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An off-the-beaten escape to Minahasa Highlands

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Getaway Category: Culture & Heritage and RelaxGetaway Tags: Asia, indonesia, Minahasa, Minahasa Highlands, and Tomohon

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  • Tucked away in Northern Sulawesi is a land of scenic lakes, panoramic mountains, bizarre food and jovial Minahasa people. Fertile volcanic soil brings lush greenery and nice, cool weather to the highlands, making it an ideal escape from the Southeast Asian heat.

    More uniquely, the people here eat just about anything—a walk around Tomohon traditional market is an eye-opening experience as you can see extreme meats like rat, bat and dog being roasted and sold here!




    Day 1 in Tondano, Indonesia 

    1pm: Arrival at Manado’s Sam Ratulangi International Airport

    Upon arrival, transfer around 2.5 hours to your first destination in the Minahasa Highlands.

    3.30pm: Chill by Lake Linow

    Lake Linow is a unique must-see experience when in Minahasa. The lake unfolds three different colours (blue, green and crystal blue) in changing sequence, as a result of the sun’s rays and sulphuric reaction.

    Entrance fee is IDR 25,000 and it comes with a cup of coffee or tea, so you can relax by the lake to admire the spectacular sight as you unwind for the day.

    7.30pm: Dinner at Restoran Green Garden Tomohon

    A good place to enjoy Chinese-Indonesian hybrid food. Grilled pork is a favourite here, as are the standard Indonesian fares like bakso (meatballs) and satays.

    Lorong SMP 2, Kakaskasen 1, Kakaskasen Satu, North Tomohon, Tomohon City, North Sulawesi, Indonesia
    Open Mon-Fri 10am-11pm, Sat 12-11pm, Sun 11am-11pm

    Day 2 in Tondano, Indonesia

    7.30am: Be shocked at Pasar Extreme

    Rise up early and head to Pasar Extreme (Extreme Market) to discover one of the world’s most macabre meat markets. It is said that the Minahasa people will eat just about anything, and as you walk through the alleys, you will find anything from rats, bats, cats, dogs, snakes, reptiles, monkeys, etc. exhibited for willing buyers and Fear Factor daredevils.

    The market opens as early as 3am and the earlier you visit, the higher the chance you will get to observe the livestock slaughters and smell the fresh blood in the air. But for most people who won’t go that far, a simple morning visit would be eye-opening enough. As it approaches 12 noon, the market will get quieter so make sure you visit before that.

    Jalan Terminal Beriman Tomohon, Paslaten Satu, Tomohon Timur, Paslaten Satu, Tomohon Tim., Kota Tomohon, Sulawesi Utara, Indonesia

    10.30am: Pulutan Village

    Pass through the peaceful sights of the green Minahasa scenery as you drive en route to Pulutan Village, where local pottery and the ceramic industry flourishes. Watch the local craftsmen go by their daily lives as they shape clay into pots, tables and chairs.

    12nn: Lunch at Tumou Tou Restaurant

    This beautiful floating restaurant with a view of Lake Tondano is the obvious place to stop for your lunch. Their seafood is really good, with a range of menu items from goldfish, baby lobster, drunken prawns, etc. Expect to pay around IDR 120,000 per pax.

    Kelurahan Paleloan Lingk I, Peleloan, Danau Tondano, Kabupaten Minahasa, Sulawesi Utara 95619, Indonesia
    Open 9am-8pm daily

    2pm: Stroll around Lake Tondano

    After lunch, take some time to walk leisurely around Lake Tondano as the cool breeze blows your hair. Tondano is the largest lake in North Sulawesi. It is surrounded by a range of mountains that is 700-meter high, with some wetland areas where paddy fields blend into the marshland, making it a truly picturesque site.

    4pm: Ranopaso Hot Springs

    This fertile volcanic land is blessed with plenty of natural hot springs, and Ranopaso is one of the most popular among locals. It is located in the rural atmosphere of Koya Village. Pamper yourself as you bathe in the natural setting.

    Jl. Tataaran, Koya, Tondano Sel., Kabupaten Minahasa, Sulawesi Utara, Indonesia

    6.30pm: Dinner at Heng Mien Restaurant

    One of the best places to try Minahasan cuisine such as Rintek Wuuk (dog meat), Paniki (fruit bat), Pangi (a type of green vegetable), Sayor Pait (bitter vegetable), etc. But don’t worry, if you’re not into those daring dishes, they serve standard fare like pork and chicken as well! It is reasonably priced and you will pay approximately IDR 20,000-25,000 per pax.

    Jl. Raya Manado Tomohon, Tinoor Satu, Tomohon Utara, Kota Tomohon, Sulawesi Utara, Indonesia
    Open 10am-10pm daily


    Day 3 in Tondano, Indonesia

    9.30am: Easy trek up to Mount Mahawu

    Located 1331 meters above sea level, the one-hour trek up this active volcano is surprisingly easy. There are three craters here, one of which is still active. From the vantage point, you can see as far as the Bunaken and Manado Tua islands on a clear day!

    12nn: Lunch at RM Sineleyan

    Right at the foot of Mount Mahawu is the famed Sinelayan Restaurant. A must-try dish here is the grilled tilapia fish with dabu-dabu sauce (a type of spicy condiment from the Sulawesi region made from chilli, shallots and tomatoes). Located at the small Sineleyan Lake, you can enjoy your meal while hearing the sound of fish splashing in the lake.

