Lake Toba (100 kilometers south of Medan) is about 80 kilometers (50 miles) long, 27 kilometers (16 miles) across, is 450 meters (1,400 feet) deep at its deepest point amd and covers 1,145 square kilometers (685 square miles). Fringed in most places by steep cliffs, the lake is a caldera left over from one of the largest volcanic explosions ever. The blast occurred 69,000 to 77,000 year ago, produced a caldera 100 kilometers long, and deposited a layer of ash and pumice 2000 feet to the north of the lake.

Lake Toba (Danai Toba) is the largest lake in Southeast Asia and, according to the Guinness Book of Records, the world's largest and deepest volcano crater. The lake is so big that an island almost the size of Singapore could fit inside it. It lies in a rugged mountainous area with dotted with fertile plains, rice paddies, coffee plantations, banana, mango, papaya and coconuts trees and forested and deforested mountains. The water is exceptionally clear. The mountains are often shrouded in mist.

Lake Toba at one time was one of the most popular tourist destinations in Indonesia and an ideal place to relax. But now it doesn’t receive as many tourists as it used to. Seven districts surround lake Toba, they are the districts of Simalungun, Toba Samosir, North Tapanuli, Humbang Hasundutan, Dairi, Karo, and Samosir. Among these, the island of Samosir is definitely the most favored destination for visitors. Twenty-seven kilometers (16 miles) from Kabanjahe, on the north side of the lake, is 360 foot Sipiso-piso waterfall which can be viewed from a gazebo on top of one of the hills near the town of Tongging. Some places receive eight feet of rain year.

Lake Toba sits at an elevation of 900 meters above sea level. The weather here is cool but pleasant, but if you’re used to hot temperatures remember to bring a jacket. Change all the money that you will need before you leave Medan as the exchange rate can be poor in the Toba area. If you are taking the bus between Medan and Parapat make sure you get on an express bus to avoid doubling your travel time.

Toba Supervolcano Eruption

The single worst explosion in our geological history occurred at Lake Toba, about 160 kilometers from the epicenter of the 2004 tsunami-producing earthquake. It occurred 71,000 year ago and produced a caldera 100 kilometers long. The Toba super-eruption was the biggest volcanic blast on Earth in the past 2.5 million years, and probably further back than that as well. There were also massive eruptions at Yellowstone 640,000, 1.3 million and 2.1 million years ago. Some theorize that the Toba eruption came close to wiping homo sapiens. They argue the human population shrunk to a few thousand after the event (See Below).

Researchers estimate some 2,000-3,000 cubic environmental of rock and ash were ejected from the volcano when it exploded. It was only in 1929 that a Dutch geologist recognized the lake as a caldera. A caldera is essentially a great hole that occurs in the Earth’s surface after a great amount of material has been removed by a massive volcanic eruption. The central part of Yellowstone National Park is caldera—measuring 35-by-45-mile (60-by-70-kilometer)—about the same size as Lake Toba. Eruptions that leave calderas are rare. The one at Toba seems occur every a 400,000 years or so. [Source: Joel Achenbach, National Geographic, March 2005]

According to “The caldera is 18 x 60 miles (30 by 100 kilometers) and has a total relief of 5,100 feet (1700 m). The caldera probably formed in stages. Large eruptions occurred 840,000, about 700,000, and 75,000 years ago. The eruption 75,000 years ago produced the Young Toba Tuff. The Young Toba Tuff was erupted from ring fractures that surround most or all of the present-day lake. Samosir Island and the Uluan Peninsula are parts of one or two resurgent domes. Lake sediments on Samosir indicate at least 1,350 feet (450 meters) of uplift. Pusukbukit, a small stratovolcano along the west margin of the caldera, formed after the eruption 75,000 years ago. There are active solfataras on the north side of the volcano. [Source: /^]

“Comparison of volumes produced by some of the greatest volcanic eruptions. The Young Toba Tuff has an estimated volume of 2,800 cubic kilometers (km) and was erupted about 74,000 years ago. The Huckleberry Ridge Tuff, erupted at Yellowstone 2.2 million years ago, has a volume of 2,500 cubic kilometers. The Lava Creek Tuff, erupted at Yellowstone 600,000 years ago, has a volume of 1,000 cubic kilometers. The May 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens produced 1 cubic kilometers of ash. Not shown is the Fish Canyon Tuff of the San Juan Mountains of Colorado. The Fish Canyon Tuff was erupted 27.8 million years ago and has an estimated volume of 3,000 cubic kilometers. /^\

