Mount Sibayak last erupted over a century ago but it remains geothermically active with steam vents, hot springs and a slowly churning sulphurous crater lake. It’s also one of the most climbed volcanoes in Sumatra due to its ready access from the popular town of Berastagi and an easy 2-3 hour climb to the crater rim, although there are longer routes if you’re looking for something a little more adventurous.
Though not the shortest, the easiest and most popular route is starting from Berastagi. Using the Sibayak Multinational Guesthouse as a reference point, follow the road 10min past the guesthouse until you reach an entrance hut and cashbox on the left. The admission fee seems to vary from 5.000-10.000Rp depending on who’s manning the box. From there just follow your nose along the road until you see a path cutting off to the left that snakes its way up the southwest flank of the mountain. It’s a pretty well-worn trail from there to the top of the rim where the views back over Berastagi are sublime, especially at sunrise. All up it’s roughly 7km’s and 2-3 hours to reach this point. You can cut this down to 4km and 1.5-2 hours if you take an ojek 3km further along the road Jaranguda near where the last section of trail starts. Just about any ojek will know where to drop you off.
From this point on the rim follow a well worn trail down across the crater to the small pyramid peak on your right called Puncak Antene (Antenna peak) on account of the antenna’s that are no longer there. From there, drop back down towards the crater lake and head up to the side of the cliffs to reach the higher peak of Tapal Kuda (2,101m). This is best vantage point for views over the crater and across to Gunung Pintau, Sibayak’s true but unreachable summit.
After Tapal Kuda, rather than return by the same route, trek back around the lowest point on the crater rim and pick up the trail going down the southeast face towards Semangat Gunung (look for the steps). The trail is a little narrow and steep in places but clearly discernible and in around 90min you can be enjoying a soak in the hot springs at Semangat Gunung. Angkots run back to Berastagi regularly but only when full so you might have to wait awhile.
Most of the guesthouses in the Berastagi region will be able to provide you with a mud map for the Mount Sibayak trek but they will likely urge you to take a guide. Give it consideration as hikers have disappeared on the mountain, most likely after having taken a wrong turn and gotten lost in the surrounding jungle. If you’re planning to trek in the dark to be on the crater rim by 6:00am for sunset, a guide really is essential.
The third route known as the Tongkoh route, starts from Air Terjun Panorama, about 5km north of Berastagi on the Medan road. This is a fairly gruelling 5-6 hour jungle trek and should only be attempted by experienced trekkers and definitely only with a good guide.