Top 10 Things To Do In Lake Toba

Lake Toba is the jewel in the crown of North Sumatra with many things to do besides chilling by the famous crater lake. Located around 5 hours away from the capital of North Sumatra, Medan, this is one of the premium holiday destinations in the region.

Visitors flock to Lake Toba to check out the largest crater lake in the world and to enjoy learning about the culture of the indigenous residents called the Batak Toba.

View of Lake Toba, Sumatra, Indonesia
View of Lake Toba, Sumatra, Indonesia. Photo by Bernard Gagnon via Wikimedia

Here are the recommended things to do in Lake Toba:

Watch a show at the Museum Huta Bolon Simanindo

One of the top attractions in Lake Toba is the chance to check out a show at the Museum Huta Bolon Simanindo. Performances take place twice daily from Monday to Saturday with one show on Sunday. If you make the journey to Simanindo Village for a performance, you will get to enjoy traditional Batak dancing and singing and the signature part of the show is the slaughtering of a buffalo although a live buffalo is used to recreate the mood and is fortunately not harmed during the proceedings.

A different village with performers. Samosir Island, Sumatra, Indonesia.
A different village with performers. Samosir Island, Sumatra, Indonesia. Photo by Dan Lundberg via Wikimedia

Go kayaking

If you are looking for a chance to get some exercise and you want to enjoy the waters of Lake Toba up close then consider going kayaking. One of the best things to do is walk to the shoreline and look for the old fashioned picnic spots here, as this is where you will also find vendors who will rent you a kayak. From here you can shoot out across the water and take in all the beauty of the surrounding crater for which Lake Toba is so famous.

Natural scenery of Lake Toba, North Sumatera is very charming and full of peace.
Natural scenery of Lake Toba, North Sumatera is very charming and full of peace. Photo by Wagino via Wikimedia

Bathe in the hot springs

If you fancy a long, hot soak, then head to the hot springs in Pangururan. Here you will a number of different ways to bathe and there are concrete swimming pools as well as smaller natural rock pools which provide a more rustic experience. The water is quite hot as it is fed by an underground source and this is a good place to come if you have been touring the island all morning and are looking to relax.

Visit Makam Raja Sidabutar

Another reason why people flock to Lake Toba is to take in the amazing graves of the former Batak kings that are located in Tomok. The graves are made of large slabs of carved stone and you need to wear a traditional Batak ulos when you walk around the cemetery. This is a panel of fabric like a scarf that you drape over your shoulder and is used to show respect when you visiting the final resting place of the royal family.

Lake Toba, Tombs
Lake Toba, Tombs. Photo by Arian Zwegers

Take a boat ride on the lake

There are several ways that you can enjoy the waters of Lake Toba, but if you don’t want to get your hair wet then one of the best ways is by taking a boat ride on the lake. You can rent a boat from a number of different places dotted around the lake and prices are negotiable depending on how long you want to cruise around and how well you haggle. Most boats are small speed boats and come with a driver who will whizz you around and point out some of the sights.

Boat ride in Lake Toba, Sumatra, Indonesia
Boat ride in Lake Toba, Sumatra, Indonesia. Photo by ivanatman

Enjoy the food

One of the best things to do in Lake Toba is enjoy the food. The Batak Toba who live here are mainly Christians and with that in mind you will find many more pork based dishes than in other parts of North Sumatra. Some of these include curries which are flavoured with pork blood or you can also get crispy barbecued pork. As with the rest of North Sumatra, the Nasi Padang here is excellent and includes rice which is then heaped with vegetable and curry dishes. Most of the main restaurants are located in Tomok Village and you will also find some Western food choices here if you are looking for variety.

Admire the stone chairs in Ambarita

Another one of the famous attractions in Lake Toba is the stone chairs which are situated in the village of Ambarita. The chairs date back some 300 years and would have been the seats of the king’s council in years gone by. Judgements and punishments would have been passed here such as executions and the chairs tower over you in size, giving you an idea of how a king’s council would have looked in the days of old.