“The volume of the youngest eruption is estimated at 2,800 cubic kilometers, making the eruption the largest in the Quaternary. Pyroclastic flows covered an area of at least 20,000 square kilometers. Up to 1200 feet (400 meters) of Young Toba Tuff is exposed in the walls of the caldera. On Samosir Island the tuff is more than 1800 feet (600 meters) thick. Ash fall from the eruption covers an area of at least 4 million square kilometers (about half the size on the continental United States). Ash from the eruption has been recovered from deep-sea cores taken in the Bay of Bengal and in India, roughly 300 miles (500 kilometers) inland (1,900 miles, 3100 kilometers from Toba). Rose and Chesner suggested the ash may have reached central Asia and the Middle East. Ninkovich and others (1978) estimated of the height of the eruption column to be 30 to 50 miles (50 to 80 kilometers) for the Young Toba Tuff. Rose and Chesner, after a study of the shapes of the ash shards, concluded this estimate was too high by a factor of 5 or more. The pumice erupted 75,000 years ago is calc-alkalic quartz-latite to rhyolite in composition (68 percent-76 percent silica). /^\

“There have been no eruptions at Toba in historical time. The area is seismically active with major earthquakes in 1892, 1916, 1920-1922, and 1987. Toba is located near the Sumatra Fracture Zone (SFZ). Stratovolcanoes in Sumatra are part of the Sunda arc. Volcanism is the result of the subduction of the Indian Ocean plate under the Eurasian plate. The subduction zone is marked by the Java Trench. The geologic symbol for a subduction zone is a line with "teeth" (black triangles). The teeth are on the over-riding plate (the Eurasian plate in this case). The rate of subduction is 6.7 centimeters per year. From Knight and others (1986).” /^\

Toba's Eruption Changed Life on Earth?

Joel Achenbach wrote in National Geographic, “Once upon a time a volcano killed almost everybody. It's a radical and scary thought, but there's reason to think it may be true. Toba appears to have ejected some 670 cubic miles (2,790 cubic kilometers) of material, as much as 560 times the amount produced by Mount Pinatubo in 1991. The ash and gas from Toba reached 30 miles (50 kilometers) into the stratosphere and shrouded the entire planet. A super-eruption has multiple effects on the biosphere. Sulfur dioxide combines with water vapor to form sulfuric acid particles that scatter, reflect, and absorb sunlight. The planet's surface cools, the stratosphere heats, photosynthesis is reduced. [Source: Joel Achenbach, National Geographic, March 2005]

“The more immediate effects are equally devastating. Bill Rose, a volcanologist at Michigan Tech University, is particularly interested in the fine ash produced by volcanoes. The ash rains from the sky in particles so small that they can penetrate an animal's lungs. "It's like smoking," he says. "The birds die first," says Rose. "They get the ash in their feathers and they're immobilized. Then the larger animals start to die." A lot of the humans died too, says Stanley H. Ambrose of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Indeed, studies of mitochondrial DNA in humans point to a possible bottleneck of genetic diversity at roughly the same time as Toba's eruption, although it's impossible to prove a link.

“Ambrose does believe, however, that human behavior shows signs of change after Toba. Prior to the eruption, there's little evidence that humans engaged in long-distance networking. Afterward, humans in Kenya, some 4,000 miles (6,400 kilometers) from Toba, appear to have traveled up to 200 miles (300 kilometers) carrying obsidian objects. Ambrose's theory is that humans who learned to cooperate and give gifts would survive another crisis better than those who lived in isolated groups and did not practice altruism or reciprocity.”

Toba Catastrophe Theory

According to the Toba catastrophe theory, modern human evolution was affected by a recent, large volcanic event. According to the Toba catastrophe theory, a massive volcanic eruption changed the course of human history by severely reducing the human population. This may have occurred when around 70–75,000 years ago the Toba caldera in Indonesia underwent a category 8 or "mega-colossal" eruption on the Volcanic Explosivity Index. This may have reduced the average global temperature by 3 to 3.5 degrees Celsius for several years and may possibly have triggered an ice age. This massive environmental change is believed to have created population bottlenecks in the various species that existed at the time; this in turn accelerated differentiation of the isolated human populations, eventually leading to the extinction of all the other human species except for the branch that became modern humans. [Source: Wikipedia]

