Things to Do in North Sumatra

Lake Toba, North Sumatra: Hours, Address, Lake Toba Reviews: 4.5/5

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Detailed Reviews: Reviews order informed by descriptiveness of user-identified themes such as cleanliness, atmosphere, general tips and location information.
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839 reviews
Very good

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia243 contributions
Beautiful views from different angles of the huge lake Toba. So please explore top view and lowland view also. Recommended to spend more than 2 days because many attractions around the lake including the island of Samosir. There are also many affordable community small hotels next to lake for selection on accomodation. I engaged a a tourguide Adam Nainggolan from a local tour company called Rafnam Jaya Wisata. Bery afforadable in a private car. Adam Nainggolan was also very funny, knowledgeable and experienced, highly recommended guide.
Written May 21, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Medan, Indonesia5 contributions
Lake Toba is a large natural lake in Indonesia which is located in the caldera of Mount Supervulkan.

This lake has a length of 100 kilometers, 30 kilometers wide, and a depth of 1600 meters.

This lake is located in the middle of the northern part of Sumatra Island with a surface height of around 900 meters
Written February 23, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Melbourne, Australia40 contributions
My family of 11 including 5 grandchildren had Christmas on Tuk Tuk Lake Toba. Stayed 4 nights, absolutely beautiful area, locals and visitors enjoying Christmas together, a very special time. Christmas with a difference for my grandchildren we even played cricket on Xmas day.
Written January 8, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Robby M
5 contributions
Driver tour guide Mr Lahi and Mr Jojo are very friendly and kind. They did their jobs very well and very caring. It's a must to visit Taman Simalem Resort to enjoy the beautiful view and scene. Thank you and recommended @TobaTransporter 🙆
Thank you Mr. Ricky from Tobatransporter.🤗
Written February 23, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia28 contributions
Before you read this lengthy review if you plan to take a guided tour to Lake Toba then you can skip this as it is written for those going on a free and easy trip.
Don't get me wrong the lake is beautiful but the overall journey is not. If you are backpacking with a group of friends then you are going to want to hire a van (7 seater toyota usually) from pollonia airport in medan. It takes approxiamately 4 hours and costs around 450000- 600000 rupiah depending on season. Don't try to save in transport, you will definitely regret it. The much cheaper alternatives such as buses and other public vans are a horror. First of all they are not express buses that take you directly to your destination, they make frequent stops and prolong your journey from 4 hours to 6 or maybe 7 hours.They do not have air conditioning and the seats are all torn and dirty too. The local people also smoke in buses and the drivers do not speak any other languages other than Indonesian. If you can endure this then good for you since it costs only 25000 - 40000 rupiah per person but I would totally avoid this for my own health and safety. The roads leading to Lake Toba is terrible and those who can't survive a 2 minute roller coaster ride won't enjoy this. The bus rides back to Medan only costs 20000 rupiah and if you take both the seats then it goes up to 25000 rupiah person. DO NOT use the road side conductors! The bus stops at the wave of your hand and you do not need to book a ticket or what so ever to get a ride back as long as there is space.
Once you reach Parapat you will notice many motels along the side of the road. Again, do not stay there if you want your trip to be a relaxing one since the roads get busy as early as 4am and Indonesians have the tendency to blow their vehicle's horns every 3 seconds. Go further in or better sill cross the lake to Samosir Island and stay there, they are much cheaper and quieter anyway. There are two alternatives to go to Samosir Island. You can take a speed boat or the public ferry. Obviously the latter is much cheaper but it can get very crowded and if you can't bear the stench of body odours and cigarette smoke then take a speed boat. Be careful though when taking a speed boat because the are cases of over charging when i comes to tourists. A boat ride should only costs around 80000 rupiah. The people there are not very honest and they will say anything like government controlled price (yeah right, we all know how 'effective' their government is) just to make you pay double or triple the amount.
Overall the lake is beautiful and the water sports is cheap and those who enjoy these adrenaline rush inducing activities will find the lake meeting up to their expectations.
In conclusion I would not recommend going to Lake Toba as the overall journey is just to hard to bear (especially if you are from a 1st world country). Go to Malaysia instead and enjoy the much more advance transportation, friendly and english speaking people, historical sites, beautiful beaches, breathtaking mountains and of course the mouth-watering local cuisines.
Written May 17, 2010
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Leeds, UK146 contributions
Apologies if this post is a little long, just trying to provide as much detail as possible to help anyone planning to hike this volcano, as we couldn't seem to find much information online about the starting point or the hike itself.

