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19 Things To Do In Lake Toba & Samosir Island: Travel Guide 2024

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Are you looking for the best things to do in Lake Toba? I’ve got you covered with this Lake Toba and Samosir Island Travel guide!

If you’re on the hunt for a picturesque escape from the bustle of modern life, Lake Toba is the place for you. With traditional Batak houses sticking out above densely wooded mountains it’s the perfect escape.

During our time in North Sumatra, we spent 4-days at Lake Toba on the island of Samosir, (not enough time!). We based ourselves in the village of Tuktuk and spent our days exploring the island while immersing ourselves in the local Batak culture.

Whether you’re seeking adventures on the water, exploration of ancient traditions, or a retreat into nature’s embrace, Lake Toba has something to offer every soul. This is a superb place to visit if you’re a nature lover and cultural enthusiast!

So come and immerse yourself in the breathtaking beauty of the lake, where time moves slowly and get ready to discover the best things to do in Lake Toba.

Your Ultimate Travel Guide To Visiting Lake Toba And The Best Things To Do!

Things to do in Lake Toba & Samosir Island Travel Guide

In this post, I’m going to go over the top 19 things to do around Lake Toba with an emphasis on the must-do activities at Samosir Island. I’m also going to include a complete travel guide including topics such as:

  • A deep dive into the best Batak villages to visit
  • Where to stay and the best places to eat on Samosir Island
  • How to plan your trip; transport, weather and budget
  • Essential travel tips to make the most out of your holiday!

Why Is Lake Toba Worth Visiting?

Lake Toba, in its entirety, is an awe-inspiring crater lake formed from a volcanic eruption over 70,000 years ago. It spans a vast 1,130 square kilometres and holds the prestigious title of being the largest volcanic lake in the world, captivating travellers with its mesmerising blue waters and picturesque landscapes.

Samosir Island sits in the middle of this crater lake and is the most popular spot to visit in Lake Toba for tourists, and where we were headed!

Batak architecture in Lake Toba

It was a good friend of ours who had actually suggested we visit Lake Toba. It’s nestled in the heart of Indonesia’s largest island, Sumatra, herself having visited the spectacular lake almost 15 years previous. 

She told us stories of its serenity, stunning scenery and the warm hospitality of the Batak people inhabiting the area. Since then, our inner nature fanatics knew it was somewhere we had to visit. So, after a week in Bukit Lawang, we beelined for Lake Toba.

Mist cloaked mountains on Samosir Island
Mist cloaked mountains on Samosir Island.

Our visit differed from her experience in one aspect: we visited during the wet season! I feel like it was once busier than it is now, having somewhat fallen off the backpacking trail due to Bali’s international airport opening.

Due to this, it continues to serve as a sanctuary for tranquillity and serenity. 

The added bonus is that there are lively activities around the villages, markets, and attractions. Despite these developments, Lake Toba retains its local charm and character, making it a truly enchanting destination.

The surrounding lush greenery, rolling hills, and mist-cloaked mountains create an idyllic escape. Water sports, hiking, unspoiled nature and the welcoming hospitality of the Batak people make Lake Toba, and Samosir Island specifically, a place worth visiting!

Looking To Travel More Of Indonesia?

Things To Do In Lake Toba

From our experience visiting Samosir Island, I’ve put together a list of the top activities to do in Lake Toba, places to visit, local dishes to try and the best festivals to enjoy. 

1. Enjoy The Lake’s Water Sports

First up, and since we’re on a lake, I would say the number one thing to do in Lake Toba is to enjoy the lake. There are numerous exciting water activities to surrender to during your visit which are suitable for all age groups and adventure enthusiasts. 

Swimming in Lake Toba is a fun things to do on Samosir Island.
Swimming in Lake Toba is a fun thing to do at Samosir Island.

I know Jack and I had a great time simply jumping in and out of the water! Here are some activities you could do on the lake too:

👉Boat Tour

It’s possible to arrange a local boat to take you around the island. You’ll be treated to stunning views and get the chance to visit nearby tourist attractions (Situmurun Waterfall) and charming Batak villages.


Grab a paddle and feel like a true explorer as you glide across the serene waters of the lake. It’s a peaceful and magical experience, trust us!

Pro Tip: Here’s a little insider tip for you. Kayaks are super affordable! You can rent one for the whole day for just 100,000 IDR (that’s about £5.00 / $6.00).

👉Banana Boat

Get your friends or family together and ride the waves on a banana boat. Although we didn’t do this at Lake Toba, we’ve done it before and it’s an absolute blast; laughter is guaranteed!

👉Jet Ski

If you’ve been on a jet ski you can rent one on Lake Toba and explore the lake.


Jack enjoys swimming in Lake Toba as a relaxing thing to do on Samosir Island
Jack takes a dip!

What’s a trip to Lake Toba without taking a refreshing dip in its refreshing waters? Jump in and feel all your worries wash away.

