Lake Toba

Lake Toba (Danau Toba), on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia, is the largest volcanic lake in the world. Samosir island, in the lake, is an island within an island. It is in North Sumatra (Sumatera Utara).


  Northern side (Merek, Tongging, Silalahi)
The nearest point from Medan.
  Eastern side (Parapat, Simarjarunjung, Tigaras)
The most popular gateway to Lake Toba and Samosir island.
  Southern side (Balige, Muara, Bakkara, Sipinsur)
Increasingly become popular places to visit. The Silangit airport is located at here.
  Western side (Tele, Pusuk Buhit, Pangururan)
The only land bridge connecting mainland and Samosir island and the mountain of Pusuk Buhit are at here.
  Samosir island (Tuktuk Siadong)
The big island in the middle of the lake.


Lake Toba

Lake Toba is an immense volcanic lake covering an area of 1,707 km2 (1,000 km2 bigger than Singapore) with an island in the center. 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 suggest that there were only a few thousand individuals that survived the catastrophe. 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 Batak tribe who are mostly Christians nowadays.

Lake Toba was perhaps once more popular than it is nowadays, but for many it remains a firm fixture on the Banana Pancake Trail. It 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 skyrocket. In its effort to promote tourism, government has greatly improved the infrastructure.

The water quality in Lake Toba is not the same everywhere, so seek local advice before swimming. Some areas of the lake are not recommended for swimming, due to pollution caused by intensive fish-farming.

Tourist information[edit]


The local people who live in the Toba region are called Toba Batak, or simply Batak, and they speak the local Batak language, but everyone also speaks Indonesian. You may want to use the Batak greeting, 'horas', which means welcome, good morning, farewell, etc.

Get in[edit]

By plane[edit]

You can also fly to Medan's Kualanamu International Airport and continue to Lake Toba by land.

By car[edit]

There are 2 routes to reach Lake Toba from Medan:

  • Kabanjahe route
  • Pematang Siantar route

The Kabanjahe route is the shortest, it passes through Berastagi town and Kabanjahe city till it reaches Merek town at the northern side (about 2.5 hours' drive from Medan). Once you reach Merek, there are 4 options:

  1. head down to Tongging and explore the lakeside up to Silalahi (30 - 45 minutes' drive)
  2. head to Parapat in the eastern side (2 - 2.5 hours' drive)
  3. head to Sidikalang route to explore the western side and cross to Samosir island via the only land bridge (3 - 4 hours' drive)
  4. continue from option 3 to the southern side (another 2 hours' drive)

This route is recommended to those who wish to explore Berastagi, Kabanjahe and Lake Toba in one go.

The Pematang Siantar route is the most popular if you choose to visit Parapat, Tuktuk or Balige at the southern side. It takes about 3 - 4 hours from Medan via toll road to Parapat and another 2 hours to reach Balige. If you are flying to Kualanamu Airport, most likely you will use this route.

By bus[edit]

View of Parapat from Lake Toba
  • from Amplas Station in Medan: Rp 39,000 with local bus, 5 hr (every hour); or Rp 65,000 (offers start at 80,000) with tourist minibus, 4 hr (April 2016)
  • from Berastagi:
    • From Kabanjahe bus terminal to Siantar (black minibus written sepadan, Rp25,000, ~3 hr), Siantar to Parapat (white minibus written D.Sanggul or bus, Rp25,000, ~3 hr), Parapat to Tuk Tuk (ferry from "Pelabuhan Tiga Raja" dock near market, Rp25,000. pay on the boat, will drop you at any hotel there or nearby. ~45-60 min)
    • Tourist bus: Rp200-230,000, ~3 hr
    • Shared taxi: ask your hotel
  • from Bukittinggi: Rp 180,000, 15 hr or Rp 250,000 with tourist minibus, 15hr
  • from Bukit Lawang: Rp 230,000/person with tourist minibus
  • from Sibolga: Rp 75,000, 6 hr with minibus
  • from Dumai: Rp 150,000, 11 hr with minibus

To leave Tuk Tuk, if at an hotel on lake border, wait there and wave ferry boat (hourly normally).

Parapat bus terminal is "Terminal Sosor Saba Parapat" with an ALS shop "Loket Bus ALS Parapat" (to Medan, Bukittinggi, Padang) and not much else. About 30 min walk from ferry dock or 10-15 min minibus (Rp5,000).

By taxi[edit]

From Medan:

  • Raja Taxi +62 617 366 555;
  • Medan Driver Tour & Travel; +6282114304668 via whatsapp available.
  • Tobatransporter phone : +6285261492668

By train[edit]

There is no direct train to Lake Toba. The nearest train station is at Pematang Siantar 50 km north of Parapat. The train (Siantar Ekspres) departs from Medan every day on 14:00 and the trip takes about 4 hours because the train stops at almost every station. Ticket price is Rp 22,000 one way (as of December 2018). From Pematang Siantar, you have to continue by bus/taxi to Parapat, which is another 1-hour ride. It is a long but wonderful way to travel if you like to learn more culture on their daily living and lifestyle.

