Banda Aceh is the provincial capital of Aceh Province, formerly known as Kutaraja untill 1962. Today’s Banda Aceh is the beating heart of the provincial government administration for economic , cultural and tourism development. It has fully recovered from the December 2004 tsunami Boxing day which destroyed almost 60% of the city with appr. 75.000 victims.
Banda Aceh offers visitors a variety of fascinating tourism destinations as a gateway to the most western part of Indonesia.
1. Baiturrahman Mosque
The great Baiturrahman mosque is one of the dominant landmarks in downtown Banda Aceh. The original mosque was built around the 12th century under the rule of Sultan Alaidin Mahmudsyah. At the start of the 17th century the mosque was enlarged by Sultan Iskandar Muda. Assuming it was the Aceh sultan’s palace, the Dutch attacked and destroyed the original mosque in 1873 in which the Dutch general Kohler was killed. The Dutch military goverment built a new mosque as compensation that was completed in 1883.
At the entrance of the mosque there is a monument for general Kohler under the tree where he was killed in combat . Museum Aceh has a replica of the original mosque.
The mosque’s architecture and interior design are extraordinary. It has seven domes, four towers with one main tower. It has a wide 4760 square meter Italian marble floor. The mosque can accomodate up to 9000 people.
The six storey minaret (aka Tugu Modal) oposit the mosque is open to the public between 15:00 and 18:00. If offers a great view over Banda Aceh. Tugu Modal was built on top of the remnants of the original mosque that was destroyed in 1873.
Non-muslims are not allowed to enter the mosque but it is allowed to walk in the park that surrounds the mosque. Islamic dress code is required in the park. Women are required to cover their head with a scarf and use long sleeves. No shorts.
2. Museum Aceh
Built in 1914 by the Dutch governor Van Swart, the museum provides a good overall view of Aceh’s history and culture. A traditional Acehnese house (aka rumoh Aceh) is on display on the museum grounds.
Another interesting exhibit is the so called Cakradonya Bell. It was presented to the sultan of Aceh as a gift from the Chinese Emperor by admiral Cheng Ho in 1469. The bell symbolizes the friendship between Aceh and China.
There are quite a few important graves on the museum grounds. Among them, the grave of Sultan Iskandar Muda (1608 – 1636).
During the rule of Sultan Iskandar Muda, Aceh became a major power in the region, based on a very strong military strength. The sea was controlled by heavy galleys carrying 600-800 men. Land-based forces had Persian horses, an elephant corps, modern artillery and conscript infantry. He undertook several military expeditions to Deli, Aru and Nias island in North Sumatra as well as to Johor, Pahang and Kedah in Malaysia. The Sultan Iskandar Muda era is considered to be Aceh’s Golden Age.
The museum is located near the Aceh governor’s residence aka Pendopo.
Adress: Jalan Sultan Alaidin Mahmudsyah. Open Tuesday – Thursday: 08:30-14:00. Friday-Saturday: 08:30-12:00.
3. Pendopo/ Meuligo
Built in 1880 on the remnants of the Sultan’s Palace (dalem), the pendopo is the former Dutch governor’s official residence. It is one of the earliest Dutch colonial period buildings in Banda Aceh. Today, its the official residence of the governor of Aceh. The pendopo features a gable inspired by a traditional Acehnese house aka rumoh Aceh.
The pendopo is open for visitors and has a number of interesting paintings of former Dutch governors as well as other historical artifacts.
Please report your presence to the brimob post, just outside the pendopo building. A police officer will accompany you inside the building.
4. Kandang XII gravesite
Next to the Pendopo, Kandang XII is a grave site, where Sultan Ali Mughayat Syah – the first sultan of the Acehnese sultanate, as well as four successors, are all laid to rest. The gravestones are marked with dates of decease, ranging from 1530 – 1570. The cemetary has twelve graves, lending it the name Kandang XII.. The mausoleums are decorated with carved gravestones and outstanding calligraphy.
From the main gate of the Pendopo, please go to the left. You will find it among the housing area. The area has a few Dutch colonial buildings.
5. Putroe Phang Park
The park was heavilly damaged by the december 2004 tsunami but now fully restored to its former glory. Inside the park there is the Pinto Khop, built during the Sultanate of Iskandar Muda. It’s the gate to connect the former sultan’s palace with the Putroe Phang park. Pinto Khop was build in the form of a dome. It is nearby Gunongan. The park once served as a recreational area for Putroe phang after swimming.
On weekends, there are musical and traditional dance performances on stage which are not to be missed. The performances usually start in the afternoon and end at 18:00.
The Gunongan was built by Sultan Iskandar Muda for his homesick wife Putri Pahang (aka Putroe Phang) from Malaysia. Gunongan is to resemble a mountain in Malaysia. It was used for both recreational purposes as well as to change clothes after swimming in the nearby river. The architecture has hindu influences.
7. Dutch cemetary Kerkhof Peucut
Kerkhof Peucut is a cemetary for both Dutch soldiers and civilians who died during the Aceh war (1873-1942). More than 2200 soldiers are laid to rest here, including four generals between 1883 and 1940. Their names and where they were killed in combat can be seen at the gateway of the cemetary.
In a separate section of the cemetary , there is a grave of the son of sultan Iskandar muda, named Meurah Pupok.