    Jl. Raya Tomohon, Talete Satu, Tomohon Tengah, Kota Tomohon, Sulawesi Utara, Indonesia
    Open 10am-9pm daily

    2pm: Rurukan Village

    This horticultural village right at the foot of Mount Mahawu is blessed with an endless stretch of scenic farmland. After you’ve had spent some time enjoying the tranquil countryside, get your driver to bring you to the Puncak Rurukan viewpoint, which allows you to see as far as Bitung and Lembeh Strait on a clear day. Occasionally, mist will envelope the area and seeing the misty Lake Tondano from the top is quite a sight. Whether it’s a clear or misty day, there’s always something to admire here!

    6pm: Dinner at Rumah Makan Risoma

    Late afternoon, drive towards Manado for your overnight stay, but not before stopping at Risoma Restaurant.

    Risoma offers excellent Minahasan cuisine. You can try dishes like Tinorangsak (pork cooked in bamboo) or Braunebonen (red-bean soup). Or if you have finally developed some courage since this is your last night in the Minahasa highlands, maybe you might actually give in to the temptation to try the dog or bat meat—hey, you only live once!

    Meal costs around IDR 20,000-25,000 per pax.

    Jl. Raya Manado Tomohon, Tinoor Dua, Tomohon Utara, Kota Tomohon, Sulawesi Utara, Indonesia
    Open 11am-9pm daily.

    Day 4 in Manado, Indonesia

    9am: Breakfast at Dego-Dego Cafe

    There’s not a lot of sightseeing to be done in Manado. However, this city is famed for its good culinary fare. A local favorite is the Dego-Dego Cafe, where you can enjoy the famous Tinutuan porridge, served with fresh vegetables, nike fish (a local variation of anchovies) and the spicy goodness of dabu-dabu. A perfectly appetizing menu after all the bizarre food from the past couple of days!

    Jl. Wakeke 3, No. 11, Wenang Utara, Wenang, Kota Manado, Sulawesi Utara, Indonesia
    Open 7am-9pm Mon-Sat, 7am-2am Sun

    11am: Head to Sam Ratulangi International Airport

    Your direct flight from Manado to Singapore will likely be at 1.50pm, so you will need to depart latest at 11am to be safe. Safe flight home!




    Places to stay in Tondano, Indonesia

    Prices listed are based on average daily rates for a Standard Room.

    Affordable

    Cekakak Hostel Tomohon is ideal for backpackers, offering bunk beds as well as cheap private rooms. What’s more, free parking and free WiFi are included! If you’re looking for accommodation which doesn’t burst your budget, go with this one!

    Price range: SGD$15-31

    Mid-range

    Highland Resort & Spa is a wooden cottage facing the hills with a view of Mount Lakon. There is also a tour desk which can help you arrange day trips. With an additional cost, you can also enjoy aromatherapy baths and reflexology at their Alam Spa. Overall, it’s the most value-for-money accommodation you can find in Tomohon.

    Price range: SGD$41-67

    High-end

    Gardenia Country Inn, while not a luxury accommodation, offers wonderful bungalows with a big terrace and a pleasant resort garden. With a magnificent view of Mount Lokon, this is a good property to stay at.

    Price range: SGD$132-158

    Places to stay in Manado, Indonesia

    Prices listed are based on average daily rates for a Standard Room.

    Affordable

    Manado Grace Inn offers basic standard rooms with a comfortable bed. While toiletries are not provided, given the great bargain rate, this no-frill inn is a complete value-for-money!

    Price range: SGD$14-23

    Mid-range

    Aryaduta Manado is located strategically with a panoramic view over the Manado Bay and Mount Klabat. It offers spacious rooms and the amenities include a gym, swimming pool, piano lounge, etc.

    Price range: SGD$68-116

    High-end

    Grand Luley Resort is located outside Manado’s city centre, but it’s one of the best possible accommodations you can find around the area. This six-hectare property borders a lush mangrove forest with a view of the coast. Each room in this 4-star resort comes with large windows overlooking the breathtaking landscape. There’s also an outdoor pool for those who would like to unwind.

    Price range: SGD$100-209

    Getting to Minahasa Highlands, Indonesia

    The closest airport to Minahasa Highlands is located at Manado.

    SilkAir runs two-way flights between Singapore and Manado every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. The Singapore-Manado leg operates 9.20am-1.05pm, while the Manado-Singapore leg flies on 1.50-5.10pm.

    Getting around Minahasa Highlands, Indonesia

    The best way to get around the highlands is by renting a car with a driver, which you can get for IDR 500,000 daily from Manado Rental Car (+62 852 4022 0620 or +62 431 892 979). Another vendor to consider is CV. Griya Djaya which rents you a car with driver and English-speaking guide for IDR 800,000 daily.

    Other important notes

    Time difference

    Both Minahasa Highlands and gateway city Manado are GMT+8, hence there is no time difference with Singapore. However, if you are combining this visit to other places in Indonesia, please note that Minahasa Highlands and Manado are 1 hour ahead of Jakarta.

    Best months to visit

    Minahasa Highlands is generally cool all year round, which makes it a good destination to visit. However, it’ll be best if you visit during the dry season, which is between mid-March to the end of November.

    Things to pack

    • Sweater and long pants in case the weather gets cold, especially at night.
    • Sturdy shoes if you’re planning to hike.
    • Insect repellent.
    • Umbrella in case it rains.
    • Small torchlight may come in handy.
    • First-aid kit.

    Helplines

    • Police: 110
    • Ambulance: 118
    • Search and rescue: 115

    share your experience by using #singaporenbeyond on social media!

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