Get around[edit]

By car[edit]

Using a car is the easiest and safest way to get around, but you have to rent from either Medan or Pematangsiantar. Use a car with a high ground clearance and preferably one with lots of power. The majority of roads around Lake Toba are unpaved, save for the major road. Even the paved one may be in very bad condition, with lots of potholes.

By ferry[edit]

Caution Note: In June 2018 within a week there were 2 accidents. First a ferry lost most of its passengers, about 200, who drowned due to high waves. The second was a boat with 9 passengers who drowned due to engine failure. Avoid using boats in bad weather and use boats with at least 2 engines. Don't use the ferry if it is overloaded, as they have an insufficient number of life vests. Small boats rarely have any life vests at all.

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).

The ferry dock of Parapat is the major access point for the Samosir island. From there, jump in a local mini-van towards the Parapat bus station. From there you can reach nearly all the big cities in Sumatra and even Java.

Several harbours on the mainland have ferry connections with Samosir island. Most common is the Parapat - Tomok route. Public boats from Parapat and surrounding areas sail from either 2 Ajibata harbour or 3 Tigaraja harbour to Tuktuk or Tomok at Samosir island. The boat runs every hour, with the last one at 18:00. Some ferry owners are tourist hunters and will overcharge you. Try to take the ferry with wooden benches inside and the light green ferry. Those are the ferries that charge Rp 25,000 (2024) and the locals take to cross over. Locals pay Rp 20,000 (2024). Self-proclaimed 'tourist hunters' may befriend you on the boat but are harmless and often helpful. If you are staying at Tuktuk, you can ask the ferryman to drop you directly at your resort. 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.

The larger ferry KMP Tao Toba I & KMP Tao Toba II operates between Ajibata and 4 Tomok daily, carrying passengers as well as vehicles. Another largerst ferry, KMP Ihan Batak also operates between Ajibata and Ambarita, with more capacity than Tao Toba. On non-peak season, usually only one of the ferry operates. The ferry ride over is fantastic, just truly peaceful, apart from the car radios playing, the ladies selling peanuts, bottled water, noodle 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. If you are not bringing vehicles along, better use the boat service as it's faster.

Other large ferries routes are (as of January 2018):

  • 5 Sipinggan (1 hour drive from Tomok) connected to 6 Muara, the ferry (KMP Sumut II) runs once a day every Saturday & Sunday. Trip last about 50 minutes with capacity of 40 people and 8 vehicles.
  • 7 Simanindo (30 min drive from Tuktuk) by KMP Sumut I connected to 8 Tigaras which runs 7x trips daily. Trip last about 45 minutes with capacity of 16 vehicles.
  • 9 Onan Runggu connected to 10 Balige by KMP Sumut II, runs once a day every Monday & Friday. Trip last about 90 minutes.

Public boat routes (passengers only) are (as of January 2018):

  • from/to Tuktuk:
  • from/to Tomok
  • Tomok - Ajibata, 14x daily, Rp 5,000 / 30 min (from 08:30 to 18:00 every hour)
  • Tuktuk - Tigaraja, 8x daily, Rp 15,000 / 35 min (from 08:30 to 18:00 every hour)
  • Onan Runggu - Balige, once daily
  • Onan Runggu - Ajibata, 5x daily
  • 11 Nainggolan - Balige, once daily
  • Nainggolan - Ajibata, once daily except twice on Monday
  • 12 Mogang - Balige, once daily
  • Mogang - Ajibata, once daily
  • Simanindo - 13 Haranggaol, once daily
  • 14 Pangururan - Haranggaol, once daily
  • 15 Lopo Parindo, Tomok - Tigaraja, 10x daily

If you have cash to burn, you can charter a speedboat and tour around Lake Toba. Rent are Rp 500,000++.

By public transport[edit]

It may be obvious but just remember there are no taxis around Lake Toba. Public buses exist, but there is no specific schedule. Ask the locals which bus to take as it may be confusing or you can flag a bus and ask the driver. State clearly your destination to avoid misunderstanding. Prices around Rp 3,000 - 5,000 per person depends on distance.

