5 Things you must do in Lake Toba

We love Sumatra and in Sumatra, we love Lake Toba so much so that we ended up spending about 60% of the month we had in Indonesia in Lake Toba which also meant we could not move to other parts of Indonesia besides Sumatra.

Now you must think, since we were in Lake Toba for 17 days, we must have seen all that was there to be seen, done all that was there to be done many times over. But our laziness was at its peak in Lake Toba, we managed to tick a few things of our list. We present to you the 5 things we really enjoyed in Lake Toba.

Almost all the accommodation in Lake Toba is in Tuk-Tuk village in Samosir Island and there is only one connection to the mainland, and if you are here in the off-season you are likely to know most tourists. We bumped in most of them at the many sites that are scattered in various parts of the island.

Lake Toba is the largest lake in Indonesia and the world’s largest volcanic lake and Sumatra is home to Bataks, the natives of Indonesia. The setting is very pretty, people are nice (this applies to all places in Sumatra, all of them love Indians and they are big fans of SRK) food will please your taste buds if you don’t experiment too much, and you can walk for weeks and are likely to find some hidden corner to sit and admire the view.

Here are the top 5 things we enjoyed in Lake Toba.

  1. Walks around the Island
    This is how the walks reward you
    This is how the walks reward you

    It takes about an hour to walk its circumference of the island. You can sit any guest towards the lakeside, and enjoy a nice cup of tea, coffee (both with condensed milk) or the Bintang Beer, which is one of the best in South East Asia. After 2-3 days of walking, we could gauge the length of the walk remaining based on the guesthouse / restaurant we were passing.

  2. Not the Ambaretta Stone Chair –
    Not the most famous one, but a Stone Chair after all
    Not the most famous one, but a Stone Chair after all

    The most famous attraction on this island is the Ambaretta Stone Chair. The first time we went in search of this one, we ended up at a fake one. Some Indonesians have come up with ideas of putting up wrong signposts, so that they can make that extra buck. We made an entry in a fake register paying 10,000IDR for two people; in return we were given two keychains and shown the way to the stone chair. The moment he gave us the keychains, we realized we had been tricked. But we could not complain as there was a stone chair but it was not the famous one.

  3. Ambaretta Stone Chair –
    These stone chairs served as a court in the old days.
    These stone chairs served as a court in the old days.

    A few days later we set out again with full determination to find the real stone chair and we found it. The real indication was that there is a Batak museum next to the Stone Chair. The Stone Chairs weren’t very different from what we had seen a few days ago. We had learnt that you need to bargain hard in Indonesia, and our guide seemed to have learnt the same. It took us over 10 minutes to bring the price down from 50000IDR to 35000IDR. He gave us a deep insight into Batak culture with his rehearsed stories and anecdotes about the traditional symbols, lifestyle, eating habits, law and order etc. In brief, the Bataks were cannibals but they would not kill people for their meat, but someone who was being punished was left out in the open after his punishment and people could eat his meat. They would torture the criminal based on his crime, and then kill him. For smaller crimes like stealing some food, minor accidents etc, you had to stay with the hens during your punishment. The aim of this being humiliation and not physical punishment. Bataks love buffalo meat and offer the head of a buffalo as a sign of respect.

  4. Walk to Tomok Village –
    Royal Tombs at Tomok
    Royal Tombs at Tomok

    The neighboring village to Tuk-Tuk is Tomok, which boasts of being a commercial hub with the virtue of having a computerized Bank. The walk will take you over an hour. We did this walk five to six times as we were “preparing for a Muay Thai” course and we soon realized we were being too ambitious. We dropped the idea before reaching Thailand, which was the next country on our itinerary. In Tomok, you get to see Royal Tombs of King Sidabatur, another museum and loads of shopkeepers who try to emotionally trick you into buy things.

    Traditional Batak House Style Museum
    Traditional Batak House Style Museum

    If you are interested in buying handicraft items, then bargain hard, really hard. If you are not the trick is don’t window shop at least in the off-season. The handicraft items are good value for money, and if you are heading home after Indonesia, they will make very nice gifts. We had a few months left in South East Asia, so we did not shop much.

