With an area of approximately 180,000 km², Sulawesi is Indonesia’s 4th largest island and offers a correspondingly wide potential for sights and activities. Today, as in the past, the gateway to Sulawesi’s north is typically through the metropolis of Manado. In the 16th century it was the rich resources of the surrounding area that made Manado a strategic port along the route of the spice traders, but today it is the many natural attractions located in the immediate vicinity that make the city the starting point for a trip in the region.
Located in the so-called ‘Coral Triangle’, divers and snorkelers in Bunaken Marine Park and Lembeh Straits can count on a species-rich underwater world with exceptionally good visibility. But the region also impresses with numerous interesting scenic features on land as well, including the Minahasa highlands, various nature parks with interesting wildlife and active volcanoes.
Attractions in the North of Sulawesi
Manado: The gateway to the north of Sulawesi
Manado is Sulawesi’s northernmost centre and the gateway to the Bunaken Marine Park, the Lembeh Straits and the Minahasa Highlands and also to various nature reserves. As the largest city in this largely Christian region, there are also numerous entertainment and activity options.
North Sulawesi’s Marine Parks
For underwater activities, the Bunaken Marine Park and the Straits of Lembeh are the main highlights. Located in the middle of the so-called ‘Coral Triangle,’ there are wonderful diving and snorkeling areas with unique corals and fish species. Exploring the underwater world can be done from the main island, but combine it with a stay on one of the small offshore islands for a truly atmospheric experience.
The Tangkoko National Park
Located near the harbor town of Bitung and famous for its little monkeys, the Sulawesi Tarsier, Tangkoko National Park covers Sulawesi’s northernmost tip. It also offers an insight into the life of the black crested monkeys and the chance to see one of the largest tarantula species. Just as worth seeing, but a little more remote is the Bogani Nani Wartabone National Park, which is home to numerous endemic species as well.
Sulawesi’s Minahasa Highlands
The Minahasa highlands rise up in the area between Manado and Bitung. The high altitude does not only provide for a pleasant climate, it also reveals wonderful panorama views over small towns, lakes and active volcanos.
The flower festival town of Tomohon
Tomohon is another centre in North Sulawesi, located at an altitude of 800 m and set in the midst of the charming landscape of the Minahasa highlands. Every year, the wonderful Tomohon Flower Festival attracts thousands of visitors. But there are many other attractions to delight the visitor the whole year round.
Tomohon’s Pasar Ekstrim
Tomohon’s Pasar Ekstrim is a market with a difference – in addition to typical local fruit and vegetables, the range of produce for sale here includes grilled bats, dogs, rats and snakes.
Lakescape: Sulawesi’s diverse north
A trip through the varied landscapes of the north inevitably leads past various lakes, with Linow and Tondano Lake among the best known. Linow is said to change its colour every day and there are various fish restaurants around Tondano, which offer good food and great views of the lake.
North Sulawesi mountain panorama
North Sulawesi’s mountain panorama is impressive, especially knowing that some of the peaks are active volcanos. The steam clouds repeatedly emitted by Gunung Soputan, Lokon or Empung add further drama to an already wonderful scene.
Hot Springs in the North of Sulawesi
Not only the mountains offer visible signs of volcanic activity here. There are also hot springs scattered throughout the region, some of which attract attention from afar.
North Sulawesi’s mysterious Warugas
Another attraction to be found in the Minahasa highlands are the Warugas, which date back to the 9th century. These stone graves, which are differently decorated according to the profession and status of the deceased, originally contained also some tools and possessions that accompanied them in earthly life.
Journey to Sulawesi North
Singapur – Manado (Sulawesi) —> SilkAir 3 ½ hrs.
Singapur – Makassar (Sulawesi) – Manado —> SilkAir 3 hrs. + among others Garuda, LionAir, Citilink 1 ¾ hrs.
Jakarta (Java) – Manado (Sulawesi) —> Garuda, LionAir, Batik, Citilink 3 hrs.
Manado Hafen – Bunaken Maritime Park Island –> ca. 30-60 min.
Bastiong (Ternate) – Bitung (Sulawesi) –> 18 hrs.