Lake Toba, also known as Danau Toba, is one of the most popular tourist attraction in Sumatra. Tourism in Lake Toba is fairly developed, but it still holds its own quiet charm.
It is the largest volcanic lake in the world measuring at 1,707 sq ft. It is formed by a gigantic volcanic eruption some 70,000 years ago and is probably the world’s biggest caldera. As a fact, this lake was a product of a massive supervolcanic eruption about 77,000 years ago, is known as the Toba catastrophe theory that is rumoured to have killed many of the human population.
With a quiet and serene beauty, most people make a trip here just to unwind and while the time away, especially after a hardcore extended backpacking or trekking.
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Where is it
This largest volcanic lake is located in Sumatra, Indonesia. Samosir island (Pulau Samosir) within the lake is the island inside of the island of Sumatra.
Amidst mountains with clear lake that almost reflect anything, it is definitely a relaxing place. But as a bonus, the Batak people living here is another highlight of the place, being outgoing, they will make sure your stay is well worth it. Just say “Horas” (the tradition Batak greeting) and you will definitely a dose of their hospitality and some of their local jungle juice, pipes and music!
When is the best time to go
Best time to go Lake Toba is May when the weather is changing from slightly cool to warm. The heat might go up really high as it continues to summer but it is also erratic and may have sudden rain. During winter, there is a lot of rainfall here.
What to seeThere are considered a lot of tourist attractions here for you as it is a fairly popular tourist place. If you care keen, you may easily find a tour, including to Pulau Samosir, an island in this lake itself.
You may go to Tuk tuk, a popular place for the tourists, with a great view of Lake Toba. Here you can do your shopping and buy some books from the second-hand bookshop.
Tomok is a quieter place but with better food options and delicious Indonesian food. You may also bask in its rich culture as there is burial place for the King Sidabutur, which is significant to the local people.
There are traditional dances around, one at Batak Museum and another in Restaurant Bagus Bay.
Just above Tuk tuk, you may reach there just by walking and take a nice swim in it.
About 40kms from Tuk tuk – the water is really hot, therefore, might not be able to swim in, but you may enjoy a light dip.
Things to do and Attractions
As mentioned it is a place to relax, it is mostly not to do much things. Just kick back and relax, chill by the lakeside. If you must do somethings, swim in the volcanic lake, or take a boat out the lake either in the day or in an overnight party, with the volcano as a backdrop. Book lovers can have some reading up here with where there is a second hand bookshop for you to choose from.
For some active things to do, you can go for kayaking on the Lake Toba. You may also just take a boat ride on the lake. Or take a bath in the hot springs. Not to forget, enjoy the many delicious foods at nearby villages at Tomok. Another tip is to rent a motorbike and tour around the Samosir island yourself.
But if you want to visit some attractions around Lake Toba, you can visit:
Museum Huta Bolon Simanindo, which has performances twice daily
Makam Raja Sidabutar – graves of the former Batak Kings
Stone chairs in Ambarita – dated back to 300 years ago and serve as a judgement seat
Hike Pusuk Buhit – the main mountain in Lake Toba area, it would take 5 hours to the summit
Shop for textiles – get your souvenir at Suhi-Suhi village
Where to stay
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 *.
What and where to eat
There are no shortage of local Indonesian food here from restaurants at Tuk tuk (the main road) varying in both prices and quality respectively. Here to add on to the atmosphere, magic mushrooms and various happy herb pizza can be found as well. Drinks are also no shortage here, with several bars dotted around, but best to just get it from your guesthouse.
How to get there
Fly in to Medan and then travel by land to Parapat, a town next to Lake Toba. It is 4 hours trip away from Medan by bus. Or you can take a taxi or scheduled a car from Medan airport to Parapat.
Else you can fly from Medan Polonia airport to Silangit with Susi Air daily, for just 30 minutes and safer than the road trip. But the flight costs would be around 38USD one way.
How to get around
Local public transports is the boat at the lake. Public Boats from Parapat and surrounding areas like Tuk tuk or Tomok at Samosir Island is around 7,000 Rp per trip.
Where to go nearby
Head off for a dive at beautiful Pulau Weh (Island) just off the coast of Sumatra.
Bring a raincoat or equivalent as rain is prevalent here and can be random. Also bring mosquitoes repellent.
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