Banda Aceh City is the provincial capital and largest city in the province of Aceh, Indonesia, located on the island of Sumatra, with an elevation of 35 meters. The city regency covers an area of 64 square kilometers and according to the 2000 census had a population of 219,070 people. Banda Aceh is located at the northwestern tip of Indonesia at the mouth of the River Krueng Aceh.
The city was originally named Kutaraja, and determined as the provincial capital in 1956. Kuta Raja means “City of the King”, in reference to the founding of the Aceh Sultanate from Champa origins. Later its name was changed to Bandar Aceh Darussalam or popularly known as Bandar Aceh, with the first part of the name coming from the Persian bandar (بندر) meaning “port” or “haven”. Today the city is spelled Banda Aceh with the lost of “r” in “Bandar”. The city is also dubbed to as the “port to Mecca”, and Aceh is also referred to as the “porch of Mecca” (Indonesian: Serambi Mekkah), since in the past during the days when the hajj pilgrims travelled by sea, the hajj pilgrim from all over Indonesian archipelago traditionally always make a stop over in the city before continuing their journey to Mecca. It is also known that earliest Southeast Asian Islamic sultanates — such as Samudra Pasai — were first established in Aceh, which means Islam first arrived in Aceh before spreading throughout Southeast Asia.
Beside Bairurrahman Grand Mosque, Taman Sari Gunongan, and Rumoh Aceh, royal heritage sites, and beautiful beaches panorama that attract people to visit, Banda Aceh is also famous for its Warong Kupie (Coffee Shops) where specially brewed coffee is served. There are two kind of brewed coffees: Ulee Kareng and Brawe coffee.
Several festivals are held annually by the City:
- Banda Aceh Festival
- Festival Krueng Aceh Peunayong
- Festival Geulayang Tunang (kite festival)
- Festival Kupi, etc
Surrounding Banda Aceh there are 3 beaches which may accessed in 15 to 20 minutes by vehicles, they are:
- Ujong Batee Beach, black sand beach and calm waves, suitable for swimming and kids activities
- Lhok Nga Beach, the most developed beach, visited by local and foreign tourist, suitable for surfing and watching sunset
- Lampu’uk Beach, very quiet, dangerous for swimming, has cliff and good scenery
Sultan Iskandar Muda International Airport is located in Blang Bintang, 13.5 km from Banda Aceh.
Two main highways run out of Banda Aceh to the south. One runs down the eastern side of the province through main towns such as Bireuen and Lhokseumawe to Medan, the large capital of the province of North Sumatra. The other highway runs down the western side of the province through lesser-populated areas to the towns of Calang, Meulaboh, and Singkil. The main bus station called Terminal Terpadu Batoh is located at Jalan Mr. Teuku Muhammad Hasan.
Banda Aceh has two sea ports, Pelabuhan (port) Ulèë Lheuë and Pelabuhan Malahayati.
- Pelabuhan Ulèë Lheuë was the main sea port in Aceh, now is functioned as ferry terminal. Located in sub-district Meuraksa.
- Pelabuhan Malahayati, the current main sea port, is located in Krueng Raya, 27 km from Banda Aceh.