Lake Toba is one of the biggest volcanic lakes in the world. Will amaze you with fairly tale views, relaxing guest houses and magic mushrooms. Why this place is unique?
Around 70 000 years ago, Toba supervolcano explosion covered the Earth with smoke and poisoning gases which killed most of the animals species. The Toba catastrophe theory holds that this event caused a global volcanic winter up to 10 years and possibly a 1,000-year-long cooling episode. In consequence, there were just few thousands of humans left, from which Homo sapiens evolution started and it continues until this day. Reflecting about this eruption, we could all be different right now, if it didn’t happen.
This impressive lake is more than 100 km long and 30 km wide, surrounded by picturesque green hills and enormous island in the middle. Coming to lake Toba you need at least few days to enjoy it, see some interesting spots, waterfalls or hots springs. Characteristic for this region are traditional wooden Batak houses. Batak is the ethnic group of North Sumatra.
What to see in lake Toba area?
The most famous spot for foreign tourists is Samosir island, which has the size of Singapore. Bus will bring you to Parapat from where you can easily get a ferry, which comes every hour during the day. You will arrive to Tuk Tuk – village with plenty of hotels and home stays, where most of the tourists sleep. The best way to visit the island is to rent a motorbike (around 100k rupiah for one day, but you can bargain).
Going around the island will take you around 6 hours or most probably the whole day, because there are many nice spots to stop on the way. The best views I saw when going from Tuk Tuk towards the South – incredible landscapes! Going around you will find also rice terraces on the south, hot springs and waterfalls. You can also see weird point such as lake inside of a lake (especially when you know that you are on the island inside of an island). This area is famous for traditional houses of Batak ethnic group, you can also find museum, tomb of a King and see performances of their dances.
There is a bridge connecting island to land on the eastern part. This area also hides some interesting places to see for instance hot spring, which is completely not touristic. I had a pleasure to have the hot pool just for myself.
Samosir Island is very laid back place, where you can surely enjoy relaxing and smiles of Batak people. Adding gorgeous scenery you are in a kind of paradise.
Sipiso Piso Waterfall
The most beautiful waterfall in the area of lake Toba is Sipiso Piso in the North part. Gorgeous landscapes around and huge waterfall made me feel like in some fairy tale. Down the waterfall lovely port village Tinggi is also nice to check out. Having bike will make you travel comfortable wherever you go and discover farther places. It is not far to Berastagi from here, town famous for hot springs and beautiful views as well as trekking to the volcano. These areas are less touristic, unspoiled and you can see rainforest nature and wildlife of Sumatra.
Balige is the most popular destination in lake Toba for locals. It has plenty of nice beaches around, like Bul Bul and great hills to watch the sunset. There are many Batak houses as well, waterfalls and traditional Batak market. I would advice Balige to all those who are looking for more of a local experience, far from Samosir which is full of “westerners”.
Magic mushrooms and tuak – Toba goods
Toba lake area is famous for certain kind of magic mushrooms, which you can easily get here, specially on Samosir island. Usually you will see offers for mushrooms tea or omelette but you can also buy fresh or dry mushrooms and use it as you like. Magic mushrooms are legal here and suppose to take you into 3 hours of euphoria. My experience was far from it, but now I know what was inspiration for Batak culture traditional curvings… When my brain was totally controlled by some weird power and I couldn’t see colors and shapes properly, I closed my eyes to see amazing visions full of patterns and colors. Those were very similar to Batak style ornaments.
Tuak is a type of alcohol made of palm tree sap, coconuts or rice. Brave men climbs the palm trees to collect the fruit. After fermentation and destillation wine is ready to drink. White in color, kind of sweet and slightly alcoholic. Every village can have tuak with different taste and you will not find it in the shop in bottles. Since it is homemade, you rather get it straight from the bucket into plastic bag. For me, it tasted a bit like fermented coconut alcohol, which I tried in India. First sip may be disgusting but after one glass it tastes pretty good… If you drink with locals, it usually goes with guitars and singing, as Batak people are really talented musicians.
Besides, must-do is trying Indonesian coffee. This area has lots of plantations which you can visit and taste fresh brewed coffee. Popular is also Luwak Coffee, which is made from beans excreted by Civet cats. Coffee is considered as the best in the world, as the cats choose for their food the best coffee beans and their digestive system gives coffee its unique taste.