Lying right in the middle of the province, jewel-like Danau Toba is Southeast Asia’s largest freshwater lake, and at 525m possibly the world’s deepest, too. It was formed about 80,000 years ago by a colossal volcanic eruption: the caldera that was created eventually buckled under the pressure and collapsed in on itself, the high-sided basin that remained filling with water to form the lake. A second, smaller volcanic eruption, 50,000 years after the first, created an island the size of Singapore in the middle of the lake. This island, Pulau Samosir, is the cultural and spiritual heartland of the Toba Batak people and one of the most fascinating, pleasant and laidback spots in Indonesia.
Pulau Samosir is arguably the best spot in Sumatra to relax for a few days on a hammock by the azure water. Most tourists make for the eastern shores of Samosir where there’s a string of enjoyable resorts, the main one being Tuk Tuk, housing plenty of hotels, restaurants and bars. From here you can trek into the deforested hills within the centre of Samosir or circle the island’s coastline by motorbike, calling in at tiny Batak villages that have flamboyant tombs and distinctive concave-roofed houses, as well as the island’s cultural centre of Simanindo, on Samosir’s northern shore.Read More
The waters that lap the shores of Tuk Tuk are safe for swimming, though they can be dirty; the roped-off section of the lake by Carolina’s, complete with pontoons, canoes and a diving board, is the most popular place. There are also a few activities on offer in Tuk Tuk, including guided treks through the interior of the island and speedboat trips to Tomok, Ambarita and Simanindo. You can also rent bicycles and motorbikes, should you want to visit the more far-flung reaches of the island.
Trekking across Samosir
Trekking across Samosir
The hills in the centre of Samosir tower 700m above the lake, and at the heart of the island is a large plateau and Danau Sidihoni, a body of water about the size of a large village pond. It’s a ten-hour walk from one side of the island to the other, but a stopover in one of the villages on the plateau is usually necessary. Most begin in Ambarita on the eastern shore, on the uphill path, from where it’s two to three hours’ climb to the tiny hilltop village of Partukongan – aka Dolok or “summit” – the highest point on Samosir. There are two homestays here, John’s and Jenny’s, and Peter’s losmen in the next village on the trail, Ronggurnihuta. The villagers can be a bit vague when giving directions, so take care and check frequently with passers-by that you’re on the right trail. Ronggurnihuta is a three- or four-hour walk away, with Pangururan three to fours hours further on at the end of a tortuously long downhill track (18km) that passes Danau Sidihoni on the way. Arrive in Pangururan before 5pm and you should be in time to catch the last bus back to the eastern shore; otherwise, stay at the Wisata Samosir by the bus stop.