Samosir island within the lake is an island within the island of Sumatra.
Lake Toba is an immense volcanic lake covering an area of 1,707 km² (1,000 km² bigger than Singapore) with an island in its centre. Actually, Lake Toba is located in Prapat area in North Sumatra.
Formed by a gigantic volcanic eruption some 70,000 years ago, it is probably the largest resurgent caldera on Earth. Some studies say it might have been associated with causing previous ice age/climate change and the largest human population bottleneck ever. Genetic estimates suggests that there were only a few thousand individuals that survived its catastrophic eruption.
Today Lake Toba is on the way to get a UNESCO Geopark Certification. This means, that the whole area has to be protected and a Ecotourism has will be developed. But still some big environment destroying international companies like Aquafarms and pulp industries are operating. The President himself installed now an Authority (BODT) to develop a sustainable Tourism around Lake Toba. Lake Toba apply for a credit of the Wolrd Bank to create the Geopark. It is in April 2018 in the planning to create Tourist Development Centers in the Churches around Lake Toba. A delegation of the German province Bavaria initiated the first meeting for a Community Based Tourism in Tuktuk.
The island in the middle - Pulau Samosir - was joined to the caldera wall by a narrow isthmus, which was cut through to enable boats to pass; a road bridge crosses the cutting. Samosir island is the cultural centre of the Batak tribe who are now mostly Christians. The Batak Culture has a lot of Rituals and Parties. You can visit them also, eat there and by the dancing you can contribute then with some money for the wedding or the funeral.
Lake Toba was perhaps once more popular than it is nowadays, but for many it remains a firm fixture on the Banana Pancake Trail. Tuktuk is a great laid back place to chill out for a few days after jungle trekking etc. The location is very popular with Chinese tourists around Chinese New Year, when availability drops dramatically and accommodation costs sky rocket.
And Lake Toba has much more than only Tuktuk. The Lake Toba Area is divided in seven Regencies (Kapupaten): -Karo in the north with Berastagi and the Volcanoes Sinabung and Sibayak -Simalungun with Sipisopiso Waterfall and Parapat -Toba Samosir with Balige, Laguboti -Tapanuli Utara with the International Airport Silangit, Tarutung with the hot springs, Muara and Sipadan island -Humbang Hasundutan with the Bakkara Valley, the Sipangnolu Spring, the kings house of Sisingamangaraja XII, the famous coffee area of Linton, -Samosir with Tuktuk, Pangururan with the hotsprings, Sianjur Mula Mula valley and the View point Tele -Dairy with a lot of primary jungle around Merek and the 5 star Resort, and the cofee area of Sidikalang
Ecotourism & Fish Farms: The Government has undertaken to promote the development of several Fish Farms, using dugout lakes, far from Lake Toba, to prevent contamination of Lake Toba. One of these new farms, "World Heritage minimini", located 10 km from Lake Toba, uses a unique sustainable development technique, using the surplus of plankton to fertilize the 5,000 fruit trees planted around the 26 dugout lakes. Also around the lakes, have been laid out sites of Camping, B&B, Gardens, Golf 19-20, Badminton, Mölkky, Geocaching, Heliport, World Heritage Replicas, etc. All this without cutting the pre-existing trees in this valley.
Indonesian, known as Bahasa Indonesia. There are also local people who live in Toba region called Batak; they speak the local language Batak. Just say for the whole greetings "Horas" means welcome, good morning, farewell, etc. You can say "Mauliate" for thank you and they will reply with the same word.
Most visitors fly to Medan Kuala Namu International Airport and then travel onwards by land to Parapat, the town by Lake Toba. Parapat is about 4 hr by car from Medan or 4-6 hr by public bus. However since November 24 2017, a new International Airport Silangit inaugurated by Mr Joko Wododo, the President of Indonesia, its nested on the East of Toba Lake, only take 30 minutes to the East side of Toba Lake or Balige city. In the moment there are 3 flights to Medan and 7 to Jakarta a day. Starting in June 2018 there also will be direct flights to Penang and Kuala Lumpur.