Special Note: General Kohler was originally burried in Batavia (now Jakarta) and in 1985 reburried at the request of the Acehnese provincial goverment in kerkhof Peucut.
8. Tsunami Museum
Next to kerkhof Peucut, there is the tsunami museum. It also has a tsunami research center.
Special note: Some photos on display in the museum may be unsuitable for children.
9. Blang Padang “Indonesia thanks the world“ Park
This park has a tsunami memorial to serve as a tribute to all nations who have given humanitarian assistance for the Acehnese after the December 26th, 2004 earthquake and tsunami. If you like jogging, just join the locals in early morning or late afternoon. You will make friends quite fast.
10. The RI 001 “Seulawah” Monument
The Blang Padang park also hosts a Douglas DC-3 airplane, turned into a monument to commemorating the Acehnese effort to the Indonesia independence struggle. The plane was purchased with gold, donated by the Acehnese in order to break the blockade that the Dutch tried to impose in other parts of Indonesia.
11. PLTD Apung
PLTD Apung (Floating Diesel Power Station) with the weight of 780 tons is one of the is main tourrist attraction since the December 2004 tsunami. Today, this power station is providing electricity power to Banda Aceh.
It’s located in Punge Blang Cut, Meuraxa sub-district, Banda Aceh.
12. Ulee Lheue Mass Grave
This mass grave is located at Jalan Iskandar Muda on the way to Ulee Lheue. More than 14.264 people are burried here. The location was previously used by the Meuraxa public hospital which has already moved to a new location in Banda Raya district.
Part of the hospital structure can still be seen from behind the graveyard.
13. Fishing Boat on the Roof
Many boats floted into Banda Aceh after tsunami. One boat is still there on someone’s rooftop in Banda Aceh’s Lampulo harbour. The location now serves as a tsunami memorial.
14. Ali Hasymi Museum
Mr. Ali Hasymi was a former Governor of Aceh in the late sixties of the 20th century. He dedicated most of this life to the development of Aceh . His house is now a museum, filled with antiques and old transcripts which are very interesting for visitors.
The museum is located on Jalan Jend. Sudirman no. 20, Banda Aceh.
15. Tgk. Syiah Kuala grave
Syech Abdurrauf Singkili (akaTengku Syiah Kuala) was perhaps the greatest of all 17th century islamic teachers in Aceh. After 15 years of studying islam in Mekkah, he dedicated most of his life to science and society. He produced many books on islam, social studies and science. His students came from all over Indonesia. In the former Aceh kingdom , he was given the authority to organize religious life.
His grave stands near the mouth of the Krueng Aceh river, appr. 2 km. from downtown Aceh.
16. Tgk. Chik Dibitaiy/ Turkish graves
The roots of the Turkish presence in Aceh can be traced back untill the 15th century. In the graveyard of Gampong Bitay( kecamatan Jaya), Banda Aceh, there is a grave of Sultan Salahuddin. He was a member of the royal family of Sultan Selim Al Qanuni who was send to Aceh, where he died in 1548.
In the graveyard complex in Bitay, there are 48 graves of Turkish nationals who once lived in Aceh as islamic teachers or as military officers sent by the Ottoman Empire to Aceh centuries ago. Gampong Bitay originates its name by Teungku Cik Di Bitay (aka Syekh Syakir Jundi Istanbul Attaturk) who is also burried here.
The Turkish Blue Crescent Kiziley restored the graves to its original glory after the 2004 tsunami.
17. Train monument
In the 1900’s Banda Aceh had a railway line between the harbour Ulee Lheue and Medan. The connection was discontinued in the 1970’s. Today, a locomotive stands as a reminder at the location where once was the Kutaraja railway station, between Barrata dept. store and the KODIM 0101 military complex, just opposit of the Baiturahman Great Mosque. The KODIM 0101 building was once a former Dutch hospital.
18. Taman Sari Park
Just opposit of the Banda Aceh City Hall, in the vicinity of the Great Mosque Baiturahman, the park (which received a complete make-over after the 2004 tsunami) holds occational musical performances and bazaars on weekends.
There is also a large playground for kids. A great place to make friends with the locals.
19. Ulee Lheue harbour
Ulee Lheue is where the 2004 tsunami entered the Acehnese coastline and beyond. After the tsunami, Ulee Lheue was literally completely swept away. The Baiturrahim mosque near the sea shore was the only building left standing and today has been completely renovated.
Opposit of the Baiturrahim mosque, the public transportation boats leave for Pulau Nasi and occationally Pulau Breueh (aka Pulau Aceh) at the so called culinary square. Departure time is around 14:00. Price Rp. 10.000,– per person. Add more in case you bring your own motorbike or bicycle. The culinary square also has a souvernir shop and a recently opened seafood restaurant. Next to the square, there is the building of the Banda Aceh Tourism Promotion Board (Dinas Pariwisata Kota Banda Aceh).
Opposit of the culinary square, there are some small minimarkets (swalayan) where you can buy supplies before going to Pulau Weh or any other islands.
Both the fast ferries and the slow ferry to Pulau Weh leave from the newly constructed harbour. Once you enter the harbour grounds you will find the ferry ticket counters on your left. The slow ferry to Pulau Nasi also departs from this harbour but has a irregular schedule.
Ulee Lheue has a beach called Pantai Cermin where you can swim. Since its a roadside public beach roadside, please use a T-shirt and bermuda shorts.