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Provinces of Indonesia

The province (provinsi or propinsi) is the highest tier of local government subnational entity in Indonesia. Each province has its own local government (Pemerintah Daerah Provinsi), headed by the governor (gubernur); and has its own legislative body (Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat Daerah). The Governor and member of representatives are elected by popular vote for 5 years term.

West Sumatra
Motto: Tuah Sakato (United Prosperity)

This page is a short summary containing more general information about the province of West Sumatra. Extensive information on West Sumatra can be found in the directories 'Sumatra' and 'West Sumatra' on this website.

Location map of West Sumatra.

West Sumatra (Sumatera Barat, abbreviated to Sumbar) is a province of Indonesia. It lies on the west coast of the island Sumatra, and borders the provinces of North Sumatra (Sumatera Utara) to the north, Riau and Jambi to the east, and Bengkulu to the southeast. It includes the Mentawai Islands off the coast. The capital of the province is Padang.


The history of West Sumatra is closely related to the history of the Minangkabau people. Archaeological evidence indicates that the area surrounding the Limapuluh Koto regency forms the first area inhabited by the Minangkabau. This interpretation seems to be justified as the area of the Limapuluh Koto regency covers a number of large rivers which meet at the eastern part of the Sumatran coastline. The rivers were known have provided important sailing transportation from the previous era to the end of the last century. The Minangkabau ancestors were believed to have arrived on this route. They sailed from Asia (Indo-China) via the South China Sea, crossing the Malacca Strait and later settled along the Kampar, Siak and Indragiri (or Kuantan) rivers. A portion of them lived and developed their culture and traits around the Limapuluh Koto regency.
Picture: Rumah Gadang
The integration with migrants in the ensuing periods introduced cultural changes and an increase in population. Their settlement area gradually became diminished and eventually they spread to other parts of West Sumatra. A portion of them went to the Agam regency while others went to the now Tanah Datar regency. From those areas onward, further spread of the population occurred north of the Agam regency, in particular, the Lubuk Sikaping. Rao and Ophir districts. Most of them settled in the western area such as the coastline and some in the southern parts in Solok, Selayo and the surrounding areas of Muara and Sijunjung.

The history of the West Sumatra Province became more accessible at the time of the rule by Adityawarman. This ruler left considerable amount of evidence of himself, although he did not proclaim that he was the Minangkabau King. Adityawarman ruled Pagaruyung, a region believed by the Minangkabau to be the center of its culture. Adityawarman was the most important figure in Minangkabau history. Apart from introducing a government system by a ruling monarch, he also contributed significantly to the Minangkabau world. His most important contribution was the spread of Buddhism. This religion had a very strong influence in the Minangkabau life. The evidence of such influence found in West Sumatra today includes names such as Saruaso, Pariangan, Padang Barhalo, Candi, Biaro, Sumpur and Selo.

Since the death of Adityawarman in the middle of the 17th century the history of West Sumatra seems more complex. During that time, the connection of West Sumatra with the outside world, in particular, Aceh, became more intense. West Sumatra at that time was the political dominion of Aceh which also monopolized the economy of the area. Coupled with the intensive connection Islam entered into West Sumatra. The new faith eventually became fundamental to the social and cultural way of life in the region. Sheik Burhanuddin was regarded as the first preacher of Islam in West Sumatra. Prior to expanding the faith in the region, he was studying in Aceh.

The dominating influence of Aceh’s politics and economy did not make the people of West Sumatra happy. Ultimately, the growing dissatisfaction gave way to the acceptance of the Dutch although the presence of them also opened up a new chapter in the history of West Sumatra. The arrival of the Dutch in the region caused them to enter the era of colonialism in the very of essence of its meaning.

The first westerner to arrive in West Sumatra was a tourist from France called Jean Parmentier around 1532. However, the westerners who came for economic and political reasons were the Dutch. The Dutch commercial fleet was seen along the southern coast of West Sumatra between 1595 – 1598. Apart from the Dutch, other European nationalities also came to the region such as the Portuguese and the English.


