Mount Sinabung is an active volcano located under an hour from Berastagi. If you’ve been to the top of Gunadaling Hill overlooking the town, you’ll have seen the impressive conical mountain smoking away in the distance.
Once one of Sumatra’s most popular peaks to climb, Sinabung suddenly burst to life in August 2010 after having lain dormant for over four centuries. The eruption saw thousands of local people fleeing their homes but within a few months they were back and Sinabung was reopened for climbing. In September 2013, the mountain was erupting again and continued erupting periodically for more than a year, killing 16 people and devastating local communities, crops and wildlife. A major eruption in June 2015 sent ash spewing 3km into the sky, pyroclastic flows and an avalanches of volcanic mud streaming down the mountainside, hot ash raining down on nearby villages and crop fields and forcing the evacuation of 10,000 people. At the time of writing (March 2016) the number of displaced people had risen to 20,000 as Sinabung continues to erupt with several small explosions, pyroclastic flows and earth tremors occurring on a daily basis. In the meantime, locals hold their breath for what volcanologists anticipate could be a major eruption.
Obviously climbing Sinabung is off the agenda these days but you can still get some fabulous views of the action from outside the 3.5km high-risk exclusion zone. Any tour desk or your accommodation hosts will happily arrange a driver to take you to some good viewing points. Consider heading out in the afternoon so you can see the volcano in the daylight and after dark when the red hot embers and lava flows make a great natural light show.
Don’t be tempted to breach the exclusion zone – it’s in place for a reason and being actively enforced by the Indonesian army. Jump online and get the latest alert level information from the Indonesia Centre of Vulcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation. Bottom line, approach Sinabung at your own risk.