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Lake Toba - Sumatra

Highlights - Largest lake in Sth East Asia, Batak culture,

traditional dancing and music, fishing and natural hot springs

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Lake Toba, the largest lake in South East Asia, and the deepest in the world, was formed 75,000 years ago after an earth splitting volcano eruption. It is the largest and deepest volcanic crater lake in the world. It's 906 meters above sea level with an average depth of 450m. The lake has an island in the middle called Samosir. You can get to Lake Toba from Medan in around 3 - 4 hours.

View of Lake Toba

Lake Toba is in the centre of the homeland to the Batak people but 'Tano Batak' covers an area the size of Belgium within North Sumatra. With their own language, the Batak are mainly Christian, encountering Christian missionaries in the 1850's and 1860's from Holland and Germany.

 

The current estimated population of Samosir is 120,000. Including Lake Toba there are six major Batak regions - Toba Batak, Karo Batak, Kakpak/Dairi Batak, Simeulungun Batak, Angkola Batak and Sipirko Batak. Around 1.5 Million Batak live amongst these regions. The Karo Batak and centered around Berastagi.

There is a regular ferry service, every half hour, between Tuk-Tuk on Samosir Island to Parapat. The ferry runs between 7.30am and 7.30pm during peak tourist seasons. During off peak times the last ferry back from Parapat is 6pm. The cost of the ferry is 7000Rp. Buy your ticket on the boat. At the ferry wharf and on the ferry you will be approached by many of the local young men trying to persuade you to go to the hotel they are affiliated with. These guys are mostly harmless and just trying to make a living guiding tourists. They can be a good resource for information. There is no harm in going and checking their hotel out and if you're not happy with that hotel move on to the ones close by. Tuk-tuk is not that large so the hotels are close. See the list of hotels at the bottom of this page.

View of Lake Toba

View across to Tuk-Tuk Peninsula

On the island there are waterfalls and hot volcanic springs (Air Panas). In the dry season most of the waterfalls stop flowing.

Three megalithic sites on Samosir bear witness to the glory - and horror - of Batak history. The three consist of 300-year-old stone seats and benches arrayed in a circle. The first set of ruins was used as a conference area for Batak kings. At the second site, the rajas would sit in judgment of a criminal or enemy prisoner. If the accused were found guilty, the assembly would move to the third set, which features the ghastly addition of a central stone execution block.

300 year old stone chairs at Lake Toba     300 year old stone chairs at Lake Toba

The Air Panas - hot springs is on the other side of the island to Tuk-Tuk. The hot springs are not on Samosir Island but you do not need to take a ferry off the island to see them. On the opposite side of the island from where Tuk-Tuk is there is a town called Pangururan. There you will find a small isthmus that connects the island to the mainland. So is Samosir actually a true island? On the other side of this isthmus you will find the hot springs. It takes about 1 hour to ride the local bus to Pangururan from Tuk Tuk. If you hire a motorbike to travel around Samoris Island ride carefully as often dogs, chickens and school children dart across the roads as well as water buffalo on the side and often on the road.

Overlooking the hot springs is Mount Pusuk Buhit (1981m). Gunung Pusuk Buhit is sacred to the Batak people as the first ruler, Si Raja Batak, is believed to have descended from heavan onto the mountain.

At Simanindo, 19km from Tuk-Tuk, is the Batak Museum built in the house where Raja Sidauruk lived. Here you can see traditional dancing (Tordon) and puppet performances (Sigalegale). Sigalegale was originally performed at Batak funerals, the puppets being the receptacle for the soul of the deceased.

All over Samosir Island you will see lots of traditional Batak houses as well as the Batak grave sites which are suspended above the ground.

 

The Batak houses have lots of symbolism built into their design.

Traditional Batak House at Lake Toba

The roofs of the house are designed so the back of the roof in higher than the front. The father of the house always sleeps at the front of the house and the children in the back. The higher roof in the back signifies that the father wants his children to reach higher in life than himself.

The steps leading up to the small entrance are always atleast 4, 5 or 6 to signify how many children the family wants to have.

The small entrance into a Batak house are designed so you have to bow down to enter the house paying respect to the people inside the house.

In July every year the Batak people hold the Lake Toba festival. The festivities include Dragon boat races, traditional dancing, canoe races and a swim from Parapat to Tuk-Tuk. This festival was suspended in 2007 due to the economical climate and lack of tourists.

In the middle of Samosir Island there is a small mountain (780m) which is quite an easy climb to get to the top. On the journey up you will experience fantastic views over the lake and Tuk-Tuk. There are two guesthouses at the top of the mountain, John and Jenny's which makes for an interesting night away.