  5. Watching the Sunsets –
    Evenings when it rains
    Evenings when it rains

    Our love affair with sunsets never ends, and if they sunsets are as beautiful as they are here, your love affair will definitely begin here. As a ritual we rushed back from whatever part of the island to our guesthouse or a nearby spot if we were too far. It happened only once that we could not get back to our guest when it rained heavily, so there was no sunset to be seen. On all other evenings, we were at our spot watching the sun go down, like it went down and rose each day only for us. Now we present the Sunsets that lured us every evening.

    This was the sunset on our first evening
    This was the sunset on our first evening

There were people who came and left the island in 2-3 days, and they gave us puzzled looks, when they found out how long we had been staying for. These ambitious folks rented motorbikes, went around the island, saw some hot springs, a waterfall but we never got around to doing that, as it was not possible to get there on foot. Some people also told us about another connection to the mainland which the motorbike renters would seek out for and tell us in the evening during dinner time but we kept all these things for next time. As a principle, we always leave something for the next time especially in places we love.

For information on where to stay in Lake Toba, click here.
To find out how much we spent in the 17 days we were here, click here

About Empty Ruck Sack

Empty Rucksack travelers is an attempt to bring together many wonderful stories of career breaks, long term vacations and great travel destinations together at one place. The posts authored by Empty Rucksack Travelers are put together by Vikram and Ishwinder, an Indian couple out on a long term travel to find that perfect place in the world where they may want to stay forever.

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  1. Nice article. Interesting things to do around the lake.
    Niranjan recently posted…A Motorcycle Ride Across Northern Thailand…!!My Profile

  2. Pretty interesting 🙂 Nice pics.
    Anita recently posted…Knowledge Is GreatMy Profile

  3. One of the hardest things about traveling is figuring out whether you should press on to new destinations or just stay put in a place that you love for a longer time. I think you probably made the right choice, since you obviously love Sumatra (not hard to see why) AND because most travelers we’ve talked to who visited Indonesia seem to think it’s one of the best parts of the country. Plus, getting from island to island is not really cheap in Indo, so I think your choice made the most sense. My husband and I spent 2 months in Indonesia, but we didn’t get to make it to Sumatra so it’s on the list for next time!
    Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) recently posted…Charmed (& Swindled!) At Sri Mahamariamman TempleMy Profile

  4. Nice tips, Been to bali..now i think its time to visit sumatra 🙂

    My Unfinished Life recently posted…Seagulls at Bet Dwarka, Gujarat (India)My Profile

  5. Very nice pics, just added to my bucket list. Just need to start ticking travels like this off the list, before i add more! 🙂 Cheers,
    Karl S
    Karl recently posted…The Ultimate Guide to Buying the Right Ring SizeMy Profile

  6. The sunset is really great! especially if we are with our lover! yum yum!

  7. I’m at Lake Toba next week – really looking forward to it. Thanks for teh tips! Btw I also just followed you on Twitter. Great blog! Looking forward to connect!
    MightyTravels recently posted…Review: American Express Platinum credit card – earn 40,000 points at sign-UpMy Profile

    • Hey,

      Thanks for the follow on twitter.
      Lake Toba and the whole of sumatra is a traveler’s delight.

      Do stay at liberta homestay, we loved room 5, it was the biggest room mr. Moon had.

      If you do go there, say hello to him from our side

      Feel free to ask for info about sumatra, we spent a month there. And loved every minute of it.

      Empty Rucksack

  8. It was great reading about your journey and proceeding on a path less traveled by Indians.

    All the best and happy hunting at all places of the world

  9. This is great! My colleague and I will be there this weekend and we are excited. Thanks for your helpful recommendation, especially the sunset. We will try not to miss it ^^

  10. Hi,
    I searched Lake Toba and your blog came up. I’m glad to read that there’s someone else who has stayed longer than 4 days! I’m planning to be there for about 8 days from next week and I will be walking, jogging and cycling around. Your post on Lake Toba is useful. Thanks!

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