5 Day Itinerary to Discover the Wonders of Lake Toba

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danau-toba-dari-balige

Lake Toba is one of the most beautiful and unique destinations in Sumatra, Indonesia. It is the largest volcanic lake in the world, formed around 77,000 years ago after a massive volcanic eruption. The eruption was one of the most significant events in the history of the planet, causing global climate change and leading to the extinction of many species of plants and animals.

This volcanic lake has an area of ​​​​approximately 1,145 square kilometers and a depth of 450 meters. In addition, there is an island that is almost the size of Singapore in the middle of Lake Toba, called Samosir.

Today, Lake Toba couldn’t be more different. It is a calm and quiet nature retreat with cool climate and known for its natural beauty and rich cultural heritage. Lake Toba is a must-see destination to unwind, explore its nature, do adventure sports, immerse in its unique Batak culture and enjoy its wonderful gastronomy.

If you are planning a trip to Lake Toba, consider breaking up your journey with sightseeing in Medan and a stop in Berastagi. A 5 day trip is recommended, to explore and enjoy the cultural and natural attractions.

Getting there from Jakarta:

By flight to Kuala Namu (KNO) International Airport, Medan. Medan is the biggest city in Sumatra, and the main point of entry for arrival.

Once you arrive, you can find yourself a local bus, taxi, shared car, or private car to head to Lake Toba — around a three to four hour-drive. Going by private car is the fastest, most comfortable option.

Day 1: Arrival in Medan
Upon landing in Medan, check into one of the city’s welcoming hotels for a night of rest. Medan, the capital of North Sumatra, offers a blend of cultures, cuisines, and architectural marvels. Spend your afternoon wandering through the vibrant streets, visiting the majestic Maimun Palace, and tasting the local culinary delights at Merdeka Walk. The city’s diverse heritage, from Dutch colonial buildings to the grand Medan Grand Mosque, sets the perfect prelude to your Lake Toba adventure.

Maimun Palace Medan
Maimun Palace Medan

Day 2: Medan to Berastagi
After breakfast in Medan, embark on a scenic drive to Berastagi, a hill station known for its cool climate and fertile landscapes. Upon arrival, check into a cozy hotel before setting out to explore the local attractions. Berastagi is famous for its two active volcanoes, Sibayak and Sinabung, offering hiking opportunities for those inclined. Visit the vibrant fruit market, where the produce is as fresh as the mountain air. You can find oranges, avocados, strawberries, passion fruit and more. Don’t miss the Gundaling Hill for panoramic views of the surrounding volcanic landscapes.

berastagi medan
Berastagi Medan

Day 3: Berastagi to Samosir Island
Check out of your hotel in Berastagi and head to Parapat, the lakeside town where you’ll catch the ferry to Samosir Island, the heart of Lake Toba. The 60 mins ferry ride offers breathtaking views and a refreshing breeze. Upon arrival at Samosir, check into one of the charming hotels or guesthouses dotting the island. The rest of the day is yours to relax and soak in the peaceful atmosphere of this magnificent island. You could also try swimming in the lake, a unique experience.

5 Day Itinerary to Discover the Wonders of Lake Toba

Day 4: Exploring Samosir
Samosir offers a deep dive into the culture of the Batak people, with traditional houses, ancient stone tombs, and vibrant markets. Spend your day exploring the island’s key sites, such as the stone chairs of Ambarita and the sacred tombs of Sidabutar in Tomok. Enjoy a dip in the natural hot springs or rent a bike to circle around the island, witnessing the daily lives of the locals and the stunning landscapes of Lake Toba.

Ambarita where elegant Batak houses provide a beautiful setting for the megalithic stone table and chairs of the historical court of justice.
Ambarita where elegant Batak houses provide a beautiful setting for the megalithic stone table and chairs of the historical court of justice.

Day 5: Return to Medan
After a leisurely breakfast on Samosir, take the ferry back to Parapat and drive to Medan. This last leg of your journey gives you one more chance to absorb the majestic beauty of Sumatra’s interiors. Once back in Medan, you may choose to stay an additional night to relax before your flight back to Jakarta or catch an evening flight, carrying with you memories of the serene beauty and rich culture of Lake Toba.

Best Time to Travel
The best time to visit Lake Toba is during the dry season, from May to September, when the weather is most favorable for outdoor activities. However, visiting during local festivals, such as the Lake Toba Festival, offers a unique cultural experience.

Food to Try
The culinary journey in Lake Toba is as exciting as its landscapes. Don’t miss out on trying local specialties such as “Arsik” (spiced carp fish), “Saksang” (spicy pork stew), and the refreshing “Simalakama” fruit. The fusion of flavors reflects the diverse culture of the region.

Simalakama Fruit
Simalakama Fruit

Best Hotels to Stay
Lake Toba has a variety of accommodations ranging from luxury resorts to cozy homestays. For a lavish stay, consider the Toba Samosir Resort, which offers stunning lake views and top-notch amenities. Another great option is the Samosir Villa Resort, known for its traditional Batak architecture and peaceful environment.

What to See and Do
Lake Toba is a paradise for nature and adventure lovers. Take a dip in the lake’s refreshing waters, go kayaking, or simply enjoy a leisurely boat ride. Explore the Batak villages on Samosir Island, such as Tomok and Ambarita, to witness traditional Batak houses and megalithic tombs. For hiking enthusiasts, the climb to the top of Pusuk Buhit offers spectacular lake vistas.

Lake Toba’s mesmerizing beauty and the warmth of its people promise a journey that’s as enchanting as the stories woven into the fabric of its land. Whether you’re gazing into the tranquil waters of the lake, exploring the lush landscapes of Samosir, or indulging in the culinary delights of Medan, this trip to Lake Toba is sure to leave an indelible mark on your heart.