15 things to do in Aceh (Indonesia)

Aceh, a province at the northern tip of Indonesia, has far fewer tourists than many other parts of the country. The province is best known for the devastating 2004 tsunami that killed nearly 200,000 people, and it’s the only place in Indonesia that has Sharia law. However, the province is lesser known for its attractions and natural beauty, but Aceh actually has some of the best beaches in the country, and the capital, Banda Aceh, has a lot to offer.

If you like interesting museums and beautiful architecture, you’ll find many fascinating locations in Banda Aceh, as well as several monuments to those who died when the tsunami struck. Banda Aceh isn’t the only notable place in the province, however, and you can easily find golden sands and tranquil islands along the coast. Aceh is also home to one of Indonesia’s most famous national parks, with trekking, hiking and camping opportunities available throughout the province.

Let’s take a look at the best things to do in Aceh:

1. Visit the Tsunami Museum

Tsunami Museum

With more than 170,000 people killed in Aceh due to the 2004 tsunami, Banda Aceh’s Tsunami Museum is both a monument to the tragedy and an educational center.

The museum has scrolling footage of the tsunami and aftermath, but one of the most fascinating parts of the museum is the waterfall section, designed to mimic the feel of towering ocean waves.

These areas of the museum consist of dark corridors dripping with water, and as you move, you will be able to hear the surging waves around you.

This is a powerful and very moving experience and one of the most famous attractions in Aceh.

2. Camping at Blang Kolam Waterfall

blancolam falls

If you are Lhokseumawe in Aceh province, then consider heading to Sidomulyo village where you will find Blang Kolam waterfall.

Actually a double cataract, the waterfall reaches over 75 meters high and is surrounded by beautiful rainforest.

You can hike to waterfalls, pass through lush rainforest, take in breathtaking views, and at the end of a sweaty hike you’ll be rewarded with a cool mist from the gushing water.

Many people also choose to bring some camping gear for the night as the environment is so peaceful, so if you like to mingle with nature, get ready to camp in the middle of the forest​.

3. Board the PLTD Apung

PLTD Apon

Understandably, Aceh has a series of attractions dedicated to tsunamis, another of which is located in Banda Aceh is PLTD Apung, which is the name of a large ship.

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When the tsunami hit Aceh, it took the ship inland, where it has been stationed ever since, and is now preserved in memory of those who perished in the rough waters.

You can visit the ship and even climb aboard and from the deck of the ship you can enjoy the view all over the city.

A peculiar attraction and a timely reminder of the power of the sea, it’s worth a visit to see the ship parked in the heart of the city.

4. Grab a coffee at Warung Kopi Solong

Warung Kopi Solong

People may not realize that Aceh is famous for its coffee, but in fact Aceh beans are in high demand throughout Indonesia.

To try some for yourself, you’ll need to head to Warung Kopi Solong, which has been in business since the 1970s and is a famous place to go if you want quality coffee in the province.

This coffee shop also serves a variety of snacks, and you can see how they grind the beans, as well as their amazing coffee pouring technique, which filters the coffee before it goes into your glass.

You can even buy their signature bean bags here as souvenirs to take home.

This coffee shop is very popular in Banda Aceh and is also the place to go if you want to see how the locals hang out in a province where alcohol is banned and bars and nightclubs do not exist.

5. Enjoy the rainforest at Ketambe

Gunung Leuser National Park

Gunung Leuser National Park begins in North Sumatra and extends all the way to Aceh.

Many people choose to visit the park via Bukit Lawang in Sumatra, but if you want a more secluded part of the rainforest away from the crowds, the best place is Ketambe in Aceh.

The park is made up of pristine tropical rainforest and is home to a large number of flora and fauna, including orangutans and monkeys.

You can go on a range of hikes, from short day trips to longer treks that take days, allowing you to camp in the middle of the forest.

6. Visit Negeri Banda Aceh Museum

Negri Museum

If you want to learn more about this corner of Indonesia, the Aceh Museum in Banda Aceh is a great place to visit.

It’s not the biggest museum in Aceh, but it’s full of interesting galleries where you’ll find items such as old agricultural equipment, textiles, weapons, and even some local quirks.

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One of them is the stuffed baby buffalo on display, famous for having two heads.

