Lake Toba is one of the main tourist destinations of North Sumatra. The huge crater lake, the largest in the world, was formed by a massive volcanic eruption over 70,000 years ago. While I’ve already written about some of the other highlights of Sumatra (like Pulau Weh with it’s great diving, Tangkahan where you can take an elephant tour and Bukit Lawang where you can see Orang Utans) I thought I’d cover things to do at Lake Toba today
It will be worth it! From chilling out in solitude or with friend, enjoying the unspoiled nature, meeting the friendly local Batak people and soaking up the all around laid-back ambiance, there are lots of things to do around Lake Toba to keep you entertained. We’ve shortlisted some of the best things do do at Lake Toba. Let’s take a closer look.
1. Kayak Around the Lake
One of the best things to do around Lake Toba is kayaking. Out on the lake, you will feel at one with nature. You can easily rent a Kayak and go paddle away on the crystal clear waters of the lake. You’ll be spoiled by the views of volcanic mountains touching the sky above. I’d recommend stopping for an old-style picnic by the lake, shared with a loved one perhaps. It is a reviving experience! Alternatively, you can also go fishing on a traditional fisherman’s boat. Ask the locals about it.
2. Explore the Town of Tuktuk Siadong
If you visit the island of Samosir your first stopping point is the town of Tuktuk Siadong. The ferry from Parapat stops here. The town is peaceful yet lively. There’s lots of accomodation, charming bars and restaurants. You can stay in a traditional Batak-style bungalow and just wander around, meet the friendly locals and enjoy the views of the lake, before settling down to explore the island further.
If you’re looking for a place to stay around Tuktuk Siadong try Laster Jony’s and Gokhon Guesthouse if you’re on a budget. Horas Family Home is a good mid-range choice. It’s basic, but comfortable and the hosts are accommodating. Toba Village Inn is the best hotel on the island.
3. Check Out Some Amazing Waterfalls
Samosir Island is home to some breathtaking waterfalls. The most impressive is the 120-meter tall Sipiso-Piso Waterfall. The waterfall is on the the northern edge of Lake Toba. You can hike up the waterfall to for an amazing view of the surrounding landscape (there’s a nice guide to the falls here). Another nice waterfall to check is the Binangalom Waterfall, which cascades into the lake. It’s a great spot for a refreshing swim on a hot day and one of the best things to do at Lake Toba.
4. Learn About Batak Culture
The region surrounding Lake Toba is populated by the Batak people. This ethnic group have their own music, dance and food. Visiting Lake Toba is a chance to learn about the interesting culture. You can visit the Batak Museum, tucked in a traditional house where the king Raja Sidauruk used to live before he passed away.
I quite liked the museum as it gives you a bit of background on Batak culture. You can see traditional costumes, artifacts and you can also watch a traditional dance of a Sigale Gale puppet performance. It’s a nice way to spend a few hours if you’re looking for things to do at Lake Toba.
5. Lounge in a Hot Spring
located at the foot of Pusuk Buhit you’ll find some natural hot springs. It might be better to call them ‘very hot’ springs. Or maybe scalding springs… Some of the springs have been funnelled into small swimming pools where you can soak in the waters and relax. They are cheap and very basic, but an interesting place to visit if you can cope with the hot temperature of the water.
6. Hire a motorbike and Drive
The best way to see Samosir Island, which covers 1,707 km², is by motorbike. Most hotels and home stays offer motorbike rentals. A motorbike rental will cost you about Rp 50,000 per day. Do note, it’s always better to be safe than sorry, so make sure you don’t speed and remember to always wear a helmet! You can also take nice rides around the lake. Not all that brave? You can also rent a bicycle to see a bit more of the surroundings.
7. Buy and Ulos at Lumban Suhi-Suhi Village
The charming village of Suhi-Suhi is famous for the traditional Batak clothing known as Ulos. These beautiful fabrics are handmade on looms. They make for great souvenirs for loved ones back home, or just something for yourself. If you’re interested in local culture then I’d definitely recommend a visit to Suhi-Suhi Village as it’s one of the nice things to do at Lake Toba.
8. Visit The Ancient Court of Ambarita
Ambarita is an ancient village on Samosir island. It is famous for its 300-years-old ‘stone chair courtyard’. It was here, that the elders and the rulers of the surrounding villages held council over the fate of criminals, who were often decapitated and thrown into the lake. A grisly end to a bad deed. It’s an interesting place to visit if you’re looking for things to do at Lake Toba.
9. Taste the Food at Tomok Village
It is always good to go on a food adventure during your travels. Mie Gomak is a traditional curry noodle dish and totally yummy. If you are into fish you will love the sweet water fish Pora Pora. The Batak people are mainly christians and enjoy pork dishes, so be sure to try the grilled pork with Andaliman spices. If you are a muslim be careful of the Saksan curry, which are often cooked with the raw blood of pigs.
10. Trek to the Top of Pusuk Buhit
Pusuk Buhit rises 1,972 meters above sea level. The mountain is revered in Batak culture. According to local legend it is the birthplace of the Batak King and where the Batak tribe originated from. It takes around 5 hours to hike to the peak of Pusuk Buhit. The mesmerizing 360 degrees view of the island and the surrounding lake from the top of Pusuk Buhit will blow you away.
It’s easy to understand why Lake Toba turns up on people’s travel itineraries. The largest lake in the world offers plenty of things to do for people exploring the island of Sumatra. It’s also a relaxing place to simply relax, get away from it all, and do nothing. We hope this guide gave you a few ideas for things to do at Lake Toba when you visit the region.
Have you ever visited Lake Toba? What did you think of Samosir Island? Share your thoughts in the comments below.