A relaxing one-hour drive from the bustling market of Bukittinggi in the province of West Sumatra lies the beautiful Harau Valley, - or sometimes called the Arau valley - where lush green ricefields are hemmed in between huge granite cliffs. Here dozens of waterfalls tumble down from 80 to 300 meters height into the valley below, cut by the Batang Arau River. No wonder, therefore, that the Harau Valley is sometimes known as the Yosemite of Indonesia.
Here gibbons and macaques and a variety of wildlife still roam freely as this area in the Lima Puluh Kota district has actually been designated a nature conservation, covering some 669 acres. Its beautiful landscape, its peaceful serenity interrupted only by the calls of the macaques and the chirping of birds, make the Harau Valley the perfect holiday getaway.
Here one waterfall is named the Bunta Waterfall or locally called Sarasah Bunta that pours down fresh water from the highlands with three other waterfalls nearby. It was first visited in 1926 by a Dutch mayor. A carved stone indicating the year when the mayor visited the waterfall is still there expressing the beauty of this valley. Other the waterfalls are called the Akar Barayun, Sarasah Luluh, and Sarasah Murai.
One theory has it that the Harau Valley came into being as a result of a tectonic fracture on an ancient land, with parallel rivers running through it. As one part of the land sank, while the other rose, the waterways broke, and waterfalls eventually ensued from the spillways above the rocky hills. Local scientists believe that this theory may prove to be true.
On the other hand, German geologists who had conducted a study here found that the huge granite rocks found in the area are in fact identical to those found on the ocean bed. Thus, there is now another theory that the valley may have once laid at the bottom of the ocean.
Public transportation is available for those wishing to spend the entire vacation time in and around Bukittinggi. Else, renting a minivan or a motorbike will guarantee the time well spent for day trippers to these Minangkabau highlands.
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The offer of accommodation is not varied, but a stay there can be most meaningful. You can spend a day or two in the Harau Valley since a few simple hotels are available, they are:
Lembah Echo Homestay
Probably the best, perfectly located accommodation in Lembah Harau, the eco-lodge is worth echoing to your friends to as it has the best view, simple hospitality, and a clean and comfortable bed for you to rest. The bathroom is open air near gardens, but it does not provide hot showers. +62 752 7750306
This is run by a former staff of the Lembah Echo Homestay. Ikbal started his own Eden in the Harau Valley, facing the lush green rice fields, close to a waterfall. He can arrange a wonderful trekking experience for you. +62 852 637 81842
Alternatively there is the :
Nangkodok Kota Payakumbuh, +62 752 93358, 92670
Best shots of the Harau Valley are the long shots that show both the beautiful green valley and the hug granite cliffs.
A bus from Bukittinggi going to Pekanbaru will surely stop by the cross road to the Harau Valley, locally known as Lembah Harau. It takes a little over an hour from Bukittinggi. If you take a rented car or motorcycle, just pass through the narrow road where a bunch of motorized taxis or tricycle riders will approach anyone alighting from a public transport.
Going to the valley may take less than a dollar by opelet, the motorized becak. As the region is a nature reserve, you must pay an entrance fee, although the officer can be invisible. The Lembah Echo Homestay is right at the narrowest chasm of the valley, although you will pass a number of homestays along the way.
Renting a bike in Harau can be somehow challenging. Many people take the opelet instead. Some of the hotels may, however, offer bikes for rent.
Several best spots to fully experience a visit to the Harau Valley include the area around the Echo Lodge homestay.
The steep rock walls here are not only a natural invitation to photographers, but they also attractrock climbers who consider climbing these steep walls a significant challenge. There are 300 spots from where to climb. Looking up, the clear blue sky above is the ultimate finish line as you grab the belay devices, carabiners, and necessary ropes to reach the heights of the Harau Valley. This valley is infrequently visited so that you may have the whole valley all to yourself.
Relaxing is one of the best time-elapsing activities here. Take in the crisp and clean air as part of the natural beauty that the valley has to offer, lying under a Minang hut that we call a cabin in one of the eco-lodges available just right at the foot of the solid granite scrap. Order a cup of coffee and local delicacies and setlle down to write the last chapter of your travels and the extraordinary experiences you had in wonderful Indonesia.
For curious travelers, take time for a short walk around the village and watch how people live. Some of the women here work in the rice fields while men plough the fields behind water buffalos, providing the perfect shot for you to take.