A couple of weeks ago I gave a wrap of my visit to Pagar Alam including a brief list of things to do. I thought I’d expand on that list and give a bit more detail on these things to do as Pagar Alam really is worth exploring.
1. Gunung Dempo
Gunung Dempo is ever present on the skyline of Pagar Alam. No matter where you go, you can see this 3150m tall volcano tower above the surrounding countryside. And the cool thing about Gunung Dempo is that you can climb it!
Climbing it really requires a guide and you can either do it as an overnight hike or a one day hike. The overnight hike starts during the middle of the day and ends in the middle of the next with no night hiking required.
The one day hike requires hiking to start at about 2am in order to get a good view of sunrise. The descent ends at about midday and is very difficult. The practicalities of the hike can be read here and guides can be arranged from any of the hotels in town.
If you’re not interested in hiking, you can also get a great sunrise from a lookout half way up Gunung Dempo that is accessible by car or motorbike. Renting a motorbike is the cheapest way to do this, but a car and driver can be rented from most hotels as well.
Check this map for the location of the lookout.
2. Tea Plantations
The tea plantations of Pagar Alam line the slopes of Gunung Dempo. BESH hotel actually sits right in the middle of the plantations as do a number of other hotels. BESH at this stage is the only one bookable online.
To get to the tea plantations, simply drive towards the Gunung Dempo lookout mentioned in the point above. Along this road, you will be driving right through the tea plantations. The views are incredible and there are often people picking the leaves. This means there are great opportunities for photos.
There are said to be over 80 waterfalls to visit in and around Pagar Alam, but really disappointingly the information on these waterfalls is a tightly guarded secret. I think I remember seeing a map of them on a presentation given by some consultants when I was in town, but this is useless. Unless tourists can get their hands on these maps, waterfalls are going to be a tough sell in Pagar Alam.
Luckily, I was taken to 3 waterfalls when I was there and can provide details on how to get there.
7 Memories Waterfall (Cughup Tujuh Kenangan)
Cughup Tujuh Kenangan is a large waterfall which is a short but steep hike from the parking area. It’s a good place for a swim and you’ll be the only visitor if you come on a weekday. There is no official entry fee, but because the path to the waterfall goes through private property, you will need to give some cigarette money to the local people. Rp10.000 per person should be enough.
Bowl Waterfall (Cughup Mangkok)
Cughup Mangkok is a pummelling waterfall which barrels out of the forest into a large pool. It’s an ideal place for a swim and you can even test your swimming skills under the actual waterfall. I didn’t get a chance to go for a swim here, but the location is set up for swimming… so yeah, it’s perfect for that really.
Green Paradise isn’t really a waterfall location per se… well there is a waterfall there, but you mainly go here to swim in the water which comes directly from a spring underground. The water is so clean and pure that there is even a drinking water bottling plant nearby.
When I was there there was a group of kids jumping off rocks into the pool and generally having a great old time. A top place for a swim! A small entry fee is payable at the front. Rp5.000 from memory.
So the megaliths around Pagar Alam are on of the big selling points of tourism in the region. Now, megaliths are quite a niche attractions as some people just aren’t interested in this sort of history. But if you are, the megaliths of Pagar Alam are awesome.
Many of the megaliths are between 2,000 and 4,000 years old and are located in the middle of ricefields. Unfortunately, maps of the megaliths are hard to come by and visiting on your own is a little difficult. One megalith that I do remember the location of is here.
I really loved these hotsprings and wish I had more time to enjoy them. Located about 30km from the centre of Pagar Alam, a scenic motorbike or car ride is required to get there. And really, the scenery along the way is stunning and worth the ride alone.
The hotsprings are odd. The hot water bubbles up from a river bed meaning that it immediately mixes in with the cold river water. This is great because at its source, the water is incredibly hot. So hot that you can cook an egg in it. Down stream from the source of the hot water you can just laze around and soak in the warm water.
A small fee is required to enter the area mainly because the local village paid for the concrete path out of their own money (apparently).
6. Old Church
If you’ve gone to the hotsprings, you may as well visit Gereja Santo Mikael or St. Michael’s Church. Built back in 1938 to replace an earlier church, it represents the strength of Catholicism in the village which arrived in the 1800s. Incredibly, Dutch missionaries were living in this remote area since the 1800s — it seems they were everywhere!
So there you have it. That’s my pick of places to visit in Pagar Alam. They’re all pretty cool places and can easily be visited over the course of two days. Definitely worth a visit, especially if you’re doing an overland trip through Sumatra.