A Hike To The Crater of Mount Sibayak [And How To]
We already wrote about our epic visit to Mount Bromo and watching the sunrise from the viewpoints near the town of Cemoro Lawang but it was weeks before when we actually visited our first volcano ever. Our first stop in Sumutra was Bukit Lawang where we did an awesome jungle hike to see the endangered orangutans. From there, we drove back to Medan with Luk and Vanessa, the nice couple that went into the jungle with us and offered us a ride back.
The shared taxi from Medan to Berastagi: Worst driver ever!
The next day we took a shared taxi to Berastagi and the day started nicely. The driver was on time and he seemed nice. He took us half an hour outside of the city to pick up another couple that was coming from Bukit Lawang that day. We waited for 10 minutes... 20... half an hour... Eventually they arrived around an hour late but is wasn't their fault so we were still in a good mood...
The drive from Medan to Berastagi takes around three hours and the first two were OK. The driver, like most Indonesian drivers, thought he was a race car driver but well, we were kind of used to that after traveling India and South East Asia for so long...
But then, after two hours, it got scary. The driver started to doze off while still driving like a maniac. We tried to talk to him to keep him awake and we let the other couple know that he was falling asleep. They had no clue. In the rear view mirror I could see his eyes closing every five minutes. He scratched his head or pinched his neck to stay awake... all signs that we had seen before... At one point though, going up the mountain, his eyes stayed close for a few seconds too long and he started swerving off the road. Without thinking, I slapped on his seat and yelled: “Ey, wake up!” He looked at me startled and confused asking me what the problem was...
“You're falling asleep!” Mad and confused he said: “You want stop to sleep!? No problem!” Wait, what? He started to drive even faster and visibly angry he mumbled some words. It became a horrible last 30 minutes because we couldn't just get out... Anyway, we arrived safely but shaken at our guesthouse where we could finally relax...
Hiking to the crater of the Sibayak Volcano
The guesthouse we stayed in was very basic and not the cleanest. We booked it for two nights and that was a mistake because we could've easily done the hike very early in the morning, like we did, and then leave Berastagi to our next destination. But well, traveling means making mistakes...
The next morning we left before sunrise and started hiking towards the starting point. At some point one of the minivans called bemo's offered us a ride to the starting point of the trail. We were happy to pay the bit extra when we realized we still had to walk two kilometers uphill.
We started hiking when the sun was rising and the first one to two hours was an easy but steep walk on an asphalt road. After that we arrived at a little shack where we had to register to go up the volcano and pay 10,000 rupiahs each. Then the real hike started. The asphalt road started to disappear and for half an hour it was incredibly steep. The trail started to narrow and the vegetation changed the higher up we got.
Before we arrived at the top of the volcano, we could already hear the steam vents roar like a jet engine. Then the trail opened up and there it was. The Sibayak volcano in all its glory. The steam vents create big clouds and were a spectacular view along with the yellow sulphur stains on the rocks. We walked to the vents to feel their power and from there we hiked even higher to the actual crater.
The view up there was out of this world. You can walk all the way up the crater rim to see the view from different sides. In the distance we could even see Mount Sinabung, a very active volcano. There were people around but it wasn't crowded at all and it was a great first volcano experience. The hike was tough and steep but the path is really easy to navigate.
How to hike to the crater of Gunung Sibayak
From your hotel, depending on where it is, you can either walk or take a bemo to the starting point for 50,000 rupiah. Then it's again up to you. You can either start from the 'starting point' and do the whole hike or you can ask a bemo to take you further up so you don't have to do the asphalt road. We took around 3 hours to go all the way up to the crater including the asphalt road.
Use the maps.me app and it will navigate you the whole way!
Do you need a guide to hike to the Sibayak volcano?
No you don't! The hike up is straight forward and you can't get lost if you go down the same way. When you visit the tourist information center you'll see the scary list of people who disappeared or died but when you take a good look you'll see that half of them only suffered an accident. It's a list of around 15 people over the course of almost 40 years. Accidents happen because there're a few deep drops along the path and people act stupid.
Just use your common sense. We even saw a few families hiking the paths with their your children. After doing it ourselves we can only advise you to be careful like you should when hiking anywhere else. Of course, if you don't feel comfortable or have no experience at all, just get that guide to go with you.