Sumatra's

LAKE TOBA

Global Rate : 17.47 /20

 

Ratings by criteria : 

Charm Scenery Parks Culture Minor. Market Relax Fiesta 

Cost

AVER.
5 5 3 5 4 4 5 3 5 17.33

Ratings by backpackers :

Surveyed Liked  Comeback  Recommend  Range AVER.
16 100% 94% (15) 100% ? 17.62


Description : 
The biggest caldera lake in the world, the biggest lake in SE Asia (1265 km2, twice the size of Singapore !), the cradle of the civilisation of the Batak people, one of the most outstanding sight of Sumatra. 

Comments : The island in the middle (Samosir) is the most touristic area, in particular around Tuk-Tuk Siadong.

What to do ? Refresh yourself : it is cool at an altitude of 900m / Follow the crowd : visit the GH, restaurants and shops of Tuk-Tuk Siadong / Start a collection of Batak handicrafts / Tour traditional Batak Houses or a big Royal House hosting a museum /  Watch Batak dances / Make sand castles / Swim in the clear water /  Trek the island / Go up for a great view / Visit markets / Relax in Hot Springs / Pay respect to King Sidabuar on his tomb / Go round the island on motorbike / Learn Indonesian cuisine or wood sculptures / Go to church on Sunday hear the gospel : most Tobo Batak are religious / If rich, play water ski or catamaran / Listen to horror stories about former prisoners punishments 

What you may not like ? The business and bizyness / The size of the place, making bicycle too slow  / Some theft problems in the rooms / The poor exchange rates on the island /  The disappointing Hot Springs / The not too clear water at some spots / Some bad bridges, making transport at night adventureous / Discovering that Samosir is not really an island as connected to the mainland at Pangururan / Some greedy guides / The lack of English of the locals : that's adventure !

How long ? Three days at least ! 


Where to stay ? Most accomodations are located on the Tuk Tuk Peninsula. Going anti-clockwise, from south to North :

