Nias (or Pulau Nias, Nias Island) is an island the Indian Ocean off North Sumatra. Isolated yet worldly, the Nias Island chain has been trading since prehistory with other cultures, other islands, and even mainland Asia.
Some historians and archaeologists have cited the local culture as one of the few remaining Megalithic cultures in existence today. While this point of view is hotly debated, there is no doubt that Nias' relative geographic isolation has created a unique culture. As a culture of traders, the people of Nias find tourists to be a welcome – and historically familiar – phenomenon.
There are two ferry terminals (Gunungsitoli and Teluk Dalam) on the island, serviced mainly from Sibolga and Medan respectively. However, local ferry companies regularly go out of business (or their boats sink), so only one terminal may be active at any given time.
- 1 Binaka Airport (Gunungsitoli Airport GNS IATA). Since the 2005 earthquake, flights have improved to cope with the increase in travel needs. Susi Air, SMAC, and UNHAS are the airlines that fly to Gunungsitoli Airport, all from Medan.
Nias is best-known for its diversity of festivals and celebration. The most well-known events are War Dances, performed regularly for tourists, and Stone Jumping, a manhood ritual that sees young men leaping over two-meter stone towers to their fate. In the past, the top of the stone board was covered with spikes and sharp pointed bamboo. The music of Nias, performed mostly by women, is noted worldwide for its haunting beauty.
Gunungsitoli is home to Nias's only museum, the Museum Pusaka Nias (Nias Heritage Museum), which houses over 6,000 objects related to Nias's cultural heritage. The museum had built a new building and had improved their storage and exhibitions when the 2004 earthquake and tsunami occurred. The museum suffered some damage to the grounds and collections during the tsunami, but it appears to be going strong today.
Nias is an internationally famous surfing destination. The best known surfing area is Sorake Bay, close to the town of Teluk Dalam, on the southern tip. Enclosed by the beaches of Lagundri and Sorake, the bay has both left and right-hand breaks. As they wait for waves, surfers can often see sea turtles swimming below. There are also two consistent, world-class waves in the nearby Hinako Islands, Asu and Bawa. Many lesser-known, high-quality surf spots with low crowds await adventurous travelers.
Nias was part of the famous Hippie trail of the 1960s, particularly traveled by surfers, which led to Bali. Some claim that the waves at the southern beach of Sorake are better than the ones in Maui. It has been the site of several international surfing competitions in the past, particularly before the 1998 Indonesian Reformation Movement.
Harinake is Nias’s traditional food made out of diced pork with a taste of local spices. Often served with rice cake, Harinake is a symbol of honouring the guests at the wedding party. The juicy meat is hard to resist.
Hambae Nititi & Bato hambae
Hambae Nititi is crab meat cooked with coconut milk. The mixture creates unique savory taste and rich flavour.
Bato Hambae is another delicious smoked crab meat which has been shaped into rounds. It is used as a side dish that the locals would eat with rice.
The snack is made from boiled cassava smoothly mashed and topped with dried grated coconut.
A delicious snack made from glutinous rice cooked in a bamboo. Loma has that sticky texture with cylindrical shape.
Minced shrimp mixed with grated coconut and wrapped with banana leaf. Silio Guro is cooked using traditional meat-smoking method with high heat.
Sautéed minced pork mixed with mung bean, grated coconut and clover.
Saku Nisolo often substitutes rice as the main dish. Made from sago starch, Saku Nisolo has that savory taste resulted from thick coconut milk as the mixture.
During Durian season, you will find this seasonal fruit easily around the island. Dodol Durian is a traditional toffee treat made from Durian. It has sticky texture with inevitably unique durian-sweetness taste.
Tuo Nifaro or Tuak Nias is the traditionally made alcohol beverage.
The word ‘Tuak’ means palm liquor. Although Tuo Nifaro is not commercially manufactured in Nias, many visitors have been seeking this authentic alcoholic beverage. For the Nias community, the liquor is not just a drink, rather, a ‘mandatory’ for any celebrations. It is part of their tradition to drink Tuak at tuak foodstalls that usually open at midnight. Streetside foodstalls serve this alcoholic beverage and people sit at a bamboo table gathering with the other drinkers to play cards or simply discuss daily life.
Each Tuo Nifaro bottle/batch has a different alcohol percentage because there is no precise standard for production. Medium scale stalls often produce their own Tuak with larger quantity to meet the demand. So whether or not you will get drunk really depends on the batch that you are drinking and your own health condition.