Medan, the bustling capital of North Sumatra, Indonesia, serves as a cultural and adventure gateway on the island.  With its rich history, stunning architecture, and proximity to natural wonders.  Medan offers a captivating mix of activities for tourists and photographers alike.  Here’s your ultimate guide to exploring Medan and its surroundings.

Iconic Landmarks – Things to do in Medan

Great Mosque of Medan (Masjid Raya Al Mashun)

Great Mosque of Medan (Masjid Raya Al Mashun)

This majestic mosque, completed in 1909, features stunning architecture influenced by the Dutch colonial era.  Imported marble and stained glass windows add to its grandeur.  Lastly, visit during the rain for mesmerizing reflection shots.

Maimun Palace

Maimun Palace, Medan

Known for its Instagram-worthy façade, Maimun Palace is the royal palace of the Sultanate of Deli.  Though my visit was somewhat obscured by a local fair, the palace’s historical significance and architectural beauty are undeniable.

Our Lady of Good Health Church

A serene haven in the heart of the city, this church is a testament to Medan’s diverse cultural fabric.

Sri Mariamman Temple

This vibrant Hindu temple offers a colorful insight into the spiritual practices of Medan’s Indian community.

Natural and Cultural Excursions

Lake Toba

Lake Toba, Sumatra

Just a three-hour drive from Medan, Lake Toba is a stunning natural wonder set in the caldera of a supervolcano.  Known for being the largest volcanic lake in the world, it offers a peaceful retreat with breathtaking views.  Consider staying in Parapat or the more popular Tuk Tuk on Samosir Island.



On the way to Lake Toba, stop in Berastagi to explore local attractions like the Sipiso-piso Waterfall and the Natural Park Lumbini, famous for its striking Buddhist temple.

Bukit Lawang Orangutan Viewing Center

Bukit Lawang Orangutan Viewing Center

A must-visit for wildlife enthusiasts, this conservation area provides a chance to see orangutans in their natural habitat.

Batak Museum

Batak Museum, Lake Toba

Located on Samosir Island, this museum offers fascinating insights into the culture, customs, and history of the local Batak people.  Don’t miss the scenic path leading up to a stunning lake viewpoint.

Dining and Accommodations

Medan boasts an array of affordable luxury hotels, especially near key attractions like Little India.  For dining, explore local flavors along Jalan Alor Food Street, or enjoy the culinary offerings within the hotels for a more consistent experience.

Getting Around

Renting a car with a driver is incredibly affordable and allows for easy exploration at your own pace.  For those preferring structured tours, the Hop-On Hop-Off bus service in Medan connects major tourist spots efficiently.

Rahmat International Wildlife Museum & Gallery

This lesser-known gem houses an extensive collection of taxidermied animals from around the globe, providing a unique indoor escape.

Medan Culinary Experiences

Don’t miss out on the rich culinary diversity.  Try the local delicacy, Bika Ambon, and visit the night markets for street food adventures.

Shopping in Medan

Parapat, Lake Toba

Visit Sun Plaza and Medan Mall for a mix of local and international brands, providing a complete shopping experience.

Enjoy the Things to Do In Medan and Lake Toba

Batak Museum, Lake Toba

Medan is more than just a stopover; it’s a deep dive into the historical and cultural depths of Indonesia.  Whether it’s exploring ancient palaces, trekking to a volcanic lake, or experiencing vibrant local traditions.  Medan offers a rich tapestry of experiences waiting to be discovered.

How to Travel From Medan to Jakarta by Land

From Lake Toba my driver took me back to Medan which meant I could continue my journey on to Jakarta.  From Medan I traveled to Jakarta by bus which is a long 2 day journey.  It leaves Medan late afternoon and arrives in Jakarta 2 days later in the evening.  I traveled to Jakarta with Putra Pelangi.  What’s more, you can buy your ticket from their office in Medan.  Moreover, the bus is quite luxurious and better than I thought it would be.

Alternatively, take the ferry from Medan to Jakarta.  Pelni Ferries offer a direct service from Medan (Belawan) to Jakarta.  You can buy tickets for the ferry and check the schedule in the office in Medan.

Jakarta to Yogyakarta

A visit to the points of interest of Medan, Sumatra including the Mosque of Medan, the Maimun Palace and Lake Toba before traveling to Jakarta.