By motorcycle[edit]

In Tuktuk, it's possible to hire a motorcycle for a day or two and get out and about Rp 70,000 per day including full petrol. You can bargain down to Rp 50,000 per day in low season if you hire for several days. Outside of Tuktuk may be harder to rent motorcycle, but do try to ask your hotel for help. 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 charge for an 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 diabolical 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 Tuktuk around to the western shore, stopping at the tourist sites along the way such as the many and varied traditional houses and villages. The roads are very bad in the center of the island (bumpy and washed out) and it takes half a day to cross this way (verse 1–2 hours by coast road which is more scenic anyway). 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 cause of the higher elevation, but the sun will be intense by mid-day.

Example Becak/tuktuk prices at Mar 2024, 100k+:

By bicycle[edit]

Exploring whole lake toba is very time consuming, so mostly is limited to surrounding area only. Most of the cottages and guest houses at Tuktuk will rent you a very serviceable bicycle for a nominal fee (for locals, it's about Rp 100,000), this is a very much preferred way to get around there. Outside of Tuktuk, hiring bicycle may be a bit hard, but do ask your hotel for help. Be very careful for the cars and trucks as nobody looks and there does not seem to be any right side of the road, even when its the left side.

By foot[edit]

Exploring by foot is limited to surrounding area only. Exercise caution for traffic and beware for pickpocket / robber especially at night time.


Well preserved traditional Batak house in Monument of KIng Silalahi.

Northern side[edit]

  • 1 Hill of Gajah Bobok (Bukit Gajah Bobok), Merek (follow the sign after the gate to Sipiso-piso falls). A hill overlooking the view of northern side of Lake Toba. You need to climb a bit to reach the top hill, of which you can see even Sinabung & Sibayak volcanoes on a very clear day.
  • 2 Sipiso-piso falls (Air terjun Sipisopiso), Tongging, Merek (30 min drive from Merek, turns right when you see the sign; continue until you meet a gate to pay entrance fee). 24 hours. Highest waterfall in North Sumatra. You can climb down to get near to the waterfall or just enjoy the vista from top. Sipisopiso (Q4420683) on Wikidata Sipisopiso on Wikipedia
  • 3 Tomb of King Silalahi (Tugu Makam Raja Silahisabungan), Silalahi, Paropo (continue down the main road along the lake from Tongging village (not back to Merek road) until Silalahi village, on the left side of the road). A grave of Batak King Silalahi, contains well-preserved Batak traditional house.

Eastern side[edit]

  • 4 Hill of Gibeon (Bukit Gibeon), Sibisa (continue the main road from Parapat to Balige and you will see a sign, just follow the sign). Puprle-roof complex of church popular for locals and the Christians to pray. The church only open on weekend. There's a small waterfall and swimming pool opened for public every day.
  • 5 Ponot Falls (Air Terjun Ponot), Desa Tangga (about 15 minutes after passing the bridge of the Asahan River at the small village, there is a Y fork; take a left fork heading down). A 3-step waterfall, one of the highest in Indonesia, around 200 m. (Q28723674) on Wikidata
  • 6 Sigura-gura Falls & Dam (Air Terjun dan Waduk Sigura-Gura), Desa Pintu Pohan Dolok. Said to be the highest waterfall in Indonesia at 250 m, the Sigura-Gura Falls and the nearby dam are part of the Sigura-Gura hydro power plant complex that powers most of North Sumatra. It is operated by the state-owned PT Inalum. The dam is said to be the 2nd largest in Indonesia. Access is limited, but there's a lookout from the main street to view the falls, the dam and the power plant complex. (Q28723669) on Wikidata
  • 7 Simarjarunjung hill (Bukit Indah Simarjarunjung), Jl. Simarjarunjung (between main road of Parapat and Merek). Another spot to view the eastern side of Lake Toba.
  • There is a path leading up the mountains to the north of Parapat about 100 m out of the buildings down the main road. This leads up to an attractive pine forest.

Southern side[edit]

  • 8 Huta Ginjang Geosite (continue the road after Silangit airport until you see a sign). The highest hill in the southern side of Lake Toba where you can see the whole southern side of Lake Toba.
  • 9 Sipinsur Geosite. A pine forest park. Sipinsur Geosite (Q111490651) on Wikidata
  • 10 TB Silalahi Center Museum (Museum Batak TB Silalahi Center), Jl Pagar Batu no 88, Balige. A museum complex dedicated to the former Ministry of Public Servants, TB Silalahi. The museum houses history of Batak cultures as well as history of TB Silalahi. Rp 20.000 per pax. T.B. Silalahi Museum Center (Q12499671) on Wikidata
  • 11 Toga Aritonang Monument (Tugu Toga Aritonang), Muara. A magnificent monument of Aritonang, one of the family in Batak Toba.

