Lake Toba: Nature’s Wrath Turned Into Eden

Asia, Indonesia

Sunrise at Lake Toba

Sumatra, about 60,000 – 70,000 years ago, the largest known explosive eruption on Earth in the last 25 million years occurred. Approximately 2,800 km3 of material was released and most of it was blown to the west.  According to some research and measurements, at one site in central India, the Toba ash layer today is up to 6 m thick. The eruption was so massive that it affected global climate and lowered temperature elsewhere on Earth.

Fast forward to more than sixty millennia later, I was sitting on a boat crossing the massive Lake Toba to get to Samosir Island. The landscape looks anything but menacing. It was such a picturesque sight with lush forest behind me and verdant island in front of me while the boat was going through the tranquil water of this expansive lake which sits on an ancient caldera. The air was so fresh and the water was ocean-blue clear. The only thing that kept me from dreaming was the music which was played on the boat throughout the trip from Parapat, a small town on Sumatra at the bank of the lake, to Tuk Tuk (not to be confused with the ubiquitous means of transportation in Southeast Asia) at Samosir Island. Now I can fully comprehend why Lake Toba has become part of the well-trodden Banana Pancake Trail, famous among backpackers as it goes through Southeast Asia’s most interesting places. It exudes a laid-back yet alluring ambiance for anyone visiting. Apart from that, measuring 100 km long and 30 km wide, at some points on Samosir Island Lake Toba looks like a really vast sea.

During my two-night stay at Samosir Island, I spent many hours sitting or laying on the bench with great view of Lake Toba. When I was not closing my eyes, there were lots of interesting things to see. From sparrows chirping on tree branches, egrets catching fish, until a dark cloud which poured down a heavy rain at the other side of the island. It was truly the ultimate place for mind relaxation, indeed, or at least for me.

Lake Toba View from Samosir Island

A Batak Traditional House Overlooking The Lake

Clear Freshwater

School of Fish

A Lonesome Boat

Floating Jetty

Can You See The Rain at The Other Side of The Island?

Related Posts: The Intriguing Culture of Samosir Island, The Legend of Samosir’s First Settlers, Medan: Unexpectedly Interesting

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Based in Jakarta, always curious about the world, always fascinated by ancient temples, easily pleased by food.

38 thoughts on “Lake Toba: Nature’s Wrath Turned Into Eden”

  1. Lady Sparrow says:

    Oh, you’re lucky the sky was quite clear – though I could see some cloud in the last 3 pics, but many people said it is almost always cloudy in Lake Toba. I dropped by the lake on my way back to Medan from Tapanuli Selatan on a work trip. Although I only got to have some coffee at one of the warung, it was such a treat because the road from Tapsel to Parapat was hell!! I’d love to go there again one day, and this time would include a visit to Samosir island.. For all I know, my former boss (who’s English) really loves this place, he goes here every year for a holiday with his family!!

    Btw, there was an extended ‘article’ (a whole newspaper insert) about Lake Toba as part of the Kompas Ring of Fire Expedition a while ago.


    • Actually on my first day it was cloudy, and you’re right, the last 3 pics were taken on that day. But luckily the next morning the sky was clear and beautiful. There are some sections on Medan – Parapat road which need to be re-done, so bad! But from the way you described it, the road from Tapsel to Parapat sounds a lot worse! Samosir is a very beautiful island (I’m writing about this place for my next post) and I wouldn’t mind to come back one day! I really enjoyed my time there.
      Oh I think I missed that article. But the Ring of Fire Expedition is truly amazing!


      • Lady Sparrow says:

        I think you can download the Expedition series as an App if you have iPad…


      • Unfortunately I don’t 😦 I only have an Android phone and as far as I know Kompas hasn’t developed Ring of Fire application for Google Play.


      • Lady Sparrow says:

        Same here! But I think that part was the only one I keep from the whole series.


  2. I love that wispy sheet of rain in the last picture – judging from the waves it looks like it got quite windy while you were there! This certainly feels like an introduction to a great series on Toba and Samosir. Funny how you mentioned the Banana Pancake Trail… coincidentally I had a stack of those this morning for breakfast!


