Known as the land of a thousand waterfalls and megaliths, Pagar Alam is a hidden gem found in the hills of South Sumatra. This small unassuming city is relatively unknown to foreign visitors, which makes it an ideal destination for exploring before it gets too touristy. While we were there, we only met 1 foreign solo traveller from New York!
Pagar Alam is located 298km from the city of Palembang, and is completely surrounded by breathtaking hills and mountain ridges. If you need some fresh air away from the city and crowds, Pagar Alam is an awesome alternative destination. (Yes you can still find clean air from our neighbours)
We were in Pagar Alam for a couple of days and here are some of my favourite things to do in Pagar Alam.
(1) Climb Mount Dempo
Image credit: Jimz
At 3,173m high, Mount Dempo is the highest volcano in South Sumatra. For the adventurous, you can choose to hike up this active volcano for it’s spectacular views.There are 7 craters around the summit and even a 400m wide lake. Better still, camp at the caldera near the top of Mount Dempo! Sleep under the stars and take in the sunrise in the morning.
For the seasoned hiker, it takes about 3hrs up and slightly under that to decent. While a guide is not required, for your safety, you do have to get a permit at the carpark starting point.
If you’re interested to plan your hike, check out this useful guide to Mount Dempo from IndoVolcanos.
(2) Get soaked in waterfalls
A trip to the land of a thousand waterfalls wouldn’t be complete without actually visiting at least one. We went to Curup Embun or Embun waterfall, located near Mount Dempo. The waterfall splits at the top, forming 3 beautiful streams on the way down before ending at a shallow pool. What I like most is that because the water is pretty shallow, it’s safe for you to walk right up to the waterfall. One of the guys had a good water massage standing under one of the steams!
From the entrance, you’ll need to take a 5 minute walk down to the waterfall. Do make a stop at the washroom or snack shops before heading down though. There was also this satay uncle selling grilled snails and cow stomachs on skewers! The grilled snails went very well with the spicy sauce and were so cheap that I can’t remember the price. Escargots on a budget!
Curup Lematang, Curup Maung and Curup Mangkok are worth checking out too.
(3) Go megalith hunting
Go back in time hunting for ancient megaliths all over the Pasemah Highlands in Pagar Alam. While no one knows who erected the megalithic monuments, archaeologists agree that these stone statues date back to at least 3000 years ago. Many of these ancient sites can be found at odd places, in the middle of plantations or just off the side of the road.
The more obvious sites are Tinggi Hari, Atung Bungsu, Tebing Tinggi, and Tegur Wangi.
(4) Explore tea plantations
Pagar Alam is literally surrounded by tea plantations. Wherever you look, the blanket of green stretches as far as the eye can see. Every day, thousands of tea pickers go about the plantations, picking young tea leaves for sorting. We simply drove by one of the many tea plantations, and alighted to explore and take pictures. Most of the tea pickers were very friendly as well, and would greet you with warm smiles. If you know Bahasa Indonesia, I’m sure they would strike up a conversation with you!
For those really interested in tea, you can even try to arrange a visit to the old school tea factory.
(5) Fuel the adrenaline junkie in you
The thing that surprised me the most though, were the outdoor activities available in Pagar Alam. Other than climbing Mount Dempo, you can go white water rafting, hop on a motocross dirt bike, or drive an off road buggy!
There is a community of adrenaline junkies who gather at a track near Padang Serunting as well. That was where we were lucky enough to be taken on a spin!
Where to stay at Pagar Alam:
We stayed at Villa & Hotel Wisata Gunung Gare, which has basic but comfortable rooms and villas. What I love most is that it’s situated near the foot of a mountain, in the middle of some tea plantations. Simply step outside for wonderful views already.
Address: Gunung Dempo, South Pagar Alam, Pagar Alam City, South Sumatra, Indonesia
How to get to Pagaralam:
The easiest way from Singapore to Pagaralam is to first fly from Singapore to Palembang (6 flights/week).
From Palembang, you can then fly to Atung Bungsu Airport in Pagaralam (4 times a week – Mon, Thu, Fri, Sat).
Alternatively, I would suggest renting a car or driver from Palembang and taking a slow 7 hour drive to Pagaralam. Doing this road trip style will give you a lot more opportunities to drive past other beautiful sites in South Sumatra. The last stretch towards Pagaralam is extremely scenic.
You can also fly via Aviastar from Jakarta to Pagaralam (1 flight/week)
If you’re not confident of arranging this trip due to language difficulties, I’ll suggest using a tour agency instead. We went with Gama Hita Mulia Travels, and loved our guides Inggih and Dwiki. Do say help me say hi if you see them!
Information correct as of published date of post: 4 Apr ’16