Western side[edit]

  • 12 Aek Tano Ponggol Bridge (Jembatan Aek Tano Ponggol), Pangururan (you won't miss the bridge as you reach Pangururan). The only iconic red bridge connecting mainland Sumatra to Samosir island. The bridge was inaugurated on August 2023 to replace the old small bridge.
  • Bukit Holbung
    13 Holbung (Bukit Holbung), Harian, Samosir (continue the road from Sibea-bea hill). A splendid rolling hills that offer breathtaking view of the western part of Lake Toba. Also a popular spot for camping. Rp 5,000 per person, parking fee Rp 10,000 per car (2018).
  • 14 Sibea-bea (Bukit Sibea-bea) (between the road of Tele & Pangururan, there's a fork with a sign). possibly the highest statue of Jesus Christ in the world, with a reported height of 60 m (197 feet) overlooking Lake Toba. For comparison, the famous Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro is only 30 m in height. Rp 100.000 per car.
  • 15 Sopo Guru Tatea Bulan. an open-air museum presenting the creation myth of Batak. free.
  • Tele observation tower terrace overlooking western Lake Toba & Samosir island.
    16 Tele observation tower (Menara pandang Tele). Offer a view of Mt. Pusuk Buhit and the whole western side of Lake Toba. There is a small souvenir shop just beside the tower. The road to here are narrow and offer limited parking place. The tower is closed for renovation as of Dec 2023.
  • 17 Waterfront Pangururan, Pangururan. The lakeside Pangururan is converted into a park & walkway spanning from Tano Panggul bridge until Pangururan's market. Every weekend at 8 PM, there's fountain show that last about 20-30 minutes. Come early to get best front view as it's packed with lots of people. Free.

Samosir island[edit]

  • 18 Museum Huta Bolon, Simanindo. At the northern tip of the island there is a Batak Museum with traditional dance performed twice daily at on 10:00. Rp 50,000.
  • Stone chairs and old houses, Ambarita. 8am-6pm. Stone chairs used for judgement and executions on a village square, in front of a line of old Batak houses (about 50-100 years old, but look older). Many houses are still in use. Rp 5,000 (June 2017).
  • 19 Huta Siallagan (Huta Siallagan (Stone Chairs, statues and execution area of King Siallagan)), Jl. Lkr. Tuktuk, Desa Siallagan, Pindaraya, Kabupaten Samosir, Sumatera Utara 22395 (about 30 min walk north of Tuk Tuk). Batak houses, tomb. Rp10,000.
  • 20 Geosite Sipalakka (Stone Chairs), Ambarita, Simanindo, Samosir Regency, North Sumatra (about 25 min walk north of Tuk Tuk). Free.
  • 21 Tomb of King Sidabutar (Batak king grave), Tomok. The Batak king who adopted Christianity is buried in Tomok, a village 5km southeast of Tuktuk.


Pusuk Buhit from Tele tower
  • 1 Aek Rangat hot springs, Aek Rangat (from Pangururan town, cross the bridge to Mt. Pusuk Buhit and head right at fork). There are several establishments at hot springs, most of which also offer accommodations and restaurants. If you stay or eat at the establishment, the entry fee may be free. 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. Rp 10,000 per person.

Replace 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.

Rent a scooter to get around. Scooters cost about Rp 80,000-100,000 per day. Petrol is approx Rp 9,000 per liter as of June 2017.

Do visit the west! Especially the viewpoint at the northwest tip called Pantai Batu Hoda. Very chill place with a couple of huts to relax and have coffee in. It's away from the roads and bustle of touristic jet skis.

Get to the viewpoint in the northeast, after Tomok near Latihan Paralayang, for a good accessible view over the lakes while up on the hills. Take a right fork after passing Tomok town. Roads are good. The road on the left fork is not paved.

Without your own transport, possible day tour of island examples: 1100k by car, 500k by moto w driver. Boat tour 350k if enough people (Toba boat cruise trip, Friday 10am, +62 831 0456 8381).

Fishing Rental of a fishing rod (Rp 120,000 including bait) is possible.

Adventurous travelers may find many opportunity to explore the wilderness. Lake Toba offers plenty of rainforest with hills and mountains. However, unless you are an experienced trekker and know what you are doing, walking into the jungle without a guide is very dangerous and could be fatal.

