At 3,195 meters above sea level, Mount Dempo is the highest mountain in South Sumatra. Along with Mount Marapi on Sumatra, (not to be confused with Mt. Merapi in Central Java), Mt. Dempo is the highest peak in the Bukit Barisan mountain range that stretches along the entire island of Sumatra, forming tis backbone. After sipping a cup of hot sweet tea in the cool dawn, listening to birds chirp in the trees and watching the sun slowly rising on the horizon, this is the perfect morning to hike up to the top of Mount Dempo.
Located right on the border between the provinces of South Sumatra and Bengkulu on Sumatra’s west coast, Mount Dempo lies in the district called Pagar Alam. And, as the name implies, Pagar Alam, meaning nature’s fence, is entirely surrounded by hills and mountain ridges. It takes some 7-hours driving to reach Pagar Alam from Palembang, and then another 15 kilometers from the center of Pagar Alam to Mount Dempo itself. The trip will not be dull, since you will be presented with fantastic scenery of cliffs and valleys accompanied by fresh, unpolluted air. A vast tea plantation greets you as Mount Dempo comes into view: Here is the source of the energizing cup of tea.
After your logistics are loaded, tents and sleeping bags prepared, the next thing to conquer are the challenging trails. The rucksack feels heavy, as you make the first couple of steps through the wide tea plantation. When the tea fields are gradually replaced by wild bushes, the path begins to ascend. You are then on your way up, marking that the climb is on. Among hikers and mountaineers, Mount Dempo is known for its challenging tracks. Various slopes, twisting turns and fewer “bonuses” of flat tracks, actually make Mount Dempo a favorite among these “challenge junkies”. Gurgling waters, chirping birds and various other voices of nature make good company as you rest your weary legs and exhausted backbone.
Nothing beats the sensation of reaching the top of the mountain, an ultimate feeling of harmony with nature. After the gruelling hike, the reward for reaching the summit of Mount Dempo is the breathtaking view from here overlooking the vast horizon in the distance. Priceless contentment compensates for all the sweat and hardship; definitely a reward for the panting ascent. You will find Mt. Dempo’s crater is still steaming and very much active. A picture taken here is a trophy and a reward for an accomplished challenge.
Aside from this challenging mountain, prehistoric cultural remnants are also found in the area. Carved stones in the shape of humans, animals and others are scattered along the first slope of Mount Dempo. Within Pagar Alam there is also a traditional market that sells various local goods such as tea, coffee, fruits and others worth visiting.
Take a trip off the beaten track; leave your typically pampered vacation behind. Mount Dempo awaits those who seek adventure. Prep the time, energy and your hiking gears, and find out what rewards await on its summit.
There are numerous restaurants and food stalls that you can find within the vicinity of Pagar Alam. One of the unique dishes is the Ikan Sema masak bambu meaning Sema Fish cooked in bamboo. Instead of using pot or frying pan, the fish is placed inside a bamboo and then barbequed over an open fire. There are many restaurants you can try on Mount Dempo and around Pagar Alam area.
As the area is surrounded by tea plantations, the first thing you should try obviously is tea; not just the ordinary tea, but the special black tea. The unique smell and taste of Mount Dempo’s Black tea is one of a kind. There are several shops that sell this packaged tea for IDR 6,000 to 8,500 per box. The special Mount Dempo’s black tea has been one of the favorites since the Dutch colonial era.
Aside from the tea plantations, there are also numerous coffee plantations. The coffee of Pagar Alam is famous among coffee enthusiasts, especially, the undisputed taste of Kopi Luwak or Civet Coffee. The unique coffee that is processed by wild civets creates one-of- a-kind taste, and some considered to be the best. You can take home this special coffee for about IDR 400,000 per kilogram.
There are other interesting and unique goods you can buy, try to venture into local shops and markets and see what “hidden treasures” you can get from there.
There are several accommodations available around Mount Dempo and within the vicinity of Pagar Alam. From hotels, modest inns and villas they are available at fairly reasonable prices.
Hiking, trekking, and mountaineering obviously are the main draws when it comes to activity. The high summit of Mount Dempo offers challenging tracks, rugged rocky paths, high angled slopes and many other obstacles. In other words: a near-perfect adventure. There are 2 posts, and several water spots along the track to the summit, while some spots require a little bit of climbing skills.
The pleasant scenery of the tea plantation is also an attraction that you don’t want to miss. Mingle with the locals and try the sensation of plucking fresh tea leaves and experience the feel like of tea harvesting.
Within the vicinity of Pagar Alam, there is also the Tangga Batu pre-historic site. Here, you can find various sculptured stones in simple shapes of human heads, animals and the like. These ancient remnants date back to the Megalithic era and are still scattered throughout the area.
The Lematang Indah Waterfall is located not too far from Mount Dempo and can be your alternative place to visit. Here, you can feast your eyes on the endless beauty of the waterfall and the river that runs bellow it. The river also provides challenging currents for rafting, a perfect addition after conquering Mount Dempo’s summit.
Mount Dempo is located in the Pagar Alam district, 310 km, West of Palembang. To get to this site, you can use a rented car or a bus, as the trip will last for about 7 hours. The starting point for hiking is at the PTPN III tea processing factory. You can ask the locals around the facility to take you to the nearest village on the foot of Mount Dempo,which is called Kampung Empat.
For those of you planning to climb up to the summit of Mount Dempo, please remember the nature adventurer’s Code: