The ultimate guide to Lake Toba, the mythical ocean blue lake in Sumatra

Lake Toba view in the morning

Lake Toba Travel Guide – Lake Toba is a massive volcanic lake covering an area of 1,707 km², located in Parapat area in North Sumatra Province, on Sumatra Island Indonesia.

Lake Toba is the largest lake in Southeast Asia, and the deepest in the world. It was formed 75,000 years ago, after an earth splitting volcano eruption. It is 906 meters above sea level with an average depth of 450m.

Lake Toba view in the morning
Lake Toba view in the morning – Credit to my travel mate JC

Some studies say that this eruption might have contributed to the causing previous ice 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.

A narrow isthmus linking the town of Pangururan on Samosir and Tele on mainland Sumatra
A narrow isthmus linking Pangururan on Samosir and Tele on mainland Sumatra – Photo Credit to JC

In the middle of this huge lake sits Pulau Samosir (Samosir Island), actually Samosir is not an island. It is joined to the mainland of Sumatra on its western part by a narrow isthmus linking the town of Pangururan on Samosir and Tele on mainland Sumatra.

How to get to Lake Toba

You will have to take two transport modes from Medan until you get to lake toba, by land to the Prapat, and then continue by ferry to Tuk Tuk where the main area of accommodations located.

We flew from Jakarta to Kuala Namu International Airport (as most of other travellers do), and then travel onwards by land to Parapat, the town by Lake Toba. Which takes from about 4 to 5 hours by either private car of public bus.

From Medan to Prapat by Private (shared Car) – A shuttle like bus

You can travel directly from Kuala Namu airport to Lake toba. This is the best option if you fly to Kuala Namu Airport.

There are travel companies provide the shared car service that take you directly to Prapat from the airport. You will have to wait for awhile, as they are not leaving until they have minimum number of passengers, if they have this minimum number of passengers the price is Rp. 60,000. However in our case there were only 4 of us, and that we agreed to not waiting any longer, therefore we had to pay for Rp. 100,000 for four hours journey, which is not that bad.

Travelling to Prapat by public bus

It is also possible to travel from Medan airport to Lake Toba. But you need to go from the airport to Amplas bus terminal. There is a public bus which leaves the airport regularly to Amplas terminal, it costs Rp. 15,000, and takes about 20-30minutes. Ask the airport staff for the bus to amplas when you walk out of the airport.

From the Amplas terminal You can get a public bus to Parapat, and it costs you Rp 40,000 for non-air con bus and Rp 70,000 for air con bus. And it is less comfortable than the first option mentioned above, and not to mention that sometime people smoke in the bus.

Travelling from Prapat to Samosir island (Tuk Tuk)

When you get in Prapat, and then take a ferry out to Samosir island for Rp 15000/person. The boat drops you at your hotel, Tuk tuk. Tuk Tuk on Pulau Samosir is the main area for accommodation for those who visit Samosir Island.

You may also take a ferry from Ajibata for Rp 4.000/person, but drops you in Tomok, and it is about 5 km from Tuk-Tuk.

It was me, Taking the boat to Tuk Tuk - Credit to JC
It was me, Taking the boat to Tuk Tuk – Credit to JC

How to get around Lake Toba

Please note that there are no taxis available around Tuk Tuk. You can walk the small part of the island, just make sure to have time to get back to your hotel before the dark. As some part of the island is very quiet at night. You can always ask the local people for your way home if you get lost, they are very friendly.

Getting around Lake Toba by Motorbike

This is probably the best option if you are comfortable riding a motorbike. We rented a motorbike, and travelled around the island, visited other places of interest on the island, and it was indeed a very pleasant journey. The motorbike rental is Rp.100,000 per day, including the full petrol.

Riding motorbike Lake Toba Samosir Island
And it is me again, riding motorbike around Lake Toba Samosir Island – Credit to JC

Please also note that not all part of the island have good road condition, and ride carefully as the medical services are limited in case something happens.

And make sure to put the sunblock on, and bring the rain coat at the same time as the weather in this island is unpredictable.

Travelling around Lake Toba by bicycle

Cycling around Lake Toba is also a good idea, you can ask the hotels or cottages where you are staying in at Tuk Tuk if they have bicycle for rent, if they don’t, they will be happy to help you finding one to rent.

Danau Toba Accommodations

If you are visiting Lake Toba, staying in Tuk-Tuk on Pulau Samosir is the best choice. As Tuk Tuk is the main accommodation area for the travellers visiting Lake Toba.
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It is also where you could easily find great food, best activities and offers relaxing athmosphere.

We stayed at Anju hostel with lake view and within walking distance to the restaurants.

Book your hotels around Lake Toba in Samosir Island on booking.com

Anju Cottages with the Lake views
Anju Cottages with the Lake views
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