Lake Toba’s remarkable size has drawn fascination for years, but its the lake’s sublime surroundings that’s enchanting tourists to this hidden paradise.
The great caldera that is Lake Toba was a result of a massive, volcanic eruption some 70,000 years ago. That’s how Putra, the friendly local guide, described the dramatic event, which at first was hard to digest, describes Travel Guide’s photographer Regie Angeles. How can such a devastating act of nature give rise to an idyllic paradise? And what impact has it left on the lives of the locals?
It didn’t take long until some answers emerged, but first, this journey to the lake, or danau as Indonesians call it, should start with a fitting prelude. That is how Medan City became a springboard for the days to come.
Lake Toba’s incredibly calm waters.
Medan City, the multicultural capital of Sumatra, is the main access point for travellers via the Kuala Namu International Airport. Our group from Singapore was lucky to have ample time roaming the capital, seeing bits of its cultural and natural histories in the Maimoon Palace, Tjong A Fie Mansion, and Rahmat International Wildlife Museum & Gallery. These landmarks show the richness of the island in a lot of ways.
Tjong A Fie Mansion, also known as “the historical Jewel of Medan.”
The group moved on to Silangit International Airport early next morning and finally arrived on the fringes of Lake Toba. We marked the start of our trails at Onan Runggu, a sprawling village of pineapple plantations and rice farms, picking and tasting golden pineapples and soaking in the gentle breeze. We took a lengthy walk from the farm all the way to Salib Kasih, meaning “Cross of Love,” which stands at the peak of a quiet hill.
The 31-meter-high crucifix structure, shrouded with pine trees, commemorates the missionary work of German pastor Ludwig Ingwer Nommensen. The breezy peak of the hill hosts retreats and spiritual camps for Christian worshippers while the visiting faithful can enter into the prayer room. A quick pitstop at the Sipoholon Hot Spring eased down a day of activities as we called an end to the day at a restful homestay amid the lake.
Salib Kasih, meaning Cross of Love, is a monument that has a prayer room at its foot.
Unfolding on the third day of the trip was the climax, Huta Ginjang. For photographers, the high-altitude estuary, about 1,200 meters above sea level, is a coveted shooting spot, the perfect viewpoint for a breathtaking nature panorama. An air of anticipation filled our vehicle as it made its way towards the peak. When we got there, Lake Toba’s picturesque view took our breath away. The gentle breeze, the beautiful hills, and the calm waters are what we were there to witness. There’s no more wondering why Indonesia eyes recognition for Lake Toba as a UNESCO Geopark; it easily checks all the right boxes.
Huta Gunjang came as the glorious window to the next scenic spots on our list: Bakkara Valley, Janji Waterfall, and King Sisingmangaraja Palace. Traversing through the valleys presented more of nature’s abundance with the endless shades of lush greens greeting us outside the car window.
The traditional architecture of King Sisingmangaraja Palace.
Great coffee comes with a pleasing aroma that delights even non-drinkers like me. In Sumatra, perhaps across the Indonesian islands, coffee is the beverage of choice. The fertile land of the volcanic mountains, enjoying tropical weather, is in an ideal condition for coffee farming. This just proves why Nagasaribu Lintong Coffee and the other growers thrive in the location. As for a lasting memory and homage to the Batak people who safeguard Lake Toba and Sumatra, we were led to Batak TB Silalahi Center. It’s a modern museum that unifies the different Batak clans, their principles, and ways of living that have brought immense value to their homeland.
Getting to Lake Toba
From Singapore Changi Airport, take a short connecting flight to Kuala Namu International Airport in Medan City. Upon arrival, transfer to Silangit International Airport in Siborong-Borong District for another short trip. From there, Parapat, the town of Lake Toba, is about 30 minutes away by land.
Travel Guide would like to thank the Ministry of Tourism of the Republic of Indonesia and the local travel outfits for putting together another extraordinary trip.
This article was first published on Travel Guide Issue No. 53 in collaboration with Wonderful Indonesia Tourism Office. View the e-copy of the magazine by clicking here.