Lake Toba is the largest volcanic lake in the world. It was formed after a super volcanic eruption in Toba that occurred about 75.000 years ago and caused a climate changing event that had global consequences for human populations, killing most humans living at that time. The subsequent collapse formed a caldera that, after filling with water, created Lake Toba, that is about 100km long, 30 km wide and 500 meters deep. The island in the center of the lake, called Samosir, was formed by a resurgent dome.
Lake Toba used to be a more popular place of the Banana Pancake Trail that it is nowadays, but still is a great laid-back place to chill out for a few days. The climate is way cooler than in other areas of Sumatra, with temperatures between 15 and 25 degrees.
Most of the people who live around Lake Toba are ethnically Bataks, having their own Batak language; and are mostly Cristians. Traditional Batak houses are noted for their distinctive roofs simulating a boat and their colorful decor.
How to get there:
There are shared taxis from Medan Airport to Parapat for about 80.000 IDR per person, the ride is about 4-6 hours. A cheaper option is going by public transport, taking a bus from the airport to Ampias station (30 min, 15.000 IDR) and a mini van from Ampias to Parapat (6 hours, 45.000 IDR). I chose paying 20.000 IDR more to save time on the road and avoid spending a night in Parapat.
Once in Parapat, hop in the local ferry to Samosir, there are boats departing every half an hour from 8 am until 7 pm for 15.000 IDR. It takes about 30 min to reach the first stop in the Island, you can ask them to drop you nearby your guest house.
Where to stay:
Most guest houses are in the peninsula of Tuk Tuk, a touristy town in Samosir Island. Liberta Homestay was a really cheap and convenient accommodation. A private bungalow was 40.000 IDR per night and the food at the restaurant was a good value for the price. They open an account, so you can pay all together upon departure. I spent less than 20€ in four days on 4 nights of accommodation and 2 daily meals.
How to move around:
There are no taxis o public transport in Tuk Tuk, however, you can walk around this small part of the island. A popular way to get around and explore the beauty of the rest of Samosir Island is hiring a motorbike for about 100.000 IDR per day. Just be careful as the roads get bumpy and washed off specially in the center of the island.
What to do:
Exploring Samosir island by motorbike and enjoying the peaceful life of Batak people. Its nature, waterfalls, hot springs, endless fields and beautiful architecture.
Swimmingin the lake was great as well as chilling at the swimming pool at Tabo Cottages, where you can enjoy the facilities if you buy a drink.
Batak Music is very particular, you can see traditional dances at Bagus Bay restaurant on Wednesday and Saturday evenings.
There are plenty of second hand bookshops to stock up on reading material.
Toba is also popular for its local restaurants offering magic mushroom and happy pizzas.