Visit Lake Toba in Sumatra, Indonesia | Travel Guide

Visit Lake Toba in Sumatra, Indonesia | Travel Guide

Visit Lake Toba

Impossible to go to Sumatra without going through Lake Toba, it is an essential crossing point during a trip to the region and Indonesians love to visit lake Toba. After reading this article, I think you will understand why!

Fall in love with Lake Toba in Sumatra

You can drive or using scooter to discover every corner of the island. Grilled fish meals. A few beers and mie goreng on the beach. Breathtaking sunsets. A true haven of peace, slightly more touristy than West Sumatra, but still far from the mass tourism found elsewhere in Indonesia. But Indonesia is very big!

The Bataks are extremely welcoming people, smiling and always ready to help you. Their very special and nice houses give a special charm to the island where a zen and relaxing atmosphere reigns.

Practical guide – Visit Lake Toba and the island of Samosir

How to get to Lake Toba (Parapet and Tuk Tuk)

Transportation to Lake Toba from/to Medan

For information on means of transport (bus, van, car) in this part of Sumatra, go to the practical information of our article on Bukit Lawang. You will have the details of the routes between the main points of interest of the island.

Transportation to Samosir Island (Lake Toba) from Parapat by ferry

The ferries that connect Parapat city (which is on the edge of Toba Lake) to the island of Samosir leave approximately every hour and pass by the various hotels. Just let the driver know what your accommodation is. If you have not booked, ask to get off in the Tuk Tuk center.

There are other boats or ferries that connect the other parts of the island further south. Inquire directly at Parapat for the timetables, the journeys being much less frequent.

Getting Around Samosir Island

Here are the different ways to get around the island:

  • rent a scooter, (IDR 100,000 per day)
  • rent a bike (IDR 30,000 per day)
  • private car tour also possible between IDR 500,000 and 700,000 per day depending on the distances and type of cars.

Where to sleep on the island of Samosir?

You can chose to stay at the city of Tuk Tuk, in a hotel or guest house for examples. Some of them offers terrace overlooking the garden with a view of the lake. For breakfast, there were many restaurants around.

Read also: Orangutan largest arboreal mammal | Man of the forest (Sumatran, Bornean and Tapanuli)

What to do / what to see at Lake Toba?

Indonesia otherwise in Sumatra on the island of Samosir and Lake Toba

Discover the Batak culture

Visit the cultural village of Siallagan
See the exhibits at the Bataka Museum
Stroll through the village of Huta Bolon
Visit Tomok, its market and the tomb of King Sidabutar
Visit the cultural village of Simanindo (houses, traditional puppets)
Weaving at Lumban suhi suhi village
Hike on different trails and enjoy the views of the lake

Hike to the top of Pusuk Buhit (5h)
Hike and viewpoint at Holbung hill
Hike that starts from Ambarita and goes to the geopark
TV observation tower (viewpoint on the caldera)
Sunset at the Panorama Café on the way to Siallagan

Contemplate the multiple waterfalls

Sipiso piso waterfall (120m)
Binangalom waterfall accessible by boat – Hotel Caroline offers excursions to get there
Hot springs (Aek Rangat at the foot of Pusuk Buhit) – Be careful too hot to swim in them
Relaxing on the beach and swimming

Personally, we did not find beautiful beaches. Often, there was a lot of waste and a lot of leisure activities such as jet skis, bananas, etc. In short, an atmosphere that does not interest us so much. For swimming, I would not advise you to take a dip at the foot of your hotel, especially in Tuk Tuk because you have to keep in mind that all evacuations are done directly in the lake!

Binangalom waterfall. The other side of Lake Toba, Binangalom Waterfall or commonly called Situmurun by local people. A unique waterfall that directly descends to Lake Toba. Gerry WowilingCC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

When to visit Lake Toba, in what season?

The climate of Lake Toba is generally humid all year round. It is a tropical region, so it is not surprising. However, if there is a lot of precipitation, it does not mean that you will have rain all day. In reality it often rains at the end of the day and at night.

The most favorable months are between April and October. As for tourist attendance, it is especially important on weekends and during local holidays. But it will never be very crowded, Sumatra remains not very touristy.

From September to November for cultural festivities

If you go during this time of year, you can attend the Lake Toba Festival, a festival of traditional music, arts and sports. It generally lasts 3 to 5 days and is preceded by certain traditional rites, such as the popular Batak opera, but also more original customs such as the Mangalahat Horbo (the sacrifice of a water buffalo in order to obtain divine blessings ) as well as other traditions that you will not be able to see elsewhere, such as races in salu bolon, a kind of local canoe. Make sure to check the dates of the festival as they change every year! For example it was in 2017, the festival took place from December 6 to 9, but this year the festival was held in November.

From May to September for landscapes and temperature

For those wishing to avoid the crowds of tourists and locals, the dry season from May to September is ideal. In addition, the landscapes will be the most beautiful during this period because there will be almost no clouds and very little rain. I recommend the month of May where there is really a pleasant temperature.

Where to find ATM money in Lake Toba?

There are several ATMs in Parapet and Tuk Tuk. There will therefore be no risk of a shortage of cash. On the other hand, plan reservations if you live in other parts of the island of Samosir, because to our knowledge there is no ATM outside these two cities.

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Sources: PinterPandai, Villa Carissa, Seminyak – BaliWonderful Indonesia, Northabroad, TripCanvas

Photo credit (main picture): Dedy_p5 (CC BY-SA 4.0) via Wikimedia Commons
Photo description: this photo was taken from the Bobok Elephant Hill, Merek, North Sumatra.

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