From Medan Kualanamu airport you can fly directly to Silangit with Wings air or Garuda Indonesia daily. Flights take approximately 30 min and are a safer way than the road trip. In Feb 2018, the flight cost between 250.000 and much more, if it is high season. Flights you book the best via the webpage or app of Traveloka.com or Tiket.com. (More convenient and the same price). Transportation options from Silangit airport are based on taxis. There is in front of the airport a booth of all the providers; From Silangit Airport to Parapat is 2 hr drive. To Silangit airport from Parapat there are many transport providers available around the ferry terminal area. Costs to/from Silangit and Parapat should cost around Rp 400,000 each way per vehicle. However, the airport is very close to guesthouses at Balige and Muara, towns that hug the southern rim of the lake and would save considerable travel time for those destinations. From Balige also you can use the boat to Onan Runggu at 2 pm and charter a car in Onan Runggu for 300.000. Best option to reach Tuk tuk.
HELIPORT:: An Heliport is available in "World Heritage minimini" in Lumbanrang, North Sionggang, Lumbanjulu, Toba Samosir, 12 km from Parapat in the direction of Balige.
From the airport they built in the moment a Tol Road to Lake Toba. The first 40 km are already ready and this save already more than 1 hour time. Still the ride takes around 4 hours. At public holidays it can take much more time, because of the traffic jams. You follow to Pematang Siantar and then to Parapat.
You can go from Medan also via Berastagi, Sidikalang and Tele down to Pangururan. The road gives you a wonderful view.
It is also possible to go to Parapat from Dumai by mini-van, leaving in the afternoon. The trip takes around 11 hr and costs Rp 150,000.
If you leave the Kuala Namu Airport you turn right. There are the taxi companies. You can charter a Taxi (around 550.000 Rp. for a car with 7 seats for passengers)or you book a seat in a shared taxi for 80.000 Rp. If you go with a shared taxi, than you have to wait until the taxi is full or you pay for the empty seats.
By Private Car
There are tour agencies that offer transport to Lake Toba. Be careful some of them offer car rental and driver for 3 to 5 days. When it suits them, they will claim they are tour operators and you must follow their itinerary. There are many honest operators but some dishonest ones will might take advantage of readers. Check reviews before booking.
From Medan airport To get to Lake Toba is entirely possible by public transport, if you wish. You leave the airport to the right side. There is the booth of "Paradep". They operate a bus and shared taxis to Siantar for 55.000 Rp. From there you can continue with shared taxis than to Lake Toba.
From Amplas terminal You can get a public bus to Parapat for Rp 40,000 (February 2017) . Unfortunately in Indonesia people smoke on the bus; that can make a very unpleasant journey on a public pus. And then get a ferry out to Samosir island for Rp 15000/person. The boat drops you at your hotel in Tuktuk. You have also ferry from Ajibata for Rp 8.000/person, but drops you in Tomok-about 5 km from Tuk-Tuk.
From Berastagi: please see the Berastagi wikitravel article; this involves 3 transfers to reach Parapat or take minivan
To Padang / Bukittinggi: see the Parapat article. Book the bus a day ahead to get a seat.
Actually, no train transportation connected directly to parapat. You should take your train transportation from Stasiun Kereta Api Medan and stop to Tebing Tinggi Station. You can continue by bus or travel transportation to Parapat within 2 hours.
Boats from Parapat to Tuktuk Parapat is connected to Tuk Tuk on the Samosir Island by a boats that runs every hour for Rp 15,000 (motorbikes Rp10,000 extra, as of March 2015), running on the half-hour except the last one at 19:00. The place to catch the ferry to Tuk Tuk is called "Tiga Raja" harbour/jetty. The ferry man will drop you at the place you're staying at in Tuk Tuk. Tuk Tuk is the main place to stay on Samosir. They will drop you directly at your Tuk Tuk resort.
The boat ride over is fantastic, just truly peaceful, apart from the car radios playing, the ladies selling peanuts, bottled water, noodles or pretty much anything else. Normally some of the passengers and vendors will be able to speak English. Landing at the other end of the 1 hour ferry journey is daunting, but again, behave like everyone else in Indonesia and just push, ever so politely, but firmly and eventually you will get off the ferry and onto the main road. Alternatively use the boat service but watch out for the guys that ask for the fee before you embark — they do not work for the operators, you pay on the boat.
Return trips leave from various places in Tuk Tuk on the hour, but sometimes 15 minutes earlier/later. Wave down the ferry to ensure it comes to your dock.
Boats from Parapat to Tomok From the same jetty "Tiga Raja" also leaves the wooden boats to Tomok. The same kind of boats. Also you can take a Motorbike there. The price is 8000 per person and 10.000 Rp. to Tomok. The boats also operates each hour.