Famous E stone chairs, Sumatra, Lake Toba, Sumatra, Indonesia
Famous E stone chairs in Ambarita, Lake Toba. Photo by julia Chapple

Tour the island on a motorbike

If you have a motorbike license then there is no better way to get around Lake Toba than to rent a motorbike. You can rent a set of wheels from many of the guesthouses on Samosir Island very cheaply and this allows you the freedom to enjoy the lush scenery of Lake Toba firsthand. If you don’t have a motorbike license then you can also rent a normal bike.

Motorbiking in Lake Toba, Sumatra, Indonesia
Motorbiking in Lake Toba, Sumatra. Photo by Klim Levene

Shop for textiles

Lake Toba is known for its pretty textiles so make the most of it if you want to buy a souvenir of your time here. The village of Suhi-Suhi is best known for its woven fabrics, although in reality you can get pieces all over Samosir Island. Lake Toba is particularly known for its ulos which come in different sizes and are made by weaving strips of fabric in a range of traditional patterns.

Hike up Pusuk Buhit

Pusuk Buhit is the main mountain in the Lake Toba area and it rises to a height of some 2,000 meters above sea level. The mountain is considered to be sacred in Batak culture as legend has it that Batak kings were born here in the days of old. If you want to hike up the mountain then be prepared for a rather long walk as it takes around 5 hours to get to the summit. That said, if you fancy a workout then it is more than worth it as you will get panoramic views of Lake Toba.

Pusuk Buhit, Lake Toba, Sumatra, Indonesia
Pusuk Buhit, Lake Toba, Sumatra, Indonesia. Photo by Pixabay

Best Accommodations at Lake Toba

There are many hotels, guesthouses and resorts along the lake in Tuk tuk, with some further away in smaller towns. You do not need to worry about choices of stay in Lake Toba *, in exception to Chinese New Year where it might peak with tourists thus hike in price and probably lack in space. The best rated hotels here are Horas Family Home * and Toba Village Inn *. While the best budget option in here is the Toba Cats Garden *.

Top 10 Things To Do In Jimbaran

Jimbaran is one of the prettiest seaside spots in Bali and most of the area backs on to a gorgeous coastline that is made up of soft golden sand and dramatic craggy cliffs. To top it off, you will find quite a number of things to do here.

Most people who visit Bali come to Jimbaran to take in all the delights of the sea that this part of the island has to offer and the idyllic scenery coupled with a laid-back beach atmosphere is one of the main reasons to visit.

Here are our recommended top 10 things to do in Jimbaran.

Make the most of the beach

Jimbaran Beach is one of the nicest beaches in all of Bali and stretches for 4 kilometres along the picturesque coast. On a trip to Jimbaran Beach, you will find clean sands that are perfect if you want to spend the day sunbathing and you can easily rent a sun lounger and take in the views as you sip on a fresh coconut. The beach is also a little less frenetic than other spots like Kuta, so if you want a laid-back afternoon next to the water then this is a great pick.

Jimbaran Beach, Bali Indonesia
Jimbaran beach. Photo by Meindert van D

Tour Kedonganan Fish Market

Kedonganan Fish Market is one of the top attractions in Jimbaran which is famous for its fish. Back in the days of old this part of Bali would have been a little fishing village and although it has grown over the years you can still get back to its roots on a visit to the market. This is also actually the largest fish market on the island and if you come here you will be able to marvel at the array of seafood on display usually involving local delights like red snapper and amberjack.

Woman at the fish Market Jimbaran, Bali, Indonesia
Woman at the Fish Market – Jimbaran. Photo by Annie Mole

Visit Jenggala Gallery

Jenggala Gallery is adjacent to Jenggala Keramik which is known for being one of the premium producers of beautiful ceramics in Indonesia. On a visit to the gallery you can view an array of ceramic artwork by both local and international artists and this is a wonderful place to visit if you want to know more about the cultural scene in Jimbaran. As well as checking out the gallery you can also have a go at making your own piece of art as there is an onsite workshop where you can throw your own pot as a souvenir.

