On the Shores of a Super Volcano in Sumatra

People only know Bali as the most important tourist attraction in Indonesia. But in the main island of Sumatra, some 4 hours away from the city of Medan, lies an ancient super volcano that is now a lake and a magnet for adventure-seekers and nature-lovers. The 12,000 square-kilometer area of Danau Toba is one of Southeast Asia’s most diverse and is very unique to the Indonesian archipelago.

Heading there is easy, but making your journey more memorable can be quite a challenge. But that’s why we’re here.

Landing in Medan

Touching down at the Kualanamu International Airport in Medan from Jakarta, you’d be greeted by the warm hospitality of Bataks and Javans who have made Sumatra their home. Spending a day or two in Medan is well worth charging you up for the trip up north. Sample the many treats sold by street vendors at night or head over to one of Medan’s more popular night clubs.

Stopping Over in Berastagi

Located some 70 kilometers from the city of Medan is the hilly town of Berastagi, pronounced without the ‘e’. This mountain town is not a tourist destination so you get to really see locals doing their everyday stuff.

Sleeping over in Berastagi is a must so you can catch the early morning sunrise creating a fantastic halo on the towering Mt. Sinabung. This should help you gear up for a day in Berastagi. You can climb Mt. SInabung if you get a thrill from really steep climbs.

Head to the Tahura National Park and be greeted by waterfalls, hornbills, horses, elephants, and even gibbons. Enjoy a therapeutic bath at the numerous hot springs at the foot of Mt. Sibayak. Make sure to sample the famed ‘sotos’, ‘ikan bakar’, and ‘ayam penyet’ just before you head over to Danau Toba.

Enjoying Danau Toba

Depending on which side of Danau Toba you want to explore – there’s Pangururan on the lake’s western shores and Perapat and Tiga Ras on its eastern shores – you’ll be treated with a slightly different kind of adventure getting to the most famous spot on Danau Toba – Samosir Island. This island is smacked right in the middle of Lake Toba. From Pangururan, you’d be traveling on a car traversing a bridge and you’d be treated to the most spectacular bridge ride in your life. If you’re taking Perapat or Tiga Ras, it’s a ferry ride for you. It’s definitely slower, but more romantic and idyllic if you’re coming in with your spouse.

Enjoying Danau Toba is all about finding meaning in its pristine yet bountiful waters. You can go kayaking or even exploring the quaint town of Tuktuk Siadong where you get to mingle with the locals, down a drink or two at the local bars, or just be mesmerized by the beauty of the lake.

North of the lake is Air Terjun Sipiso-piso. Hop onto a rented motorbike or get an ojek to drive you around is much better and cheaper than getting a tourist guide. You might even be treated to a local beverage.

Toba may already be extinct. But the lake it left behind is surely a gem worth visiting.