Boats from Parapat/Ajibata to Tomok The harbour is just 500 m away from Tiga Raja. This is the local harbor for the people going to Samosir. The boats are bigger and have strong Sound Systems. The price for the boats are 8000 per person and 10.000 Rp for a Motorbike. The last boat to Samosir leaves at 8.30 pm.
Car Ferry from Ajibata to Tomok The ferry operates at the minimum 5 times a day. The last one leaves at 9.00 pm. from Ajibata. The ferry harbor is around 500 m behind the boat harbor.Often the ferry is full and you have to wait for the next one. In public holiday the waiting time for the ferry can be up to more then 12 hours. Don't come with your own car to Samosir!
Boats from Ajibata to Onan Runggu There are 4 scheduled connections each day. The boats also leave also from the boat harbor. The price is 20.000 per person. They have a price list on board for all other things to transport: like Motorbikes, or pigs, or buffalo. This is an old traditional connection from Samosir to the mainland. Also you can ask the boat to make a deviation to Silimalombu, when you arrive late in Parapat. But the price need to bargained.
Boats from Ajibata to Silimalombu At 10 am and at 1 pm there are boats directly from Ajibata to Silimalombu. In the morning at 9.00 am there are boats back to Ajibata. In Ajibata you ask for the Shop of Mama Edo. She exactly know when and where the boats go. Sometimes they go back later, because they have to wait for somebody. Price is 15.000 Rp for persons and for motorbikes.
Boats from Balige to Onan Runggu Daily one trip: At 9 am from Onan Runggu on Samosir Island, to Balige.At 2 pm the boat leaves from Balige to Onan Runggu, Samosir Island and The price for 1 person or one motorbike is 20.000 Rp. The boat is very useable to have a connection from Samosir to the new airport in Silangit. When you arrive in the morning at the airport, you have enough time to go the 30 minutes down to Balige. From there you have the nice boat ride to Onan Runggu. In Onan Runggu you charter a car for appr. 300.000 to go to Tuktuk. The car will go over the hills of Samosir. No traffic and a wonderful view. The best option in the moment to reach Tuktuk!
Boat from Naingolan to Balige The boat leaves Naingolan in the morning and goes back in the afternoon.
Car Ferry from Balige to Onan Runggu The ferry only operates 3 days a week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from Onan Runggu 8.30 am and from Balige 17.00. The trip takes one hour. Be there 1 hour early bcause capacities are limited.
Car ferry from Simanindo to Tigaras A good working service to connect Samosir to Brastagi. There are around 5 connections a day.
It may be obvious but just remember there are no taxis around Tuk Tuk. Sure you can walk the small part of the island in an hour or so but if you are heading out for the night, plan ahead on how you will get back home. The locals are very friendly people who will go out of their way to help. However, some corners of the island are very quiet at night and you may find yourself on a long long walk.
Local transportation around the lake takes the form of boats; cheaper, school boats with limited schedules and more expensive public boats that operate throughout the day).
Public Boats from Parapat and surrounding areas sail from either Ajibata or Tigaraja to Tuktuk or Tomok at Samosir Island. The fee is Rp 10,000 per trip.
There is also bigger ship which transports Cars and Busses sailing between Tigaraja and Tomok.
A popular way for tourists to get around Samosir Island is to hire a motorcycle. Care should be taken if choosing this option as the roads around the island are in poor condition and medical services very limited if you have an accident requiring medical treatment.
Hire a motorcycle for a day or two starting at Rp 90,000 per day. You can bargain down to (as of of July 2017] in low season if you hire for 5 -7 days. Most of the motorcycles available for rent are the owner's own transportation, so you may need to return it to them before sunset (depends on owner) or you may be charged extra fees. Take a map. There are no police checking licenses and there is not much traffic - just watch out for the big trucks, buses and terrible bridges. Honking around is a norm to indicate that there's incoming car from the opposite or there's a car bypassing you from the back (in driver's point of view). A good journey to take on a motorcycle would be to travel North from Tuk Tuk around to the western shore, stopping at the tourist sites along the way such as the many and varied traditional houses and villages. The main road from Tomok to Onan Runggu over the plateau of Samosir is quite good and you have a wonderful view. The rest of the roads are very bad in the centre of the island (bumpy and washed out). You can expect to ride at least up to 100 km in the day. If you're going around the island with motorcycle or bicycle, be sure to put on some sunblock as when you venture out in the morning things can be deceiving due to the cooler temperatures in the morning because of the higher elevation, but the sun will be intense by mid-day.
