Orangutan sitting and watching near the water in the Gunung Leuser National Park

Gunung Leuser National Park in Sumatra

This post was last updated on May 18th, 2020 at 07:07 pm


Gunung Leuser National Park in Sumatra is one of the last places where leopards, tigers, rhinoceroses, elephants, and orangutans still live in the wild. This park has not been on the list of travelers for a long time. Most of them went to the village of Bukit Lawang which is more touristy. Gunung Leuser National Park, however, is the place without mass tourism and flattened forest trails; it still has real wildlife. Here you will find a jungle as you expect it to be in Indonesia.

 

The Unique Gunung Leuser

Ever since the region became calmer (there were a lot of conflicts here) you can get there easier. Slowly, the park is starting to receive status in the UNESCO World Heritage List.

 

The park is seen as one of the special places on earth when it comes to biological diversity. The park is also home to some of the world’s most endangered species such as tigers, rhinoceroses, elephants, and orangutans.

 

Did you know that Gunung Leuser is 3,154 meters high?

 

Orangutan Relaxing on a Tree in a Tropical Jungle in Sumatra

 

A Must-See on Sumatra

This nature reserve in Sumatra is more than 8,000 square kilometers in size and has been a protected nature reserve since 1634 and a national park since 1980.

 

Gunung Leuser National Park is named after the highest point in the park; the Leuser volcano. This volcano is 3,154 meters high and largely dominates the landscape and climate in the park. It is a must-see!

 

TIP – Looking for another great volcano to climb? Check out Mount Kerinci in West Sumatra.

 

Orangutan cub swinging from the trees in the Gunung Leuser National Park, Sumatra

 

Things to See at Gunung Leuser

The Gunung Leuser National Park excels in natural beauty. Large parts of the park consist of steep mountain forests, swamp forests, rainforests, beach forests, and mangrove forests.

 

Above 1,500 meters, the fog has created a magical landscape with moss forests. The park is fed by the Alas River that cuts through Gunung Leuser National Park.

 

The park also has 300 bird species, including the hornbill and woodpeckers. Despite being a protected nature reserve, Gunung Leuser National Park suffers from poachers, illegal logging, and road construction.

 

Poachers have wiped out the crocodile population and the number of tigers and rhinoceroses has greatly improved.

 

TIP – Would you like to book a nice tour through the jungle? Then check out Bukit Lawang Trekking.

 

Elephant in the river at Gunung Leuser National Park

 

Bukit Lawang

Most travelers enter Gunung Leuser National Park via Bukit Lawang. Many jungle tours are organized from this village. You will also find an orangutan rehabilitation center where orangutans are taught to live in the wild again. Many of these great apes live here because their mother was killed by poachers or because they have been chased away by illegal logging.

 

There are no ATMs in Bukit Lawang. So bring enough cash when you come here!

 

The jungle tours you can book here are from weeks to days and are an unforgettable experience! During these tours you climb mountains, you sail on rivers (rafting) and you encounter special animals and plants.

 

The climb to the top of the Leuser volcano is, of course, the biggest challenge!

 

TIP – If you find Bukit Lawang too touristy you can also go to Ketambe. This is a less busy town but just as impressive!

 

River with houses in Bukit Lawang at night
River at Bukit Lawang during the evening hours

 

How to Get There

The main gateway to Gunung Leuser National Park is Bukit Lawang. From here you can book tours to the park. Bukit Lawang is easiest to reach from Medan.

 

Medan has an airport and is accessible from all over Indonesia and even Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. Once in Medan, you can take the minibus bus to Bukit Lawang. Buses depart from the Pinang Baris Bus Terminal.

 

TIP – The bus takes 3 to 4 hours to get there. Prices vary but count on about 20,000 IDR (around US$1.35).

 

Green forest of the jungle at Bukit Lawang
The gorgeous green jungle at Bukit Lawang

 

Best Time to Visit Gunung Leuser

The best time to visit the park is the months of January and March through July. In these months the least amount of rain showers will show up.

 

These are called the “dry” months. That does not mean that it never rains, but it does mean that it rains less. Waterfalls and rainforests are less spectacular. So if you are willing to walk in the rain to see beautiful nature, the months of October and November are good months.

 

The rainy season in Sumatra runs from September to January. Although in January it starts to get drier.

 

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