Indonesia is a ‘gold mine’ of popular Muslim-friendly holiday destinations. With throngs of tourists far and wide flocking to Bali, Jakarta and Bandung, it’s amazing how many hidden gems are still waiting to be uncovered!
Introducing Pekanbaru - one of Sumatra’s well-kept secrets - that’s bound to attract those who crave for a unique adventure in a less-travelled haven. This bustling capital of the Riau Province is rich in Islamic history, arts and culture with nearby attractions that are home to contrasting cliffs, green hills and lakes, creating a breathtaking backdrop of natural scenery. ?
Scoot’s newly launched flight route from Singapore to Pekanbaru from just $35 one-way gives you all the reason you need to visit this underrated vacation spot. Your precious off days will not be wasted on air miles as the flight only takes 35 minutes! ?
With so much more to explore, this stunning gem of a city is absolutely worth visiting! Here, we give you 12 amazing reasons why you need to get there before the crowd does.
1. Bask in the untouched beauty of the Yosemite of Indonesia, Harau Valley
Credit: @fazakarimilhi on Instagram
The hulking granite cliffs and the vibrant green set against the clear blue skies of Harau Valley is why this nature reserve is known as the Yosemite of Indonesia. Located 3 hours away from Pekanbaru, the paddy fields sitting in the shadow of towering cliffs is a sight to behold.
Credit: James Gagen on Flickr
Hike up the canyon for a panoramic view or follow the river trail to find hidden waterfalls yet untouched by tourists. Take a dip in one of the 6 sarasah (meaning waterfall in local Minang language) after a long day of exploring. There are 4 neighbouring waterfalls nearby the Harau village. But the best ones are located much deeper in the valley and about 4 hours away on foot which also means it’s less frequented by tourists! The 4-hour hike will give you a chance to take in the diverse landscape of the valley. ?
#HHWT Tip: Sarasah Harau and Sarasah Aia Angek are your best bet to avoid the crowd! Stay safe on this long hike by getting a local guide from the homestays nearby.
Credit: @anoct on Instagram
The rock formations here also makes this a popular rock climbing destination. Look for a local guide in the nearby homestays to take you to the best spots for climbing.
2. Marvel at Pekanbaru’s largest mosque, the Great Mosque of An-Nur
Credit: @luffyaliandirifai on Instagram
The Great Mosque of An-Nur is one of the finest mosques in Indonesia. Fondly known as Pekanbaru’s very own mini Taj Mahal, its architecture has a mixture of various cultural influences - Malay, Turkish, Indian and Arabic. The white and turquoise exterior of this grand mosque is complemented by the large yard that surrounds it. The best time to visit is when the mosque is all lit up at night! ✨
3. Wander through the historical Islamic kingdom of Siak Sri Indrapura
Credit: @latritresnawati on Instagram
Set alongside the Siak River, this used to be the largest Islamic Kingdom of Riau at the height of Siak Sri Indrapura’s Sultanate from the 16th to the 20th century. The palace-turned-museum homes a collection of the royal family’s crowns, traditional weaponry, gold-plated throne and large photographs portraying the Siak Era in all its glory. Relive the olden days when Islam first came to Sumatra and learn about its thriving history from the 16th century to what it is today. As you stroll through the palatial corridors, keep an eye out for a bust of Sultan Syarif Hasyim I made entirely of marble...and encrusted with diamonds! ?
Credit: @puguhekosuprapto on Instagram
The palace, built in 1889, is encircled by a beautiful garden with a magnificent view of the old kingdom and nearby Siak mosque (also known as the Syahabuddin mosque). Located 2-3 hours from Pekanbaru, the best way to get here is by boat as traffic heading back to Pekanbaru tends to pile up in the evening.
4. Delight in authentic (and halal!) miso and sate rusa near Jalan Sudirman
Credit: Pierre on Flickr
There are so many variants of Indonesian cuisines, and each one of them is just as delicious as the other. While you’re in town, you will see plenty of humble warongs and street stalls dotted along the roadside. If you’re looking to savour the treats and dishes that are uniquely native to Pekanbaru and Riau Province, keep your eyes out for these:
Lempok Durian - durian toffee or kueh (Pusat Oleh-oleh Mega Rasa)
Credit: @fiamettafebie on Instagram
Miso - an assortment of noodles served in chicken and soy broth (Miso Ceker Sudirman)
Credit: @ivanpermanatan on Instagram
Sate Sop Rusa - deer meat satay and soup (Warung Era 51)
Credit: @nurasri05 on Instagram
Lopek Bugi - a Buginese kueh made of glutinous rice flour filled with grated coconut filling
Credit: @liamarta on Instagram
5. Shop for unique souvenirs and local products at Pekanbaru’s oldest market
Pasar Bawah is a popular spot for a souvenir hunt! The local artisans, farmers and villagers peddle their unique, handmade products at bargain price. From antiques and ratan bags to hand woven tops and local snacks, this is a one-stop centre for tourists to get an insight on Riau’s blooming local culture. ?