On a variation of the Toba catastrophe theory, Stephen Oppenheimer of the Bradshaw Foundation wrote: The mega-bang from Toba super-eruption “caused a prolonged world-wide nuclear winter and released ash in a huge plume that spread to the north-west and covered India, Pakistan, and the Gulf region in a blanket 1–5 metres (3–15 feet) deep. Toba ash is also found in the Greenland ice-record and submarine cores in the Indian Ocean, allowing a precise date marker. India bore the brunt of the massive ash fall, and may have suffered mass extinction, since the Toba plume spread north-west across the Indian Ocean from Sumatra. This event may explain why most Indian maternal genetic sub-groups of the two founder lines M & N are not shared elsewhere in Asia and the dates of their re-expansions are paradoxically younger in India than elsewhere in East Asia and Australasia. [Source: Stephen Oppenheimer, Bradshaw Foundation ^]

“If our ancestors left Africa 85,000 years ago, their descendants would have lived in Asia over 10,000 years before the Toba explosion, and beachcombers around the Indian Ocean would have been in direct line for the greatest volcanic ash fall in the whole of human existence. The Toba eruption is thus a valuable date mark, since the ash covered such a wide area, is accurately dated, and can be identified wherever an undisturbed layer of it is found. The early archaeological dates for human presence in Australia have been reinforced by an extraordinary reappraisal of the Kota Tampan Palaeolithic culture found in Lenggong Valley, in Perak on the Malay Peninsula. Malaysian archaeologist Zuraina Majid has explored the remains of this human culture in a wooded valley in Perak State, near Penang. A continuous Palaeolithic tradition known as the Kota Tampan culture goes back tens of thousands of years there. At one site, tools from this tradition lie embedded in volcanic ash from Toba. If the association of the tools with modern humans is confirmed, this means that modern humans got to Southeast Asia before the Toba eruption – more than 74,000 years ago. This, in turn, makes the 85,000-year-old exodus more likely. Genetic and other evidence for a human occupation of Australia by 65,000 years ago fits this scenario. ^

“How does such an early date for the exodus fit with the genetic data? This is perhaps the most controversial and exciting part of the story. The short answer is that the genetic dates and tree fit the early exodus well. This also resolves the question about the origins of the Europeans: why it was that Europe was colonized only after 50,000 years ago, yet arose from the same maternal ancestor as the Australians and Asians. The South Asian region, the first homeland of that single, successful southern exodus, shows the presence of the genetic roots of that expansion not only in the so-called aboriginal peoples around the Indian Ocean, but among the bulk of the modern populations. Among these roots we can detect genetic base camps for the most westerly of the subsequent pioneer treks inland to the vast Eurasian continent. These treks set off, after a pause, for Europe, the Caucasus, and Central Asia. It seems that the vanguard of the beachcombing trail retained a surprising proportion of the original genetic diversity left in the out-of-Africa group and moved rather faster round the shores of the Indian Ocean. So fast, in fact, that they travelled right round to Indonesia and on into Near Oceania, arriving in Australia long before their first cousins made it to Europe.” ^

Toba Catastrophe Theory Dismissed

In April 2013, Jonathan Amos of BBC News wrote: “The idea that humans nearly became extinct 75,000 ago because of a super-volcano eruption is not supported by new data from Africa, scientists say. In the past, it has been proposed that the so-called Toba event plunged the world into a volcanic winter, killing animal and plant life and squeezing our species to a few thousand individuals. An Oxford University-led team examined ancient sediments in Lake Malawi for traces of this climate catastrophe. It could find none. "The eruption would certainly have triggered some short-term effects over perhaps a few seasons but it does not appear to have switched the climate into a new mode," said Dr Christine Lane from Oxford's School of Archaeology. "This puts a nail in the coffin of the disaster-catastrophe theory in my view; it's just too simplistic," she told BBC News. The results of her team's investigation are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). [Source: Jonathan Amos, BBC News, April 30, 2013 |=|]

“Researchers estimate some 2,000-3,000 cubic kilometres of rock and ash were thrown from the volcano when it blew its top on what is now Sumatra. Much of that debris landed close by, piling hundreds of metres deep in places. But a lot of it would also have gone into the high atmosphere, blocking out sunlight and cooling the planet. Sulphurous gases emitted in the eruption would have compounded this effect. Some scientists have argued that the winter conditions this would have induced could have posed an immense challenge to early humans and have pointed to some genetic studies that indicated our ancestors likely experienced a dramatic drop in numbers - a population "bottleneck" - around the time of the eruption. |=|

