What to see and do around Lake Toba

Living in a crowded city can cause a lot of stress, so going on vacation in an equally packed hot tourist destination might not be the remedy you’re looking for. 

Luckily, there are places like Lake Toba in North Sumatra and its surrounding attractions where you can disconnect from city life: including hills with astounding views, one of the highest waterfalls in Indonesia, and a local market where you can taste fruits fresh from the highlands. Here’s where to go on your Lake Toba trip.

1. Pusuk Buhit – sacred to the Batak people

Pusuk Buhit Toba
Image credit: @andikapriantomanalu

Pusuk Buhit, which loosely translates into “the peak,” has a special place in Batak mythology. The peak of this volcanic mountain is said to be the origin of the Batak people, the region’s ethnic group, so it’s considered to be sacred.

Estimated to have formed 74,000 years ago, it is 1,972 meters high. It takes around 5 hours to get to the top on foot. While it sounds challenging, it’ll definitely be worth the effort.

Climb to the eastern part of Pusuk Buhit to get a stunning view of the sunset from Samosir.

GPS coordinates: 2°38’20.0″N 98°42’54.2″E

2. Gajah Bobok Hill – camp overnight to see the sunrise

Gajah Bobok Hill Toba 1
Image credit: @hendropranata08

While Pusuk Buhit is known for its sunset view, Gajah Bobok Hill, or Bukit Gajah Bobok, is popular for the way it mesmerizes tourists at the crack of dawn. 

Those who like setting up their own tents and while being surrounded by nature will love this corner of the highlands because it’s a go-to camping site. Not only will you be the first to enjoy the sunrise, but you’ll also have the starry night sky to yourself. Plus, no camping fees or registration fees are currently needed.

Gajah Bobok Hill Toba 2
Image credit: @stefanolim11

For those who’re getting hitched soon, Gajah Bobok Hill is also a trendy spot to shoot pre-wedding photos. So if you and your significant other love nature and want to impress your family and friends, you should definitely pay this hill a visit.

GPS coordinates: 2°53’56.9″N 98°30’35.7″E

3. Sipisopiso Waterfall – one of Indonesia’s highest waterfalls

Sipisopiso Waterfall Toba 1
Image credit: @oaygneh

Located in the cool Batak highlands, the 120M high Sipisopiso Waterfall is one of Indonesia’s highest waterfalls. After you purchase a ticket in Tongging, a nearby Batak fishing village, take a stroll from the bottom of the waterfall to get the full experience.

Sipisopiso Waterfall Toba 2
Image credit: @melalakindonesia 

Since it can take some time to walk all the way up, and you might not have much time to spare, you can also enjoy the breathtaking scenery from the top of the waterfall.

Alternatively, if you’re a photographer or a sketcher who wants to admire the waterfall from a distance, there are numerous vantage points in the area. You can take pictures or sketch while having a cup of warm tea.

Admission fee: Rp. 2,300 (~USD 0.16)
GPS coordinates: 2°54’59.9″N 98°31’10.5″E

4. Holbung Hill – get a bird’s eye view of Lake Toba and surrounding mountains

Holbung Hill Toba 1
Image credit:

Holbung is a quaint little village that has attracted a steady flow of visitors for a long time. Its popularity can be explained by Holbung Hill, which is often compared to the hill in the popular children’s show, Teletubbies.

Holbung Hill Toba 2
Image credit: @jeo_faizal 

You can see two distinct views from Holbung Hill. From one side, you’ll see the shimmering surface of Toba Lake and on the other, you’ll see nearby hills and mountains. These sights are worth the 15-minute beginner-friendly trek up the hillside; alternatively, if you’re not much of a trekker, there’s a staircase walkway that leads to the scenic peak.

GPS coordinates: 2°32’05.2″N 98°42’14.9″E

5. Simarjarunjung Hill – a photo-op wonderland

Simarjarunjung Hill Toba 1
Image credit: @muhamadsitorus

Bukit Indah Simarjarunjung, or “Beautiful Simarjarunjung Hill” is, as the name suggests, a real beauty. This spot accommodates travelers who believe in the phrase “photos, or it didn’t happen” as it’s a truly wonderful vantage point. 

Simarjarunjung Hill Toba 2
Image credit: @handokomanatartampubolon 

You can walk around and take photos of your own, but to get the full experience here, you’ll need to pay an extra Rp. 60,000 (~USD4.28) to take photos with props such as nests and swings. Daredevils can get some edgy photos taken, such as by perching on a wooden platform high up in the trees or sitting on a swing that takes you meters above the landscape. There are safety harnesses, so all you need to worry about is how good your smile looks!

Simarjarunjung Hill can get pretty packed during holiday seasons, so be prepared to wait for your turn at the photo spots.

Admission fee: Rp. 20,000 (~USD1.43)
Address: Jalan Simarjarunjung, Butu Bayu Pane Raja, Dolok Pardamean, Simalungun, North Sumatra 21163

6. Tele Observation Tower – a view from way up high

Tele Observation Toba
Image credit: Francis Hartanto

Like Simarjarunjung Hills, the Tele Observation Tower in Samosir is a vantage point ideal for taking panoramic shots or simply enjoying the view of Toba Lake.

Come a little earlier in the day to get a clear view, as it can get quite cloudy in the late afternoon, you can sit around the compound while munching on some snacks from one of the food stalls.

There’s an admission fee to get into the tower, and you’ll have to pay an extra Rp. 5,000 (~USD0.36) to get into the treehouses in the compound.

Admission fee: Rp. 7,000 (~USD0.50)
Address: Turpuk Limbong, Harian, Samosir, North Sumatra 22396

7. Huta Bolon Simanindo Museum – get to know Batak culture and architecture

Huta Bolon Simanindo Museum Toba
Image credit: @komarjohari

Explore the interior of traditional Batak houses at the Huta Bolon Simanindo Museum, which has welcomed the public to these wooden homes with thatched sugar palm fiber roofs since 1969. 

Don’t miss the centerpiece of this unconventional museum, the Huta Bolon Simanindo house that used to belong to King Sidauruk, and is now a cultural treasure that visitors can explore to learn about Batak culture. Artifacts you should also check out include Batak weapons, and if you’re lucky, you might get to see a traditional ceremony. 

Admission fee: Rp. 5,000 (~USD0.36)
Address: Jalan Pelabuhan Simanindo, Simanindo Sangkal, Simanindo, Samosir, North Sumatra 22395
Opening hours: 8AM-5PM, Daily
Telephone: 081396721133

8. Berastagi Fruit Market – taste fresh, locally grown fruit

Berastagi Fruit Market Toba
Image adapted from: @polyna_malyk

Most famous for locally grown oranges and passion fruit, the Berastagi Fruit Market is located between Lake Toba and North Sumatra’s capital, Medan. In addition to fruit, you’ll also find a selection of fresh vegetables.

Open from 8AM to 8PM every day, you’ll meet vendors who are very welcoming and friendly. One thing to note is that even though the fruit is generally reasonably priced, you should brush up on your haggling skills to get the best value for money.

Address: Jalan Gundaling, Tambak Lau Mulgap I, Berastagi, Karo, North Sumatra 22152

Things to do around Lake Toba

Not only can you feel closer to nature by setting foot in the waterfalls and hilly viewpoints of the Lake Toba region, you’ll also have something to bring home aside from the memories, including cool photos from Simarjarunjung Hill and fruit from the Berastagi Market. 

For more Indonesian holiday inspiration, check out: 

Cover image adapted from: @andikapriantomanalu, @oaygneh and @stefanolim11