Best Ever Destinations: A Wondrous New Normal Guide To Lake Toba

Best Ever Destinations: A Wondrous New Normal Guide To Lake Toba

Discover the wonders of Batak culture and the tranquility of Lake Toba under new normal travel

A UNESCO geopark site, the beauty of Lake Toba is boundless. Every sight is a wonder here with panoramic views of calming waters and lush greens. Formed by a supervolcano, it’s the largest volcanic lake in the world and its crater island of Samosir has become the home to the Batak tribe, who consider the area as a mystical, sacred site filled with legends as old as time. 

Located 3 hours away from Medan’s Kuala Namu International Airport, this vast body of water has always been the highland resort getaway spot for worn out locals. Now with Indonesia slowly reopening its doors to tourism, Lake Toba has become the Best Ever Destination to recharge and rejuvenate from the pandemic blues.

Be it nature or culture, there’s much to do in Lake Toba and Samosir Island. Covering an area almost the size of Singapore, exploring its nooks and crannies is better done with a car. With stunning sights at every turn, here’s a 1-day itinerary to enjoy the best of Lake Toba:

Morning

Explore this: The dark history of Huta Siallagan

  • Travel time from Ambarita Port: 12 minutes on foot

Evil spirits begone as every majestic Bolon Batak Toba house is protected by traditional jaga dompak and singa singa ornaments. Photo by Muhammad Fadilla Aulia

Start off your day out in Lake Toba with a glimpse of ancient Batak life at Huta Siallagan in Samosir Island. With rows of traditional Bolon and Sopo Batak houses, the village covers over 2,000 square meters with a stone wall to ward off wild animals and other tribes back in the day. The villagers also use traditional ornaments like jaga dompak masks and singa singa lion heads to ward off evil spirits, while lizard boraspati and breast-like ornaments are used to invite adaptability, fertility and wealth. 

Located in the center of the village is Huta Siallagan’s main attraction, Batu Parsidangan, or the trial stones. Believed to be more than 200 years old, the two sets of large stones sit right under a Hariara tree, a tree considered most sacred to the Bataks. Here was where the king, shaman and village elders sat and discussed the social and political order of the village. 

The Trial Stones, or Batu Parsidangan, take center stage in the Huta Siallagan complex. Photo by Muhammad Fadilla Aulia

However if a villager committed a serious crime, this was also believed to be the place where the village heads decide on the fate of the guilty. Execution was usually the punishment and the Trial Stones was where it took place as well. Legend has it that the heart and the liver of the executed were also eaten by the kings to gain power, with the head of the punished displayed to warn outsiders. 

Predating all the way back to the 17th century, learn about the importance of Huta Siallagan’s Execution Area in the Batu Parsidangan Festival. Photo by Muhammad Fadilla Aulia

Huta Siallagan gives a glimpse of what life was like back in the days and it teaches many a lesson of how evil deeds do not go unpunished. The trial stones of Batu Parsidangan are an essential part of the village and it takes center stage in their Batu Parsidangan Festival, which will take place on November 6, 2021. It will also be the main event as it reopens again after their renovation. During our visit, Huta Siallagan is still installing their final touches but rest assured, health and safety protocols will be strictly enforced once its doors open again.

Eat this: Mie Gomak at Pasar Tomok

  • Travel time from Huta Siallagan: 9 minutes by car

Enjoying Mie Gomak in the streets of Pasar Tomok is the most authentic way to enjoy this bowl of goodness. Photo by Muhammad Fadilla Aulia

Start your day right with a meal that’s a long time favorite for locals. The Batak-style spaghetti of Mie Gomak is known for its thick, rich flavors enriched by a handful of spices like ginger, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, galangal, and of course an added dash of andaliman pepper. 

You can easily find Mie Gomak anywhere around Samosir Island, but enjoying this at the traditional market in Tomok gives you a glimpse of the local hustle and bustle. This humble food stall serves their Mie Gomak with slices of jackfruit, and you can easily order assorted fritters from the neighboring stall for extra sustenance with your noodles. Makeshift hand washing stations are found here, so wash those hands before you indulge and keep your masks on. 

Afternoon

Do this: Learn the A-Z of Batak culture in Tomok Tourism Village

  • Travel time from Ambarita Port: 15 minutes by car

Take a peek into the traditional Bolon houses at the Batak Museum in Tomok Cultural Village. Photo by Muhammad Fadilla Aulia

Located on the east coast of Samosir Island, the cultural village of Tomok stretches along the lake’s shore that is best known as the place to go for a crash course on Batak culture. Enjoy the scenery of the lake while getting to know more about the tribe’s long history and culture by starting off at the Batak Museum.

You know you’re in the right place once you’ve spotted traditional Batak Bolon houses, with its characteristically sharp, triangular roof and traditional carvings of lizards and breasts, standing on wooden stilts. At the Batak Museum, get yourself a guide to navigate you through the traditional items like weapons, kitchen utensils, or the traditional Batak woven cloth of ulos. 