We had read some blogs about lake toba that mentioned the active volcano that offered beautiful views of the lake. We discovered that the volcano was called Pusuk Buhit and wasn't on samosir island itself but 30 minutes drive from Pangururan. It's 1981m above sea level, and we read reports that the hike could take anything from two to seven hours (I think this was based on different starting points), so we decided to rent a scooter and head over and see if we could manage the hike to the top. (The starting point is around 1080m above sea level already, so the hike isn't as long or difficult as you may think.)

We set off at 10am and drove anti-clockwise around the island to Pangururan, the views were beautiful and we passed many traditional houses and churches along the way. We followed the signs to Pangururan (a right) taking us off the island. Here you have the choice of turning right to the hot springs or left to Tele, go left and follow the road around (passing Desa Boho) before taking another signposted right up to Sarimarrihit. After this it's one last right when you seen another blue signpost that has "Pusuk Buhit" written at the bottom. Here we found a Geological Park which offered parking, wahoo. This drive took us around two hours (including a short stop for water and snacks).

We talked to the men inside the park office who suggested that it would take 2-3hours and the hike and parking were free of charge. We had already bought water and snacks and had our raincoats (just in case) and set off to the top. The path is quite clear most of the way, and there are often short cuts you can take through long grass which is often steeper, but also feels adventurous so it depends how you are feeling.

We reached a clearing with a grave and large stones, from here you need to follow the right hand path up the final ascent. Once you have taken the right hand path, it forks at many points, giving you multiple options, however all these paths seem to lead to the summit (,they just offer different gradients) so pick which ever you prefer. At the top you are rewarded with beautiful views of the lake, samosir island, mountains and waterfalls! The hike took two hours up and one a quarter back down. I think anyone of average fitness would be able to reach the summit and it's a very enjoyable hike. Please note that google maps has Pusuk Buhit located incorrectly as being on Samosir island itself. Would definitely recommend and hope this post helps anyone planning the hike.
Written July 11, 2017
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Lake Toba36 contributions
This review updates some earlier reviews and corrects some inaccuracies contained in some of them.

Use Raja Taxis from Medan airport. The cars are typically airconditioned seven passenger reasonably late model Toyota Kijangs. The one way fare at the date of writing is 70,000 Rp per person. The trip takes about 4 hours and, contrary to what others have said, the road is not bad. The car stops for a break a bit after the mid way point. The largest town on the way is Siantar, which is about an hour from Parapat. If you need some supplies or have run out of anything, one of the main supermarkets in the main street is Suzuya. Just tell the driver (most speak reasonably good English) that you need to get some things from a supermarket or pharmacy or whatever - they are usually accommodating.

Also contrary to what someone else said, the lake does not smell and you can swim safely in it. I have been here for almost three months and have swum in the lake many, many times without any ill effects.

To go to Tuk-Tuk on Samosir Island, go to Tiga Raja (the part of Parapat near the main ferry wharf) and wander down to the dock. Ferries leave every hour or so. Just ask someone when the next one is and relax at the local warung which is also the base for Raja Taxis. I recommend staying at Lek Jon Cottages. Just tell the guy on the ferry that's were you want to go. The fare is 7,000 Rp per person one way and the trip takes around 45 minutes. Last boat back from Tuk Tuk to Parapat is around 4pm. Lek Jon was 50,000 Rp a night in April 2010 plus breakfast. Rooms are spacious, have lake views and 24 hour hot water. The staff are friendly and can organise motorbike hire, which is the best way to get around the island of Samosir.

Other reviews already talk about the various attractions. For traditional Batak food, go to Leo's restaurant. Tell he or his wife or one of his sons that Tom from Australia sent you. Roy's bar has a live band on Thursdays through to Saturdays.

In Parapat, the Pardede Hotel and Cottages is about the best - around 350,000 - 500,000 Rp a night including breakfast, depending on room type and season. Be aware, that like many places in Parapat, hot water is only available for a couple of hours in the mornings and early evenings.

There are two bars in Parapat: Jossi's Cantino and my local in Ajibata. They have live music and karaoke every night. Musos just turn up and patrons just get up.

There are many warungs where you can drink Tuak, the local Batak brew made from palm tree sap.

The only ATM accepting intenational debit / credit cards is the one operated by BNI in main street in town (Kota). The simplest way to to get around is to use the local mini-buses - 2,000 Rp per journey per person. Just tell the driver where you want to go - have it written down if you don't speak or can't pronounce Indonesian.

Although the langauge of the region is Batak, pretty much everyone also speaks Indonesion. Some of the locals involved in tourist related activities speak enough English for basic communication and some are quite proficient..

