Looking for all the top things to do on Samosir Island, Lake Toba? Good stuff, because we have got you covered! After spending some time exploring Samosir Island, we can share what we got up to, and we consider to be the highlights. We also include where to eat, where to stay, and all of our top tips, so you can spend less time planning and more time having fun!
Located on the magnificent island of Sumatra, Lake Toba is an astounding example of the power behind Mother Nature. The lake was formed following a supervolvanic eruption almost 80,000 years ago, resulting in a crater that spans a staggering 1,130 km2. Lake Toba is the largest lake in Indonesia, and the largest volcanic lake in the road.
Samosir Island, situated at the heart of Lake Toba, was also formed as a result of the eruption. Boasting magnificent vistas, vibrant culture, and a fascinating history, we consider it to be an essential addition to your Sumatra Itinerary. At the same time, it’s somewhat of a hidden gem in Indonesia, so you can expect a real off-the-beaten path adventure.
10 Amazing Things to do on Samosir Island, Lake Toba
*Before You Travel to Samosir, have you got your travel insurance sorted? Cover yourself for the unexpected, read why you really need travel insurance or get a quote from World Nomads.
*Don’t leave home without any backpacker essentials with our free printable packing list.
Where to Stay on Samosir Island, Lake Toba
Accommodation options are continually on the rise on Samosir Island, ranging from budget through to mid-range luxury. In case you are yet to arrive on Samosir Island, here are some recommendations that you may wish to consider.
Budget – Sibayak Guesthouse – For less than $10, guests can enjoy a nice ambience and incredible views at Sibayak Guesthouse. Facilities include a restaurant, bar, a shared lounge and garden. Free wifi is available throughout the property.
Mid-Range – Toba Sunset – Located in the tourist hub of Tuk Tuk, nearby all the best restaurants, Toba Sunset features free WiFi. Each room has a balcony with magnificent views of the lake, rice fields and the surrounding mountains.
Mid-Luxury – Horas Family Home – Located in the heart of Tuk Tuk, Horas Family Home offers a peaceful retreat on Samosir Island. The property boasts an outdoor pool and direct access to Lake Toba.
For more places to stay on Samosir Island, you can check the latest prices here.
Things to do on Samosir Island, Lake Toba
Historical landmarks, breathtaking viewpoints, and embracing the local culture make up the top things to do on Samosir Island. Here are 10 ideas to help plan your trip.
1. Visit an Authentic Batak Village
Visiting a Batak Village is one of the essential things to do on Samosir Island. The Batak people are unique to the region surrounding Lake Toba, and visiting Samosir Island is a chance to learn about the fascinating culture.
Not only does the ethnic group have their own individual beliefs and traditions; but the Toba-Bataks possess a compelling history.
Historically, the Bataks were fierce warriors descended from tribal people. Their rituals involved public beheadings and cannibalism, against anybody who became an enemy or commited a crime. It is believed these acts were endured up until the 19th century.
Today, you can find evidence of such events in the Batak Villages such as Tamok or Ambarita.
On a lighter note, you’ll get to see the extraordinary Batak Houses and the beautiful traditional crafts that are skillfully made by the locals.
TOMOK & AMBARITA VILLAGE MAP LOCATIONS
2. The Kings Stone Chair
Located within the traditional Batak village of Ambarita, The Kings Stone Chair is a reminder of the Batak’s judicial history.
During the reign of King Siallagan, here is where wrongdoers would be publicly trialled. And if the crime was considered serious enough, beheaded.
Once the execution had taken place the body would be mutilated and the parts were given to local people to eat. Pretty grim hey!
*Tip – There are 2 Stone Chairs on Samosir Island, and while they are close together, only 1 of them is authentic. Follow our map location for the correct one.
THE REAL KINGS STONE CHAIR MAP LOCATION
3. Visit a Lake Within a Lake
Finding a lake within a lake isn’t exactly a common phemomena, so we were pleasantly surprised to find there are 2 located on Samosir Island.
The first, and arguably the most popular of the 2 is ‘Lake Sidihoni’. This lake is well-known for it’s magnificent vistas and hiking opportunities, while the other ‘Lake Aek Natonang’ is a great spot for swimming.
Both lakes are located up in the volcanic mountains of Samosir Island, approximately 1hrs drive from Tuk Tuk. We recommend renting a scooter if you are confident on a bike, as the journey offers spectacular views.
Otherwise, you can enquire about hiring a driver at one of the hotels or guesthouses in Tuk Tuk.
4. Chase Some Waterfalls
Samosir Island is home to some incredible waterfalls. The most impressive being the 120-meter tall Sipiso-Piso Waterfall – said to be one of the tallest in Indonesia.
Sipiso-Piso waterfall is located on the the northern side of Lake Toba, and you’ll need to take a boat from Samosir Island to the mainland in order to visit.
The vistas from the top of the waterfall are breathtaking, or you can hike to the bottom to feel the sheer force of the falls.
Another waterfall worth checking out Binangalom Waterfall, which cascades into the lake. It’s the perfect spot for a refreshing swim and one of the best things to do on Samosir Island.