View down to Tuk-Tuk penisular at Lake Toba

Internet access on Samosir Island is fairly slow and sometimes unreliable. There are often power cuts especially at night. The cost is fairly standard at all internet cafes and hotels set at 20,000Rp per hour, usually charged by the minute.

Getting to Lake Toba

You can catch a bus to Lake Toba from most to the main towns in Sumatra. You can catch a train from Medan to P. Siantar which is only 40 minutes from Lake Toba by bus. The train leaves Medan at 10.05am and arrives in P. Siantar at around 12.45pm.

A public bus to and from Medan to Parapat costs 18,000Rp and takes around 3 - 4 hours.

There are also daily flights on Susi Air that fly from Medan to Silangit (12.40pm) and flights from Silangit to Medan (1.20pm). Silangit is just south of Lake Toba with buses available to transport you to Parapat after your flight. The flight times are 40 minutes. www.susiair.com

 

 

Accommodation on Samosir Island

Accommodation in Tuk-Tuk

Following are details of some of the hotels in Tuk-Tuk on Samosir including contact details, room rates and traveler reviews.

Samosir Cottages (3 reviews) is one of the best places to stay in Tuk-Tuk. With 35 rooms from 105,000Rp - 385,000Rp for a family room. Prices are negotiable. For pictures, prices and contact details click here.

Samosir Cottages at Lake Toba

Carolina Hotel  (11 reviews) is another great place to stay in Tuk-Tuk with rooms from 120,000Rp per night. Great rooms, restaurant and excellent swimming in the lake right at the front of the hotel complex. For pictures, prices and contact details click here.

Lekjon Cottages (2 review) has quality accommodation, large clean rooms with great views over the lake. The rooms are all overlooking the private beach area with great swimming right in front. Room rates start 50,000Rp per night. For pictures, prices and contact details click here.

Bagus Bay Homestay & Restaurant (2 reviews) has standard rooms and traditional Batak houses for rent from 20,000Rp - 75,000Rp. With a great restaurant and traditional Batak dancing Wed and Saturday evenings at 8pm. For pictures, prices and contact details click here.

Liberta Home Stay (6 reviews) has 9 rooms set in beautiful gardens with traditional Batak houses right on the Lake. Prices are from 35,000Rp to 50,000Rp. For pictures and contact details click here.

Horas Family Home is a self contained traditional Batak house right on the lake for families or groups. Caters for 1 to 6 people, prices from 300,000Rp. For pictures, prices and contact details click here.

Tabo Cottages (3 reviews) has a selection of rooms, Traditional Batak houses and villas starting from 215,000Rp per night For pictures, prices and contact details click here.

Tabo Cottages at Lake Toba

Reggae Guest House (3 reviews) has 6 rooms right down on the Lake. You can practically jump from the front door into the lake. The restaurant has the best views of sunset over Lake Toba. Prices 30,000 - 40,000Rp per night. For pictures, prices and contact details click here.

Bamboo Restaurant and Hotel. Next door to Reggae Guest house, right on the lake. Rooms from 30,000Rp per night. For pictures, prices and contact details click here.

Anju Cottages (1 review) right next door to Samosir Cottages. Prices from. For pictures, prices and contact details click here.

Toledo Inn Tuk Tuk Phone +62 (625) 41429 Fax +62 (625) 451094

Popy's Restaurant and Lakeside rooms - Tuk Tuk  Rooms from 25,000Rp (0625) 451 291

Hotels in Ambarita

Barbara's Guesthouse is set right on the lake in Ambarita, around 15 minutes from Tuk-Tuk. 2010 room rates are:

Room with hot shower including breakfast : Rp 175.000 and room cold shower Rp30.000 and now Room with cold shower : Rp 80.000

 

Click here for pictures of Barbara's Guesthouse 

If you would like information on the Batak religion check out:

http://philtar.ucsm.ac.uk/encyclopedia/indon/batak.html

Last updated 14th May 2013

Traditional Batak House at Lake Toba

Batak History

The batak people have a history of animism and ancestor worship as well as head hunting and human sacrifices.

The Batak people encountered both Muslim and Christian missionaries. The majority were converted to Christianity.

Even today as Christians their ancestors play an important part in life. Graves are built above the ground for all the see and remember.

Batak Gravesite Lake Toba

Traditional Batak Gravesite Lake Toba

Very strong records are kept of the Batak genealogy, linking families.

View over Tuk-Tuk Lake Toba

View down to Tuk-tuk and Lake Toba.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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