The Batak word for hello is "horas" and the word for thank you is "mauliate" (mowleeatay - mow as in cow).
Written October 15, 2010
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia684 contributions


FIRST DAY. Arriving to Medan’s Polonia International Airport. Polonia International Airport is visa-on-arrival point. Citizens from 63 countries are eligible to apply for the Visa-on-Arrival. The maximum stay permitted is 30 days and visa’s fee is 25USD. You can also pay equivalent amount in Indonesian Rupee (IDR). Airport itself is quite old but an advantage is close location (about 15 minutes) to the city. The airport's surprising name Polonia actually means Poland in Polish as it was constructed on plantation area once belonged to the late Pole, Baron Michalski…

We arranged transfer «Polonia Int. Airport – Medan» by taxi and then to Parapat ("Tiga Raja" harbour/jetty) by minivan. The roads leading to Parapat (Lake Toba) is adventurous and need to be especially mentioned. The local drivers think Michael F Schumachers all of them and race like if they are in an F1 court. Cars draft perilously close one behind another, overtaking in blind corners, completely disregarding for speed limits. They do tend to use the horn more often then drivers in other countries. Our trip took around 4 hours and it was really horrendous feeling…. Once you are near Lake Toba, everything changes. Traffic is still horrible but a picture of huge contrast compared to the scenes we saw along our journey to Parapat. No more humble houses and meek little shops, but the scenery turned into absolutely spectacular scene with views onto 500 meter cliffs dropping into the blue-green water of Lake Toba, surrounded by steep and pine-covered slopes. Sumatran tropical pine forest with the dominant Sumatran Pine deserves itself to pay attention.

Prapat is the main town on Lake Toba and the principal embarkation point for ferries to Samosir. After arriving at the "Tiga Raja" jetty, visitors have to take a boat/ferry to Samosir Island. The boat takes about 30 mins to reach the island within Lake Toba and gives one just an impression of how massive the lake and island within the lake really is.
Toba Lake was formed during a volcanic eruption about 73.000-75.000 years ago. Formed by a stupendous prehistoric volcanic explosion, the lake is the largest in Southeast Asia (100 kilometres long and 30 kilometres wide) and one of the deepest and the highest in the world (906 meters above sea level with an average depth of 450 meters).

Most visitors stay on the peninsula of Tuk Tuk on Samosir. We stayed on Tuk-Tuk in Silintong Hotel for 3 nights. It looks like we were the only guests in this hotel that time. This “two star” rated hotel has a good location (Tuk-Tuk Siadong) and easily accessible from Parapat with boat: upon request the boat fetch you or pick up from private hotel’s pier. The hotel has a beautiful setting on Lake Toba with a lovingly tended garden between the hotel and the lake. Garden is kept with lots of flowering plants, especially orchids of various types.Our twin «moderate» room was not fancy but large and comfortable with a small patio opening out to the garden with set of megalith Idols.

This evening we had our fist dinner in Jenny's Restaurant. «Jenny's» is definitely one of the best around Samosir. It has a simple, but cozy décor with nice view over the lake. Jenny’s serves both Indonesian/Batak and western cuisines. Try fresh lake fish Tilapia, grilled or steamed, with sweet-and-sour or special peanut sauce; western-style food such as schnitzel (breaded pork) or roasted pork. It is simply delicious and really fresh. Fish is always cooked to perfection. During our stay in Tuk-Tuk we had one lunch and three dinners of the finest island cuisine here. It’s really great place to spend a couple hours enjoy good food in a great atmosphere.


SECOND DAY. This day we arranged minivan for one day trip around Samosir (40 USD) but as alternative option you could find almost everywhere offer for rental motorbikes and bicycles. One of the most interesting place is Hutasiallagan museum notable with its 300-year-old stone chairs of King Hutasiallagan-Ambarita (ancient court); the museum's guides in detail (!) tell you how in the past offenders were bound, blindfolded, sliced and rubbed with garlic and chilli before being beheaded and eaten. Huta Bolon Simanindo is another museum of traditional Batak houses, former home of Batak king Rajah Simalungun, where cultural performances of the Naposo dance (a marriage dance) and Sigalegale dance can be seen. Especially Sigalegale dance is very nice to watch. A wooden puppet representing a deceased son is moving by strings. The road from Tomok to Pangururan is scenic itself, and on the way to the western part of Samosir we enjoyed greens of rice field, multi-storey graves decorated with Batak-style house and numerous Batak villages with traditional wooden houses.

Nearby Pangururan (on the western part of Samosir, where a bridge connects Samosir island to mainland) we found «Mata Air Panas» or hot springs that the locals are proud of. We walked up to see the springs and some beautiful sulfuric crystals. The water is very hot. There are swimming pools, so you can take a dip. My advice to book private family pool (kolam renang) in «Edis Dayanto - Restaurant & Accommodation» (Aek Rangat, Pangururan, Samosir) that was reasonably clean.


THIRD DAY In the morning we enjoyed swimming off the stone wall as the sandy beach was choked with lake plants and not really suitable for swimming. The water in the lake is refreshingly cool. If it is enough clear you can even enjoy watching colourful freshwater fish like Gourami and Guppy, the most popular freshwater aquarium fish species in the world.

