Exploring the Minahasan Highlands of North Sulawesi

Exploring the Minahasan Highlands of North Sulawesi

Do you have a non-diving day planned at the end of your holiday prior to flying? Perhaps you would like to see more of the top side of North Sulawesi? Do you enjoy experiencing different cultures? If any of these apply to you and you are planning a diving trip to Lembeh, a tour of the Minahasan Highlands checks all of the boxes.
The Highlands are a region of stunning natural beauty with everything from rolling hills and rugged volcanoes through to fields of flowers, scenic crater lakes and picturesque waterfalls. The area is also an extremely rich and fertile growing region for coffee and tea, cocoa, rice, coconuts and a broad range of herbs and spices.
It’s not only the land that makes this region visit worthy, the Minahasan Highlands are steeped in history which spans from ancient to the time of World War II.
Our highland tour takes you to the most prominent places of interest and includes cultural, historical and natural highlights to give you a comprehensive North Sulawesi experience. You are sure to meet welcoming locals along the way who will greet you with a friendly smile and the children may even try out their English skills with you.

North Sulawesi Tour

The local children enjoy meeting guests who visit their villages

Our Minahasan Highland tour takes around 7 – 8 hours and we aim to leave Lembeh Resort at 7.30am, after breakfast. During the tour there will be plenty of opportunities to sample local cuisine and lunch, refreshments and entry fees are all included. You will be accompanied by one of our experienced tour guides – who usually have a few little extra surprises planned for along the way. Here is an overview of some of the places of interest which we visit during the tour…

Waruga North Sulawesi

Waruga, such as these, are historical North Sulawesi graves



Waruga are historical Minahasan monolithic stone graves in which the deceased were placed in a seated position. A single waruga would be used for an entire family and as later family members passed away, the waruga would be opened up and the most recently deceased placed inside. The seated position of the bodies allowed them to be arranged in a “stacked” formation. These are an intriguing part of the history of the ethnic Minahasan people.

Tomohon market

Tomohon’s traditional market is a meeting place for the locals as well as a bustling market


Tomohon Traditional Market

The market in Tomohon is a highlight of the Minahasan Highland Tour and it is equally famous among the locals, especially at weekends when it is bustling with shoppers. The market incorporates two main buildings with an array of stalls inside and out. The main building is where you will find aromatic herbs and spices, fresh produce and it’s where you’ll also see the local ladies making a range of sweet breads, donuts and cakes; all of which are worth a try for those with a sweet tooth. The second building is known as the “extreme” market on weekends (even to the locals). Throughout the week this is a regular fish and meat market, however on a weekend, you’ll find the range of produce is extended and includes some unexpected animals including cats and dogs, pythons, rats, bats and other bush-meats which can unfortunately include monkeys and other vulnerable species from North Sulawesi. For those who would prefer not to visit this section of the market it is easily avoidable.

Tondano extreme market

Bats at the “extreme” meat market – which is easily avoidable for those who would prefer not to visit


Pinaras Waterfall

This beautiful waterfall, found in the village of Pinaras, is just a short drive from the Tomohon Market and provides a pleasant and peaceful contrast to the bustling marketplace.

Sulawesi Minahasan highland tour

Pinarnas waterfall is located just outside of Tomohon


Danau Linow

The word “Danau” is Indonesian for lake and during the Minahasan Highland tour we usually visit two lakes. Lake Linow is also known as the “Changing Color Lake” as it’s surface coloration changes due to the high sulphur content reflecting the changing color light through the day. This is a wonderful location to stop for refreshments – but keep a look out for bubbling mud holes caused by geo thermal activity as you walk around!

Danau Linow

Lake Linow is also known as the changing color lake


Lake Tondano

This spectacular crater lake is the second largest lake in Indonesia and it is the lifeblood of the local communities who rely on the lake for fish and water for growing crops. The lake covers an astonishing 48 km² and literally stretches as far as the eye can see.
The low lying land surrounding the lake also provides ideal rice growing conditions and this is one of the major industries in the area. You’ll find numerous small villages on the banks of the lake and there is no shortage of restaurants selling the local specialty – grilled fish, rice and vegetables which is, of course, served with a spicy sambal (chilli sauce). This is a wonderful spot for lunch during our Minahasan Highland tour and the views are breathtaking.

Lake Tondano Minahasan Highland

Some of the houses on the banks of Lake Tondano are built on stilts in the water

After your tour you will return to Lembeh Resort in the late afternoon, in time to relax before a well deserved à la carte dinner in the restaurant.
If you would like to take a tour of the North Sulawesi Minahasan Highland’s while you are here (or any other tour), it can be booked in advance or in the resort with a couple of days notice so that we can prepare. It’s a wonderful day out and we hope that you will discover that North Sulawesi is as incredible on land as the Lembeh Strait is underwater.
To make a booking or for more information, please contact us on [email protected] – we look forward to welcoming you to North Sulawesi and Lembeh Resort soon.