Sip on a cocktail at Rock Bar

One of the most famous bars in Bali is Rock Bar in Jimbaran which has unrivalled views over the glittering ocean below. The bar sits atop a sweeping cliff and you can access it via a glass lift that is an experience in itself. Once you get to the top you can order one of their speciality cocktails and then enjoy some of the delicious bar snacks that have a Mediterranean flavour.

The Rock Bar Jimbaran, Bali, Indonesia
The Rock Bar at AYANA Resort *, Jimbaran Bay is a truely unique experience and the perfect place to watch the sun go down. Photo by Simon Clancy

Pamper yourself at a spa

Bali is famous for its amazing spas and some of the best on the island are found in scenic Jimbaran. There are a huge number of high-end resorts in this part of Bali and even if you are not staying there you can still visit the spas and spend the day being pampered. There are also a number of stand-alone spas that have become famous in Jimbaran thanks to their amazing service such as Bamboo Spa and Opium Beauty.

Spa at Jimbaran, Bali, Indonesia
Spa at Jimbaran, Bali, Indonesia. Photo by Huey3800

Wander around Jimbaran Town

Many people visit Jimbaran for the seafood and just head straight for the beach, missing the town entirely. This is a shame as the centre of Jimbaran has a charming village feeling that makes it a great place to spend an afternoon. Far from the hectic pace found in places like Kuta or Seminyak, you can wander around the winding streets here and hunt for local souvenirs or stop off for a drink in a little traditional cafe.

View of Jimbaran from the sea Bali, Indonesia
View of Jimbaran from the sea. Photo by Mark Lehmkuhler

Enjoy the seafood

Many people come to Jimbaran just to try its famous seafood. The beach here is lined with restaurants and warungs that serve up some of the best fish and seafood on the island and you can choose whatever looks best from the catch of the day and pay by the weight. All the seafood here is grilled for a delicious smoky flavour and then served with rice and spicy sauce. You can also get a range of vegetable side dishes and then eat your meal on the beach with your feet in the sand.

Go fishing

When visitors come to Jimbaran they often sample the seafood without realising that they can actually get out on the water and go fishing themselves. Fishing trips abound in Jimbaran and you can fish for majestic specimens like amberjack and mahi-mahi. The best part of a fishing trip in Jimbaran is that you will get to feast on your catch at the end of the day.

Fishing Trip at Jimbaran, Bali, Indonesia
Fishing trip at Jimbaran. Photo by Mark Lehmkuhler

Visit Pura Ulun Siwi

If you want to explore a bit of the local culture in Jimbaran then make your way to this beautiful little temple. Pura Ulun Siwi lies close to the famous Morning Market in Jimbaran and dates from the 18th century. The temple is made of black volcanic stone and locals flock here thanks to the holy waters of the temple. The sacred spring water is here is said to guard against pests, and farmers, in particular, use it to keep their crops safe.

Sunset at Jimbaran Bay, Bali, Indonesia
Sunset at Jimbaran bay. Photo by ValerioVeo

Visit Uluwatu Temple

Uluwatu Temple is not strictly in Jimbaran but it is one of the main attractions in the area. As such, if you are in Jimbaran it makes sense to make the trip to Pura Luhur Uluwatu which is one of the most famous attractions in Bali. Uluwatu Temple is one of the iconic Balinese sea temples that stands on a towering cliff giving you unrivalled views across the water. Much of the area is covered in pretty forest and you will find a number of cheeky monkeys here who love photo opportunities with visitors.

-> Read our Guide to Uluwatu Temple, Bali

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Top 10 Things to Do on Nusa Penida, Bali

Nusa Penida is slowly getting the attention it deserves, rugged and beautiful with many things to do. Surprisingly there is a lot to do on this remote island of Bali, and choosing the best of the best has not been easy, but we have come up with a list that is all rounded from exploring into the deep sea or on land around the island and also finding all the secret nooks and picturesque spots.

