Samosir Island, North Sumatra

Located in the middle of Lake Toba, Samosir is the largest “island within an island”. The lake itself is the largest lake in Indonesia and the largest volcanic lake in the world. With 630 km2 area, Samosir is also the fifth largest lake island in the world. This place is about 5 hours by car plus an hour ferry ride from Medan, the capital city of North Sumatra province.

 Samosir Island  2

This island brings not only a breath-taking scene, but also the uniqueness of local people tradition. Along with its exotic history, this island becomes a popular tourist destination. It also contains two smaller lakes, Lake Sidihoni and Lake Aek Natonang. Uluan Peninsula lies across the lake on the eastern part of the island. The island is linked to the mainland of Sumatra on its western part by a narrow land connecting the Pangururan city on Samosir and Tele city on mainland Sumatra.

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 some 780 m. above the waters. Cycling up to the plateau passing many traditional villages is a pleasant experience, as from this height one can have a wonderful panoramic view on this magnificent blue lake.

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.

Samosir Island 3

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.

Further north of Tomok is a small peninsula, known as Tuktuk Siadong,  – or simplyTuktuk – , 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.

Samosir Island

Further north are the villages of Ambarita and Simanindo. At Ambarita, some four km from Tuktuk are stone furniture, said to have been a place where criminals were sentenced and beheaded.

At Simanindo, 19 km. further north is the elaborately decorated house of Raja Sidauruk, which is now a museum. Here are regularly performed the sigalegale puppet performance. The human sized sigalegale puppet is believed to be a receptacle for the soul of the deceased at funeral rites.

Lake Toba itself is the largest fresh water reservoir in South East Asia stretching 1,100 km. long and is 450 meters at its deepest point. As a crater lake, the result of a mega volcanic explosion some 30,000 years, Lake Toba sits 905 meters above sea level. 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.

How to get there:

The town of Parapat is around four to five hours from Medan by private car or rented vehicles.  You can also take the train that serves Medan – Pematang Siantar, then board a bus from here to Parapat, which takes around 2 hours. Along the route enjoy the panorama of palm oil and rubber tree plantations.  From Parapat, ferries take passengers to Tuktuk to the pier located near major hotels.

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