“The Oxford team reasoned that if this perturbation was so great, it ought to be evident in the sediments of Lake Malawi. This body of water is some 7,000 kilometers west of Toba in the East African Rift Valley, from where our Homo sapiens species emerged in the past 100,000 years or so. The lake is said to retain an excellent record of past climate change which can be inferred from the types and abundance of algae and other organic matter found in its bed muds. Tens of metres of sediments have been drilled to retrieve cores, and it these recordings of past times that Dr Lane and colleagues examined. They identified tiny glass shards mixed in with the muds almost 30m below the lake bed. The shards represent small fragments of magma ejected from a volcano that have "frozen" in flight. "They're smaller than the diameter of a human hair, less than 100 microns in size," explains Dr Lane. "We find them by sieving the sediments in a very long process that goes through every centimetre of core." Chemical analysis ties the fragments to the Toba eruption. |=|

“The shards are present only in traces, but indicate the eruption spewed ash much further than previously thought - about twice the distance recorded in other studies. But the investigation finds no changes in the composition of the sediments that would indicate a significant dip in temperatures in East Africa concurrent with the Toba eruption. What is more, the presence of the shards has allowed researchers to more accurately time other climate events that are seen in the cores. This includes a group of huge droughts previously dated to occur some 75,000 years ago. These have now been pushed back at least 10,000 before the eruption. "All long records like the Malawi cores are very difficult to date, particularly when you get beyond the limits of radiocarbon dating which is 50,000 years. So having a time marker like Toba in the cores is really exciting."

Major reductions in population size leave their mark on genetic diversity of modern individuals. For Homo sapiens, such bottlenecks are evident some 100,000 years ago and 50,000-60,000 years ago - both probably related to migrations out of Africa. Dr Chris Tyler Smith studies genetics and human evolution at the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Cambridge, UK. He said the Toba theory was a popular one a few years ago, but more recent study had led most researchers to move on from the subject. "It was an exciting idea when it was first suggested but it just hasn't really been borne out by subsequent advances," he told BBC News. Dr Lane's team included Ben Chorn and Thomas Johnson from the University of Minnesota, Duluth, US.

Activities in the Lake Toba Area

Activities that can be enjoyed include hiking, swimming, sailing and visiting villages of the area’s main ethnic group, the Batak. In Parapat, where transport from Medan arrives, there are facilities for swimming, water skiing, motor boating, canoeing, fishing and golf. From Parapat take a leisurely walk in the beautiful Naborsahon River valley where you’ll see spectacular bougainvilleas, pointetties and honeysuckle flowering all year round.

Many people stay on the island of Samosir in the middle of the lake, which is not really an island but an isthmus connected to shore of the lake opposite from where you arrive. From Samosir, take a trip inland and explore the two smaller lakes (Sidihoni and Aek Natonang Lake). Or trek into the central highlands. It’s best to ask your hotel or locals for a recommendation for a route as, depending on the time of year, tracks can be muddy and slippery.

At Tuktuk on Samosir are a large number of accommodation and restaurants that also rent out bikes, motorbikes and books. You can also exchange the books with the ones you bring. The more upmarket hotels are located along the lake’s shore with an exclusive beach for guests. Watersports such as canoeing, jetskiing, waterbikes, or swimming and fishing are best pastimes here.

Bike or ride motorbike across the countryside around Samosir. Trek up the mountain to the plateau, to the village of Tele, the vantage point to absorb the grand scenery on Lake Toba. Or watch the serene sunrise and sunset over this spectacular scenery. You can also try paragliding from Bukit Siulakhosa, for added excitement and unforgettable photographs. The Bukit Betha and the Open Stage at Tuktuk Siadong are also often used as arena for athletics, downhill biking, motor cross and other nature sports.

Sipiso-piso waterfall can be viewed from a gazebo on top of one of the hills near the town of Tongging. Lcated on the North side of Lake Toba, 24 kilometers from Kabanjahe. This long but narrow waterfall drops 120 meters into an impressive gorge below. From Berastagi it is a 45 minute to Sipiso-Piso waterfall.


