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Lake Toba is an immense volcanic Lake covering area 1707 sq km (bigger than Singapore) with an island in the center. Formed by a gigantic volcanic eruption some 70,000 years ago, it is probably the largest resurgent caldera on Earth. Some studies say it might have been associated with causing previous ice age/climate change.

The island in the middle - Pulau Samosir - was joined to the caldera wall by a narrow isthmus, which was cut through to enable boats to pass; a road bridge crosses the cutting. You get a Ferry from Parapat to Pulau Samosir Island, they run every 1-2 hours, the last one at 6:00 pm (Rp 7000). Self proclaimed 'Tourist Hunters' may befriend you on the boat but are harmless and often helpful to find things, arrangements etc (Bintang can fix you up with anything). Tuk Tuk is the main town to stay on Samosir.


The main town is Parapat, about 4 hours by car from Medan (4-6 hours by public bus). Public Bus fee is 22,000 IDR. A scheduled and shared 7 passenger minivan costs 60,000 IDR and can be arranged by most hotels in Medan (Feb 08).

In reality you need to plan an 8 to 10 hour journey from Medan to Samosir Island, which is where the real tourism is. Parapat is a nice little town with reasonable hotels/guest houses, good Food options and so on. However its on the island itself that you get the real feeling of Danau Toba. The car ferry terminal is almost impossible to find, even with local help, or perhaps because of it. The ferry leaves according to a schedule that is hammered to the ticket office wall, or whenever the ferry is full, or whenever the ferry captain feels like leaving! Dont bother asking the staff any questions, if they do bother to reply it will be wrong anyway. Stay close to you car, and push on at first opportunity.

The ferry ride over is fantastic, just truly peaceful, apart from the car radios playing, the ladies selling peanuts, aqua, mee or pretty much anything else. Some spoke excellent English which was a little surprising. Landing at the other end of the one hour ferry journey is daunting, but again, behave like everyone else in Indonesia and just push, ever so politely, but firmly and eventually you will get off the ferry and onto the main road.

The road signs are pretty much useless, as is asking the locals for directions, why is it so hard? Anyway if you are going to Tuk Tuk keep going, even though it may seem to be taking forever and you have been stuck in the Kijang for 8 hours with 10 other people, but you will get there and the hosts will be wonderful.

Do not, I repeat, do not try to drive out of Samosir Island by going up and over the top to the land bridge. The road is very bad and even my Indonesian relatives eventually gave up, took my advice and turned around (perilously) and headed back to the ferry.

Raja Taxi +62 (0)617 366-555 operates a shared cab service leaving from Medan airport at scheduled times that costs 75,000 IDR per person (Dec 08). Alternatively, you can book the whole taxi, a Toyota Avanza which seats seven, for 450,000 IDR.

Another great way to get to Lake Toba is by train. Two or three trains leave each day in that direction and you want to get off either at PT Siantar or Tebing Tinggi (note: the train stops at one or the other). The train is a wonderful way to travel. Once you are in your seat and have a stream of buskers, food vendors and friendly local passing by you will know why this is often the best way to travel overland. From Siantar (1 hour Taxi) or T Tinggi (2 hour Taxi) you will need to hire a taxi or a bus for road transport to Parapat.


There are hot springs on the western side of the island just across the causeway from Pangururan. The water is hot. Locals usually use their hands to get some water out of the pool, standing in the pool is possible, but you probably won't be able to swim. The fee to enter to the surroundings is Rp. 2'000. The pools are free, there's some special foreigner pool for Rp 5'000.

  • Samosir - Many Big Statues as Cemeteries for Batak people ancestors
  • Samosir, Simanindo - Batak Museum with traditional dance performed twice daily
  • Samosir, Ambarita - Stone chairs used for judgement and executions
  • Just on the other side of Samosir, near Pangururan are hot springs
  • From Tuk tuk you can see a waterfall up the mountain behind you. It's a great walk with a rewarding fresh swim!


  • Tabo Cottages is the most luxurious accommodation on the island. Prices start at around Rp.120,000 per night and climb up from there. The rooms are very clean and quite modern by Sumateran standards. Internet is available from the family's computer for a nominal rate and the western-styled food served in the restaurant is very good.
  • There are numerous hotels and guest houses, mainly in Tuk tuk but with a few scattered in other small towns around the island.
  • Hotel Carolina is a nice place with 49 rooms set in a lush tropical garden. It has a good restaurant with a verandah overlooking the lake. Staff is very helpful. Prices start with a bargain of Rp.20.000 for small Batak style cottages up the hill with cold water only and go up to Rp.100.000 for the luxury rooms on the lake shore which come with hot water, a bath tub and a fridge. Rates subject to a 10% tax. Good access to the lake for swimming with a pontoon to relax. The Hotel can organise trips, rents out motorbikes, has an internet parlour and even offers free WiFi, though the speed can be very slow. [email protected], phone 0625 451210/41520. Ask the ferry boat from Parapat to drop you at the hotel jetty.
  • Liberta Homestay is a good budget choice for 35000Rp/night+. It has quiet private cabins on the lake. Friendly owner Mr Moon will sing, cook, and go out of his way for you.
  • Bagus Bay is a lovely place next to the lake. A dark wood and bamboo bar/restaurant give the place a particularly relaxed feel. The rooms are basic and range between 25000 and 50000 rupiah. Good food and cold beer at a reasonable price.
  • Samosir Cottages accommodates many of the travellers who arrive late in Parapat, as there is usually a representative to ship them to the cottages. This is not a bad thing, however - the place is large, with a big variety in the price of rooms (Rp 30,000 and upwards). The waterfront is clean, and the restaurant is large and serves good food.
  • Christina Guesthouse is a small relaxing place with lovely scenery and good swimming. Rooms are clean and located in several houses (e.g. traditional Batak-houses). Prices per night from Rp. 25000 upwards. Internet & Skype are available for reasonable price. Western- and Indonesian style food is served in the restaurant. Guesthouse manager Juan gives gladly general tourist information and good tips about Sumatra.
  • Romlan is a small guesthouse with about 15 rooms and includes two batak cottages (40,000 per night) and traditional rooms in a single and two storey building (about 60,000 per night). The rooms are super clean and very comfortable with attached bathroom and nice furniture. All rooms have direct lake view and the swimming area is good for swimming and relaxing. Also great local and indonesian food including some german meals. Highly recommended. Ask the boat to stop at the private dock.
  • Mas Cottages. Mas Cottages is closer to the ancient ceremonial stone chairs than downtown Tuk-Tuk. It is a quiet sanctuary from the rest of the world with a variety of accomodation options all directly on the lake including VIP suites and traditional Batak houses. Safety and security are unparalled at Mas Cottages. Prices are a bit higher for this secluded location at 60-70,000 rps.

This post first appeared on Best Vacation Places Around The World, please read the originial post: here

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