Lake Toba: One lake with a thousand angles (Part I)

How to get there

It is very easy to fly to Medan, the capital of Northern Sumatra province. Garuda Indonesia ( offers two flights daily from the capital city, Jakarta. Budget airlines, such as Lion Air (, Sriwijaya (, and AirAsia ( offer frequent flights with cheaper tickets. Direct flight from Jakarta to Medan takes about two hours.

Nowadays, you can fly directly from Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Phuket, and Singapore using AirAsia or Silk Air ( Flight from Kuala Lumpur or Penang takes around one hour.

In Polonia, the international airport of Medan, expect busy crowd. The airport serves as a hub with frequent flights without huge improvement in hygiene, quality, and service. The main advantage of this airport is its location, in a city center. Update : Now airport had been moved to Kuala Namu International Airport which is far better than Polonia, but it’s quite far from city center. So, prepare your time if you want to go there.

How to get to Lake Toba

If you arrive in Medan in the morning, you can try to directly go to Lake Toba. From the airport you can take a taxi to Amplas bus terminal. Most taxi in Medan do not use meter, so you have to use your bargaining skill for cheap fare.

There are some bus and minibus companies that serve trips to Parapat, a small town in Lake Toba. I recommend you to take a big busses such as Sentosa, rather than mini busses such as Medan Raya Tour or Omegah. Big bus will cost each person around $2.5 while mini bus can cost up to $5 per person. It is also more convenience and safe to take a bus for an approximately 5 hours trip to Parapat. During the trip you can enjoy the scenery of North Sumatra, including the town of Pematang Siantar.

Tips: During the trip, don’t be afraid if the driver is speeding or always trying to overtake other vehicles. They are experienced driver who know their way. Just pray a lot …


Parapat is the main town in the lakeside of Toba. Various hotels and motels serve rooms all year round. Unfortunately, due to low turnout of tourists, many closed shops. Hence, there are still many options for you.

High end hotels in Parapat include Patra Hotel and Inna, will cost you over $50 a night. Midrange hotels will cost you $15-40 a night. Wisma Pandu, a nice, expatriate-standard motel hidden because it was located on the slope of the lakeside. The rate of $20 a night was reasonable, it was quite a good value of money for the facilities. The room is clean and they provide basic toiletries such as soap and towel. It also provides Indonesian junk food such as Nasi Goreng and instant noodle, tea and coffee for very reasonable price. A backpacker-style will cost you less than $15 a night. You can just walk along the main road to check the price. During low season (and maybe even in a non-low season) you can bargain the room rate down up by $5 a night!

There is only one ATM in Parapat, so you better take enough money from Medan to avoid hassle. Only top end and high midrange hotels accept credit cards. Parapat provides a range of restaurants and warungs (small food stall), most sell Indonesian traditional food, with one or two Chinese food menu.

Mainland to Samosir

There are two ways to go to Samosir Island, the heart of Lake Toba. You can take a small boat directly from Parapat to your hotel in Samosir Island with around $1.5 per person. Or you can take angkot to Ajibata and then take a ferry to Tomok in Samosir with only around 30 cents – yes it’s true, 30 cents per person!

Jump to the ferry and you can take lower or higher decks. They use the lower deck to put the cars and trucks. For better view of Lake Toba and its surroundings hop on to the passenger deck. Some little boys will ask for money, or they would swim searching for coins thrown by the ferry passengers.

The trip to Tomok took around 45 minutes. I decided to dismount in Tomok and continued the trip on foot to Tuk Tuk. For me it was the best idea since I could take some more pictures in the way and explored the beauty of Samosir at the same time. A very special site appeared, in the corner of roads to Tuk Tuk and Ambarita. The corner was so unique and beautiful. On a plain that a little bit higher than the road, we could see the lake clearly without obstruction. If we saw another direction, we would view on the group of high hill surrounding Samosir Island, complete with exotic waterfall. It looked small but very high. A slight fog covering the top of the hill made the scenery perfect.

Tuk Tuk

Tuk Tuk is a small town which offers some nice small accommodation, restaurants, natural beauty and Bataknese arts.

One of the most recommended accommodation is Tabo Cottage. In fact, Lonely Planet calls the best accommodation in Northern Sumatera. The cottage is the combination between classy, privacy and convenience. The more comfortable deluxe room has jungle bathroom. The room was spacious, the bathroom was large with some orchid plants hung on the wall. The standard room is also nice but basic. Two family rooms are also provided on the second floor. No TVs in all rooms. Although named as the most expensive accommodation in Samosir, Tabo Cottage was fairly cheap. For a deluxe room, we paid only Rp 195,000 a night. Please visit their website at: This cottage is very popular with its vegetarian foods and fresh bakery.

Another recommended hotel is Carolina. It is suitable for families, or those going in a group. The hotel is situated in a perch of a hilly lakeside. They offer 30 rooms with different types in a Batak-style architecture. The room rate varies from $10 to $30 a night. The best value of this hotel is it has a swimming pool. Please check: for more information.