Parapat (four hours by bus from Medan) is main resort town and gateway to the Lake Toba area. Built on a hillside on eastern shore of Lake Toba, it is overdeveloped and oriented towards Asian tourists and rich people from Medan. There is a busy Saturday market by the ferry. Many restaurants and shops are located o SM Raja (the Trans-Sumatran Highway). souvenirs such as T-shirts and keychains. There is also a traditional market which happens twice a week selling fruit, vegetables and clothing. From Parapat there is a frequent ferry to Samosir, where most Western tourists go.

Parapat occupies a small, rocky peninsula jutting out into the lake. On the way down to Parapat from the hill town of Berastagi you will get some spectacular views as the lake first comes into sight and the road winds its way down the mountain closer to the shoreline. In Parapat live the Batak Toba and Batak Simalungun people who are known as a happy and easygoing people, famous for their lively and sentimental songs. Although the majority have embraced Christianity, ancient beliefs and traditions still persist.

Samosir Island

Samosir Island (inside Lake Toba) fills up about half of Lake Toba. Covering 329 square miles, an area about the size of Singapore, it is the remnant of a small volcano that rose up in the middle of the lake after a large eruption about 50,000 year ago. A close look at a map reveals that Samosir is not really an island.. A narrow isthmus on the west side connects it to the mainland.

Samosir is the original home of the Toba Bataks. Worth checking are villages with the traditional Batak Toba houses. Sometimes local dances and hymn singing are performed. The best villages are on the western side of the island across from the central ridge. There is some excellent trekking around the island. From the top of the islands central ridge, which lies 700 meters above the lake, there are some fantastic views. The original forest are mostly gone. In their place are cinnamon, clove and coffee plantations.

On the east side of the island, the land rises steeply from a narrow strip of flat land along the lake’s water edge climbing to a central plateau that towers above the waters. Cycling up to the plateau passing many traditional villages is an arduous by rewarding pleasant experience. From the road on the plateau there are wonderful panoramic views of the lake’s magnificent blue water.

Towns and Sights on Samosir Island

Regular ferries ply between Parapat on the mainland and the villages of Tomok and Tuktuk on Samosir. As you step down the ferry at Tomok you will be greeted by a row of sounvenir stalls selling an array of Batak handicraft, from the traditional hand-woven ulos cloths to Batak bamboo calendars and all kinds of knick-knacks.

Tomok itself is a traditional village, best known as the gateway and introduction to Samosir. Here is the large stone sarcophagus of chief Sidabutar. Carved from a single block of stone, the tomb dates back to the early 19th century. The front is carved with the face of a singa — — a mythical creature, part water buffalo, part elephant. On the saddle-shaped lid is a small statue of a woman carrying a bowl, believed to represent the wife of the dead chief. Beautifully painted traditional adat houses stand in a neat row, with their backs to the lake, complemented with rice barns facing the houses. The elaborate Batak designs on these houses form leaves and flowers and are typically colored in black, white and red. Tomok, the main town on the east side of Samosir, has a number of traditional Batak houses and graves and tombs.

Further north of Tomok is a small peninsula, known as Tuktuk Siadong, — or simply Tuktuk — best loved for its sandy beaches and beautiful lush scenery. Here the soft lapping blue waters of lake Toba blend with the green pastures where water buffalos graze or work the land. Although offering beaches and opportunities for watersports, yet the air here is cool as it is located high in the mountains. No wonder, therefore, that Tuktuk has become a favorite with tourists, so that here you will find a plethora of small hotels and homestays, restaurants and handicrafts galore.

Further north are the villages of Ambarita and Simanindo. At Ambarita, some four kilometers from Tuktuk are groups of megaliths and 300-year-old stone chairs, said to have been a place where criminals were sentenced and beheaded. At Simanindo, 19 kilometers. north of Tuktuk is the elaborately decorated house of Raja Sidauruk, which is now a museum. Here sigalegale puppet performances are regularly performed. The human-sized sigalegale puppets are believed to be a receptacle for the soul of the deceased at funeral rites. Simanindo also has some well-restored traditional houses. Panguran is a town outside the tourist zone that lies ay the middle of an area with traditional villages and superb scenery.


Tanjung Tuk Tuk (on the east side of Samosir Island reached by ferry from Parapat) is the a touristy town on Samosir directly across from Parapat. Many tourists stay here. It has a large number of hotels, guest houses, restaurant, bars and souvenir shops. Music performances are regularly held. The town is very cheap. Ferries between Parapat and Tuk Tuk operate roughly once every hour.