2. Explore The Batak Villages

Exploring the Batak Villages is a great thing to do in Lake Toba & Samosir Island
Exploring the Batak Villages is a great thing to do around Lake Toba & Samosir Island

Exploring the charming Batak villages around Lake Toba is an absolute must! If you don’t have your own transport and don’t fancy walking in the heat, pick up a becak. We did a lot of sweaty walking, and actually, I wish we had taken this advice: the perfect solution is to take a Becak Tour! 

Not only will you support the local community, but you’ll also get to visit some incredible places that might have remained undiscovered otherwise, or so are were told.

What is a Becak? A becak, also known as a Rickshaw or Tuk Tuk (not to be confused with Tuktuk the village) is a traditional three-wheeled bicycle/motor with a passenger seat or carriage attached to the back. The term “becak” is commonly used in Indonesia, particularly in Java and Sumatra, and it is one of the iconic modes of transport in the region!

Here are some must-visit Batak villages you can explore:

👉 Ambarita 

The Ancient Court Of Ambarita
The Ancient Court Of Ambarita.

This village is steeped in history and will transport you back in time. It’s popular for its history and offers a glimpse into the traditional Batak judicial system and its cultural practices. Visit the famous stone chairs and tables, known as “siallagan,” once used for important tribal gatherings and trials. 

The main street is full of market stands and warungs (small family-run restaurants) and showcases the traditional Batak architecture. The area has recently had some renovations to make it more accessible for tourists but it’s still a spirited cultural hub!

👉 Tuktuk

Views over the Batak style houses from Tuktuk village
Views over the Batak-style houses from Tuktuk village.

It is one of the most visited and tourist-friendly areas in the region, known for its scenic beauty and cultural significance. It’s where the ferry from Parapet will drop you off and where we stayed. 

It’s an enchanting spot offering a lively atmosphere (compared to the rest of the island) with breathtaking views of the lake and surrounding landscapes.

In Tuktuk, you can stay in charming waterfront accommodations and explore the local shops for unique souvenirs. The village is the perfect blend of natural beauty, cultural delights, and relaxation, making it a must-visit destination on your Lake Toba adventure!

👉 Tomok Village 

The Tomb of Batak King in Tomok Village
The Tomb of Batak King in Tomok Village.

Tomok is a popular destination for tourists. It boasts historical sites, including the tomb of King Sidabutar and a Batak museum. The museum houses a collection of artefacts, traditional clothing, and relics from the Batak past, giving you deeper insights into their heritage.

👉 Tongging

This charming village is perched on the slopes of Mount Pusuk Buhit, providing awe-inspiring views of Lake Toba and the surrounding landscapes. Nature enthusiasts will be captivated by the lush greenery and picturesque panoramas. 

It’s a perfect spot to unwind and experience the tranquil beauty of the region including endless rice paddies away from the busier villages.

👉 Jangga Dolok

Although we didn’t visit Jangga Dolok village we’ve heard that it’s great for those of you seeking an authentic Batak village experience, it’s said to be an off-the-beaten-path gem! 

Away from the more touristy areas, it’s a place where you can interact with the friendly locals and learn about their daily lives and traditional activities such as ulos weaving. It’s located on the hillside and is full of traditional houses.

👉 Lumban Suhi-Suhi

Intricate architecture on the Batak Houses on Samosir Island, Lake Toba
Intricate architecture on the Batak Houses on Samosir Island, Lake Toba

This is another great location to immerse yourself in the traditional Batak architecture with its quaint wooden houses adorned with intricate carvings and vibrant colours. The village offers a peek into the artistic talents and craftsmanship of the Batak people. 

Don’t miss the chance to see their traditional weaving, dances and music performances showcasing their cultural richness and with the warm hospitality of the locals, you’ll feel right at home!

3. Must-Do Cultural Activities On Samosir Island

Since we stayed on Samosir Island we were able to explore the area and visit each place below (excluding the coffee tour). It’s an enchanting destination offering a variety of must-do activities that will leave you feeling uplifted, educated and inspired.

Ready to dive deep into our favourite things to do in Lake Toba?

4. Hiking And Explore The Island

Hiking is a fun activity to do in Lake Toba & Samosir Island
Hiking is a must-do activity to do in Lake Toba & Samosir Island

Whether you’re an avid hiker or curious explorer there’s no better way to explore Lake Toba than lacing up your hiking boots and setting out on an adventure. 

We spent a whole day wandering around the Batak villages, hiking up hills, and exploring the natural beauty of Samosir Island. 

Jack leads the way past a small cemetery.
Jack leads the way past a small cemetery.
Stunning sunflowers along our walk
Stunning sunflowers along our walk.

If you don’t mind getting a little lost in the process, it’s a great place to trek. We passed through hillside villages, forgotten banana plantations, picturesque hills and discovered hidden gems scattered across the landscape.

