Lake Toba: How We Got to the Largest Volcanic Crater in Indonesia

Why are you so FAT?!” I hissed at Loong Seng. I know, that was really mean and here’s what happened. The both of us were on Medan’s notoriously cramped Sejahtera bus heading up to Lake Toba. It was going to be a five-hour trip and after an hour’s nap, I was wide awake and very sweaty. Shoulders touching and bags squeezed on our laps, we were very uncomfortable. We still had four hours to go.

We questioned our sanity many times on this trip.


Now, why did we pick Lake Toba out of all the easily accessible giant lakes in the world?

Lake Toba is an enormous crater lake situated in Medan, Sumatra Island in Indonesia. I came across it when I was looking through the Malaysian map and noticed a huge blue blob in the middle of Sumatra island. I’ve never seen that before. Curious, I googled the blue blob and was instantly drawn to the deep blue waters and picturesque rolls of hills surrounding it. It reminded me of Taiwan’s Sun Moon Lake.

Plus, Lake Toba is actually the remnants from the infamous blast of Mount Toba that exploded 75,000 years ago contributing to the near extinction of humans. Fascinating, huh? I memorised that piece of information because it makes me sound smart.

AND in the middle of the lake is Samosir Island! So technically, you get to go into the middle of what was once the strongest, most violent volcano…and chill.

That’s even more reason to go, no?

Planning the entire trip within a short period just fell together so easily because,

1. It’s relatively cheap to get to Medan. Believe it or not, the entire trip for 2 people only costs us MYR1,500 which is about USD400. And the flight duration is only an hour! Perfect for me because I don’t like long flights, with good reason!

2. The place is built to sustain a high volume of tourists but with the lack of promotion or interest, the place is near deserted but with great amenities. Plus, you get the place almost all to yourself during weekdays. Seriously, you can plank in the middle of the road for a full minute before anyone passes by.

3. The place is so pretty!

4. Loong Seng said we could go.

Now the only problem we faced was how to get to Lake Toba from Medan City because the distance between the two places is almost 200KM! The reviews we read weren’t favourable. Tourists getting cheated didn’t really bode well with our sudden urge of being adventurous.


How to get to Lake Toba

We booked the cheapest flight to Medan and arrived in the city at 10.30pm. It was too late to get to Parapat, so we headed to Paddington budget hotel to spend the night.

It was a decent place. I didn’t take any photos because I didn’t think I would want to remember the place. It was a tiny bedroom with one queen size mattress, tungsten lighting and one small window in a corner that faced a blank wall. No private washroom. Nothing interesting, it just served one purpose: SLEEP.

Sleep which I didn’t get enough of!

I was falling into deep sleep when Loong Seng started panicking and shaking me in bed asking me to WAKE UP. I started panicking as well. I thought he saw a ghost next to me. My heart turned cold. I should really stop reading ghost stories at night.

Turns out it was even more morbid. He thought I had died in my sleep because he said he couldn’t see me breathing. So weird! Who watches someone breathe while they sleep? Even more crazy than Edward Cullen IMO!

The next morning, we took a quick shower and grabbed a taxi to AMPLAS station to find for transportation. AMPLAS station looked desolate and the upper floors smelled strongly of pee. We got worried that we arrived at the wrong place, again.

We took the first thing we saw, the Sejahtera bus because it was leaving for Parapat in 15 minutes. We paid IDR80,000 for two tickets.

One thing we did not expect was how claustrophobic and cramp the seats were. The bus is divided into two seaters on the left and three seaters on the right. Believe me, the both of us couldn’t fit comfortably in EITHER chairs. The bus had only open windows for air and can get dusty and stifling if the bus isn’t moving fast enough.

I just want to say that I will never complain about Malaysia’s RapidKL. I appreciate it so much more now. It’s comfortable, air conditioned and reasonably priced. The end.

We knew we were getting close when the air flowing into the bus was getting noticeably cooler. Lake Toba is known to be at a lower temperature than in Medan. It’s the perfect weather to explore without getting heated up too fast! And then we saw it, a breath-taking aerial view of Lake Toba itself and Parapat!


How to Get on the ferry to Samosir Island

After a long 5-hour ride, we finally got to Parapat. An Indonesian woman was kind enough to lead us to the jetty which can easily go unnoticed if you don’t pay attention. From there on, it was a one-hour journey to Samosir Island in the middle of Lake Toba.

At IDR15,000 per person, the ferry trip was one the BEST highlights of the entire journey. It was a one-hour ride with cooling air and enough open space to take fantastic photos of the scenery. (So I took photos of me) The water was a pretty deep turquoise colour, not a colour I am used to in South East Asia. If your hotel is directly by the lake, the ferry will drop you off right in front of the hotel jetty. If it isn’t, you can get off at the general jetty and continue your journey.

in parapat ferry heading to lake toba

In total, it took us 7 hours to get from Medan city to Samosir Island and cost us about IDR110,000.

The ferry dropped us off at our hotel, Samosir Cottages. We splurged a little bit on this one because it has one of the best views of the lake. Plus, the resort is huge, almost castle-like! The only gripe I had was the hotel management’s inability to manage events. They organised an extremely loud karaoke session for a company. They sang until 11pm.

But that was only for one night. The other three nights were awesome! Samosir Cottages is big, comfortable and clean. 

swimming near lake toba

Getting to lake toba in indonesia swimming next to lake toba

One of our goals was to swim inside Lake Toba itself but every time we went, the water was choppy and I sort of chickened out and refused to let Loong Seng swim in it. It looked really scary to me and there are so many other things I want to talk to Loong Seng about.

We stayed out by the pool drinking Bintang beers and eating overly salted margarita pizzas.

Watching the stars and listening to the light waves hitting the rocks, we knew this place was worth the journey.

It was bliss.

Getting to lake toba Samosir Resort

There’s a huge list of what you can do at Samosir Island but we ignored it all. Instead, we rented a motorbike and got badly sunburnt. Read more on our “rebellious” road trip here.  

about Alicia Chrissy

Discovering the adult world one diaper at a time, I share my travels, discoveries and inspirations. .