    • You’re right James. It was quite windy and cloudy on my first day there, and the last few pictures were taken at that day. But the next morning the sky was perfect and I had a really great time on Samosir Island. Speaking of the last picture, actually it was my first time ever seeing that kind of thing (or phenomenon). It was so fun looking at how rain pours from afar! Hey, I don’t think it was coincidence. Probably it was a sign for you to go down the trail yourself! And that starts from Laos. 🙂


    • Hi Lauren! Prior to my departure to Lake Toba I did a little research here and there. I remember some information that I read from Lonely Planet, Wikipedia, Wikitravel and other sources. Then before I wrote this post and put some facts in it, I had done some double checks. Don’t miss other stories on this place! (I’m writing them up at the moment) 🙂


      • I’ll be sure to catch up on these stories next month! (off Internet for a bit). Keep on traveling & writing !


      • In which corner of the world are you now? I hope one day you include Indonesia in one of your trips 🙂 Safe travel!


      • In my little corner in CA 🙂 I hope so too And I will call you up if/when I go there!


  3. So beautiful! It looks so relaxing too! I really want to visit Indonesia some day. I bet I would need at least a month or two ! Don’t know when that will happen but someday I hope.


    • Apart from its beauty, the island at the middle of the lake has some of the most intriguing stories (more stories are coming up!). Yes you should go to Indonesia, Nicole! It’s quite safe to say that a month is enough for you to get the highlights of Indonesia (such as Bali, Borobudur Temple, Mount Bromo and Lake Toba). But with two months you’ll definitely be able to explore more (Flores Island, Sulawesi, Borneo, or even Papua!).


      • Ahh….will probably have to wait until the kids are older so I’ll have the time! That is why my trips now are always so short! Someday!


      • I see. Well, I’ll be looking forward to that time! (or you can bring your kids along :)). Anyway, just let me know anytime you go to Indonesia!


      • Likewise! If you ever come to the States, let me know. My problem with traveling with the kids is cost. It has gotten so expensive. Oh well. If I win the lottery, then I will donate almost all and leave a small budget for travel….ha ha.


      • Will do! Oh you’re right. The cost will be too expensive. Well, maybe ten years from now you can finally make it to Indonesia (as time goes by, ten years can pass so fast!).


  4. Pingback: The Intriguing Culture of Samosir Island « What an Amazing World!

  5. Beautiful Bama! Indonesia inches up on my bucket list every time I read one of your posts! Some friends have just returned from a holiday there and have great things to say about it! That last image is amazing! Look forward to reading more.


    • Thanks Madhu! I still have some more stories about those ancient sites that I mentioned in this post. Which part of Indonesia did your friends visit? Just like India, it will take weeks (or probably months!) to explore Indonesia from west to east, north to south 🙂


      • Don’t know their exact itinerary, but they would barely have had time to touch upon the main sites in about two weeks!


  6. Pingback: The Legend of Samosir’s First Settlers « What an Amazing World!

  7. Pingback: Medan: Unexpectedly Interesting « What an Amazing World!

  8. elgatogordo says:

    I am here now for the 2nd time. The road sucks but you can fly and eliminate 2 hours of bus travel. But, it is very small plane, so don’t bring too much stuff. You won’t need it, anyway. Luggage storage everywhere, but not Polonia Airport (I think). If you come here, just go. Don’t put too much faith in reviews. comments and photos.. Just go-it is a piece of cake.


  9. Lord Barrington says:

    I recently spent 29 days on Lake Toba, and went to Bangkok (again). Big mistake! Songhkran Festival. I made a fast exit and I am now in Vientiane. Big difference. But, I enjoyed Lake Toba immensely and I am going back in a month or so. Not many places like that, anywhere.


    • Spending 29 days on Lake Toba is really amazing! That is one of the places I would go back in a heartbeat. I miss the tranquility and the friendliness of the locals, and also the food! Have another great time there next month!


      • Lord Barrington says:

        Well, there is one ‘qualifying’ factor about next month. And that is Lao. Not to be missed ever. I came her a few years ago, simply for a Thai visa-run. Never again. And never Thailand again. This is where (my) ‘it’ is at. But, I locked the gate–and you can not come to Lao.


  10. Pingback: Angin Danau Toba | Listen, The Spice Whispers

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