Pro Tip: You will find small signposted entrances to hiking paths/routes dotted throughout the island, but once started these signs tend to disappear. No matter whether you’re walking along the correct path or not, I’m sure you’ll end up somewhere interesting! (Once it’s time to start heading back, just head towards the shore).

Multiple sign posts for hiking trails - they pretty much disappear from here!
Multiple sign posts for hiking trails – they pretty much disappear from here!

5. Batak Museum (In Tomok Village)

Visiting the Batak Museum is an educational thing to do in Lake Toba.
Visiting the Batak Museum is an educational thing to do in Lake Toba.

Delve into the rich history of the Batak people at the Batak Museum. This is a small but fascinating museum showcasing an interesting collection of artefacts, traditional clothing, and relics, offering insight into their unique culture and traditions.

Market stalls in Tomok Village
Market stalls in Tomok Village

Close by there is a huge maze of a market selling clothing and local produce. I can imagine it’s great fun to walk through however when we were there it was almost all closed. Sigh.

6. The Tomb Of King Sidabutar (In Tomok Village)

Visiting the tomb of King Sidabutar is a cultural activity to do at Samosir Island!
Visiting the tomb of King Sidabutar is a cultural activity to do at Samosir Island!

Not far from the museum is the Tomb of King Sidabutar, an important historical site that sheds light on the Batak royal lineage. It’s a place of significance and reverence for the local community and somewhere worth visiting if only to pay your respects.

It’s not big, there was an older man sitting on the step outside where you can leave a donation; the whole experience won’t take you longer than 10 minutes.

7. Huta Sigale Gale Traditional Batak Village (In Tomok Village)

Watching the traditional Tor Tor dance
Watching the traditional Tor Tor dance.

It’s a very touristy attraction but interesting enough to make a stop. Fortunately for us, there was a Tor Tor dance show (a traditional style of Batak dance that has been around since the 13th century), happening when we arrived and we were able to enjoy the experience without having to pay anything. 

This is the best place to witness Sigale Gale, a unique and captivating tradition that brings wooden puppets to life with intricate movements. Sigale Gale puppets are sold out the front of the houses in this village.

Entrance sign at Huta Sigale Gale

The atmosphere was lively and we managed to capture some great shots of the traditional dance. This traditional village is best for Tor Tor Batak dance and Sigale Gale performances.

Pro Tip: If there’s no show happening you can pay IDR 100,000 for one. Also, we didn’t pay to enter but I have read it’s meant to be 3,000 IDR, which is pennies!

8. Huta Siallagan Traditional Batak Village (In Ambarita Village)

A must-do activity is to visit the ancient court of Ambarita at Lake Toba!
A must-do activity is to visit the ancient court of Ambarita at Lake Toba!

Another traditional Batak village but this time in Ambarita Village. It’s a more interesting spot than the one above showcasing significant ancient artefacts. It’s a good place to learn about ancient customs and rituals and it’s here that you’ll be able to witness the historical stone table.

To our surprise, it was very tiny. I’m not sure how anyone was able to sit on these stone chairs but hey ho! Within the complex, there are also wood craving workshops, puppet dance and souvenir shops.

Pro Tip: The entrance fee per person is IDR 10.000, and IDR 100.000 for a tour guide.

9. Huta Kampung Ulos Hutaraja Traditional Batak Village (Lumban Suhi-Suhi Village)

Ulos weaving
Ulos traditional weaving

Another place to discover the beautiful Batak houses with the added attraction of Batak ulos weaving. You’ll get to witness skilled weavers creating intricate traditional fabrics known as “ulos,” showcasing the Batak’s craftsmanship and heritage.

Take the time to explore the village’s workshops and learn about the various weaving techniques passed down through generations. It’s possible to buy newly woven ulos here and with a nearby cafe that directly faces Lake Toba, it’s perfect for relaxing. 

This traditional Batak Village is best for purchasing beautifully handwoven ulos.

Pro Tip: For parking it’s 10,000 IDR for each car. 

10. Local Markets & Souvenir Shopping

A friendly wood carver in Ambarita shop, Lake Toba
A friendly wood carver in an Ambarita shop, Lake Toba

As you explore the local markets, you’ll not only find unique souvenirs to take home but also have the chance to interact with friendly locals and experience the vibrant atmosphere of daily life. You might come across Batak musical instruments, adding a rhythmic ambience to the market as well!

Shopping at the markets whether it’s purchasing fresh produce or souvenirs is an opportunity to support the local economy, engage with the Batak culture, and create lasting memories of your journey around Lake Toba. 

Ancient wood carvings in Batak Museum
Ancient wood carvings in Batak Museum

If you’re wondering what to buy, authentic Batak wood carvings are the thing to get here. The markets are teeming with intricate carvings often depicting scenes from Batak mythology, traditional motifs, and symbols of spiritual significance.

