Bukit Lawang, Indonesia

Riverside village Bukit Lawang of Indonesia has become a popular tourist hub recently due to its ecotourism credentials and some of the most majestic jungle on the planet. It is particularly known for its Orangutan Rehabilitation Center. While the center no longer rehabilitates the great apes, visitors can witness the endangered primates in their natural habitat as wild and rehabilitated animals return regularly to feed. Bukit Lawang is also the main east-side access point for the UNESCO-listed Gunung Leuser National Park, and there are trekking opportunities aplenty.

The best travel tips for visiting Bukit Lawang

The area surrounding Bukit Lawang, located on Sumatra, is hilly and forested; it’s wise to pack light. Essentials include sturdy hiking shoes and a waterproof jacket; when it rains, boy does it rain.

Hire a local guide when exploring the jungle. Get a recommendation from a certified guide from your accommodation. They are reliably knowledgeable and provide interesting insights into the local flora and fauna. They also, most vitally, know the terrain well and ensure your safety while trekking through the jungle.

Bukit Lawang has no ATM. Bring enough cash and conceal it securely.

Need a hand planning your visit? Maybe our Indonesian local experts can help you out!

Smoke from breakfast at Sunrise in Base Camp in Indonesian Jungle - Gunung Leuser National Park © Shutterstock

Smoke from breakfast at Sunrise in Base Camp in Indonesian Jungle - Gunung Leuser National Park © Shutterstock

Best things to do in Bukit Lawang

A visit to Bukit Lawang is all about delving into the riches of the surrounding wilderness. Trekking through undulating jungle terrain, eyes peeled for all manner of flora and fauna, is the key activity here. Simply standing amid the swathes of diverse greenery feels incredibly special.

#1 Visit the Bohorok Orangutan Center

A one-hour hike through the jungle brings you to the platforms used for early-morning and afternoon feeding of wild and semi-wild orangutans. Permits are required from the PHKA office (take a photocopy of your passport with you).

The well-run Bukit Lawang station provides comfortable lodging, decent food, and a superb visitor centre complete with slide shows and information concerning local wildlife.

#2 Trek to Gunung Leuser National Park

The Gunung Leuser National Park is one of the most biologically diverse conservation sites on earth. Amid its extraordinarily diverse flora lives several endangered species including tigers, leopards and rhinos, as well as eight species of primate.

The larger animals can be rather illusive, but trekkers are sure to spy a variety of primates swinging through the canopy. The Bohorok Orangutan Center can arrange treks to the vast Gunung Leuser National Park, which can be a couple of hours or several days.

This type of jungle trekking is not for the uninitiated: leeches, malaria and protection from dampness are major concerns.

#3 Take a river dip

After a long and steamy hike in the jungle, cool off with a freshwater splash. The waters of the Landak River run through Bukit Lawang; it’s clean and clear, and you’ll no doubt join plenty of locals cooling off. There are also rafting activities on certain segments of the river.

#4 Fill up on local cuisine

Trekking is a hungry business, and eateries in Bukit Lawang serve up a slightly repetitive but well-prepared selection of Indonesian dishes. You’ll find all the local staples and fresh juices in good supply, as well as a smattering of Western fare for the homesick.

#5 Give something back

There are various ways visitors can potentially volunteer in the Bukit Lawang area, especially those with teaching or conservation experience.

Best areas to stay in Bukit Lawang

Bukit Lawang is a small place, and accommodation is all pretty close together. It’s worth noting that while most rooms are comfortable enough, many facilities will not have hot water. It’s also worth asking if they provide fans.


Guesthouses largely congregate around the riverbanks, offering simple comfort and wildlife-spotting opportunities.

Village Centre

A smattering of budget-friendly hostels and guesthouses are interspersed between the coffee shops and trekking companies.

Check the best accommodation in Bukit Lawang.

Best restaurants and bars

Bukit Lawang is not your destination for the wild party lifestyle, but you’ll find a convivial spirit and cold beer served up at most cafes and restaurants. The majority of guesthouses have an attached restaurant, and there are also some delightfully scenic river-side spots.

  • Indra Valley Inn Restaurant A popular restaurant serving both local and western cuisine.
  • Kapal Bambu This impressively crafted restaurant is made entirely from sustainably harvested bamboo and clay and serves up fresh food and tranquil views. Head here for your coffee fix.
  • Jungle Inn A reliably good vegan and vegetarian menu complete with fruit shakes, matcha smoothies, and fresh lassis.

Bukit Lawang orangutans © Shutterstock

How to get around

Bukit Lawang is a small tourist-focused town. Once here, your feet are your best vehicle.


Most hotels will book you a taxi, especially if you're travelling to/from the airport. You shouldn't need one in town though.

How many days do you need in Bukit Lawang?

Bukit Lawang doesn’t have a huge list of must-do activities and attractions. This is a small riverside town amid the jungle. Trekking is the reason to come here, and treks can be anything from a few hours to a few days.

You could spend a day or two relaxing by the river, set off on a few days of trekking, and return to relax and recuperate before heading onwards.

The river is great for a swim and there are more gentle birdwatching walks for those wanting a lower-key option to trekking. You’ll also find a scattering of art and craft-based classes. But for those keen to be on the go, a couple of days either side of any trek is more than sufficient.

For those more than happy to read a book to the sound of birdsong, then it’s a wonderful place to take a longer more restful pause. Need a hand planning? Contact our local experts!


Indeonesian nasi goreng © Shutterstock

Best time to visit

Weekends and public holidays see Bukit Lawang get rather busy as inhabitants from the region flock to the jungle. For a calmer introduction, arrive on a weekday.

The best time to visit Bukit Lawang is from June to September. There is typically less rainfall during this time, making trekking and other outdoor activities more accessible. The wet season, from October to May, can bring extremely heavy rain and with it a risk of flooding and landslides. Check the weather forecast before traveling.

Find out more about the best time to visit Indonesia.

How to get to Bukit Lawang

By minibus

The easiest way to reach Bukit Lawang from Medan is with the tourist minibuses that take three hours and depart around 10am. They offer door-to-door pickup.

By bus

Direct buses run from Medan to Bukit Lawang. Swerve Medan’s main bus terminal and head 900m north to the Mawar Bakery in Kampung Lampung; orange buses leave every 30 minutes. The trip takes four hours. Alight at Gotong Royong and take a becak ride (around 10,000Rp) to the main centre. From Medan airport take the ALS bus to Binjai (40,000Rp, two hours, every 45 minutes); from Binjai, buses either leave from the Supermall, or you will need to take a becak (20,000Rp) to the Bukit Lawang bus stop, where the orange PB Semesta minibus (30,000Rp to 50,000Rp, two hours) continues to Gotong Royong.

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