Things to do in Pagar Alam, South Sumatra, Indonesia

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!

Gunung DempoClimbing 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

Pagar Alam Tea PickersThe 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.

3. Waterfalls

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)

Pagar Alam WaterfallCughup 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)

Pagar Alam WaterfallCughup 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

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.

Pagar Alam Kids PlayingWhen 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.

4. Megaliths

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.

5. Hotsprings

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.


Pagar Alam, South Sumatra, Indonesia: Green as far as the eye can see

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.Pagar Alam Gunung Dempo

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!)Pagar Alam Waterfall

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.

Pagar Alam WaterfallThe 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.Pagar Alam Tea Pickers

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.Pagar Alam Kids Playing

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.