NORTH SULAWESITravelling in Indonesia

Situated on the northeastern peninsula of Sulawesi, this province stretches further north to smaller islands which almost look like stepping stones to the Philippines.

Covering an area of about 27,487 sq. km, it is divided into four districts: Minahasa, Bolaang Mongondow, Gorontalo, and Sangihe Talaud islands, all of which having their different cultures. The capital, Manado, is reachable by air from Ujung Pandang, Jakarta, Surabaya, Balikpapan, Ternate, Ambon, and Jayapura. Other airports in this province i.e. Gorontalo, Tahuna and Talaud are served mainly by domestic feather- line traffic.

It is also accessible by sea. The port of Bitung is undoubtedly the most important port, serving shipping lines of the peninsula and the eastern part of Indonesia.

The area is highly mountainous, culminating in 54 peaks, some of which are volcanic and still active. The coast is made up of long stretches of virgin white sandy beaches with magnificent corals and colorful tropical marine life.

Despite their proximity to the mainland, the coral-fringed islets are among the most virgin in Indonesia.

One of the most western-oriented people, the hospitable and open-minded Minahasan people are Christians. Their first contact with the Europeans came in the 16th century with the arrival of Spaniards and Portuguese spice traders. However, it wasn't until the Dutch landed on their shores that they became totally Christianized.

Dutch influence grew, subduing indigenous traditions. Minahasa refers to the confederacy of tribes. Monuments bear evidence of ancient systems of tribes and clans.

The western part of the province, Bolaang Mongondo and Gorontalo were formerly small Moslem principalities till the turn of the century. The southern coast is inhabited by sea nomads, a separate ethnic group which originated in the west coast of the Malay peninsula, now slowly disappearing. Remains of the Mokodompis kingdom are found in Sangir Talaud where the people are Christians as well. But there are distinct differences among these four large ethnic groups which are each composed of several tribes using their own dialects, as well as having different staple foods.

Sago is to the people of Sangir Talaud, what corn is to the people of Gorontalo, and rice to Bolaang Mongondow and Minahasa. This already proves wide differences. It is one of Indonesia's richest coconut, cloves and nutmeg producers.



This municipality is the capital and commercial center, the main gateway to North Sulawesi Province. The land structure shows a morphology of wavy slopes and hills in the northern and central part of the city. The southern part is made up of the mountain foot of volcanoes in central Minahasa.

The principal deep-water port of northern Sulawesi, however, is at Bitung, about 48 km from Manado. This seaport carries trade between one island and the others, as well as with Singapore and the Philippines.

For inter-city traveling the road are good, particularly the network linking Minahasa, Bitung, Bolaang Mongondow and Gorontalo.


About half an hour by a motorized outrigger canoe from Manado, Bunaken island is a veritable paradise for snorkelers and scuba enthusiasts. The coral reef off Bunaken island is particularly good for that and shouldn't be missed while you're in this region. The drop-off wall at Liang Cove is rare in the world, as it's described by international divers as being spectacular with caves, gullies, and caverns harboring an immense wealth of marine life. The water averages a balmy 28 degrees C and visibility is sensational (over) 30 m. The Bunaken sea garden is rich with colorful tropical marine life.

Manado Tua Island

Manado Tua is the main island of its sister islands group: Bunaken, Siladen, Mantehage and Nain, situated just off Manado city in the Bay. The path to the top takes several hours to climb but the view takes in all the islands in the Manado Bay. Superb for snorkeling and skin diving, and ideal for corals and sponges. The beach is a mixture of white sand and coral formations. Beautiful reefs and coral gardens are also found around the islands of the northernmost tip of the Minahasa peninsula and along the east coast.

The reef lines the coast of Tangkoko Batuangus in the area of a nature reserve.

A permit should be obtained from the Sub Balai Konservasi Sumber Daya Alam (Nature Conservation Office) in Manado, before heading for this reserve.

Tasik Ria

Tasik Ria is situated about 20 km southwest of Manado and has a beautiful sandy beach, with coconut trees. Ideal for sunbathing, swimming, fishing, diving and snorkeling. Tasik Ria seashore resort has a four-star "Manado Beach Hotel" with 205 rooms, swimming pool, bar & discotheque is a lush seashore resort. Easily reachable by public bus or taxi from Manado.


15 km further southwest from Tasik Ria this village has traditionally been the center of Minahasan culture and arts. In Tara-Tara traditional dances can be enjoyed in the open air at Kemer Garden. There are World War 11 Japanese caves at the Ranowangko dam, and the Kemer natural bathing spot nearby in the shadow of the volcano Lokon, mount Kasehe and mount Tatawiran. Easily reachable from Manado by public bus or taxi.

