with hot tea and lemon. Please taste it. You will never forget the experience! Price Rp 5,000-15,000 in 2009.
There are a variety of fruit juices ranging from Alpokat (avocado juice), Sirsak (soursop), Jeruk (orange), wortel (carrot) etc. The list is endless. Prices range from Rp 4,000-10,000.
Kopi Luwak ("Civet Cat" Coffee)
Enjoy one of world's most prestigious coffees, Kopi Luwak, in Batang Palupuah Kampong, Bukittinggi. The coffee is made from coffee beans that have passed through a civet cat before roasting. Keep in mind the vast majority of coffee that is sold as "Civet Cat coffee" is not authentic.
The Minangkabau also have traditional alcoholic beverages such as tuak. Tuak is made from fermented nira, a liquid collected by cutting the fruit branch of aren or enau tree (Arenga pinnata). However, it is quite difficult to find in Bukittinggi due to the Muslim majority population.
Small budget hotels are easy to find. Many locals offer accommodation which are like family-owned hotels that provide a "feel at home" atmosphere. The prices span from Rp 80,000 - Rp 200,000 per room without air-conditioning. Breakfast is included. There are no lifts in these small hotels, so be prepared if your room is on the upper floors. Room cleaning is not provided everyday in some cases, so don't hesitate to ask the hotel manager if you want a daily cleaning service.
- Hotel Cindua Mato, Jl. Cindur Mato 96 (across the street from the Zoo), ☏ , fax: . Around 10 rooms. No hot water. Rp85,000.
- Orchid Hotel, Jl Teuku Umar, doubles from Rp170,000 including a very basic breakfast (coffee and bread). Located near the mosque, the call to prayer can be extremely loud, especially from F-Su and during Ramadhan. Staff is nice but constantly trying to sell you tours, transportation, etc. No wifi.
- Hotel Asean, Jl Teuku Umar, singles from Rp80,000.
- d'enam Hotel, Jl Yos Sudarso No. 4, double with toilet Rp100,000, toilet outside Rp90,000 (prices 2017); located on top of a hill close to the mosque and the clocktower, friendly and helpful staff, ☏ .
- Hotel Murni, Jl A. Yani (north end). Old building. Rooms with two beds: Rp80,000
- Hotel Tigo Balai, Jl A. Yamin. smallish rooms but reasonably clean and nice staff. Rp80,000.
- Hello Guesthouse, jl Teuku Umar, email@example.com. Nice staff and clean hostel with small breakfast included. Dorm Rp75 000, double room Rp150 000 (2017).
The top hotels in the city are The Hills Bukittinggi (formerly the Novotel Coralia) and Pusako Hotel. Although The Hills Bukittinggi is comfortable place to stay especially for tourists from the West, the cost is at least Rp 800,000 for a night; in comparison there are many small hotels around Fort de Kock that are around Rp 120,000 that are quite nice.
There is a row of internet cafes along Jl. Ahmad Yani and Jl Pemuda. Four internet cafes are in the vicinity of (underneath) the pedestrian bridge which links Fort de Kock and the zoo.
Check out the prices as the internet cafes on the main street are so much more expensive than the ones around the corner. Suggest you ask a local for the cheapest one. The local price is Rp4,000 per hour.
Most hotels and many restaurants offer complementary Wi-Fi, although the speed may not always be as high as you expect.