P.S. Sounds like an exciting adventure? Scoot on over to Pekanbaru with flights starting from $35 one-way!
6. Visit Sumatra’s largest ‘open book’ library
Credit: @aditpratama on Instagram
Located in the heart of Pekanbaru, the HS Soeman Library’s unique architecture is designed like an open rehal (a Quran plinth) which also resembles an open book ?. A definite eye-catcher, this six-storey library has a vast collection of literature depicting Riau’s colourful trading and oil industry, its Islamic heritage and the Malay culture. Some of these historical literatures have been translated into English which is a rare find in Indonesia!
#HHWT Tip: There’s an air-conditioned prayer facility inside the library.
7. Explore the ancient remnants of Sumatra’s largest temple complex
Just a mere 2 hours away from Pekanbaru, the ancient Muara Takus Temple is the only Buddhist temple in Riau and the largest in Sumatra. This UNESCO World Heritage Site sits in the middle of a jungle clearing. Till today, archaeologists are unable to specify which century Muara Takus Temple was first constructed but believed that it belonged to the Srivijaya empire. However, locals claimed that the 12th century inhabitants in the nearby Pongkai village built the temple using sandstone, stone and bricks (which is uncommon in those days!) and handed it over to one another in a long line that led to the temple complex.
8. Immerse in Pekanbaru’s lively arts scene at Idrus Tintin Art Pavilion
Credit: @illamestika92 on Instagram
This aesthetically beautiful building (named after local artist) is an art and culture centre and a venue for performing arts. Dubbed as one of “The Wonder Buildings of Pekanbaru” for its unique take on Malay-style architecture, this has become the local hangout spot. The Art Pavilion is often described as palatial and grand. Even if you’re not a performing arts enthusiast, the impressive exterior will inspire even the most amateur of photographers to snap some Insta-worthy shots! ?
9. Make waves at Sumatra’s largest water park
Credit: @labersa_riaufantasi on Instagram
Sitting on a vast 16-acre land, Riau Fantasi is the largest water and theme park in Sumatra. Bathe in the 6 giant pools made to cater to all ages, race down the 4 water slides or if you’re not up for a swim, visit the theme park and go on a rollercoaster ride! There’s tons of fun things that you can do. ??
#HHWT Tip: The prayer facility is located near the gazebo.
10. Test your courage at Alam Mayang Recreational Park
Credit: @yogiewd on Instagram
This green open space is the perfect hideout from all the hustle and bustle of Pekanbaru town. Alam Mayang Recreational Park offers a variety of amazing activities perfect for a fun-filled outing. Rub shoulders with the locals as you ride the ATVs, go on the flying fox, test your aim at the shooting range or just kick back by the lake.
11. Cool off and unwind at Sari Valley Artificial Lake
Credit: Virginia State Park on Flickr
This ‘lake’ used to be an irrigation dam supplying water to the nearby paddy fields and villages. Now, it’s one of Pekanbaru’s popular outdoor attractions just 10 kilometres away! Surrounded by lush hills, the constant cool breeze coming through the trees lets you enjoy a day out on the waters. Paddle boats and water bikes are available for rent. Be sure to pack a picnic!
12. Learn the Riau-Malay cultural heritage at Sang Nila Utama Museum
Credit: @waw_wid on Instagram
Sang Nila Utama Museum displays the Riau-Malay culture with a collection of traditional clothings, musical instruments and folk games gathered from Riau’s various regions.
Just 35 minutes away on Scoot, Pekanbaru is one of Indonesia’s most underrated gems that’ll charm travellers with its fusion of green landscapes, modern and traditional architecture and cultural heritage.
Scoot, the low-cost airline that allows you to customise your flights as you want, is launching its inaugural flight from Singapore to Pekanbaru on June 4th. From now till May 25th, Scoot is offering all-in-fares from just $35 (taxes not included) for travel by October 27th 2018! With flights 4 times weekly, this unexplored haven is now within your reach. So, grab a seat on-board and buckle up! It’s time for a magical adventure ?
P.S. Here’s your chance to board the inaugural flight from Singapore to Pekanbaru on June 4th! 5 pairs of return tickets (taxes not included) are up for grabs for an exciting escapade unlike any other ? Check out our Facebook post to find out how.
This article was brought to you by Scoot.