  • Bagus Bay (41481), in the south, first stop of the ferry / Dorm (6) w. shower 5000, small Sgl 7500, Dbl 10000, Dbl w. shower & MN in Batak House 15000, Trpl w. HW shower 20000 / Restaurant / Go there for the nicest dorm, the friendly atmosphere, the activities (volleyball, badmington, basketball, ping pong, mini golf, pool table), the daily English newspapers,... / What you may not like : the water from the lake is not too nice (seaweed) at this location
  • Tabo Cottages  (0625) 41614, e-mail : tabores@indo.net.id, east of the above / Budget Trpl w. shower 15000, Sgl w. HW shower & private veranda 25000, Dbl w. the above plus view on the lake 35000, Loft Batak (3) w. also fan, mini bar and panoramic view 45000, Villa Batak w. king size bed (another bed for 2 upstair), HW bathtube, etc 100000 / Add. bed 10000 / Prices negotiable depending of the season / Restaurant, internet (55000 to 125000 depending on the time !), massage, laundry, video,... /  Go there for a bit of luxury 
  • Linda's GH (0625) 451223, up the hill from the above / Dbl by the lake w. shower 10000, Trpl w. HW shower 15000 / Restaurant, motorbike, video & satellite / Friendly family atmosphere
  • Horas' Homestay, south of the above / Dbl w, shower 5000 (1) or 6000 (2) / Bicycle (15000) & Motorbike (45000) / Restaurant / Go there for the cheapest rooms, the intimate size (4 rooms), the friendly family, the clear water and to listen to the guitar. But of course, the rooms are basic. 
  • Elsina GH (0625) 451067, south of the above / Trpl w. shower 10000 / Common HW shower / Restaurant, motorbike / Same as above (6 rooms only) without the guitar but videos and a nice view
  • Vandu's GH (0625) 451082, south of the above / Trpl (2 mattress + Sgl bed) w. shower 5000, Dbl w. shower 7000 / Same as above (6 rooms), the cheapest Trpl and the opportunity to learn Indonesian cuisine
  • Carolina Hotel (0625) 41520, fax 41521, second stop for ferry / Dbl w. shower 20000, same but new 30000, same but on the "beach" 40000, w. HW shower 50-60000, w. bathtube & minibar 65-75000, Family room (4) w. living room & on the beach 180000 / Add bed 20000 / A nice hotel with garden & greenery for relaxation, clear water for swimming  and  video + satellite for westernization. 
  • Sibigo GH (0625) 451074 / Dbl w. HW shower 15000 / Restaurant, motorbike, video, laundry,... / Go there for the correct rooms (10 in all), the garden, the clear water and the family atmosphere 
  • Pizzeria Rumba, north of the above / Very basic rooms w. shower 3000 / The cheapest room but those are not it's strongest point / Pizza for Rp15000 + Rp1000 per topping / Musical & friendly atmosphere / Organize boat tours to the surroundings for 50000 (min 7 people)
  • Merlyn's GH, north of the above / Trpl (dbl bed + mattress) w. bucket shower in batak house 8000, Dbl w. shower 15000 / Restaurant, video, live batak music, clear water and intimate size (4 basic rooms)
  • Matahari GH, north of the above / Dbl w. shower 10000 / Restaurant, nice garden and clear water but basic rooms (9)
  • Bernard's GH, north of the above / Big room w. HW shower and lake view 20000 / Special price for groups (16 rooms)
  • Hisar's GH (0625) 41506, north of the above / Dbl w. shower in basic Batak House 10000, better 15000, w. HW shower 25000 / Go there for the family atmosphere (10 rooms), the nice little garden, the nice view and the clear water
  • Maroan GH, north of the above / Dbl w. bucket shower or in basic Batak House 10000, w. shower and near the lake 15000 / Canoe (Rp100000, Tube (Rp3000), Mountain bike & Motorbike / 38 rooms / Restaurant, big garden and clear water 
  • Romlan GH (0625) 41557, north of the above / Batak House w. Dbl (Rp10000) plus one Sgl dowstairs (Rp5000), common shower next to the house / Batak House (2 beds) by the lake w. bucket shower & MN 15000 / Nice Dbl by the lake w. shower 15000, w. HW shower 25000 / Restaurant, nice little garden with trees, nice view, free canoe, video, play station, motorbike, books,... / Go there for one of the best deal in town, in a secluded place with its private jetty  
  • Hotel Sumbar Pulo Mas, north of the above / Dbl w. shower 10-15000 / No restaurant / Friendly welcome but rather for the locals. 
  • Tarian's GH, north of the above / Dbl by the lake w. shower 7000 / Restaurant / Go there for the very intimate size (2 rooms) and the good quality price ratio. 
  • Rodeo, north of the above, center of the Peninsula / Dbl w. shower 15-2000 / Restaurant, mountain bike & motorbike
  • Panorama GH & Cafe (0625) 451120, north of the above / Nice Dbl w. HW shower but expensive at Rp69000 / Restaurant, nice view, clear water, video,... / Go there to play water ski (Rp120000 per hour) or catamaran (Rp160000 for 2 hours) / 3 rooms only
  • Lekjon GH (0625) 41578, north of the above / Dbl w. shower 10000, w. HW shower and facing the lake 15000 / Restaurant, Batak music & dances on Tuesday & Saturda, video, music, motorbike (45000) / Go there for the good quality price ration (24 correct rooms) and the good atmosphere  
  • Popys GH, north of the above, after Gorkon Library / 6 basic Dbl w. shower 7000 / Restaurant w. noce view / Go there for the good price, to cook and to learn how to cook. Also possible to buy old Batak Houses 
  • Juditha GH (0625) 451265, north of the above / Dbl w. shower 10000, w. HW shower 15000 / Motorbike / No restaurant but can cook by yourself
  • Anju Cottage, (0625) 451265, north of the above, same family as the above / Correct rooms w. shower 10000 (LS) or 20000 (HS), w. HW shower 15000 (LS) or 25000 (HS)  / Restaurant, video, mountain bike (expensive at 20000), motorbike, canoe (70000)
  • Samosir Cottages (0625) 41050, fax 451170, north of the above / Big Dbl w. HW shower 20-35000 dpending on the view, small flats w. two bedrooms and living room 60=70000 / Restaurant, video, ping pong, motorbike, internet (50-150000) / Go there for one of the nicest resort, the good quality price ratio, the friendly team, the nice view  & clear water.  
  • Abadi (0625) 451195, west side of the peninsula, 400m from the above / Dbl w. shower 7000, Sgl w. HW shower 12000, Dbl w. HW bathtuce 15000 / By the lake
  • Tony's GH (0625) 451209, south of the above / Dbl by the lake or in a little garden w. HW shower 15000, Trpl in garden w. HW shower 20000 (2) or 25000 (3) / Restaurant, nice view & video 
  • Sibayak GH (0625) 451186, south of the above / Dbl in basic batak house by the lake w. shower 7000 (2), w. HW shower 15-20000 / 10 houses / Nice view & friendly team 
  • Yogi's GH (0625) 451232, a bit outside of the peninsula, in a less touristy area / Dbl in basic batak house w. MN but outside shower 7000, Dbl by the lake w. shower & MN 8000 / Go there for the quietness, the family atmosphere (family meal), the possibility to cook & learn how to cook and to learn wood sculpture (Rp10000 per day)
  • Nina's GH (0625) 451150, 300m North of the above / Basic batak houses by the lake 5000 per person / Restaurant w. vegetarian menu, video / Go there for the relative isolation, the nice view & clear water and to learn how to cook with friendly Nina. 

Where to eat ?  Plenty of places so you won't starve !  Leo's jazz blues restaurant & cafe (near Elsine GH & Hora's Homestay) offers video, pizzas & happy hour from 18:30 to 21h30. Reggae bar (near Samosir & Anju cottages) boost a pool table. Much more places all around : test them !

Bike or Motorbike ? Mountain Bike Rp15000 (sometimes down to Rp10000). Motorbike Rp 45.000. 

