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Lake Toba is one of the awesome natural wonders of the world. This enormous crater lake has an island almost the size of Singapore in its centre. At over 1,145 square km, and a depth of 450 meters, Lake Toba is actually more like an ocean. This is the largest lake in Southeast Asia and one of the deepest lakes in the world.

Toba is a place to come and sit back, relax and absorb some beautiful pristine scenery. As you sit and take in the view of the picturesque mountains set against the cool clear lake, you will feel the worries of the world melt away. As the lake sits 900 meters above sea level there is a cooler climate here making a refreshing break from the heat, humidity and pollution of the city.

Get Around

Feel the wind in your hair and do as the locals do by hiring a motorbike to explore this beautiful part of the world. If you’re on Samosir Island, take the day to explore by taking a drive on the road running around the edge of the island. Although rough and unpaved in places, this road offers some spectacular views of the lake from the highest points on the island. If you’re staying in the popular village of Tuk Tuk on Samosir, the best way to get around is to walk, or wander, down the main street at a leisurely pace.

Get There

Parapat, the town by Lake Toba, is 176 km from Medan and can be reached in under 6 hours by public bus which has two routes: Medan-Parapat or via Medan-Berastagi.

Travel agents in Medan can also organize a rental car plus a chaffeur for you. Medan is an international gateway. A number of airlines fly daily between the Kualanamu Airport Medan and all major cities in Indonesia and international flights also go from Medan to Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.

Once you arrive in Parapat, you can catch the ferry to Samosir Island. The ferry goes every hour and a half. The two landing points on Samosir are the traditional village of Tomok, or Tuk Tuk, where the islands hotels and restaurants are concentrated. If you are coming overland from the south via Bukittinggi and Tarutung there is a public bus available.

Experience Lake Toba

The Stunning Samosir Island

The island of Samosir is situated in the huge crater lake of Toba. It is the heart of the Toba Batak culture. A visit to Lake Toba is not complete without a stay on Samosir with its many traditional villages along its shoreline. On the east side of the island, the land rises steeply from a narrow strip of flat land along the lake’s water edge climbing to a central plateau that towers some 780 meters above the waters. From this height one can have a wonderful panoramic view on this magnificent blue lake.

As you step down the ferry at Tomok you will be greeted by a row of souvenir stalls selling an array of Batak handicraft, from the traditional hand-woven ulos cloths to Batak bamboo calendars and all kinds of knick-knacks. Further north of Tomok is a small peninsula, known as Tuktuk Siadong, or simply Tuktuk, best loved for its sandy beaches and beautiful lush scenery. Here the soft lapping blue waters of lake Toba blend with the green pastures. Although offering beaches and opportunities for watersports, yet the air here is cool as it is located high in the mountains. Therefore, Tuktuk become a favorite with tourists, so here you will find a plethora of small hotels and homestays, restaurants and handicrafts galore.

Get There

The town of Parapat is around four to five hours from Medan by private car or rented vehicles. You can also take the train that serves Medan-Pematang Siantar, then board a bus from here to Parapat, which takes around 2 hours.

Tourist buses also take passengers from Medan to Parapit via Lubuk Pakam, Tebing Tinggi, to Pematang Siantar. Along the route enjoy the panorama of palm oil and rubber tree plantations. From Parapat, ferries take passengers to Tuktuk to the pier located near major hotels.

The Stunning Sipiso-piso Waterfall

Set in the beautiful highlands of North Sumatra, the stunning Sipiso-piso waterfall is located on the North side of  Lake Toba, 24 km from Kabanjahe. This long but narrow waterfall drops 120 meters into an impressive gorge below. This thundering waterfall is popular with visitors who come to photograph this magnificent natural wonder. Surrounded by a lush green mountainscape and with a rainbow forming at the base of the waterfall, it’s hard to imagine a more impressive subject for a photograph. The waterfall can be viewed from gazebos near the food and souvenir stands. From Berastagi it is a 45 minute to Sipiso-Piso waterfall.

Get There

Use a ferry or boat to view this waterfall.

The Sigale-gale, Life-sized Puppet Show on Samosir

When visiting the island of Samosir at Lake Toba, then watching the Sigale-gale, a wooden puppet dance performance, is a must. Sigale-gale is a Batak life-sized puppet show, which is traditionally performed at funerals but may now also be performed for visitors. Carved from the wood of a banyan tree and dressed in the traditional costume wearing a red turban, loose shirt and blue sarong, the Sigale-gale stands on long, wooden boxes where the operator makes it dance to percussion music accompanied by flutes and drums.

