Lake Toba and Samosir Island
Set within the stunning homeland of the Batak people and surrounded by traditional villages, prehistoric sites, plantations and pine forests, Lake Toba is the largest and deepest crater lake in the world. It contains Samosir Island, a volcanic isle the size of Singapore and a wonderful place to spend a few days discovering Batak culture and unwinding in a picturesque lakeside setting.
Located a three to four-hour drive from Medan, Lake Toba was formed by volcanic activity over 75,000 years ago, which created the largest and deepest volcanic crater lake in the world. In fact, Samosir Island, situated within the lake, is also the largest island within an island. Not only is the area full of natural beauty, but we think a trip to this region is also a great opportunity to learn more about the history and traditions of the indigenous Batak people.
The lake itself is surrounded by fruit and vegetable plantations and there is a ferry service between Parapat on Toba’s shoreline to Tuk-Tuk on Samosir Island. Samosir is scattered with traditional Batak villages and the Batak Museum is located in a traditional Batak house, where you can see a classical dance performance and a puppet show. There are also three prehistoric sites to visit which bear witness to Batak history, including the 300-year-old stone chairs set in a circle once used by Batak kings as a conference area. The second set of ancient ruins was once a court room and the third set contain an execution block for those found guilty. The tomb of the Sidabutar Kings at Tomok, a 200-year-old sarcophagus is another historic landmark on the island.
On the opposite side of the island to Tuk-Tuk, there is a small narrow strip of land that connects Samosir to the mainland at Pangururan and is where you can reach Air Panas the hot springs overlooked by Mount Pusuk Buhit. We’d also suggest a visit to Indonesia’s highest waterfall, Sipiso-Piso, which flows into Lake Toba from a height of 120-metres.
Around five-hour drive from Samosir Island is the friendly hill town of Berastagi, the closest town to Mount Sibayak. A relatively leisurely ascent when compared to other Indonesian volcano treks, Mount Sibayak offers great views over the Sumatran countryside and is a hub of geothermal activity with jets of hot gas and steam shooting from vents. A climb up Mount Sibayak combines particularly well with those wanting to visit Samosir Island and see orangutans in Bukit Lawang.