Speedboats zip across daily from Sanur, Bali but mostly designed for people to go over and stay the night. This is all the better as this island has a lot of beautiful places to be explored and you would definitely more than a day to do that.

Nusa Penida, Bali

Snorkeling off Crystal Bay. Photo by Haryanti via Wikimedia commons

Here is our list of recommended top 10 things to do on Nusa Penida just for you:

Snorkeling off Crystal bay

This postcard worth beach aptly called crystal bay is one not to be missed on Nusa Penida. During low seasons, this beach is practically deserted, giving exclusivity which is now hard to find in the area of Bali, although it may not have the whites sand. Wedged between Nusa Penida and Nusa Lembongan, the seas here are clear and it is also a great place to snorkel and enjoy the rich marine life.

Snorkeling off Crystal Bay, Nusa Penida, Bali

Nusa Penida, Bali. Photo by Marc

Dive in the seas off Nusa Penida

Nusa Penida along with its sister Nusa Lembongan are popular islands for scuba divers. This is because the sea surrounding here is rich with marine life such as manta rays and whale sharks and the abundant corals. You will be able to find many tour operators that will take you out for dive trips here. The few popular diving spots around here are crystal bay, manta point, and blue corner.

Limestone rock on the sea of Nusa Penida, Bali

Limestone rock on the sea of Nusa Penida, Bali. Photo by gcnmrk5ii

Chill at Atuh Beach

This secret beach will take some time to find, surrounded by an amazing high cliff of limestone walls. The drive to get here is stunning and the trekking down the steep path to the beach gives the experience to remember. This beach is relatively unknown or the regular tourists just do not take the effort to come here, hence it’s well worth your time. Once arriving here, do spend the whole day chilling on this beautiful beach.

Kelingking Beach Secret Point

This beach is one of the must visit on Nusa Penida, and it is probably the most photographed section as well. The view from the cliff is simply beautiful, as you gaze off to the cliff stones that looks like a dinosaur chilling by the beach.

The dinosaur on the beach, Kelingking secret point, Nusa Penida, Bali

The dinosaur on the beach, Kelingking secret point. Photo by junaidrao

Marvel at the Broken beach / bay (Pasih Uug)

Thanks to its unique natural formation on the coastal rock, many people came here just to take a view and of course a photograph of the scene. Despite its name, it is not a beach but a sea tunnel through the cliffs. This hollowed cliff is also known as the bridge and is definitely a traveler’s favourite hunt.

Broken beach / bay at Nusa Penida, Bali

Broken beach / bay at Nusa Penida. Photo by Georgi Kovachev, via Wikimedia Commons

Take a dip at the Angel’s Billabong lagoon

This is a lagoon set in between black volcanic rocks. It is located on a cliff down from the broken beach. Many people came here just to take pictures and some also attempt to swim but do be careful of the powerful waves that swept in. At the mouth of the river, the green-hued water is calm and clear.

Broken beach / bay at Nusa Penida, Bali

Angel’s Billabong, a lagoon at Nusa Penida. Photo by By Georgi Kovachev via Wikimedia Commons

Explore Gua Karang Sari cave

This cave is also known as Giri Putri, and it is more of a tunnel of 200m long. Many Buddhists and Hindus come here too to pray, as there is a temple located inside it. Besides the usual stalagmites and interesting cave features, there is also a stream that is believed to be of holy water.

Visit Pura Penataran Agung Ped temple

This temple is set in a pond and is greatly revered by worshippers from as far as Bali. It is located in the Ped Village on the main road. It is one of the most visited temples on this island and rightly so.

Pura Penataran, Ped temple Nusa Penida, Bali

Pura Penataran, Ped temple. Photo by Marine Dalleas

Take a swim in Tembeling water spring

This is a natural swimming pool in a rainforest surrounded by limestone cliffs. The fresh springs come from a cave that runs into the pool and then back into the ocean. Taking a swim here is special due to the dense forest surrounded it. Take note that there are separate pools for men and women.