Alongside the wood carvings, you’ll find a stunning array of traditional Batak textiles – ulos. These handwoven fabrics come in various colours, patterns, and sizes, each with its own symbolic meaning. 

Exploring the markets is a great thing to do in Lake Toba & Samosir Island
Exploring the markets is a great thing to do in Lake Toba & Samosir Island

The markets also offer an assortment of handcrafted jewellery, clothing, toys and fresh produce making them excellent places to sample local delicacies and snacks. 

Pro Tip: The biggest markets are in Tomok and Ambarita, but you’ll find smaller more local markets as you wander around the island!

11. Sumatran Coffee Tour

If you’re a coffee enthusiast, a Sumatran coffee tour would be an interesting day trip. Although we didn’t do this in Indonesia, from previous coffee tours which I imagine will be similar, you’ll learn about the coffee production process, sample a variety of aromatic brews, and savour the unique flavours of Sumatran coffee.

12. Viewpoints At Lake Toba

One of the most popular things to do in Lake Toba is climb Pusuk Buhit. This challenging yet rewarding hike takes you on an exhilarating journey through the lush landscapes and takes around 5 hours. 

One of the most popular things to do in Lake Toba is climb Pusuk Buhit
Pusuk Buhit.

Local legend is that it’s the birthplace of the Batak King and where the Batak tribe originated from! Upon reaching the top, you are greeted with an awe-inspiring panoramic view that stretches as far as the eye can see. 

Bukit Beta sign post

A less popular hike in Lake Toba is Bukit Beta, located near Tuktuk. Though it may not be as well-known, this hidden gem offers a hike filled with wonderful views and a meandering trail through tranquil surroundings.

Lake Toba really is a treasure trove of incredible viewpoints, each one vying for your attention with its own unique charm. 

We loved hiking and exploring Lake Toba & Samosir Island
We loved hiking and exploring Lake Toba & Samosir Island

A handful of other popular viewpoints are:

  • Tarabunga Hill: Found on the south coast of Lake Toba, Tarabunga Hill offers captivating vistas of both Lake Toba and the nearby traditional Batak villages. The lush greenery and vibrant landscapes make this viewpoint a photographer’s paradise.
  • Holbung Hill: AKA Teletubbies Hill. This easily accessible and family-friendly hike sits on the west coast of Lake Toba and will captivate you with views of Samosir Island and the pristine lake waters. It’s an ideal spot for leisurely walks, picnics and camping. 
  • Tele Observation Tower: No far from Teletubbies Hill is an iconic landmark, the Tele Observation Tower offers a 360-degree view of Lake Toba, allowing you to soak in the breathtaking panoramas that surround you.
  • Parhallow Cafe & Viewpoint: Situated on the eastern side of the lake 15 minutes ride from Tomok, Parhallow Cafe & Viewpoint is a beloved spot for witnessing awe-inspiring sunrises. 
Water buffalo in a field
Water buffalo in a field

13. Enjoy Lazy Lake Days

Who doesn’t love being a beach bum, at least for one day? Surprisingly, unwinding on the white sandy beaches of Lake Toba is a totally doable thing to do! You won’t get big waves or salty water, just calm, peaceful lake shores and incredible sunsets. 

Head to the beach for fun things to do in Lake Toba & Samosir Island
Head to the beach for fun things to do in Lake Toba & Samosir Island

👉 Pantai Batuhoda

One of the must-visit spots is Pantai Batuhoda, located at the north tip of Samosir Island. For a reasonable entrance fee (IDR 20,000), you gain access to a serene beach with excellent amenities such as parking, toilets and bottled water. 

The interesting horse statue made of used tires adds a unique touch to the surroundings, creating a peaceful ambience, especially on weekdays when it’s quieter.

👉 Pasir Putih Parparean Beach

Lazy beach days at Lake Toba
Lazy beach days at Lake Toba

For a busier yet stunning experience, head to Pasir Putih Parparean Beach, where the view is simply breathtaking, especially during sunset. This beach is perfect for all water activities and attracts many visitors. 

You’ll find various stalls and shops offering delicious food and souvenirs. With accommodations and cottages available, you can extend your stay to fully immerse yourself in the beauty of Lake Toba.

👉 Lumban Bulbul Beach

Consider visiting Lumban Bulbul Beach, which can be combined with a day trip to Tarabunga Hill. Although the facilities are minimal, the beach itself is lovely. The calm waters and tranquil atmosphere make it a lovely spot to relax and enjoy the stunning surroundings.

👉Sibolazi Beach

For a more secluded getaway, venture to Sibolazi Beach. While it lacks facilities, it’s small size and swim-friendly waters make it a charming destination for those seeking a tranquil retreat. 

