• AirAsia began providing air connectivity from Malaysia to Lake Toba in October last year, operating four flights weekly to Silangit. Flight time is 1hr 20mins.
• Flight AK411 flies from Kuala Lumpur to Silangit every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday at 10.40am while flight AK412 flies from Silangit to KL on the same days at 11.25am.
As the largest volcanic lake in the world, Lake Toba in North Sumatra has the potential to become a world-class tourist destination, and none is keener to see that happen than President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo who has embraced Lake Toba
under his 10 New Bali initiative.
Infrastructure and access will be key to realising Lake Toba’s enormous potential and there are plans in hand to address the challenges of elevating the destination’s appeal and increasing its capacity to
handle a greater number of visitors.
It requires a 250km, five-hour drive to reach the lake from the province’s main airport, Kualanamu International Airport in Medan. While many are happy to take in the sights of North Sumatra along the way, the Indonesian government opened Silangit International
Airport in North Tapanuli in November 2017 to bring tourists closer to the lake, where Parapat and Samosir Island are the main towns.
• Lakeside, Tiara Bunga Hotel & Villas has breathtaking views, while Samosir Cottages mixes traditional Batak heritage with modern design and local hospitality. Four-star Taman Simalem Resort is set on a cliff overlooking Lake Toba and is 14km from Sipisopiso, a dramatic waterfall.
Once you arrive in Parapat, you can catch the ferry to Samosir Island. The landing
points on Samosir are the traditional villages of Tomok, or Tuk Tuk, where the island’s hotels and restaurants are concentrated.
The Indonesian government acknowledges that more needs to be done in the region and has set aside a considerable
budget for public works to include a 145km toll road to improve transportation between Medan and Lake Toba, sanitation projects and improvements to tourist sites.
In touch with Lake Toba’s cultural side
Samosir Island is the cultural centre of the Batak Toba tribe, one of the six Batak tribes that inhabit the northern and central Sumatra. While the Batak culture has many rituals and traditional
practices, each tribe has its own distinctive following, as well as architectural style.
“In the villages, aside from the weaving centre, there are enough traditional houses to make [the area] a traditional heritage village complex. We will
try to revitalise 40 houses there,” Public Works and Housing Minister Basuki Hadimuljono told Jakarta Post.
Batak Toba’s rumah adat or traditional houses are among the most distinctive in Indonesia, with roofs that curve upwards like horns,
complete with finely decorated wood carvings and multifunction corners inside. The curved roof, which sees the back portion higher than the front, symbolises descendants who live in the building will do well in life.
Lake Toba is surrounded by nature, including pine forests and hiking areas.
Call of nature
Lake Toba is surrounded
by nature, including pine forests and hiking areas. Culture-focused tourist destinations are also scattered in and around the area: Huta Siallagan Kampong is a traditional Batak village and Ulos Kampong in Samosir is famous for being the production
centre for traditional North Sumatran woven fabric.
“Making the product better is not only about developing the tourist destination, but also making sure that everything is integrated; the products, the package, the brand. That will differentiate
Toba with other destinations, like Mandalika or Bali,” President Jokowi said.
“As of now, the products have no package, no written stories.”
Separately, Tourism Minister Arief Yahya said the ground-breaking ceremony for hotel development
on 387 hectares of land under the Lake Toba Tourism Authority Agency would begin this year.
If you’re planning to visit Lake Toba, the best months to visit are between May and September. The rainy season comprises April, May, November and December.