  • 2 Pusuk Buhit (Gunung Pusuk Buhit), Sianjur - Pangururan. A sacred mountain for Batak people, which legends say they originate from. With a height of 1982 m, this mountain is the most accessible mountain to be climbed around Lake Toba. The climbing is easy and can be completed in less than a day. Climb from just after midnight to time your arrival at summit before sunrise to get best experience.
  • 3 Sibuatan (Gunung Sibuatan), Merek (from Merek, head to village of Naga Lingga as start point). Highest mountain in North Sumatra with a height of 2457 m. Located in northern part of Lake Toba, the mountain is covered in thick rainforest. A guide is needed and the climb is hard. Not very popular with climbers. Usual climb will take 2 days.
  • Water scooters. with a guide on-board Rp 150,000 per half hour.
  • Speed boat rides. Private boat to Tomok or Tuktuk costs Rp 700,000 and takes 10 minutes.
  • Kiddle ride. Self paddle "kiddle ride" boats for Rp 40,000 per hour.
  • Rafting. Rafting in Parhitean: Asahan River is a river in North Sumatra which flows from Lake Toba. This river passes Porsea, district Asahan, and ends at Nibung Gulf, the Strait of Malacca. The river is 150 km in length and passes through the valleys of the Barisan Mountains. The Asahan River, especially around the Tangga village, flows around 120 m/sec with grade IV-V + and has an average depth of 5 m: it is considered very challenging by whitewater rafting enthusiasts.
  • 4 Parapat Saterday moring market, Jalan Harangaol, Parapat. Sa 05:30~11:00. Early on Saterday moring there is food market: fruits, vegetables, fresh fish (or stil alive). You can get everything very cheap (compared to western standards). It is packed with people and food. Go before 09:00 then there is still plenty of choice. free.


  • 5 World Heritage Minimini (10 km from Lake Toba), +62 81370181202. The government has promoted development of several fish farms, using dugout lakes, far from Lake Toba, to prevent its contamination. One of these new farms uses a unique sustainable development technique, using the surplus of plankton to fertilize the 5,000 fruit trees planted around the 26 dugout lakes. Camping sites, gardens, golf 19-20, badminton, mölkky, geocaching, a heliport and world heritage replicas have been laid out around the lakes without cutting the pre-existing trees in this valley. Actually, the Government already controls the situation and many new fish farms are opening away from Lake Toba. One of these new farms "World Heritage minimini" which is managed by a Community Organism welcome ecotourism tourism. World Heritage minimini uses, for fish farming, a sustainable-development technique (1000 years), unique in the world, taking excess-plankton-annually-to-fertilize-fruit-trees. 5,000 fruit trees were planted around the 26 dugout lakes.


Northern side[edit]

  • RM Muslim Suroboyo, Tongging (roadside of the winding road heading down to Tongging). 10:00-17:30. An alternative to Sitopsi if the latter is packed full. Offer more or less similar menu, price and services.
  • 1 Sitopsi, Tongging (from Tongging market, turn to left and follow the small road). Offer fresh seafood with a very cheap price. You can choose either grilled or fried. Do try the lobster! Very packed with people around lunch time and serving time seems to take forever.

Eastern side[edit]

Many restaurants in this side are concentrated around Parapat. Outside of Parapat, it's quite hard to find decent places. In Parapat, most restaurants are located either on the main road or in hotels. The hotels offer some western dishes, whereas the local restaurants are either Batak (pork may be present) or Minang/Padang (which will be the only option for Muslim). Many hotels will include a basic Indonesian breakfast of coffee and either fried rice (nasi goreng) or fried noodles (mie goreng)

Southern side[edit]

  • 2 Caldera Resto and Coffee, Jl. Siborong Borong - Parapat, Laguboti. A good nasi padang restaurant.
  • 3 RM Fly Over Laguboti, Jl. Siborong Borong - Parapat, Laguboti (on the main road between Parapat to Balige). A restaurant specialized in pork.
  • 4 Pizza Andaliman, Jl. Tarutung no 100, Balige. try their specialty - pizza with andaliman flavor!
  • 5 Tepi Danau Bistro, Jl. Pemandian No 1, Balige (on the main road between Parapat to Balige). Open 11:00 daily, close on 22:00 (Monday to Thursday) & 23:00 (Friday to Sunday). A restaurant by the lakeside serving western style food.

Western side[edit]

  • 6 Mie Pangsit Way 88, Jl. SM Raja No 22, Pangururan (turn right after the bridge to Pangururan, on the right side across Indomaret). Chinese food and wonton noodle (similar to Medan)

Samosir island[edit]

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.