14. Waterfall Chasing At Lake Toba

Embark on exciting adventures at Lake Toba as you hunt for the best waterfalls. You’ll be mesmerised by these natural wonders as each waterfall brings its own unique charm. Prepare to get wet, immerse yourself in the tranquillity, and create unforgettable memories amidst the stunning waterfalls of Lake Toba!

👉Sipiso-Piso Waterfall

Visiting Sipiso-Piso Waterfall is a must-do activity at Lake Toba
Visiting Sipiso-Piso Waterfall is a must-do activity at Lake Toba!

First on the list is the iconic Sipiso-Piso Waterfall, renowned for its grandeur it’s a 120-meter giant flowing into Lake Toba. Plan for a leisurely two-hour trip up and down, leaving ample time to admire the beauty of the waterfall.

You can capture picture-perfect moments from specially set up platforms for a small fee, managed by the locals. The water is clean and fresh, offering a refreshing experience amidst nature’s embrace surrounded by farms and highland scenery.

👉Simangande Waterfall

Next up is the elusive Simangande Waterfall, which only reveals its beauty during the rainy season. Since it can be challenging to locate, hiring a guide is the best way to ensure you don’t miss this hidden gem. 

The narrow path leads you to a stunning natural pool with clean, refreshing, but icy-cold water, perfect for a rejuvenating dip.

👉Air Terjun Janji Waterfall

For those seeking a unique experience, Air Terjun Janji waterfall awaits. Though small, it offers a swimming pool for a quick soak. 

The place can get busy with tourists, and navigating the slippery terrain requires caution. Despite some room for improvement, the charm of the waterfall still captivates visitors!

👉Efrata Waterfall

Efrata Waterfall, Lake Toba
Efrata Waterfall, Lake Toba

Efrata Waterfall stands out with its majestic size and uncrowded ambience. The water cascades gracefully, offering a truly invigorating experience. 

A small refreshment stall and changing room add to the convenience of the visit, making it an excellent choice when heading to Lake Toba.

👉Situmurun Waterfall / Binangalom Waterfall

Things to do in Lake Toba include visiting Situmurun Waterfall / Binangalom Waterfall
Situmurun Waterfall / Binangalom Waterfall, Lake Toba

Last but not least, Situmurun Waterfall, also known as Binangalom Waterfall, promises a unique adventure. Accessible only by motorboat, this place offers a truly one-of-a-kind experience. 

Kayaking in these serene waters is a must, and a boat trip to the waterfall with a BBQ onboard is a fantastic way to soak in the magnificent views. Swim if you wish, but above all, embrace the beauty of the surroundings and savour the breathtaking scenery!

Pro Tip: You will find the majority of tour operators/offices along the main street in Tuktuk and Tomok

15. Explore The Natural Springs

Interesting things to do in Lake Toba include visiting Natural Hot Springs
Interesting things to do in Lake Toba include visiting Natural Hot Springs.

If you fancy discovering the wonders of Lake Toba’s natural springs you’re going to have to head over to Pangururan on the west shores of the lake. For an invigorating and unique experience, visit Pangururan Hot Springs (Aek Rangat) which offers a collective assortment of hot spring water bathhouses. (Also check out Banjar Hot Springs if you’re visiting Bali!)

While the facilities are relatively basic, the experience is anything but ordinary! 

Many of the on-site restaurants offer complimentary use of the hot spring water if you make a purchase, otherwise, it’s IDR 10,000. The water is wonderfully warm, though the scent of sulfur can be strong – a small price to pay for the belief it brings relief to tired muscles. 

Views from the Hot Springs at Lake Toba
Views from the Hot Springs at Lake Toba

Meanwhile, in Singkam, at Aek Sipitu Dai you’ll encounter a place steeped in fascinating history and spirituality. The site is small but the highlight here is seven water douches, each offering water with distinct flavours. 

It’s possible to hire a local guide to provide assistance and share insightful information. It’s a great place to immerse yourself in the community, and you’ll enjoy an authentic local experience.

16. Hire A Bike Or Scooter

Rev up your exploration of Lake Toba’s wonders by hopping onto a rented bike or scooter. With the wind in your hair and the winding roads ahead, you’ll have the freedom to discover all the exciting things to do in Lake Toba. 

It’s an enchanting destination where you can cruise along scenic routes, passing through charming villages, lush landscapes, and breathtaking viewpoints.

If we had a guide we might have known what this place was!
If we had a guide we might have known what this place was!

Consider hiring a knowledgeable guide. With their guidance, you’ll not only have delightful company but also gain invaluable insights into the rich history and vibrant culture of the region!

17. Enjoy The Local Festivals – Cultural Things To Do In Lake Toba

Meeting friendly locals is always nice.
Meeting friendly locals is always nice.

If you’re up for some festive fun during your Lake Toba visit, there are exciting events you can join! From May to September, Lake Toba comes alive with old and new festivals to showcase the vibrant traditions of the Batak culture and surrounding beauty.