There are many versions of the story behind Sigalegale. Some others believe, that the origin of the puppet was linked to a local legend that tells of a childless woman named Nai Manggale. The legend adds that as she lay dying on her deathbed, Nai Manggale asked her husband to have a life-sized image made of herself to be called si gale-gale and to have a dirge played in front of the puppet. Unless this was done, her spirit would not be admitted to the abode of the dead, which would in turn force her to place a curse on her surviving spouse. Hence, to avert the misfortune, the Sigale-gale was created.

Apart from the legend, in the Toba Batak tradition, Sigale-gale was shown at funeral ceremonies to revive the souls of the dead and to communicate with them. Personal possessions of the deceased were used to decorate the puppet, and the priest would invite the deceased’s soul to enter the wooden puppet as it danced on the grave. To watch the performance, visitors are asked to pay Rp 80,000 per person. Today, vistiors can see four dances in one show, starting with the Early Gondang, Gondang Somba, Gondang Mangaliat, ending with the Gondang Sitiotio.

Dolok Sanggul: The Beauty of Nature in South Toba

When you thinking to stay longer to see different view from the rest of the massive ancient Lake Toba in North Sumatra, Dolok Sanggul, the capital city of Humbang Hasundutan Regency is the best chosen to complete your journey.  The highlands of Dolok Sanggul in the southern Lake Toba are both blessed and cursed by their exotic beauty and climate. Dolok Sanggul is a city with a significant rainfall makes the weather is pretty cold at night or sometimes in the day time. Even in the driest month there is a lot of rain.

What to Do

  1. Sightseeing The Beauty of Bakara Valley

Stretch from west to east, Bakara Valley on the southern shores of the Lake Toba, lies in something resembling a bowl.  Bakara Valley easily reached from Dolok Sanggul. Two swift but shallow rivers course through the valley to the lake. The Aek Silang River and Aek Simangira, both cascade from high cliffs.  This beautiful valley indeed will thrill you. You can enjoy the scenic views of both the valley as well as the lake whenever you decide to visit the place.

  1. Splashing The Binanga Janji Waterfall

Nestled among others village that surround Bakara Valley, the Binanga Janji Waterfall is one the most spectacular sights that nature has offer when you visit Dolok Sanggul. Waterfall Janji is one of the most beautiful waterfall by the village of Tipang. The sound of water rushing, gurgling and dripping over stone fills the ears. This 20-meter high waterfall is worth to see even in dry periods.

  1. Sipping The Original Lintong Coffee

If there is one thing that lets you stay awake and active while exploring Toba, it is that cup of coffee. The island of Sumatra, particularly in North Sumatra, is known for producing a number of coffee. Namely Sidikalang Coffee, Mandailing Coffee and Lintong Coffee. Lintong Nihota, part of Humbang Hasundutan Regency, is the small town that has become synonymous with the entire southern part of the Lake Toba area and most of the coffee from the southern shores is sold as such. Sumatra Lintong gains much of its unique character from its processing methods, which involve a partial wet-process followed by a three stage drying cycle which “cures” the unroasted bean makes Lintong has an earthy aroma with sweet and bittersweet balance taste.

  1. Considering Bizarre Food

The traditional Toba cuisine dominated by freshwater fish that live in rivers or Lake Toba. The Spicy Hot Pickled Grass Carp is one of the local cuisine must to try. Known as Naniura (raw fish), this is a fermented fish product popular in the Batak tribe community. The processing of Naniura begins with eviscerating and washing the fresh fish. The cleaned fish is fully soaked in a local lemon juice (asam jungga) mixed with condiments including onion, ginger, turmeric, and galangal.  The fermentation process is allowed to take place for 1-4 hours. Traditionally, Naniura should be made from the increasingly rare fish (Neolissochilus thienemanni), a species found exclusively in Lake Toba. Nowadays, the common Carp is used instead.  It’s a typical meal served relating to a particular traditional event. It used to be served only to the King.  

Get There

The easiest way to reach Dolok Sanggul is fly to Silangit Airport at Siborong-Borong and you will take a journey around 1 hour by taking an airport taxi. The official taxi counter is located outside the arrivals hall. The cost to Dolok Sanggul from Airport is cost IDR 200.000.

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