West Sumatra lies in the middle of the western coast of Sumatra, and has an area of 42,297.30 kmē. Geographic features include plains, mountainous volcanic highlands formed by the Barisan mountain range that runs from north-west to south-east, and an offshore island archipelago called the Mentawai Islands. The West Sumatran coastline faces the Indian Ocean and stretches 375 km from North Sumatra province in the north-west to Bengkulu in the south-east. The lakes of West Sumatra include: Maninjau (99.5 kmē), Singkarak (130.1 kmē), Diatas (31.5 kmē), Dibawah (14.0 kmē), Talang (5.0 kmē). The rivers of West Sumatra include: Kuranji, Anai, Ombilin, Suliki, Arau. The mountains & volcanoes of West Sumatra include: Marapi (2,891 m), Sago (2,271 m), Singgalang (2,877 m), Talakmau (2,912 m), Talang (2,572 m), Tandikat (2,438 m).
Picture: Mount Marapi
Flora and fauna

The province includes large areas of dense tropical forest, which is home to a host of species including: Rafflesia arnoldii (world's largest flower), Sumatran Tiger, Siamang, Malayan tapir, Sumatran Serow, Rusa Deer, Malayan Sun Bear, Bornean Clouded Leopard, and many birds and butterflies. The province includes two National Parks: Siberut National Park and Kerinci Seblat National Park, as well as a number of nature reserves: Rimbo Panti Nature Reserve, Batang Palupuh Nature Reserve, Lembah Anai Nature Reserve, Lembah Harau Nature Reserve, Bung Hatta Grand Forest Park, Beringin Sakti Nature Reserve.


The province is served by the newly-opened Minangkabau International Airport, 23 km north-west of Padang in Ketaping, Padang Pariaman regency. Significant roads include the Trans-Sumatran Highway which runs through the province and heads north-west towards Medan and south-east towards Jakarta, the road between Padang and Bukittinggi, and the road between Bukittinggi and Pekanbaru. The provincial government plans to upgrade the later two roads over the next few years to improve traffic flows.

Regular bus services run between Padang and Bukittinggi, and other major cities of Sumatra. Other public transport options within the province include oplet, taxi and horse cart (bendi). The Teluk Bayur port in Padang is the largest and busiest on the western coast of Sumatra. It is used for exporting goods from West Sumatra as well as from some areas of the neighboring provinces.

Administrative areas

West Sumatera consists of the following cities:
  • Bukittinggi
  • Padang
  • Padang Panjang
  • Pariaman
  • Payakumbuh
  • Sawahlunto
  • Solok

While the regencies are:
  • Agam - capital: Lubuk Basung
  • Dharmasraya - capital: Pulau Punjung
  • Mentawai Islands (Kepulauan Mentawai) - capital: Tua Pejat
  • Limapuluh Koto - capital: Payakumbuh
  • Padang Pariaman - capital: Pariaman
  • Pasaman - capital: Lubuk Sikaping
  • West Pasaman (Pasaman Barat) - capital: Simpang Empat
  • South Pesisir (Pesisir Selatan) - capital: Painan
  • Sawahlunto Sijunjung - capital: Muaro Sijunjung
  • Solok - capital: Solok
  • South Solok (Solok Selatan) - capital: Padang Aro
  • Tanah Datar - capital: Batusangkar


The Minangkabau people of Sumatra, Indonesia inhabit the area of West Sumatra province. They are predominantly Muslim, and they have a reputation throughout Indonesia as traders. They are generally polite and welcome tourists and other travellers. One of the famous fetivals is Tabuik.


The prime tourist attractions of West Sumatra are the natural environment, and the culture and history of the Minangkabau and Mentawai people. Natural attractions of the mainland include the tropical forests, mountains, volcanos, lakes, valleys, rivers & waterfalls in the highlands, the fauna and flora, and the beaches around Padang. Many areas are protected as part of National Parks and Reserves.
The city of Bukittinggi is a popular central location in the highlands from which to explore the culture and history of the Minangkabau people, including architecture, crafts, dances, music and food. There are a number of museums and cultural centers. The Mentawai Islands are a popular destination for surfers and those looking to experience the culture and more primitive lifestyle of the Mentawai people.

All text in this article is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License
Last revised on March 19, 2010
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