In Bailage, you’ll find a relatively new festival bringing together different Batak tribes in a lively three-day street party and parade. At the Karnaval Pesona Danau Toba, also known as Lake Toba Charming Festival you’ll be treated to Batak art, cultural performances, boat and horse races, and handicrafts exhibitions. 

It’s said to be a fantastic showcase of local culture and one I really wish we had visited!

Discovering the Batak heritage, intricate carvings and artistry is a must-do activity!
Discovering the Batak heritage, intricate carvings and artistry is a must-do activity!

Are you into outdoor challenges? Join the Samosir Lake Toba Ultra in September! It aims to make Lake Toba a premier venue for ultramarathons, with thrilling routes through scenic landscapes and historical sites.

Another iconic festival is the Lake Toba Festival in September, dating back to the 80s. It’s a colourful one-day celebration featuring traditional sports competitions, cultural dances, and the stunning Batak traditional outfit and ulos, their beautiful handwoven textiles.

Abi resting under a beautiful flowering tree
Abi resting under a beautiful flowering tree

For coffee enthusiasts, the Toba Coffee Festival in May is a must-visit! Highlighting the significance of the coffee industry in Sumatra, this three-day event showcases various coffee beans, including those from the Lake Toba area. Coffee paradise awaits!

18. Go On A Foodie Adventure

Wandering around the food markets is a fun thing to do in Lake Toba.
Wandering around the food markets is a fun thing to do in Lake Toba.

If you don’t know, Jack and I are huge food fans. We seriously enjoy trying dishes from around the world, so much so that this blog was almost going to be about our culinary adventures! I decided to keep it travel based but you’ll still notice mentions of dishes to try and places to eat.

North Sumatra was a great culinary journey for us, especially Lake Toba as the Batak culture provides its own take on dishes. We would suggest you go on a cooking class, we did one in Bukit Lawang and learnt how to make some awesome local dishes.

Abi enjoying some local food.
Abi enjoying some local food.

Aside from a cooking class, here are a number of local delicacies you should be adding to your foodie experience while roaming the streets around Lake Toba:

👉Tuak (Palm Wine)

The iconic palm wine, this traditional beverage carries the rich flavours of the land, offering a taste of local heritage. In the evening, locals will gather to enjoy their tuak and if you’re lucky they might ask you to join them!

👉Sambal Tuktuk

Like hot sauce? The Smabal of Indonesia is so hot it blew my sock off, my friend would eat in bucket loads..how she did that I have no idea! It doesn’t change at Lake Toba and still has a fresh and spicy taste. The Batak-style chilli sauce is made from green bird’s eye chilli mixed with shallots, garlic, tomatoes, and lime juice. 

👉Nasi Bungkus

Unwrap a culinary treasure with nasi bungkus, a flavorful package of rice traditionally wrapped in a banana leaf (or brown paper) with added veggies and meat. You can ask for yellow sauce which we liked and sometimes topped with crackers.

👉Pisang Goreng

Indulge in the simple pleasure of pisang goreng, or fried bananas. They are the perfect balance of crispy sweetness. Pick them up from street stalls all over Lake Toba and make sure you enjoy these golden-brown deep-fried parcels guilt-free!


This is a savoury rice cake, but it’s more like delicious lumps of glutinous dough. It’s usually served within a curry dish adding a soft chewy texture.


A traditional Batak dish made with freshwater fish (Ikan Mas) and a medley of spices and lime juice left to steam over low heat. This dish embodies the heart of Lake Toba’s cuisine and is a delicious choice. 

👉Mie Gomak 

Don’t miss the chance to try Gomak Noodle from a local food stall. This noodle dish boasts a harmonious blend of flavours, with noodles enveloped in a rich and aromatic coconut-based broth. It should be topped with a boiled egg.

👉Local Food Markets

Market day at Lake Toba!
Market day at Lake Toba!

Don’t forget to visit the food markets! Exploring the local food markets is an essential part of immersing yourself in the vibrant culinary scene around Lake Toba. These bustling hubs of flavours offer a firsthand glimpse into the heart of the region’s gastronomy. 

These are great places to engage with locals and wander through lively stalls filled with an array of fresh produce, aromatic spices, and local delicacies. Make sure to sample mouthwatering treats and discover hidden culinary gems you might not find anywhere else! 

  • Ambarita has a local market every Thursday morning.
  • Tomok’s takes place on Saturdays and Sundays.
  • Saturday is market day in Parapat, the town on the east side of the crater lake just a short ferry ride from Tuktuk.
It's incredible how busy Parapat Market can get!
It’s incredible how busy Parapat Market can get!

19. Pagar Batu Ancient Ruins – A Unique Thing To Do In Lake Toba

We didn’t visit these ancient megalithic ruins but from what I’ve read visiting them is a very unique experience to do at Lake Toba. 