Most of the cottages and guest houses at Tuk Tuk will rent you a very serviceable bicycle for a nominal fee, this is a very much preferred way to get around, but be very careful for the cars as nobody looks and there does not seem to be any right side of the road, even when its the left side.
There are hot springs on the western side of the island just across the causeway from Pangururan. The water is hot. Locals usually use their hands to get some water out of the pool, standing in the pool is possible, but you probably won't be able to swim. The fee to enter to the surroundings is Rp 2,000. The pools are free, there's some special foreigner pool for Rp 10,000.
In the town of Balige on the south side of the lake there is a mausoleum to Raja Sisimangaraja XII and a large museum to Batak culture at the TB Silahali Center.
Kick back and relax after the frenetic atmosphere of Indonesia. Swim in the volcanically warmed waters of the lake or arrange an overnight 'party' boat out on the lake if you can get enough volunteers together. A beautiful place to do nothing at all. Plenty of second hand book shops to stock up on reading material. Traditional Batak Dance in Restaurant Bagus Bay every Wednesday and Saturday from 20:15 onwards. After the dance, sit back and enjoy the folk songs done by a group of men.
Nice to go around with a bicycle or a Motorbike. With the Motorbike it is nice to go to the hotsprings in Pangururan or up the mountain behind Tomok. Up there are a lot of coffee fields, where you can help the farmer by harvesting. The view over the lake is fantastic. In Huta Hotang there is a nice Restaurant which is built at a viewpoint. Good food there. With a bicycle it is nice to follow the coastline after Tomok to the south to the Ecovillage Silimalombu. The road now is alraedy the half way asphalted. But there is nearly now traffic and you have a wonderful view over the rice fields with a lot of tombs in between. In Silimalombu you have a Restaurant, where the people cook things out of the own garden.
Tours around Samosir
Basar and Market in Ambarita. The traditional market in Ambarita is on Thursdays from 7.00 until 15.00. Fruits, veggetables, clothes, blankets, household and farming tools are sold and you can get in touch with people from the country side trading their products. Try some traditional food on the local food stalls.
Market in Pangururan. The weekly market is on Wednesdays and it is the biggest market on the island. Even goats and buffaloes are traded here. Farmers and Grocires from the whole area come here and traffic can be very heavy on market days.
Market in Sipira. This small market is on Wednesdays and it is the event of the week for people in this remote scenic area.
Market in Onan Runggu every Monday from 7 am to 12 pm. You can buy traditional or souvenir in Onan runggu come in see and you can travel to Balige course in Onan runggu have ferry every Monday and Friday every week time on firry is 8.30 am to Balige and come back from Balige 5 pm welcome to you all
The main road around Tuktuk is lined with small restaurants of varying quality. Also on offer is magic mushroom and various "happy herb" pizzas if you want that.
There is one discotheque on Fri and Sat nights - expect the latest 80s music. Better to drink at your guest house generally.
Saturday night is often the highlight on the local calendar. You can hear a chorus of parties going around the Tuk Tuk area.
There are a number of fine spots around the Tuk Tuk area to catch a sunset beer.
This area is in a depressed tourist state but is actual a wonderful gem that should be on the world stage. So while some places may look like not much is going on- just go in - and the momentum will build into a fun filled night with new friends.
There are numerous hotels and guest houses, mainly in Tuk Tuk but with a few scattered in other small towns around the island. During Chinese New Year (end of Jan/early Feb), many Indonesians come for vacation and will pay generously for their rooms (about triple the rate). To accommodate these guests, some guest house owners may ask their existing guests to vacate their rooms, but only giving them very short notice. Therefore, when arriving before Chinese New Year, check with the guest house owner to ensure your stay will not be interrupted.
The local Batak people are very respectful. Some of the local males may try to turn on the charm too much.
Bukittinggi - ALS bus leaves Parapat at 5pm. The journey takes 15 hours and costs 270000 IRD. Do not buy tickets from people approaching to your taxi claiming to be the bus company and asking for a higher price! The road is very hilly, expect to get very little sleep. The transfer to bus station from pier costs 20000 IRD. The ticket can be bought from booking office near pier.