Explore the island on two wheels

As there are still so many places unexplored in Nusa Penida, it is a good idea to rent a bike and go around hunting for your very own secret spots. Besides, you will be able to see more of the village life and check out other beaches that are dotted all over the island.

Working in a seaweed farm on the island of Nusa Penida, Bali

Working in a seaweed farm on the island of Nusa Penida. Photo by Matthew Kenwrick

Nusa Penida with its rugged cliffs and clear blue seas are still quite unchartered despite being so close to the popular Bali. Come visit here before the rest of the world finds out. You will definitely find the sense of adventure here with its underwater activities and secret tourist attractions. If you want to explore further then head on to Nusa Lembongan or Nusa Ceningan, the islands right next to it.

How to get to Nusa Penida and get around

There are speedboats from Sanur to Nusa Penida daily. There are also public boats daily but are not timed for day trips. Note that the seas are rough and you may have to wade through the water to the boats. Getting around Nusa Penida takes time because the roads are not well-maintained and steep, and the transport is limited. Most tourists rent a motorbike or charter a bemo or ojek.

Where to stay on Nusa Penida

Two villages offer basic places to stay and eat – Toyapakeh, where most boats from Lembongan and Sanur arrive; and Sampalan, near the harbour used by the slow boats from Padangbai.

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Top 5 Things to Do in Tana Toraja, Sulawesi

Having thousand of islands, each area in Indonesia has its own unique culture and ritual. Tana Toraja in Sulawesi is one which has the said unique feature. Tana Toraja means simply Toraja Land. To get here, you have to first get into Makassar, which is a capital city of South Sulawesi. There is no flight going to this area. That is why you would have to take a private car or bus from Daya Terminal in Makassar to get to Tana Toraja. It takes around 8 to 10 hours driving from Makassar to Toraja.

Most people make their way to this remote location to take part and view the famous ancient burial rites. Death is an important part of the Toraja culture and their funeral rites are definitely worth an experience. Besides this fascinating activity, here are our suggested things to do while you are in Tana Toraja.

Rambu Solo death ritual, Tana Toraja in Sulawesi, Indonesia
People gather around to have the most awaited ritual, Rambu Solo. Picture by : Marina & Enrique

Watch the ancient funeral ceremony

First of all, we must check out the funeral ceremony or burial rites of the Toraja people. It is, after all, the most intriguing part this mountainous region. The local people called this mortuary death ritual Rambu Solo. The history of this ancient rite go way back and the concept of death is deeply entrenched in the people of Toraja.

They believe that a dead person is just someone who is sick and not completely dead until his/her family conduct the ritual. Since a lot of money is required to set a Rambu Solo, many wait for a while until they can afford the buffalos and pigs for the ceremony. Consequently, Rambu Solo also becomes a tool to classify people based on their social structure. The more sacrificial animals they can afford, the more people will discover that a family belongs to the upper social class. The people in Toraja always help one other to run this sacred and obligatory ritual, whether in terms of cost or labour. There is no exact date for Rambu Solo but mostly the rituals are carried out in June, July, and August. Come to Tana Toraja during these months to have a chance to participate in this ritual.

Tana Toraja, Sulawesi, Indonesia Map
Tana Toraja, Sulawesi, Indonesia Map

Visit the amazing Graves of Lemo

Visiting graves is surprisingly one of the exciting activities in Indonesia. Take walks around the place to visit various gravesites or other popular sites, normally around 1 – 3 hours walk. If walking is not your thing, you may try taking short bemo (minibus) rides from Rantepao. The most popular and photographed are the graves carved into the wall of the natural rocks at Lemo.

Graves at Lemo, Tana Toraja, South Sulawesi, Indonesia
Graves at Lemo. Photo by Arian Zwegers

Marvel at the traditional Tongkonan houses

These houses with upward-sloping roofs are decorated with intricate design, and they have been used as a center for Aluktodolo (an old Toraja people’s religion or belief) rites. The Aluktodolo rites are like storing harvest in a carved rice barns or water buffaloes slaughter for ceremonies. Places with houses, granaries and/or ceremonial grounds and burials are Pallawa, Bori Parinding, Kande Api, Nanggala, Buntu Pune, Londo, Lemo and Tumakke.