From what I understand they are the weathered remnants of an ancient ceremonial site and offer a captivating glimpse into the history and heritage of Lake Toba.

Carved into the rocks you can just work out faces but you’ll also discover a King’s tomb. While walking around, consider how life was for the villagers there hundreds of years ago. 

✔️For more information check out this video: Exploring THOUSAND-YEAR-OLD Sumatra Village Ruins – PAGAR BATU – LAKE TOBA VLOG

Discover These North Sumatra Tours!

Where To Stay In Lake Toba?

There are tons of great spots to stay in Lake Toba but we’ve selected a few to help you choose. Their location is on Samosir Island and around Tuktuk as this is where we stayed. 

📍Laster Jony’s

Nestled in Tuktuk, Laster Jony’s offers serene garden views, a shared lounge, and barbecue facilities. With mountain and lake vistas, it provides a tranquil retreat.

📍Toba Sunset

Enjoy the lake, rice field, and mountain panoramas from Toba Sunset’s room balconies. Free WiFi adds convenience, and an optional £2 breakfast enhances your stay.

📍Toba Village Inn

Experience Toba Lake’s beauty at your doorstep with direct access. Unwind by the outdoor pool while gazing at the lake and Pusuk Buhit Mountain. Breakfast is included.

Best Places To Eat In Lake Toba

No matter where you’re staying at Lake Toba, prepare to embark on a culinary adventure! As we were based on Samosir Island these are some of the best places located there.

👉 Buddhas Café: vegan

👉 Jenny’s Restaurant: popular spot

👉 Horas Restaurant: vegetarian

👉 Reggae Guesthouse: scenic

👉 Romlan Restaurant: top spot

Pro tip >> for a full list of the best places to eat check out this post on Exploring Sumatra!

Try the local cuisine as one of your things to do in Lake Toba & Samosir Island
Try the local cuisine as one of your things to do in Lake Toba & Samosir Island

Planning Your Trip To Lake Toba

The ferry port at Parapat
The ferry port at Parapat.

Making your trip to Lake Toba worthwhile means you’ll need to do a little pre-planning. 

You might be interested in knowing how to get there, the ideal amount of time to spend in Lake Toba and the best time to visit or how expensive it’s going to be. From our experience, I’ve put together this Lake Toba travel guide to answer these questions!

Beautiful Lake Toba

How Many Days Do You Need In Lake Toba?

Depending on the type of activities and things you want to do in Lake Toba the amount of days you need is going to vary. That said, 3 days as a minimum is a good aim. 

However, since it takes a while to get to Lake Toba and there are tons of activities on Samosir Island and around the lake you might want to consider staying longer. 5 or 6 days will provide ample opportunity to visit the cultural sites, explore the island, take an overnight hike, or a boat day trip and have time left for relaxing on the beach.

Don’t forget to factor in travel time. We took a whole day, with an overnight stop in Parapet, to reach Samosir Island (as we missed the last ferry – by a long way!) 

When Is The Best Time To Visit North Sumatra?

Most will agree the best time to visit North Sumatra, including popular destinations like Lake Toba, is during the dry season, which generally falls between May and September. However, keep in mind that this is also the peak tourist season, and the area can get crowded with local tourists and visitors.

👉 During the dry season, the temperatures are more moderate, making it comfortable for outdoor activities such as trekking, cycling, and exploring the lake and its surroundings.

The majority of the Lake Toba Festivals area also happens during the dry season, so if you were hoping to attend September would be a good time with two festivals occurring.

👉The wet season in North Sumatra usually occurs between October and April, with the peak of rainfall from November to January. Heavy rains and potential flooding may disrupt travel plans and limit outdoor activities. 

Ferry to Tuktuk

That said, we visited North Sumatra towards the end of January and it was absolutely fine. We had some rain but the rainforest was greener and the vegetation flourishing. 

Pro Tip: If you prefer fewer crowds and lower prices consider visiting during the shoulder seasons of April or October. The weather is still good but there are fewer tourists.

Is It Expensive To Visit Lake Toba?

The reality is that Indonesia is not an expensive place for Western tourists to visit. North Sumatra is even more affordable than places like the capital, Java, or Bali. 

Even though Lake Toba is a tourist destination, prices have remained competitive and you will be able to enjoy these things to do in Lake Toba on a small budget.

If you’re travelling on a budget and looking for somewhere to chill out for a while, Lake Toba is a fantastic shout! Here are some example costs from our own trip:

Cost p/pConversion (£/$) 
Kayaking on LakeIDR 100,000£5.00 / $6.40
Traditional Village ShowIDR  100,000£5.00/ $6.40
Cooking classIDR  500,000£25.00 / $31.85
Pantai Batuhoda BeachIDR 20,000£1.00 / $1.30
Meals with soft drink est. IDR 50,000 £2.50 / $3.25
CocktailIDR 70,000 £3.50 / $4.50
Accommodation (basic)IDR 150,000 (double room) £7.50 / $9.75

How To Get To Lake Toba

It’s not the easiest place to get to especially if you’re using local transport. After we left the train at Siantar we had to wing it the rest of the way. The return journey wasn’t much better, although we did end up on a local coach which luckily took us back to Medan Bus Terminal. 