  • Cotney Restaurant (by the Samosir resort). Rendangs, curries. Internet is available at a reasonable local price.
  • Jenny's Restaurant (there are only one or two roads so ask for Jenny's). Restaurant with view of Lake Toba. Curries, fresh lake-fish, steamed or grilled, western food such as schnitzel (breaded pork or chicken chop pan fried). Desserts include fresh papaya that grows in the back-yard or a golden-brown banana pancake with chocolate sauce and a sprinkle of coconut. Once all the guests in the small place with only about 5 tables are fed and happy, Rinto will take the guitar from the wall and entertain his patrons
  • Joe's (about 2 km from Tuk Tuk towards Ambarita). A family restaurant with a kind, friendly owner. Chicken à la batak Rp 25,000, banana chocolate cake Rp 80,000 (for a whole cake). Also has fresh vanilla for sale (Rp 70,000 for 100 grams) and motorbike rental.
  • Leo's Restaurant (in Tuktuk, walk in the direction of Ambarita, 100 m before Toledo Inn, the restaurant is above the street). Batak food, including pork and lake fish with local spices. Large Bintang Rp 35,000, 100 g fish Rp 8,000, served with fried potatoes (one portion of fish is 500 g normally, but they might have bigger ones, too). Family run, used to be one of the first restaurants in Tuktuk, then closed for some time and reopened in 2010 by the son of the previous owner.
  • Marco Polo, Close to the northern tip of Tuk Tuk (walk north past most restaurants, about 15 min from Carolina). Views and reasonably priced food. Make sure to try the avocado sandwich for Rp 10,000, the avocado tree can be seen from the balcony. The owners are extremely nice and helpful but don't seem to get many customers as they are past the main tourist area.
  • Maruba Restaurant, Tuk-tuk (in between Amberoba Hotel and Rodeo Accommodation). Traditional Batak and Indonesian food and a variety of Western meals such as schnitzels, real homemade burgers, pasta and roast chicken with fresh herb stuffing. Brown bread, burger buns and baguettes baked most days. English breakfast with smoked bacon is delicious. You can order a Batak feast one day (or less) in advance. Some choices are boneless fish curry, ikan na neura (very fresh raw fish marinated with candlenuts, spices & lime juice), napi nadir (a Batak style curry made with grilled chicken), saksang (chopped pork cooked with Batak spices and fresh pig's blood (blood is optional). Also available to order – delicious Lake Toba freshwater lobster (crayfish) at a very reasonable price.
  • Orari Restaurant, Tuk-Tuk (next to Anju), +62 625 451093. Restaurant with traditional Batak, Indonesian and European cuisine. Spaghetti bolognese, nasi goreng 'special', beef rendang, BBQ fish. Restaurant has a view of the lake. Motorbike rentals also available for Rp 60,000.
  • Tabo Cottages, Tuk-tuk, +62 625 451318, . Free wifi, western-styled food served, the extensive menu is possibly pricier than other options. They have baked goods and European quality natural yoghurt. Fish is caught directly from the lake. from Rp 215,000.
  • Today's cafe, Tuk-tuk (5 min walk from samosir guesthouse). The owner of this small cafe, Juliet, is very friendly. Main meals from Rp 20,000-35,000. Wifi for Rp 100,000 an hour.


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 is one discotheque on Friday and Saturday nights - expect the 1980s music. Better to drink at your guest house generally. There are a number of fine spots around the Tuktuk area to catch a sunset beer. Especially on Saturday night you can hear a chorus of parties going around the Tuktuk area.

  • Samosir Cottages. you will provide a wonderful local Batak performance that is a mixture of traditional dances and fantastic drinking songs.
  • Reggae Bar. It is perched high up looking over the lake.
  • Hibiscus Bar. It is on the main street is hosted by two wonderful local girls and plays cool tunes.
  • b.caro coffe shop, Haranggaol St. 114, Parapat (5 minutes from down town, 2 minutes from Tigaraja harbour), +62 62541306. Good coffee. Rp 3000 per cup.


Northern side[edit]

  • 1 Morent'z Pool & Cafe, Merek (from Merek head to Tongging direction and skip the fork to Tongging; continue ahead about 8 km until you see the sign on left side), +62 81 988 1718. Check-in: 14.00, check-out: 11.00. A hotel that imitates Santorini house style, they have 6-rooms in the swimming pool area, 2-glamping tents and several wooden cottages. The swimming pool is a salt water pool with they claimed has therapeutic effect when swimming. Can be very cold at night. Rp 550,000 per room.
  • 2 Sapo Juma, Merek (from the gate to Sipiso-piso waterfall/Tongging village, turn right where signboard mention Bukit Gajah Bobok and Sapo Jumma; follow the road passing flower garden until reaching Sapo Jumma about 15 min), +62 812 6293 1331. A home-stay consists of 8 standard rooms, this can be a very cheap alternative to Simalem Resort if you want to enjoy the same view as this is located adjacent hill of Simalem Resort. The owner also has extensive flower garden just across the hotel. Staff are very friendly. There's a camping ground as well. Rp 450,000 per room.
  • 3 Taman Simalem Resort, Jl. Raya Merek - Sidikalang Km. 9, +62-61-4577616 (marketing office), +62-811-6077-616, . Taman Simalem Resort is Indonesia's first agro-eco-tourism destination that has the magnificent Lake Toba as the backdrop at some 1400 m above sea level. Some unique features of the resort comprise Indonesia's largest loquat farm, an organic vegetables farm, a 9-hole golf course set in a tea and coffee estate and a twin waterfall in the 130-ha jungle that surrounds the resort. The resort is still under development but accommodation is available; ranging from the 4-bedded rooms with detached bathrooms to villas set in the jungle. For the more adventurous, camping packages are also available. A minimum 2-night stay is recommended to be able to enjoy most of the resort's facilities. Windbreakers and sweaters are recommended as the temperature averages below 20°C year round. Start from Rp 1,900,000.