Other hotels are: Silintong 1, Silintong 2, and Silintong 3 which each offers a lot of room but not much sense of privacy.

You can go around Samosir by renting bicycle or motorcycle. Renting a motorbike will cost you $7-$10 a day without gas.

In Tuk Tuk you can see rice fields overlooking the Lake Toba. It was surrounded by the group of high hill where the waterfall is located. The combination between green rice-field, blue lake water, and a group of sky-crapper hills made the scenery astonishing.

Hidden treasure just around the corner. It’s Belitung….

How to get there

Sriwijaya Air ( and Batavia air ( offer one flight daily from Jakarta to Tanjung Pandan, the main city in Belitung Island. The flight takes approximately one hour.

It is highly recommended that you pre-book your transportation to your hotel since public transport is scarce in this island. Don’t worry, it’s only a small hassle compare to its beauty.

For you who prefer organized trips, please contact: For those who love a bit more adventure, keep reading…

Tanjung Pandan

There are some nice accommodations in Tanjung Pandan, around one hour from the airport. Martni Hotel (0719 21432) and Wisma Martani (0719) 21156) are among those preferred. Room rate are around $20 to $40 a night. Hotel Martani has basic but nice rooms, good value for money.

Tanjung Pandan is located in the center of the island, so it takes 45 minutes to one hour to get to the beach. The town is famous for its traditional food: Mie Belitung and Gangan.

Mie Belitung is traditional Belitungese noodle with bean sprout and potato. Gangan is a red curry fish with pineapple. The taste is sour and spicy, perfect with hot steam rice. Durian is another attraction for you who like it, just wander around the town and you can get it with relatively cheap price.

Tanjung Tinggi

Tanjung Tinggi is the most popular beach in the western part of Belitung. It has stretched granite rocks and blue sea. Belitung beaches are friendly to families with small children because the wave is not very strong and in some areas the water is contained by the rocks.

Avoid busy crowd and you can easily take photos with picturesque background. The beach is only very busy on Sunday and holidays. Most tourists are local, students, with few travelers from Jakarta. Westerners are very few.

Small shops and food stalls selling Indonesian traditional food, soft drink, coffee and tea, coconut are available on the beach.

The only accommodation you can find in Tanjung Tinggi is Lor In Resort. Owned by Tommy Soeharto, the son of Indonesian former dictator, the resorts offer a beautiful view. Named as the most expensive hotel in the island with around $60 a night, it is expensive compared to the facilities. Lor In consists of 6 executive and 14 superior cottages.

Although having a beautiful sea view, it is located not on the beach, because you need to cross a road. Hence, mind your children. The main advantage of the resort is it is the only one that can offer a luxurious service such as massage and spa. Please check their website for further information:

Tanjung Kelayang

Tanjung Kelayang is a fishermen beach around 4 kilometres from Tanjung Tinggi. It has undisputable marvelous panorama. You can enjoy the clear blue sea that stretches for one kilometer. In the afternoon you can see the fishermen unloading their boats and selling fishes on the beach.  One great thing about this place is, although serving as fishermen village, it doesn’t stink at all. And although you can see many fishing boats, the beach is still very clean and blue. It is perfect for families with small children who enjoy swimming, also you who like to snorkel.

Belitung beaches are famous and unique for their granites and Tanjung Kelayang is no exception. In the corner of the beach, you can see a big stack of huge granite rocks. The place is well-known for dating teenagers. Try to climb the rocks and you will find maybe the bluest sea you have ever seen. On the rocks you, you can see some other islands such as Pulau Lengkuas and Pulau Tikus.

The only accommodation in Tanjung Kelayang is Kelayang Cottages ( Owned by a British gentleman, it consists of 6 wooden cottages with attached bathroom. The rooms are spacious and clean, although they are basic.  For rooms with air-con you need to pay $25 a night, room with fan $15 a night, and one backpacker style with only $10. Please book in advance at: (+6281929798420).

The accommodation provides a restaurant with reasonable price. They also provide airport pick-up and drop-off for $15 one way (it takes one hour traffic-free trip from the airport to Tanjung Kelayang). You can also book one-day islands hopping for $30 one boat – it can fit more than 10 people.

Pulau Lengkuas



It takes around 30-50 minutes boat ride to Lengkuas Island or Pulau Lengkuas which is famous for its lighthouse. Built during the Dutch colonial era, the lighthouse is still working properly to keep boats safe. From the top, on 18th floor, you will enjoy the most magnificent blue sea. Take a lot of pictures or you will be sorry.

You can swim or snorkel in the sea around Pulau Lengkuas. The water is very clear. The guardians of the lighthouse have prepared some benches and hammocks. They also have facilities to rinse after swimming. Please note that it is a tiny and isolated island, so bring your food and enough water. Do a picnic while enjoying one of the best scenic views in Indonesia.

An Indonesian family backpacker, been to 25+ countries as a family. Yogyakarta native, now living in Crawley, UK. Author of several traveling books and travelogue. Owner of OmahSelo Family Guest House Jogja. Strongly support family traveling with kids.