Because Tuktuk is popular with many international tourists, finding food is not a problem, since Tuktuk is practically up and running 24 hours a day. In the evening there are still a number of restaurants and cafes open offering Batak bands, dances, and traditional performances. The Batak are famous for their melodious music and strong vocals. Although the majority of Batak are Christian, they show respect towards Muslims by not serving pork at restaurants.

If you are interested in learning Batak cooking, you can take a Batak cooking class in Tuktuk. The handicraft center at Tuktuk has many souvenir shops selling Batak handicrafts, such as the ulos cloth, woodcarvings, Batak bamboo calendars and staffs like those used by former Batak chieftains. Tomok too has plenty of stalls and kiosks selling Batak handicrafts and knick-knacks.


The Bataks is the name for a group of sub-societies that live in the rugged highlands and plains around Lake Toba in northern Sumatra. The word Batak is believed to have originally been a derogatory term meaning “primitive” used by lowland Muslims to describe highland people. Today there is little stigma attached to the word. [Source: Encyclopedia of World Cultures, East and Southeast Asia edited by Paul Hockings (G.K. Hall & Company, 1993) ~]

Living in a beautiful part of North Sumatra around Lake Toba, the Batak people are divided into six main cultures, each with its own language and traditions. Although geographically isolated, the Bataks have a history of regular contact with the outside world. Trade between the highlands and other regions saw the exchange of goods such as salt, cloth and iron for gold, rice and cassia (a type of cinnamon).

The Bataks are a proto-Malay people. Although the Batak groups are closely related but are regarded as separate groups. These groups make up 3.6 percent of the population of Indonesia (about 9 million people), living both in their traditional homelands in Sumatra and elsewhere in Indonesia. Batak groups include the Angkola-Sipirok, Dairi-Pakpak, Karo, Mandailing, Simalungun, Toba, and others. Some Batak languages can be understood by Malays and Indonesians but others can not even be understood by other Bataks. ~

“Batak” groups inhabit the interior of Sumatera Utara Province, south of Aceh and are mostly Christian, with some Muslim groups in the south and east. Historically isolated from Hindu-Buddhist and Muslim influence, they bear closer resemblance culturally to highland swidden cultivators elsewhere in Southeast Asia, even though most practice wet-rice farming. [Source: Library of Congress]

Bataks in the Lake Toba Area

The Batak Toba and Batak Simalungun tribes are the primary indegenous people that occupy the Lake Toba area. They are an easy going group of former head-hunters that are known for their sentimental songs. They enjoy drinking traditional palm wine and many still reside in distinctive Batak Toba house compounds. In Tomok you can visit to the cemetery complex of King Sidabutar. You can learn more traditional Batak life and culture and try traditional weaving at the village of Jangga, about 24 kilometers from Parapat.

At Simanindo, 19 kilometers. north of Tuktuk is the elaborately decorated house of Raja Sidauruk, which is now a museum. Here sigalegale puppet performances are regularly performed. The human-sized sigalegale puppets are believed to be a receptacle for the soul of the deceased at funeral rites. Simanindo also has some well-restored traditional houses.

The Toba Batak believe Lake is the dwelling place of Namborru (the seven ancestor goddesses of Batak Tribe). When Bataks performs a traditional ceremony at they must first pray to to receive permission from Namborru. The best time to see traditional rituals being performed is during the annual Lake Toba Folk Party ceremony in early December, where many ceremonies are performed in respect to the ancestors of the lake. This festival is a colorful celebration of Batak culture, with traditional ceremonies, sporting events and Batak singing and dancing on display.

Batak Museum and TB Silalahi Center

Batak Museum (on the southern shore of Lake Toba) is located in the TB Silalahi Center and is dedicated to the preservation of the cultural values of the indigenous ethnic population of North Sumatra: the Bataks. The complex on Jl.Pagar Batu No.88 Silalahi Village, by the town of Balige and was established by — and is named after — the prominent Batak personality: Tiopan Bernhard Silalahi who has played an important role in North Sumatra’s and Indonesia’s history.

Opened in 2011, the Museum is built on the concept that the ethnic Batak have had a highly developed cultural since ancient times. This is demonstrated by the fact that the Bataks possess their own distinct writing and spoken language, they follow the traditional democratic principals of Dalihan Natolu, and have a sophisticated way of passing down clan or family names. The museum also acts as a unifying symbol of the different Batak clans, namely: the Batak Toba, Batak Simalungun, Batak Mandailing, Batak Angkola, Batak Pakpak/Dairi, and the Batak Karo.