Eastern side[edit]

  • Charlie's Guesthouse, Parapat. cheap and central. Overlooks the market (therefore a bit noisy, especially on Saturday) and is very close to the ferry station. Rooms are about Rp 70,000, pretty clean and with shower
  • 4 Danau Toba Cottage, Parapat. Offers spacious rooms, Wifi and cable TV and a swimming pool. rooms Rp 260,000-400,000.
  • 5 My Nasha Hotel, Tigaras, +62 81809351766, +62 81534534383, . A bit expensive by Lake Toba standard, but it offers a very splendid view to Lake Toba especially the Junior Family room type. Food from hotel are expensive, it's recommended to eat outside of hotel. Has swimming pool for adults and kids (separated). start from Rp 500.000.
  • 6 Niagara Hotel and Resort, Parapat. One of the better hotels, although only 2 to 3 stars. Can be crowded with families and Indonesians at weekends and on public holidays. Niagara Hotel Lake Toba & Resort (Q111138977) on Wikidata

Southern side[edit]

  • 7 Nabasa Hotel, Jl. Siliwangi No 8, Balige. A nice but basic hotel by lakeside, with a restaurant overlooking the lake directly. Rp 400,000.
  • 8 Coffee Hotel Ayola Dolok Sanggul (CHADS), Jl Dolok Sanggul - Siborong-borong, Pakkat, Dolok Sanggul, +62 633 321 1396, . 3-stars hotel with 93-rooms, swimming pool and meeting rooms managed by Topotels located near the town of Dolok Sanggul (which famous for its horse meat delicacy). Start from Rp 500.000 on non peak season.

Western side[edit]

  • 9 Saulina Resort, Jl. Aek Rangat, Kel. Siogung Ogung, Pangururan (if you are coming from Tele, turn left on the fork before the land-bridge to Samosir island, with the bridge right of your position), +62 626 20810. One of the hotels at Pusuk Buhit foothills just at the lakeside. Not much activity at night except taking a dip in nearby hot springs. Rp 420,000 for standard room, Rp 2,150,000 for villa (6 people).

Samosir island[edit]

There are numerous hotels and guest houses, mainly in Tuktuk but with a few scattered in other small towns around the island. During Chinese New Year (Jan/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.