View full blog post: Sipiso-Piso Waterfall Sumatra
5. Try your Hand at Batak Dancing
A wonderful way to embrace the local Batak Culture is to get involved in a bit of traditional dancing.
You can do this by visiting the Batak Musueum in Ambarita, where at 10.30 am from Monday to Saturday, you will be invited to dance with the locals.
Alternatively Bagus Bay Homestays hosts a Batak dancing show every Wednesday & Saturday night from 8.30pm.
BATAK DANCING MAP LOCATION
6. Take a Swim in Lake Toba
Taking a swim in Lake Toba is naturally one of the most popular things to do on Samosir Island; however, be sure to check that it’s safe before diving in.
To be on the safe side, there are several places in Tuk Tuk that have an allocated area for swimming. Tabo German Bakery is one of them, and not only can you swim but the surrounding views are astonishing.
Otherwise, there are several guesthouse in Tuk Tuk who have a private area to swim including Horas Family Home and Judita Cottages.
TABO BAKERY MAP LOCATION
7. Eat at Hot Chilli
Situated around a 10-15 minute walk from the main strip of Tuk Tuk, this restaurant delivers wonderful local & western food.
We shamefully ended up eating here 4 times during our 2-night stay in Tuk Tuk. But that goes to show just how good it was!
We highly recommend their guacamole on toast with homemade bread, the vegetable curry, and the tomato soup with homemade garlic bread.
Our only complaint is that the food can take an unusually long time. But for us, it was always worth the wait.
HOT CHILLI MAP LOCATION
8. Shop at the Local Markets
Meandering the local markets was one of our favourite things to do on Samosir Island.
Whether you’re shopping for souvenirs, or sampling the local food, it’s the perfect way to spend a lazy afternoon.
If you want to bag yourself something traditional, you can find Batak Clothing known as Ulos on the markets. Otherwise, jewellery, paintings, and fabric items are also very popular.
To shop at the local markets, you will want to work on your bargaining skills. Haggling with the vendors can be great fun; however, be sure to haggle sensibly and pay what you think is fair for the item.
AMBARITA MARKET MAP LOCATION
9. Rent a Scooter & Explore the Island
The landscapes surrounding Lake Toba and Samosir Island are truly staggering, so renting a scooter and driving the coastal road is a great way to spend the day.
Scooters are available to rent from many guesthouses within the Tuk Tuk area, and prices start from 50,000 IDR per day.
10. Watch the Sunset
Unfortunately, the weather didn’t allow any good sunsets for us while we were on Samosir Island; however, is said they can be capivating.
Now we’ve visited the island and know how magical it is, we have no doubt the statement is true!
So if you have the opportunity, make watching the sunset a priority on your list of things to do on Samosir island.
How to get to Samosir Island
From Bukit Lawang – A small minivan of max. 7 people, leaves daily from Bukit Lawang at 8.30am to Parapat. Once you reach Parapat, you can take the ferry to Samosir Island. It is possible to organise the entire journey through a local tour company in Bukit Lawang. As a guideline, we paid 230,000 IDR/pax, including the cost of the ferry. The total journey time was approx. 10 hours.
From Medan Airport – Your best option from Medan Airport is to take a shared taxi to Parapat, followed by the ferry. Once you exit the airport, turn right and look out for a company called ‘Nice-Trans’. Here they offer a direct service to Parapat for around 100,000 IDR /pax. The journey time is approximately 5 hours.
SAMOSIR ISLAND MAP LOCATION
What to Pack for Samosir Island
Unsure of what you might need to pack for your adventures on Samosir Island? Don’t worry, we have got you covered. Check out our backpacker essentials, for a packing list of items that we carry with us on every adventure.
Here are some items that we recommend taking to make your visit to the beaches & waterfalls more comfortable:
- Comfortable shoes for the hike down
- Water shoes to wear in the water – We Recommend: 2 in 1 Water/Hiking Shoes.
- Waterproof Bag to protect valuables – We Recommend: Waterproof Dry Bag-10L/20L/30L
- Bathing suit & towel for the obvious – We Recommend: Microfiber Travel Towel
As travellers, it should always be a top priority to travel responsibly. We already leave a substantial carbon footprint just by flying to our travel destinations, so that’s even more reason to make a positive impact when we get there.
There are many small steps you can take to becoming a responsible traveller, and we highly encourage you to educate yourself before travelling to Sumatra. In the meantime, here are some things you can do to minimise your footprint:
1. Do not leave any rubbish on the ground: You would think this would go without saying; however, there are some questionable humans who think it’s ok to throw trash on the ground.
2. Carry a Steripen or iodine tablets to sterilise water: This not only limits your usage of single-use plastic but also saves you money too!
3. Respect the local culture: Be courteous of the local culture and act in such a way that leaves a good impression. Learn a little of the local language (hello and thank you is the minimum), greet the locals in a polite manner, and respect dress codes & traditions
Well, that concludes Our Top 10 Things to do on Samosir Island. If you have any questions or feel we have missed anything, please reach out to us in the comment section below.
Stay adventurous and happy travels,
Charlotte and Natalie x
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