The Museum is has three floors and an open space on ground floor, which is used to display traditional Batak stone sculptures. From the 2nd floor, visitors have magnificent view on the open-space courtyard and Lake Toba and a seven-meter bronze statue of Si Raja Batak or King of Batak.

The 2nd and 3rd floor are the main exhibiting areas of the museum. On display are Ancient Batak’s scriptures, traditional weapons, various jewelry and farming equipment. Of particular interest is collection of ‘Ulos’, the age-old traditional Batak woven cloths. The oldest ‘Ulos’ exhibited here is believed to be 500 years old. The oldest scripture that the museum has dates back to the year 1800.

Museum Batak is considered as one of the most modern museums in Indonesia. The display labels are in both Bahasa Indonesia and English. Within the vicinity of the TB Silalahi Center are other interesting attractions such as: the personal museum of TB. SIlalahi, the Huta Batak, which is an outdoor museum built like a traditional Batak village consisting of three rumahs (houses) and three sopos (storage structures) depicting typical Batak homes, actual scaled replicas of the Rumah Bolon and the Rumah Batak, a convention hall, and a swimming pool. The complex is also completed with visitors facilities such as restaurants, cafeterias, and an art shop. More Information is available at:


Jangga (about 24 kilometers from Lake Toba) is an area of native Batak villages. Traditional houses which have remained unchanged through the centuries can be visited and young and old ladies can be observed weaving beautiful ulos cloth. There are also monuments and historical remains left by ancient Batak kings. Traditional Batak houses sit on stilts and have distinctive oversized roofs.

Jangga is most famous for the beautiful ulos cloths which are produced here. Watch the women of the community weave these intricate cloths from inside their booths. Ulos plays an important role in traditional Batak society and are used not only as clothing but presented on ritual occasions such as births, deaths and marriages. In Jangga you will also find rows of traditional houses and see monuments dedicated to Batak kings centuries ago including King Tambun and King Ma nurung monuments.

Jangga Village is located on the edge of Simanuk-manuk Mountain,. It is one of a number of villages of native Bataks in the region including Lumban Nabolon, Tonga-Tonga Sirait Uruk, Janji Matogu, Sihubak hubak, Siregar, Sigaol, Silalahi Toruan Muara and Tomok Sihotang. Travel agents can arrange a homestay for you in the village.

Accommodation and Getting to Lake Toba

There are a range of hotels, bungalows, villas and guesthouses available in Parapat. On Samosir, the majority of hotels are found in Tuk Tuk. Here you can find something to suit any budget and taste. . Tuk Tuk is a great base from which to explore the rest of the island, and the facilities here are comfortable and convenient. Prices for hotels, guest houses and homestays in Tuktuk range from Rp100,000 - to Rp500, 000 a night depending on the type.

Parapat is 176 kilometers from Medan and can be reached in under 6 hours by public bus. The bus has two routes: Medan-Parapat or via Medan-Berastagi and costs approximately 30,000 rupiahs. You can buy a spot in a private air conditioned taxi from Medan to Parapat for 65,000 rupiahs one way. The trip takes around 4 hours. Travel agents in Medan can also organize a rental car plus a driver for you.

You can also take the train that serves Medan - Pematang Siantar, then board a bus from here to Parapat, which takes around 2 hours.Tourist buses also take passengers from Medan to Parapit via Lubuk Pakam, Tebing Tinggi, to Pematang Siantar. Along the route enjoy the panorama of palm oil and rubber tree plantations.

Once you arrive in Parapat, you can catch the ferry to Samosir Island. The ferry goes every hour and a half from 9 — 5pm. The two landing points on Samosir are the traditional village of Tomok, or Tuk Tuk, where the islands hotels and restaurants are concentrated. If you are coming overland from the south via Bukittinggi and Tarutung there is a public bus available.

After you arrive rent a bicycle or a motorbike to explore the lake by taking a drive on the roads running around the edge of the island of Samosir and the rim of the lake.. Although rough and unpaved in places, these road offers some spectacular views of the lake and pass coffee plantations, farms and Batak villages.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: Indonesia Tourism website ( ), Indonesia government websites, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Japan News, Yomiuri Shimbun, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Updated in August 2020

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