  • Aman guesthouse, Jl. Tuktuk (next to Tony's). Traditional Batak houses with hot water shower. Rp 40,000-50,000 per room.
  • 10 Bagus Bay, Jl. Tuktuk, Samosir, +62 625 451287. Next to the lake. A dark wood and bamboo bar/restaurant gives the place a relaxed feel. The most rooms are basic. They have a restaurant and internet and WIFI. Rp 30,000-175,000.
  • 11 Hotel Barbara, Ambarita, +6285261687343. Small quite relaxing place a few km from Tuktuk with lovely scenery and good swimming. Rooms are clean and located in several houses. Western and Indonesian style food is served in the restaurant or on the terrace. Tourist information and good tips about Sumatra. From Rp 70,000.
  • Christina Guesthouse, Jl. Tuktuk, +62 625 451027. A small relaxing place with lovely scenery and good swimming. Rooms are clean and located in several traditional Batak-houses). Internet and Skype access are available for reasonable price. Western and Indonesian style food is served in the restaurant. General tourist information and good tips about Sumatra. From Rp 50,000.
  • 12 D'Flo homestay & Cafe, Jl Raya Simanindo, Pangururan (near Parbaba beach), +6281382409044. start from Rp 200,000 for 2-bed room without water heater / Rp 250,000 with water heater, Rp 600,000 for family room with small kitchen (up to 6 people).
  • Ebikel's Homestay (just next to Hotel Carolina). Homestay with a decent room and affordable price. The owner Ebikel is a helpful and willing guide to Samosir Island.
  • Haraira, Jl. Lkr. Tuktuk (Close to Jennys Restaurant). Large very clean rooms with hot water shower (Rp 80,000-100,000/night). Well maintained garden in front of the rooms towards the Lake. Really nice view, good swimming.
  • 13 Hotel Carolina, Tuk-tuk Siadong, Samosir, +62 625 451210, . 49 rooms set in a beautiful tropical garden. It has a restaurant with a verandah overlooking the lake. Staff are very helpful. Small Batak style cottages up the hill have cold water only. Luxury rooms on the lake shore come with hot water, a bath tub and a fridge. They have a lake area for swimming with a diving board and pontoon to relax. The hotel can organize travel, trips and motorbike rental. Computer room and free Wi-Fi in the restaurant area, though the speed can be very slow. Rp 45,000-150,000+10%.
  • 14 Liberta Homestay, Jl. Lkr. Tuktuk, Samosir, +62 625 451035. It has quiet private cabins on the lake. Traditional Batak houses, good atmosphere. The room No1 is a good choice, because of the view and terrace. Friendly owner Mr Moon will sing, cook, and go out of his way for you. He also provides a herbal blend against diarrhea. Rp 60,000.
  • Mas Cottages (about 2 km from Tuktuk towards Ambarita). Closer to the ancient ceremonial stone chairs than downtown Tuktuk. Variety of accommodation options all directly on the lake including suites and traditional Batak houses. Prices are a bit higher for this secluded location. Rooms with hot water, but the hot water is unreliable. Good breakfast. No Wi-Fi or internet, and the nearby internet café seems always to be closed. Rp 60,000-70,000.
  • Parnas Homestay and Bar, Jl. Tuktuk Siadong, Samosir, +62 625 451167. A very chilled out place on the left wing of the peninsula Tuktuk. 4 very spacious and beautifully furnished rooms with bathroom, direct access to the lake and stunning views. There's a huge Bar and restaurant with a communal room. free pool billiards, table tennis, darts. Live music, scooter rental, BBQ, laundry. Rooms between Rp 60,000 in low season and Rp 150,000 in high season (note: confirm the agreed room price in writing as it may change when you get the bill).
  • 15 Romlan, +62 625 451386, . Small guesthouse with 12 rooms including 2 batak cottages in both a single and a 2-storey building. The rooms are clean and comfortable with attached bathroom. All rooms have a direct lake view. Good for swimming and relaxing. Local and Indonesian food including some German meals. Free Wi-Fi. Private boat dock. Cottages Rp 40,000 (must ask), rooms Rp 150,000 (Rp. 120,000 low season).
  • Samosir Cottages, Tuktuk, +62 625 451170, . Good for those who arrive late in Parapat, there is usually a representative to take them to the cottages. The waterfront is clean, and the large restaurant food and drinks. Batak music provided every Wednesday night and Saturday night. If you walk outside the hotel you can use a local cafe which may offer some more variety and cheaper prices. They also own Samosir Villa Resort 5 min drive away. Its sister resort has new rooms, free internet, a pool and a restaurant providing food and drinks. From Rp 200,000.
  • Tabo Cottages, Tuktuk, +62 625 451 318, . Rooms are clean and quite modern by Sumatran standards. Free Wi-Fi. Western-styled food served in the restaurant is good. From Rp 120,000.
  • Tony's Guest House. Nice people and nice double room. Vegetable taco for Rp 21,000. From Rp 25,000.
  • 16 Tuk-Tuk Timbul, Jl. Lkr. Tuktuk, Samosir (along the road from Tuktuk to Ambarita), +62 81 2640 11194. Basic bungalows along the Lake Toba shore, with a small restaurant.
  • 17 Sibayak guesthouse, Tuktuk Siadong, Simanindo, Kabupaten Samosir, Sumatera Utara 22395, +62 812-6568-6890. Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 12:00. Free wifi in restaurant (nok in standard room, too far but ok outside near the hamac), towel, no soap/shampoo, western toilet w bucket flush (no toilet paper or toilet gun), water fountain for refill, moto rent, tour options. Restaurant prices: Rp 15-20,000, drink Rp 5-12,000, breakfast Rp 7-15,000. no dorm, single room Rp 90-170,000 (standard cold shower, double hot shower, superior hot shower), double room Rp 110-190,000, triple Rp 260,000, quad Rp 310,000.

Stay safe[edit]

The local Batak people are very respectful. Some of the local males may try to turn on the charm too much. Clinics are sparse, even more so with hospital. If you got hurt badly, you may need to wait 30 - 60 mins for ambulance depends on your location.

Go next[edit]

  • Medan - the major city in northern Sumatra and transportation hub
  • Pematang Siantar - the 2nd biggest city in northern Sumatra after Medan
  • Berastagi - a beautiful town next to two famous volcanoes
  • Bukit Lawang - home of orangutans in the Gunung Leuser National Park
  • Bukittinggi - You can take the ALS bus (Medan to Padang) from the loket ALS in Parapat. It stops there on route. Don’t believe the touts in tuktuk quoting absurd prices. Just buy the ticket for the Medan - Padang leg via Traveloka (Rp 230,000), then tell the people at the ALS loket that you already have a bus ticket. They will call the bus for you and it will pick you up. (June 2022)
This rural area travel guide to Lake Toba is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.