On the ferry to Samosir Island
On the ferry to Samosir Island

👉 For a complete transportation guide on How To Get To Lake Toba, click here!

But to summarise, you have two options to reach Parapat; public transport or a private car. Once at Parapat, it’s a ferry ride to Samosir Island.

✔️Train Price. 102,000 IDR p/p one-way (£5.30 / $6.70) – To be combined with bus price.
✔️Bus Price. 25,000 IDR p/p one-way (£1.35 / $1.60)
✔️Private Transfer. From £95/$120 
✔️Rental Price. 7-days est. £550.00 / $700.00
✔️Ferry Price. 15,000 IDR p/p one-way (£0.78/ $1.00)

Ferry port at Tomok
Ferry port at Tomok

Travel Tips For Visiting Lake Toba

👉Timing is Key: No matter whether you’re using public transport or private, it takes hours to reach Parapat from Medan. The last ferry to Tuktuk is supposed to depart at 6:30 pm but don’t be surprised if it’s been cancelled. Better to arrive earlier in the day.

👉Cultural Sensitivity: Respect the local customs and traditions of the Batak people. When visiting villages, religious sites, or participating in cultural events, dress modestly and ask for permission before taking photos.

👉Cash and Communication: ATMs may be limited in some areas, so ensure you have enough Indonesian Rupiah (IDR) in hand, especially when venturing to more remote locations. It’s also helpful to have a few essential phrases in Bahasa Indonesia to facilitate communication with locals!

👉Pack Accordingly: Due to the varied activities and landscapes, pack comfortable footwear suitable for walking and hiking. Don’t forget essentials like sunscreen, insect repellent, and a reusable water bottle to stay hydrated during your adventures. 

✔️Are you on a backpacking trip? Check out our 6-month (or longer) packing guide here.

👉 Embrace Slow Travel: Lake Toba is a destination where the beauty lies not just in the sights, but also in the moments you share with the local culture and surroundings. Slow down your pace, take leisurely strolls, engage in conversations with locals, and fully absorb the tranquil ambience of the area.

✔️ First time traveller? More essential travel tips are here!

FAQs: Things To Do In Lake Toba

swimming is a great things to do in Lake Toba & Samosir Island
How Much Does It Cost To Go To Lake Toba?

Transportation costs depend on your mode of travel to Lake Toba, however, using public transport from Medan to Samosir Island should cost around 70,000 IDR (train, bus and ferry) while a private car is around £95.

The cost of a trip to Lake Toba can vary based on factors such as accommodation, transportation, activities, and dining preferences. Generally, Lake Toba offers options for different budgets but is a great place for budget travellers and backpackers. 

Can I Swim In Lake Toba?

Yes, you can swim in Lake Toba. The lake’s fresh and inviting waters offer an excellent opportunity for swimming.
Many areas around the lake have designated swimming spots, and beaches and resorts often provide access to private beach areas. Just be sure to exercise caution, follow safety guidelines, and be aware of your surroundings while enjoying your swim. 
Don’t dive headfirst into the water without testing it first as there are rocky areas!

What Is Special About Lake Toba?

Lake Toba is renowned for being the largest volcanic lake in the world and is nestled amidst the stunning landscapes of North Sumatra, Indonesia. 
The lake’s serene beauty is amplified by the surrounding lush hills, charming villages, and vibrant local culture. Lake Toba is also a cultural hotspot, home to the Batak people, with their distinct traditions, architecture, and festivals. 

Is Lake Toba A Wonder Of The World?

Lake Toba is not officially recognised as one of the New7Wonders of Nature. However, it holds immense natural and cultural significance. 
While it may not have the official title of a Wonder of the World, Lake Toba’s grandeur, unique formation, and breathtaking landscapes undoubtedly make it a wonder in the eyes of those who visit and appreciate its beauty.

Conclusion: Things To Do In Lake Toba

Lake Toba beckons adventurous souls with a tapestry of experiences. It’s a superb place to learn about the Batak culture while exploring quirky villages, savouring local delicacies, and wandering through vibrant markets. 

You’ll have ample opportunity to engage in water sports and swim in the lake’s refreshing waters. There are loads of unique attractions, waterfalls, hot springs and cultural performances to immerse your soul.

You can visit ancient ruins, go on a hiking adventure, admire stunning viewpoints and indulge in lakefront dining! With its rich history, vibrant culture, and natural wonders, Lake Toba promises an unforgettable journey you’re going to love! 

igoa-adventure travel blog, things to do in Lake Toba
Thanks for reading. If you have any questions shoot me a message.