Tapaktuan is a fairly remote and rugged town on the coast of southwest Aceh Province facing the Indian Ocean, affectionately dubbed by many foreign tourists as “the prettiest town in Sumatra.”
The coast of Tapaktuan is lined with large boulders and sees massive waves striking the shore. Aside from the beautiful waves, another main attraction is the large expanse of shimmering white sand along the beach. Beyond the beaches are a string of high mountains with excellent hiking and views. The sunsets here are particularly beautiful. The views from the surrounding hills are a breathtaking experience as well. The friendliness and hospitality of the local people is another aspect that will make your visit warm and enjoyable.
Tapaktuan is known as the Dragon City which comes from a legend of the Dragon Princess and Tuan Tapa, who, has become a regional icon passed down from generation to generation.
The Dragon legend tells of a pair of male and female dragons that are believed to inhabit the bay of Tapaktuan. Both were banished from the country for being unable to have offsprings. As chance would have it, one day the dragon pair happened upon a baby girl floating in the sea. They took her in and raised her as their own, with the child returning the affection and recognizing them as her parents.
One day, upon the arrival of a royal ship from Asralanoka, His Majesty the King,caught sight of the girl, whom he immediately recognized as his daughter that had been lost at sea 17 years ago. He approached the dragon pair and telling his story asked for the return of his daughter. However, the dragons rejected the request and a fight ensued, which led to disturbing a highly respected hermit residing in a nearby cave. This man was known asTuan Tapa.
Tuan Tapa was bothered by the commotion and immediately attempted to break up the fight between the dragons and the King of Asralanoka. He proceeded to ask the dragons to please return the girl to her rightful parents, which only further angered the dragons who then challenged Tuan Tapa to a fight. Eventually Tuan Tapa defeated the dragon pair and the girl was returned to her parents. She retained the nickname “Dragon Lady”, but the girl and her parents did not return to their homeland, and instead settled down in the coastal zone. Their presence is believed to be the forerunner of Tapaktuan.
You can find, scattered along the Tapaktuan beach, many black, heart-shaped rocks (known as Batu Itam), which are believed to be remnants of the dragons’ body, and red stones (Batu Merah) which are said to be the dragons blood. This is the legend of Tapaktuan, The Dragon City.
There's a reason why there is the monument in South Aceh in the shape of a nutmeg (Myristica fragrans Houtt). That's because the nutmeg tree grows naturally in South Aceh. Nutmeg is one of the most popular spices used to flavor local food, and is used for medicinal purposes as well. Obtained from the distillation of nutmeg, the oil is used for ointments, herbs, and seasonings. Explore the many gift shops in Tapaktuan to find nutmeg in all forms, to bring home as a wonderful (and very tasty!) gift.
Tapaktuan airport is the main gateway to Tapaktuan other than driving along the trans-Sumatran highway. It receives somewhat limited flights from Medan (North Sumatra) and Banda Aceh, in the north of Aceh Province, with connecting flights from Jakarta. Minivans also run from Medan (4 hours) and Banda Aceh (6 hours).
The main attractions of Tapaktuan are:
Lawang Beach: Located 20 km. north of Tapaktuan, this is an ideal place for those looking to catch some action on the surfboard. If that is you, this is a spot you don't want to miss, with its massive crashing waves and crystal clear water. The best waves are found between July and November.
Tui Lhok Beach: This is very nice quiet beach for swimming and sunbathing, 18 km north of Tapaktuan. Every evening you can also witness a lovely, picturesque sunset over the Indian Ocean. For those of you who prefer a fresh water dip, or even those who want to wash away the sea salt, pop over to the waterfall nearby. There is also a pool available there.
Pasir Setumpuk Beach: Along the coast of this quiet beach you will find a large varietyof turtles. The clean sand, and the peaceful atmosphere make for a very natural, relaxing day.
If you are looking for some wonderful scenery, you won’t want to miss Bukit Pelita (Pelita Hill) which is very easy to reach, being located right behind the local bus station of Tapaktuan, which any passerby will be able to direct you to. Bukit Pelita offers great views of the entire town, the coastline for miles, and the sparkling waves of the Indian Ocean.
Tingkat Tujuh Waterfall, literally translated, the 7 Story Waterfall, is located approximately 7 km from Tapaktuan. However, 2 km from the waterfall, you will have to continue by foot as the roads are not wide enough for vehicles. This waterfall is appropriately named, being that it makes 7 falls, into a separate pool of its own, one at each level. These fresh, private pools definitely make the short trek worth it!
One site, associated with the Dragon legend of Tapaktuan is Makam Tuan Tapa (Mr Tapa's Tomb), located near Bukit Pelita directly in front of the mosque Tuo, at Kampung Padang of Tapaktuan City. Make sure you visit this cemetery to see his grave,which is 10 meters long, compared long ago to the foot prints of the hermit himself.
Another exciting excursion is Gua Kalem which comes from the local dialect and means “dark cave’. It is one of the most fascinating places in Tapaktuan, though not very well known. Located a few kilometers behind Tapaktuan, beginning with a long natural tunnel, is the entrance to the caves. The tunnel is about 50 meters long and has a small stream running through it. The tunnel is home to many small bats. A bit of light seeps in but it is recommended to take a flaghlight. Follow the river upstream, climb over the rocks, and squeeze yourself through the narrow passages to find an amazing little hidden paradise. The fresh clean water is perfect for swimming, sun bathing and there is also an area where you can have a picnic and just relax. There are often monkeys around. If you continue further you will come to Panton Luas, which has a great view over Tapaktuan and the ocean.
If you enjoy jungle treks, there are two places in Tapaktuan which are worth more than at least one visit. Panton Luas, 13 km. north of Tapaktuan, has a dense forest area and a clean river. It is quiet and peaceful with nice views from the mountains. Go to the village and continue for 1 km up to Gunung Tuan where you can see monkeys and other wild animals.