North Sumatra, Indonesia's most populous province outside of Java, stretches from the Indian Ocean in the west to the Straits of Malaka in the East, and from Aceh in the north to West Sumatra in the south. It is thick with virgin rainforest, jungle-covered hills, terraced ricefields, mountain rivers, beautiful waterfalls, volcanic lakes and peaceful white beaches. The people of the region can be divided into five main ethnic groups: the Coastal Malays, living along the Melaka Straits, the Bataks, consisting of the sub-tribes around lake Toba and Samosir Island, the Pesisirs along the Indian Ocean coast, the Mandailings of sourthern Tapanuli, and Nias Islanders of the western coast of the province. These group each have their own dialects, religious beliefs, arts, customs and cultures. Several ethnic groups live in Medan and other town of North Sumatra, the largest of these being Chinese and Indian. Other parts of the archipelago are represented, notably the Acehnese, Minangkabau and Javanese.
The diversity of arts and cultures make this region a treasure chest for social scientists and cultural seekers. Ancient carved-stone graves of Batak Kings, the megalthic culture of Nias, unique of dances, ceremonies, arts, and crafts are just waiting for you to discover. North Sumatra is also one of the richest provinces in Indonesian for flora and fauna. And of course the jewel of North Sumatra, Lake Toba, the legendary birth place of the mountain-dwelling Batak and the largest Island lake in the Southeast Asia. The region also produces more than 30 % of Indonesia's export commodities, making of the vital cog in the Indonesian economy. Tobacco, palm oil, tea and rubber are produced in large quantities, particularly around Medan in the north of the provinces.