Tongkonan House at Tana Toraja, South Sulawesi, Indonesia
Tongkonan House. Photo by Arian Zwegers

Visit Ke’te Kesu village

This village is nominated for having a completed settlement in Tana Toraja. It has houses, granaries, burial place, ceremonial ground, rice fields and water buffalo pasture.

Learn The Traditional Spinning Process in Sa’dan Village

Learn how to spin the cotton with its traditional spinning process here in Sa’dan Village. Although not so well known by tourists, this is one of the must do things here. Grandma Panggau, one of few old people who is still strong and healthy, will teach you how to spin the cotton ball into a yarn. She is here with the support of government through Culture and Tourism Department to demonstrate this rare spinning process to tourists.

After that, buy some local-made woven fabrics to take home. All the fabrics here are directly distributed by the makers around Sa’dan. You may easily find many weavers in Toraja since almost all locals also rely on this job to earn some money. But it is now rare to find someone who can still process the yarn itself for the materials as per traditions.

Traditional Spinning Process in Sa’dan Village, Toraja, Indonesia
Traditional Spinning Process in Sa’dan Village, Toraja. Photo by Isti

View The Highest Statue of Jesus

Everyone knows about the world famous statue of Jesus in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, with the height of 38 m. But few know about this other statue of Christ the Redeemer here in Toraja. Touted to be at the height of 40m, this may be the higher statue of the two!

Get yourself ready to climb the steep stairs 1km uphill to this statue. It is also good to spend your evening here to watch the amazing sunset. It is a picturesque viewpoint with the statue against the violet sky. Do be careful when you go downhill since this place does not provide proper lights along the pathway yet.

Highest statue of Jesus, Tana Toraja, Sulawesi, Indonesia
The Highest statue of Jesus at Tana Toraja. Photo by Isti

Take a bath at the Tilanga Spring Water

If you wish to keep yourself away from the crowd, then this place is for you. Tilanga spring water is a natural pool away from the hustle and bustle of the city. This pristine lake is nestled between rocks surrounded by the lush trees and natural sounds. The deepest part is about 5 meters down.

This destination is located at Sarira Village, Makale, about 15 km south of Rantepao. You can reach this place without any trekking. A parking area is provided. A fun thing to do here is to throw coins into the lake, as the local children here will excitedly jump into the water to catch them.

Take a bath at the Tilanga Spring Water, Toraja, Indonesia
A kiddo is trying to look for coins inside the water. Photo by Isti

Catch The Land Above The Sky

Wake up in the early morning to catch the most beautiful sunrise in Toraja. This place is located 1400 meters above the sea level in North Toraja. Lolai is the name of this place, also known to the people as “The Land Above The Sky”. To get the great view up here, you have to arrive here at least at 4.30 AM. As the sun rises, you will be awed by the light up clouds beneath your feet.

A travel tip is to take your own motorbike here. Please be careful though since the road access to here is narrow with limited street lighting. Drive slowly and stay alert when facing oncoming vehicles down the hill.

Catch The Land Above The Sky, Toraja, Indonesia
Catch The Land Above The Sky of Tana Toraja. Photo by Isti

Toraja is such an exotic destination, not only for its rich culture and unique ritual of generations but also its relatively unknown nature and tourist attractions. Motorbike is the best option here to explore the area. You can rent a motorbike with only IDR 150,000-200,000/day. Also, stay in the tourist area at Rantepao, so that you can easily find everything that you might need there.


Where to stay at Tana Toraja

Most travellers will choose to stay at Rantepao * as it is the most convenient. Popular hotels here are The Heritage Hotel * and Toraja Misiliana Hotel *.

-> Find the best hotel deals in Tana Toraja with Booking.com *

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