Biking on Nias Island
A cycling tour of Nias is the perfect way to explore the island. With a huge variety in scenery, terrain and road conditions there is something to suit everyone. And best of all, there is very little traffic here! Out in the countryside (99% of the island) there are few cars and most of the traffic consists of motorbikes and bicycles. Your biggest challenge will be to avoid chickens, dogs and little old ladies as you bicycle through countryside villages. Biking on Nias allows you to immerse yourself in this remote part of Indonesia in a way that very few tourist ever get the change to do.
The coastline offers easy biking with flat, mostly surfaced roads in good condition. The road often runs parallel to stunning beaches, and there will be many opportunities for a refreshing swim. Most of the coastal road is lined with swaying coconut trees and there are many small fishing villages along the way.
The interior is very green and hilly. This is also where the most interesting bike tracks can be found. Many of the tracks in the hills were built specifically for motorbikes and are only one meter wide. These tracks give bikers exclusive access to areas where others can’t go. The interior receives very few outside visitors and it’s not uncommon to meet people who do not understand Indonesian or have only very rarely meet foreigners. Along the way there are many opportunities to explore waterfalls, caves and traditional houses built in the unique Nias style.
Planning a bike tour of Nias Island
Great biking experiences can be had pretty much anywhere on Nias. Depending on your preference you can choose to base yourself in a convenient location, such as Sorake or Afulu. From there you can explore the surrounding area on day tours. This type of biking doesn’t require any planning or support.
You may also choose more adventurous options, such as a multi-day tours around the whole of Nias Island. This is an incredible experience, challenging for sure, but very rewarding. Multi-day tours require some planning, most of which can be done by going over the information in this website. Overland bikers are usually independent and don’t need logistical support. If you are a group of cyclists it is not a problem to hire a support vehicle that brings your luggage and equipment around for you.
The limiting factor is accommodation; there are areas of the island where it can be difficult to find a place to stay, and this has to be taken into account when planning your tour.
Below are three proposed bike tour routes. They are also suitable for Motorbike journeys.
South Nias Circuit – 230 km
The South of Nias contains many of the highlights of the island. A gorgeous coastline, traditional villages, surfing and a nice break midway at Sorake Beach. Starting in Gunungsitoli the route follows the main east coast road south. Most of the first day is relatively flat with some hills here and there. If you are interested in remote traditional villages there is an option to make a side trip to Gomo, the spiritual birthplace of Nias people. Upon reaching the south there are many guesthouses to choose from in the surfing village of Sorake. Spend a day or two here; biking around the nearby hills visiting traditional villages, or just relax on the beach, maybe take a surf lesson or two. When you are done with the south, return to Gunungsitoli via the east coast road across the island. This road is rough and steep with many twists and turn, but will take you through the remote interior of the island which few tourists get to see. Support vehicles can follow all the way. This trip can be extended by going to Sirombu and include a stopover on Asu Island.
North Nias Circuit – 172 km
If you are limited to a few days, and you want to focus on North Nias this is an excellent tour. Starting in the island capital Gunung Sitoli, this route circumnavigates North Nias Regency, which covers the northern third of the Island. Most of the route follows the coast on flat terrain with good roads. While crossing the interior the track winds is way through hills and valleys. Road conditions are extremely varied, but good for bikes.
This is a suggested 3-4 day itinerary, with a leisurely pace, giving you plenty of time to explore the sites along the way. Fit and experienced bikers can complete the circuit in less time. Some sections of this tour are very rough and can not be traveled by car, i.e. support vehicles have to travel another route. The rough section is the road between Salonako and Ombolata. All other roads can be traveled by car. The length of the tour also depends on how many side trips you do.
Nias Island Coastal Circuit – 340 km
If you have time on your hand and want to see the entire Island, the Nias Island Circuit is a great bike tour. This will allow you to explore a great variety of sites; places of incredible natural beauty as well as unique cultural sites. Most of the route follows the coast line and avoid the steep gradients of the hilly interior. While most of the circuit runs along surfaced roads, there is a section on the west coast where it is necessary to travel on small jungle paths for a day in order to complete the loop of the island. A circuit of the Island also allows for breaks in ‘tourist’ places, such as Sorake Beach where there are plenty of guesthouses, good food and amenities for tourists.
This is a suggested 4-5 day itinerary, with a leisurely pace, giving you plenty of time to explore the sites along the way. Fit and experienced bikers can complete the circuit in less time. Some sections of this tour are very rough and can not be traveled by car, i.e. support vehicles have to travel another route. The rough section is the road from Afulu (Sirombu) to Ombolata and from Anaoma to Doli-Doli. All other roads can be traveled by car. The length of the tour also depends on how many side trips you do, and how long break you take in Sorake and Afulu. This tour allows for a side trip to Hinako Islands, a group of small Islands on the west coast of Nias famous for surfing, diving and fishing.
Nias Island Explorer Circuit – 400 km
This tour is for bikers who want it all; leisurely rides along the coast as well as winding climbs up jungle clad hills, combined with as many side trips as you want. Its follows a lot of the same route as the coastal circuit, but with a twist; you will cross the green hills of the interior twice, following a route describing a figure eight across the island.
This is a suggested 5-6 day itinerary, with a leisurely pace giving you plenty of time to explore the sites along the way. Fit and experienced bikers can complete the circuit in less time. The length of the tour also depends on how many side trips you do, and how long breaks you take in Sorake and Afulu.
Getting your bike to Nias
Overland bikers coming from Sumatra bring their bike and gear over on the ferry from the mainland. For more information about the ferry, see the Getting to Nias by boat section.
It is not a problem to bring your bike to Nias on the plane. Many visitors to Nias are surfers and usually bring 1-2 surfboards with them. The Nias bound airlines are used to handling over sized baggage and the cost of excess luggage is very reasonable. The cost of the extra weight for an average bike including luggage would cost around USD 50.
Who bikes on Nias today?
So far there have been very few bikers here, but some adventurous long-distance overland bikers have toured parts of the Island in the last few years. No one have made a full circle of the island yet. However, biking is becoming increasingly popular with young Nias people and in Gunung Sitoli there are several bicycle clubs. On weekends they often arrange day tours for their members to various parts of the Island.
If you are two or more people planning a trip together it will be very convenient to have a support vehicle with you that takes your luggage from place to place and can pick you of if there is any problems along the way. Contact one of the local tour companies or drivers for help with arranging this.