It’s been a while since I’ve written about my travels in Indonesia, despite having travelled to quite a few places over the past couple of years.
A couple of weeks ago I was invited (by the South Sumatra tourism people) to visit a place in Sumatra that I’d never previously heard of — Pagar Alam in South Sumatra. Apparently Pagar Alam has been identified by the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism as one of 88 places in Indonesia to be developed for tourism purposes.
Now, we can debate the pros and cons of pumping money into micro-projects versus tackling the strategic/macro issues (such as country-wide infrastructure, visas and inter-ministry coordination to ensure a friendly tourism environment), but I can say that Pagar Alam is a worthy location for some of these funds.
In other words, the Indonesian Ministry of Tourism needs to work more as a coordinating authority to ensure that all the ingredients which make a destination favourable to tourism are the best they can be (many of which are managed by other ministries). But that’s an issue to discuss in another post.
Where is Pagar Alam?
Pagar Alam is located 280km and about 8 hours from Palembang and 169km and about 5 hours from Bengkulu by vehicle. Most people will access Pagar Alam either overland from other parts of Sumatra as part of a big trip through Sumatra or by flying to Lubuk Linggau from Jakarta and then catching public transport for 4 hours. (or hire a car and driver at the airport — there are lots of them and they will find you!)
TransNusa also flys directly between Pagar Alam and Jakarta on Tuesdays and Saturdays for a price of around Rp700,000. But it’s quite difficult to book these tickets online. Try emailing these email addresses for more info:
It actually makes sense to come to Pagar Alam if you are on a big trans Sumatra trip because it breaks up the journey nicely between Padang or Bengkulu and Bandar Lampung.
Climate of Pagar Alam
When you get here, you’ll find a stunning town located 700m above sea level on the slopes of Gunung Dempo. The climate is perfect. I really loved that night time temperatures were cool and day time temperatures moderately warm. Nothing like some of the lowland areas of Sumatra which can be stifling.
Make sure you bring some wet weather gear as it rained every afternoon I was there.
Things to do in Pagar Alam
I actually like Pagar Alam as a place to just relax and cruise around checking out the local way of life. But it also has some solid things to do as well such as:
- Climbing the 3150m tall Gunung Dempo – info here
- Visiting the nearby tea plantations
- Checking out the hundreds of nearby waterfalls
- Visiting the 2000 year old megaliths.
The best idea is to rent a motorbike to get around on, but if you’re not interested in riding a motorbike, there are plenty of cars and drivers available from the hotels.
Where to Stay
I stayed at the best hotel in town, Besh Hotel. They have a bunch of accommodation options ranging from standard rooms to large multi-room villas. The hotel is located right on the edge of the tea plantation and it’s an awesome place for photos, especially in the early morning. Check it here on Traveloka.
Unfortunately, no other hotels are listed on any of the big booking websites. But the following hotels can be contacted directly:
- Garuda ZZ Hotel – +62 730 622177
- Mirasa Hotel (recommended by Lonely Planet) – +62 730 621266
- Dharma Karya Hotel – +62 730 621297
Pagar Alam reminded me of one of the great things about Indonesia. There is always one more place to visit. You’ll never get bored of travelling here, no matter how long you’ve been travelling for. No matter how much you think you know about the place.
It’ll be interesting to see how the tourism scene in Pagar Alam develops over the next decade. With the right sort of investment in infrastructure throughout Indonesia, we should see places like Pagar Alam flourish. At this point, it’s still virtually untouched.
I’m a big fan of Pagar Alam. It’s a wonderful place to recharge before heading onto your next destination.