Driving from Banda Aceh to Lake Toba via Lintas Barat - Visit the footprint of a GIANT

Route: Banda Aceh – Meulaboh – Subulussalam – Lake Toba

Find the detailed route here.

The Lintas Barata between Banda Aceh and Meulaboh is a fantastic stretch of road. It has beautiful views along the coast, is in great condition, and most long-haul trucks seem to prefer Lintas Timor which makes for relaxed driving. We enjoyed it before on our way to Sabang, so we decided to head back the same route again. After all the stressful moments on Lintas Timor, we rather take the same stretch of road twice then facing the crazy traffic and trucks again.

Viewpoint between Banda Aceh and Meulaboh

You can find out more about the route and great spots between Meulaboh and Banda Aceh here.

Camping in Meulaboh

Pantai Lhok Raja is a beach located just 15km outside Meulaboh. It is a very long beach with a pine forest right behind the sand. There are lots of simple beach cafés on the first part of the beach, but if you driver further along the road you will find a lot of empty land with shady and relaxing spots. We also found a small lake where some water buffalos were cooling down. The afternoon sun made the whole area look like a magical place. It’s ideal for camping but unfortunately there was a lot of plastic rubbish spread all around the grass.

To be polite and safe, we asked some of the security guards at the beaches’ entrance for permission to set up camp. They told us to talk to Pak Ci, the head of the village, first. This turned out to be very difficult, as we had of course no idea where in the village to look for him. Instead of spending our evening looking for Pak Ci, we decided to enjoy the place and grill the fish be bought earlier while watching the sky show off its many shades of red and pink.

After dinner, we drove back to the city and stayed in a hotel. Looking back, we should have just set up camp and leave in case someone told us off. This was an empty public beach so most likely no one would have been bothered by us camping there.

Meulaboh to Subulussalam

On this stretch, the Lintas Barat continued to impress us. In some parts it runs along the coast, in others you have to cross some hilly palm oil plantations, the first ones in over a week. Here are some recommended stops along the route:

Restaurant Pantai Putih

This is an old seafood restaurant. It does not look like much, but as often in Indonesia, don’t let the appearance of a place fool you. They sell delicious seafood which you can eat right on the beach. It was a welcome break on this long driving day. This is its locations.  ,

The beach around this area is beautiful with crystal clear water. The access to the beach is often blocked by houses, but if you have more time to explore, I am sure you’ll find a spot to get to the beach. This area is for sure a great place to go for a swim or even camp for a night.

Tapak Tuan

Did you ever want to see the footprint of a giant? This is the place to go!

You can find several sights connected to the legend of Tapak Tuan in this town, the main one being a spot on the cliffs looking like a huge footprint. If you want to know more about the legend this towns tourism centres around, have a look at this article.

There is no ticket to enter the main area, but when we got there some locals insisted on a small “donation”. It’s just a short walk from the parking area to the footprint. However, the viewing platform which leads over the cliffs, is in dire need of repair. It was blocked off but when we saw others step over the barrier we followed. Looking back, I would not recommend doing that. Some parts of the platform look like they might collapse any minute. Hopefully it will be rebuilt once tourism starts picking up again. There is also a path which leads past the platform up onto a hill. From there you get a nice view over the cliffs, but the view of the main attraction is covered by vegetation.

I would not say that this a must-see place, but it’s a quirky sight along the route and a fun place to stop if you need to stretch and move your body for a while. Also, watch out for the funny statue of a giant foot stepping on a dragon while passing through this town.


Subulussalam to Samosir on Lake Toba

Our initial plan was to drive all the way from Meulaboh to Sidikalang in a day. We expected the road to continue to be in great condition all the way, so we did not worry after passing Subulussalam in the dawn. However, soon after leaving the town, it started pouring down and the wide road turned into a narrow, steep mountain road passing through the dark and foggy rainforest. We started to doubt our decision to continue driving through the night and when we passed a spot where half of the road had been swept away by a landslide, we made up our minds and turned around to spend the night in Subulussalam. In this small town you can find several simple hotels and of course lots of Warungs to have dinner at.

Getting up early the next day definitely paid off. The morning sun gently suffused the thick rainforest with light. Combined with the morning mist nature created another stunning sight for us. Seeing the road in the daylight, we were glad about our decision to turn around and stay in Subulussalam the night before. First of all, it’s a beautiful road to drive and I would not have wanted to miss the views by passing though it in the dark. And second of all, it took as a lot longer than expected to reach Sidikalang, the next town after Subulussalam offering accommodation.

One of the few trucks taking the Lintas Barat. 

From Sidikalang it was an easy drive to Tele, the entry place to the western shore of Lake Toba and the only bridge connecting Samosir island to the mainland.

Stay tuned for more information about stunning viewpoints, campsites and routes around Tele and Pulau Samosir.

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