Medan, Indonesia: The World’s Largest Volcanic Lake Toba


Medan is among the places in Indonesia that get less attention from the outside world especially to a traveler. Located in North Sumatra, Medan is the fourth largest city in Indonesia after Jakarta, Surabaya and Bandung. There are a lot of ethnic groups that form almost 2 million population in Medan.   

Visitors flock to Medan mainly because of their food scene. Medan’s top attractions are primarily focused on the food and lack of other attractions. However, there is still a place you could visit while you are in Medan such as;  

  • Maimoon Palace – Former royal palace of the Sultanate of Deli.  
  • Vihara Maha Maitreya – Biggest temple in Southeast Asia.  
  • Tjong A Fie Mansion – A historical mansion with Chinese and Malay design influences.  
  • Great Mosque of Medan (Masjid Raya) – One of the best examples of architecture in Medan.   
  • Annai Vellangkanni – Examples of religion fusion in Medan.  

Having only a few places and attractions to visit while in Medan, visitors who came to Medan usually spend only one day at here or skip to visit Medan entirely making Medan as a transit before going to Lake Toba  

Lake Toba  

Yes, you heard it right. Lake Toba is the biggest volcanic lake in the world. The Lake Toba formed due to the eruption of super volcanic that took place 77,000 years ago. With this background history, it’s no surprise that Lake Toba becomes the top destination for tourists visiting Medan.    

With its unique and unbeatable largest volcanic Lake Toba in the universe, a lot of visitors from Indonesia and even from far away came to witness this lake. Among the famous place to go while you are in Lake Toba is;  

i) Samosir Island  

Samosir Island is an island at the middle of Lake Toba. It is home to the Toba Batak people. While in Samosir Island, you can visit the Tomok Village and Ambarita Village, where you could witness the remnants of Toba Batak kingdom which still exist up until now. Other than that, you could also check out the Tomb of King Sidabutar and watch a Sigale – gale funeral dance.   

In order to get to Samosir Island, you need to go to Parapat first by either taking their public transportation or renting a car. After reaching Parapat, you can then take a ferry to Samosir Island that takes around 30 minutes.   

Exploring Samosir Island will not take much of your time either. You can spend your half – day to explore the entire island or spend a night here before moving on with your other activities.  

ii) Taman Simalem Resort  

Taman Simalem Resort is located in front of Lake Toba. This mountain resort was built at almost 1,500 meters above sea level, making the air in this area always cool and breezy. Taman Simalem Resort offers an elevated view of the lake which makes this place a perfect spot for sunrises with a stunning view of Lake Toba below which will definitely take your breath away.    

There are two different types of accommodation in this resort; Waterfall area or Tongging area. If you prefer a waterfall over the lake view, you are most welcome to stay at the waterfall area during your stay at Taman Simalem Resort. But as for us, since Lake Toba is the highlight during our trip to Medan, we prefer to stay at Tongging area as this room provide a direct view to Lake Toba.  

There are several kinds of activities you can do while in Taman Simalem Resort. Some of them are like horseback riding, hiking, jungle trekking, farm tours and many more. But, to us, the highlight activities are watching sunrises at One Tree Hill area. This resort is vast, hence, going from one place to another required own transport or you could request their shuttle service.   

In order to get here, you could request a transportation service to pick you up at the airport from the resort itself. The price will be IDR900,000 for one – way. You could opt for a public transportation option too;  

  • Leaving the airport, you will see two signs. Turn left for taxis, turn right for buses.  
  • Cheaper option will be buses. Approach them and tell your destination. They will bring you to the correct taxis or buses for you to take you to the destination.   
  • Their buses do not have any scheduled time to depart. They will only depart when the number of passengers is sufficient for them.  
  • The destination covers a wide area around Medan region. However, to reach Taman Simalem via buses, they will first bring you to Medan City and you will be directed to change another bus. The price per person will be IDR100,000.

Spending one night in Taman Simalem Resort is good enough if you plan to stay over here. Or else, you could do a half – day tour exploring the resort facilities and activities.  

iii) SipisoPiso Waterfall  

Sipiso – Piso Waterfall is the tallest waterfall in Indonesia. The massive eruption of super volcanic resulted in Sipiso – Piso Waterfall. It has a 120-metre high and located in Tongging Village, 45m from Berastagi.   

You could take 35 minutes to hike down to see the waterfall up close. The trek is safe as the route is moderately being maintained. The climb back will make you sweat a little but the hike totally worth it.    

iv) Mount Sinabung & Mount Sibayak   

Berastagi is another popular pit stop when people visiting Lake Toba. From here, you have the option to get up close and personal with two active volcanoes; Mount Sibayak and Mount Sinabung. Mount Sibayak is one of the top mountains in Indonesia and the last it erupted dated a century ago. It produces crystalline sulphur and has hot springs around the mountain. Mount Sinabung situated not far away from Mount Sibayak. The latest eruption for this mountain dated in 2015.   

However, if you don’t feel hiking a mountain, Gundaling Hill is perfect for you. This spot is popular for the locals to do a picnic. From this spot, you will see Mount Sinabung and Mount Sibayak right before your eyes. 


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