Watu Pinabetengan

A megalithic stone of the ancestors of Minahasa, its surface is covered with crude, mysterious live drawings and scripts which have never been deciphered. According to Minahasa history, this is the place where the ancestors first divided up the land among the people (Watu Pinabetengan means "The stone of discussion about the division").

The ruling was made in order to ensure a peaceful and harmonious life. Seven divisions were made amongst different areas of Tombulu, Tonsea, Toulour, Tontemboan, Tonsawang, Ponosakan and Pasan Ratahan. This is located in Tompaso, about 45 km from Manado.


An ancient cemetery of Minahasan ancestors consist of 144 Sarcophagi, which is a remnant of the Megalithic age. It has special historical value. Specific Sarcophagus known as "Waruga" are unique square stones with holes in the middle and prism shaped lids. The artistic aspect of the Sarcophagus is known by the decorative sculpture and carving around the tombs and the lids with various motifs such as of human beings, plants, animals, and traditional geometrical motifs like clouds, strings, curls, double braids. Located in Sawangan village, about 24 km from Manado.

Tangkoko Batuangus

A nature reserve on open grassland covered with a great variety of plants. Located on the slopes of mount "Dua Saudara", the area is composed of impressive green hills and valleys with amazingly scenic views of natural beauty. There are black apes, maleo birds, snakes, wild pigs, hornbills and rusa deer. Located north of Bitung, it covers an area of 3,196 ha. This nature reserve has several cottages and small restaurants nearby. It is only reachable by four-wheel drive jeeps from Girian village over a rough road.

Dumoga Bone National Park

Located on the border between two districts, approximately 260 km from Manado, this park covers Dumoga in Bolaang Mongondow and Bone in Gorontalo. Its mountains and hills covered by dense forests and vegetation make it an ideal reserve of rare and specific animal species like maleo birds, anoas, hornbills, wild pigs tarsius spectrums and fruit bats.

The rainfall favours a very rich flora. A entry permit should be obtained from the Sub Balai Konservasi Sumber Daya Alam (Nature Conservation Office) in Manado. This National Park has several cottages and small restaurants nearby.

Lake Tondano - Remboken Tourist Site

About 36 km southwest of Manado is lake Tondano, 600 m above sea level. The drive to Tondano passes through picturesque villages and clove plantations. Situated right on the edge of the lake is the Remboken Tourist site, an ideal place for water skiing, fishing, and boating. Bungalows, hot water swimming pool and restaurants are available.


Hot baths with water originating from hot volcanic springs attract people for relaxation and health reasons. Located in the village of Karumenga, Langoan, about 50 km from Manado.

Otanaha Fortress

A shelter and defense base of Gorontalo kings during the colonial era. It is said that the fortress was built with a mixture of sand, calcium and eggs of Maleo birds. Located in the western part of Dembe village, reachable by local transportation.

Sarone Island

A beautiful tiny island with its white sandy beach for swimming, boating, snorkeling, diving, and water skiing. It is located in the district of Gorontalo.

Lake Mooat

Situated in the highlands about 900 m above sea level, makes it a cool and nice place to visit. The lake is surrounded by dense forests, abound with birds of various species. It is located in the district of Bolaang Mongondow, reachable by bus.


This hot water bathing spot is surrounded by rice fields. The hot water sources lay scattered on the ground. Bungalows are available at Koya village, about 3 km from Tondano.

Wale Papataupan

Situated at Sonder village, about 37 km from Manado, Wale Papataupan is a flowery tourist spot which has bungalows, swimming pool, steam bath facilities, restaurants, fish ponds, and an open stage for cultural performances. It is easily reachable from Manado by public bus.

Japanese Caves

A cavernous hill side area along the road between Kiawa and Kawangkoan. The caves were built by the Japanese during World War II, used as supplies storage.


This place is situated about 3 km from Tomohon which has a souvenir shop and restaurants offering Minahasan food. Easily reachable from Manado by public bus or taxi.

Japanese Monument

Since Bitung played an important role during the Pacific War as a home base for the Japanese Imperial forces, it became the last resting place of their soldiers who died in the war. Both the

Japanese and North Sulawesi Government jointly founded this monument.

Shopping Hints

Ornaments of intricately carved wood are common in all districts.

In Sangir the wood used is ebony. In Gorontalo, however, it is rattan. Krawang is a special kind of embroidery from Gorontalo, which is well-known throughout Indonesia.


North Sulawesi is a developing tourist destination. However, its capital city Manado has a three-star hotel with modern amenities. It also has facilities for conventions. Two-and one-star hotels have air conditioned rooms with attached baths. Restaurants are available in all star hotels.