Internet ?  At Samosir Cottages or  : Rp50000-150000 Rp depending on the time (cheapest after 11pm and on Sunday) or at Tabo Cottages : Rp55000-125000 / If you need to write a novel to your friends, you can go to Khim's internet gateway (0622) 24372, No55, Jl Merdek  at Siantar-Sumut.  Rp60000 only but you need to take a local bus for Rp2500 (1/2h-1h to go to Parapat, then 1h to Siantar) 

Change Money ?
Better to change in Parapat : poor exchange rates on the island !  

How to reach the island ?  Ferries leave Parapat to Tuk-Tuk on the island every 30mn (at least in HS) from 7:30 to 19:30 (but sometimes only until 18:00). It cost Rp1500. Different stops at different GH are possible, tell the boat guys where you wishes to go before paying. From Tuk-Tuk back to Parapat, boats every hour from 7am to 5pm. A few boats are also available to Ambarita


Around a great lake ?

180km South of Medan,  Danau Toba boosts impressive statistics : 90km long, 285km of coats, average deepth of 450m but as much as 800m ! It is the result of a volcano collapsing on itself after an eruption 100,000 years ago.  

A few places worth visiting  :

- Ambarita (5km North of Tuk-Tuk) : traditional Batak Houses (Rp1500 plus a negotiable guide if you wish) are the main attractions of this interesting village. The guides will tell you about an execution ground (not too insteresting : a few stones chairs around a table) where decapitated prisoners were eaten by the cannibalistic villagers. There are also numerous souvenirs shops, several sandy beaches and a little market on Thursday.  It is also the start of treks to  the summit of the island (5 to 7 hours) with some lodging available. Ferries to Parapat only in the morning Ferries for Tongging (in the north of the lake, 30km before Berastagi) also available.  

- Simanindo (16 km North of Ambarita) : the big King's House now host the Huta Bolon Museum. Batak dances are performed daily at 11am. The market is hold on Saturday. 

- Tomok (4 km South of Tuk-Tuk) : the main village of the east coast boost the Tomb of King Sidabuar [LP ecrit Sidabatu. Je n'y suis pas aller mais ca doit couter entre 1000 et 2000 Rp. C'est quand meme un peu ton "boulot" de tester les attractions... Non ?  Evites ce genre d'imprecisions !] plus more souvenirs shops. You can also start a trek to Pangururan, with a possible break at a Forest House 

- Pangaruran (45 km from Tuk-Tuk, on the west of the island, where it connects with the mainland). This is the economic and administrative center, with a market every Wednesday. 3km away on the mainland, the hot springs aren't too exceptionals.  22km away, a tower offers a great panoramic view over the Lake and Samosir. 

It is possible to go round the island by motorbike in about 7hrs.  Better to start by heading South as the road is worse. 

Backpacker's Tips : Sahat Manihuruk, USA (May 02)
It's also possible to take a bus from Medan to Samosir by travelling by road to the west side of the lake and crossing on the land bridge. It cost me Rp4000 for the 6 hours drive by minibus - and was worth it all ! Also, under "What you may not like" on this page is listed, "lack of English of the locals." If someone travelling in North Sumatra doesn't like the fact that the locals don't speak English, then perhaps that person would be better served by a vacation in Ames, Iowa. That way they won't even really have to deal with any discernable accent. Don't miss Pangururan on market day...It's a big weekly social event as well as a time to get some work done for the residents of the surrounding area. Note from Passplanet :  I certainly agree that traveling is not about expecting the same as home. But depending of places, English is more or less widely spoken. This is probably what Matthieu meant. 

Backpacker's Tips : Stephanie Thullen, Mexico (Aug 01)
Be careful if you go on motorbike or by foot across Samosir island. We believed the guidebook saying that trails are well marked, but that is far from the truth! We ended up getting lost by taking a wrong turn, and were lucky to make our way back, although in the wrong direction, about 5 hours later! / The hot springs at Pangururan are not worth the effort getting there. It is full of rubbish and not much to see. 

Buses around ? Regular buses go round the island. It cost Rp2500 to go from Tuk-Tuk to Pangururan or Rp1500 for Simanindo. 


Bus Schedules :

To Price Type Duration Time Nb Freq.
Medan 30K mini 4-5      
Berastagi 30K mini        
Bukit Lawang 42K mini        
Bukittinggi 50-65K / 70K / 100-115K AC / mini / luxe 12-14      

(1) Minibus with Tobali Tour & Travel / By public bus to Berastagi : from Parapat to Siantar (Rp3000), then to Kabanjahe (Rp3500), then to Berastagi (Rp500) 

Backpacker's Tips : Bonnie Fournier, Canada (Nov 01)
There are very few tourists travelling in Sumatra these days. Because of this the tourist bus to Lake Toba and from Lake Toba to Bukittinggi is not running anymore. Options are to take the luxury bus 135,000 with a/c and bathroom (book at least 2-3 days in advance) 12-17 hours depending on road or the mini bus for 90,000 (usually unsafe, many breakdowns) or to fly from Padang to Medan 491,000 one way.