This day we walked to another main attraction of the island – the tombs of the ruling Sidabutar clan in Tomok. To get there, we walked southeast of Tuk Tuk, then onwards to a sideroad where there are many souvenir shops and Batak woodcarvers on both sides. Tomok was once the home to the Siallagan kingdom and the tombs of the ruling Sidabutar clan are the main attraction of this place. The tombs are decorated with carvings of Singa, mythical creatures with grotesque three-horned heads and bulging eyes. Tomok is also the final resting place of King Ompu Sonbuntu Sidabutar, one of the last Batak animist kings who embraced Christianity.

On the way back we tried to reach waterfall but unfortunately one hour later forced to change our mind as totally lost our way. Waterfall is one of the most beautiful sights and even visible from the spectator area located at the food and souvenirs stalls.


FOURTH DAY Drawback of this place was mosquitoes. There were so many that I was covered in bites after staying there and finally got Dengue fever coming back to Malaysia (that coincided with the incubation period 4–7 days, time between exposure and onset of symptoms). Definitely I cannot say that got Dengue fever in hotel area as actually mosquitoes were everywhere around Tuk-Tuk (including in hotel area).
The half of day we spend on the way back to Medan


FIFTH DAY In Medan we stayed in Grand Sakura Hotel for one night (check-in 13 Dec. 2011) and paid 261,000.00 INR (29.00 USD). Location is far from the city centre, general shopping and the couple of tourist attractions in Medan, but it seems to be not a problem as transportation in Medan is very cheap. House-keeping is very good, room is big and very clean. Overall it is good hotel, deserves its “three stars” and definitely it is good value for money.

Actually one day is enough to visit main attractions in Medan (Mesjid Raya Mosque, Maimoon Palace, Tjong A Fie Mansion, Lapangan Merdeka, Art Déco buildings from the Dutch colonial era, like the Old City Hall and Post office). Hotel shuttle bus to Polonia International Airport (Medan Airport) is 50,000.00 INR and upon request they can arrange pick up from airport and transport to Lake Toba.
The tricycle motorized rickshaw (“becak”) to Mesjid Raya Mosque and Maimoon Palace is about 15,000.00-20,000.00 INR. From Mosque/Palace to Tjong A Fie Mansion is about 10,000.00 INR.

Afternoon we departed back to Kuala Lumpur.

P.S. Some calculations from our budget:
• Visa fee on arrival at Polonia International Airport – 25 USD
• Transfer Polonia Int. Airport – Medan – Parapat ("Tiga Raja" harbour/jetty) by taxi+minivan is 100,000 IDR (per person)
• Boat trip from Parapat to Samosir Island 7,000 IDR (one way/one person)
• One day trip around Samosir (40 USD/per car) /have a talk directly with driver of minivan as it is more expensive in hotels or tourists offices (around 55 USD)/
• Admission fee to Hutasiallagan museum 10,000.00 IDR + for guided tour 20,000.00 IDR.
• Admission fee to Huta Bolon Simanindo museum is 30,000.00 IDR
• «Mata Air Panas» or hot springs (private family pool); fee for 1 hour/one person is 80,000,00
• Transfer Parapat ("Tiga Raja" harbour/jetty) – Medan (Grand Sakura Hotel) by car/minivan is 65,000 IDR (per person)
Written December 21, 2012
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

5 contributions
Hi anyone knows whether is it still safe to go to lake toba since Mt. Sinabung just erupted? My flight is to Medan this Saturday 16 June. Need advices urgently. Thanks.
Written June 16, 2015
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

Novi M
Dallas, TX212 contributions
First, everyone who plan to visit Lake Toba must aware that the best way to enjoy Lake Toba is by staying at Samosir Island, not Parapat.

Samosir Island is a tiny island in the center of the Lake Toba, and this island also has a tiny lake in its center! It's peacefull, idyllic, with fresh air and cheap accomodation, it's the clean side of Lake Toba.

Parapat is the busy harbor near the lake. It's at the polluted side of Lake Toba, full of big hotels with expensive price, commonly hotel with big meeting rooms and only suitable for business people, not leisure. Most people have a bad image about Lake toba if they stay in Parapat.

What to do around Samosir :

- enjoy the view when you're in the boat from Parapat to Samosir
- rent a bicycle, hiking around the nice island. If you can reach the top of Samosir island then you can see the stunning view of the lake and the island.
- visit the old cultural site,
- swimming or kayaking at the lake,
- eating at the various restaurant around the land: from delicious Pizza made with local goat cheese to fresh grilled fish made by the fisherman's wife :D
- taking great pictures of the nature, of course!
Written April 14, 2010
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews.

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