Photo: Overlooking Berastagi.

Introduction

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Berastagi is the homeland of the Karo people, a Batak sub-group with different rituals, houses and character to their Batak neighbours, the Batak Toba and Batak Simalungun. The Batak Karo are a majority Christian community who attend church with fervour, providing a contrast to what is seen in many other parts of Sumatra.


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For a century Berastagi has been a place where foreigners come to seek respite from the oppressive heat of Medan. Today, people visit to climb one of Indonesia’s easier to climb volcanoes, Gunung Sibayak. Up until a few years ago, many people also enjoyed climbing Gunung Sinabung, but continuing eruptions and seismic instability have meant that this place is now off limits. Signs of this volcanic activity can often be seen from Gundaling, Berastagi’s local picnic and sunset watching spot.

Because of the unique Karo culture throughout the region surrounding Berastagi, it’s possible to hop on a motorbike or minibus (in this area called an opelet) and visit villages which still contain traditional long houses.

As far as local foods go, this is an area famous for the sale of two dishes -- B1 and B2. Whenever you see a restaurant selling B1, this is a reference to dog. B2 is a reference to pig and is often tied up with the initials BPK or Babi Panggang Karo (Karo roasted pig). Aside from these specialities, the town of Berastagi plays host to a wide range of foods, especially at night when dozens of stalls set up selling all sorts of Indonesian dishes.

Located at about 1,300 metres above sea level, temperatures in Berastagi are markedly cooler than Medan and at night temperatures can drop so low you’ll need a light sweater. During the day, shorts and T-shirt are still the norm for most people, especially if climbing Gundaling or Gunung Sibayak.




Orientation
There is only one main road in Berastagi and most food and accommodation is centred on this area. For ease of reference, the southern end of the main road is bordered by a cabbage monument and the northern end of the main road is bordered by a military monument.

When standing on the main road and facing north to the military monument, you can turn left to reach both Gundaling and Gunung Sibayak as well as a few accommodation options up the hill such as Wisma Sunrise View. It’s also near this monument that hundreds of opelet and large buses pass taking passengers to Medan, Kabanjahe, Gundaling and the Gunung Sibayak ticket office.

A number of ATMs line the main street, the tourist office is located next to the northern monument and local hospitals (located closer to Kabanjahe than Berastagi itself) are able to help with minor ailments, although we’d recommend heading to Medan for anything serious.

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What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Berastagi.
 Check prices, availability & reviews on Agoda
 Read up on where to eat on Berastagi.
 Check out our listings of things to do in and around Berastagi.
 Read up on how to get to Berastagi.
 Do you have travel insurance yet? If not, find out why you need it.
 Planning on riding a scooter in Berastagi? Please read this.
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