Don your rented ulos and get your dancing feet ready as you join the locals for a Sigale-gale dance. Photo by Muhammad Fadilla Aulia

Once you get yourself acquainted, enjoy a performance of the mystical Sigale-gale traditional dance or join in the fun dressed in your ulos. The traditional puppet dance is believed to dispel the curse for being childless, with the puppets symbolizing a child during funeral rites. Legend has it, the puppets would dance on their own during ceremonies. 

Stroll around the area if you’re interested in seeing the royal tomb of King Sidabutar – the first settler of Samosir Island. His face is carved on the front of his tombstone, along with the carvings of his guardian at the bottom and the love of his life carved on top of his tomb.

Masks all around in Tomok Cultural Village for everyone’s safety. Photo by Muhammad Fadilla Aulia

There’s much to see and learn here at Tomok and it will definitely open you to the world of Batak culture. Everywhere around the Tomok Cultural Village area, wearing masks is a requirement. You can also find numerous hand washing stations placed on the roads, but keep hand sanitizers at your disposal so you’re clean at all times. 

Eat this: Ikan Na Tinombur RM Tesalonika Tomok

  • Travel time from Tomok Tourism Village: 4 minutes on foot

Don’t forget to squeeze some lime juice on your Ikan Na Tinombur for an extra fresh zing. Photo by Muhammad Fadilla Aulia

It should be no surprise that a fish dish is a must-have when in Lake Toba, and Ikan Na Tinombur is one that is highly recommended. This traditional grilled fish delight uses a rich and flavorful spice mix called Na Tinombur, which is made from torch ginger bud, andaliman peppers, and candlenut.

Satiate your lunch pangs with this simple yet mouth watering dish at RM Tesanolika Tomok, and don’t forget to try dipping your meat to their spicy andaliman sambal for a much needed afternoon kick. Here, masks are required for all diners and washing your hands before your enter is a must. 

Evening

Enjoy this: Take in panoramic views of Lake Toba in Huta Ginjang

  • Travel time from Tomok Tourism Village: 3.5 hours by car

Close your day with the best view of the world, as locals would say about Huta Ginjang. Photo by Muhammad Fadilla Aulia

Bring a jacket to our last spot as it can get as low as 14 degrees C at Huta Ginjang. Sitting 1,555 meters above sea level, there’s no better place to stare in the awe of Lake Toba than here. Close your day by relaxing on your picnic mat and gazing at lush hills of pine trees and the calming lake waters. 

With good, strong winds from the lake, Huta Ginjang is also a popular place to get your adrenaline pumping by paragliding or hang gliding with marvelous views of Lake Toba. See it from a bird’s eye view and fall a little more in love with the charm, but be sure to visit on weekends if you’re up for this adventure.

Panoramic views at the highlands of Huta Ginjang await, but carry something to keep you warm from the high winds. Photo by Muhammad Fadilla Aulia

Not a big fan of heights? There’s ample space for you to sit and take in the view and even telescopes to view the surroundings from above. Come during the dry season to avoid the fog and watch as the colors of dusk paint the skies over Lake Toba. No spot goes unphotographed at Huta Ginjang and it’s no wonder many come up here for romantic views with their loved ones.

Bright red water tanks of Huta Ginjang to remind you to routinely wash your hands. Photo by Muhammad Fadilla Aulia

A literal breath of fresh air is what you can get at Huta Ginjang and as it is a wide area, social distancing is practiced by default. Right at the entrance, you will be welcomed by the huge water tanks where you can safely wash your hands. You will also be required to pay an entrance fee at the post and as it is cash only, clean those hands with your hand sanitizers for a safe transaction.

Eat this: Indomie at Warung Huta Ginjang

  • Travel time from Huta Ginjang: 2 minutes on foot

Succumb to the guilty pleasure of Indomie, a warm cup of coffee with the best view at Huta Ginjang. Photo by Muhammad Fadilla Aulia

Do as the locals do and enjoy a warm bowl of Indomie to comfort you from the highland winds of Huta Ginjang. Though Indomie needs no further explanation, these instant noodles have become a ubiquitous grub at major tourist destinations and trust us, it tastes so much better when enjoyed from up here.

With the fresh breeze from the surrounding pine trees, it’s all about taking in the view at the humble warungs in Huta Ginjang. Other light bites like fritters and warm beverages can be found here and we promise you it feels like a cozy hug to end your day. Remember to wear your masks at all times and wash your hands before coming in. 

Health & safety protocols to note

Throughout Indonesia, health and safety protocols are strictly enforced. Temperature checks upon entry is the norm across all establishments, including tourist destinations. Don’t forget to bring your vaccine certificates with you or have it ready from the PeduliLindungi app. Masks in public spaces are required all over the country, so double up and always bring extras in your bag.

While some destinations still allow cash, major establishments prefer cashless and card payments so have your e-wallets topped up before you start your itinerary. However, hand washing stations are required to be installed at every establishment, making it easy for you to keep clean after every cash transaction.

As of current, only international travelers on business visas are allowed to enter Indonesia while certain international travelers are allowed to enter Bali. However, domestic travel is open for vaccinated tourists across the archipelago, with a requirement of vaccine certificates and a negative PCR test result for travels by land, water, or air.

Kickstart your trip to wonderful Indonesia right now

This guide is produced in association with Indonesia Travel. 

  • All photography by Muhammad Fadilla Aulia
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