The museum is closed on Mondays, but if you’re in the area at other times, make sure you don’t miss it if you want to delve into Aceh’s culture and history.

7. Explore Rumah Aceh

Negribanda Aceh Museum

Rumah Aceh is actually part of the Negeri Banda Aceh Museum and consists of traditional local houses on stilts.

The former residence has been turned into a museum, giving people an idea of ​​how the people of Aceh lived in the days gone by.

This is one of the best examples of traditional architecture, so don’t miss it when you visit the Negeri Banda Aceh Museum.

8. Sunbathe at Lampuk Beach

Lampke Beach

Some of the best beaches in Indonesia are located in Aceh, although some of them are suitable for surfing and other water sports.

Currents can be strong around Aceh, so if you want to swim and sunbathe, head to Lampuk Beach, just outside Banda Aceh.

The beach has miles of sand and is a great place to go if you want to sunbathe or paddle in the water.

Since the beach is about 20 minutes away from the capital, you can easily spend the day there, overlooking the majestic Indian Ocean, offering you breathtaking sea views.

9. Visit Kerhof

Kerhof

Banda Aceh is full of moving monuments, one of which is Kherkhof, a large cemetery filled with Indonesian and Dutch graves.

These tombs belonged to soldiers who were buried here after being killed in battles with the Acehnese.

Unfortunately, the cemetery was partially destroyed by the tsunami and the tombstones could not be preserved, but these have now been replaced by simple wooden crosses and you can also find inscriptions of the deceased’s names at the entrance to the cemetery.

10. Marvel at Mesjid Raya Baiturrahman

Mejid Raya Baiturahman

Mesjid Raya Baiturrahman, commonly known simply as Mesjid Raya, which means the main mosque, is probably the most beautiful of all the attractions in Banda Aceh.

The mosque was built in the 19th century during the Dutch colonial period and is decorated with ornate aesthetics.

Once inside, you will find beautiful towering domes as well as works of Islamic art, and the view of the mosque when illuminated at night is not to be missed.

You can visit the mosque outside of prayer hours, and non-Muslims are allowed in as long as you dress conservatively.

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11. View Gunungan

Gunungan

Gunongan is one of Banda Aceh’s top attractions, although you might not know what it is at first glance.

In fact, Gunongan is a monument built by Sultan Iskandar Muda for his wife.

Iskandar Muda commissioned the statue, which will also be used by the princess as a bathing place, when she missed her hometown of Pahang in Malaysia.

Now the monument is open to the public, the stone carvings and carvings here are well worth a visit.

12. Go surfing at Lhok Nga

Loya

Many people may be surprised to hear that there are places to surf in Aceh, but just 15 kilometers from the central hub of Banda Aceh is Lhok Nga, famous for its water sports.

The water here is choppy and there are some great surf spots, so you can easily rent a board and hit the water with the wind and waves.

Besides surfing, kitesurfing is also popular here, where you can glide across the sea while harnessing the wind.

13. Dinner at Pasar Malam Rek

Noodle

Banda Aceh is famous for its night markets, one of the best is Pasar Malam Rek.

Once night falls, the market opens with stalls set up selling delicious food such as noodles, fried snacks and Indonesian satay or kebabs.

It’s also one of the cheapest places to sample local food, so if you’re on a budget or just want to sample a range of local delicacies, don’t miss this night market on your itinerary.

14. Pulau Weh Snorkeling

Pulau Weh

Pulau Weh is one of the main reasons people go to Aceh province, and the beaches here easily rival those in Bali.

A short ferry ride from Banda Aceh brings you to this secluded island surrounded by turquoise waters and lined with soft golden sand.

The best snorkeling and diving in Indonesia can be found just offshore from Pulau Weh, as the visibility is excellent and you can expect plenty or underwater life including turtles and rays.

15. Climb Pantan Terong Mountain

View from Pantan Terong Hill

Located in the center of Aceh is the Pantan Terong Mountain at an altitude of 1,830 meters.

Domestic tourists flock to climb the mountain, and the main reason for doing so is to enjoy the breathtaking views from the summit.

From the top of the hill, you can see the adjacent glass lake, like a cauldron, and admire the lush tropical scenery.

Where to Stay: Best Hotels in Aceh, Indonesia
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