The island of Samosir, situated in the huge crater lake of Toba, measures 45 km. by 20 km. The island, together with its surrounding areas is the heart of the Toba Batak culture. A visit to Lake Toba is not complete without a stay on Samosir with its many traditional villages along its shoreline. Lake Toba is around 5 hours’ drive from North Sumatra’s capital city, Medan.
On the east side of the island, the land rises steeply from a narrow strip of flat land along the lake’s water edge climbing to a central plateau that towers some 780 m. above the waters. Cycling up to the plateau passing many traditional villages is a pleasant experience, as from this height one can have a wonderful panoramic view on this magnificent blue lake.
Regular ferries ply between Parapat on the mainland and the villages of Tomok and Tuktuk on Samosir. As you step down the ferry at Tomok you will be greeted by a row of sounvenir stalls selling an array of Batak handicraft, from the traditional hand-woven ulos cloths to Batak bamboo calendars and all kinds of knick-knacks.
Tomok itself is a traditional village, best known as the gateway and introduction to Samosir. Here is the large stone sarcophagus of chief Sidabutar. Carved from a single block of stone, the tomb dates back to the early 19th century. The front is carved with the face of a singa – a mythical creature, part water buffalo, part elephant. On the saddle-shaped lid is a small statue of a woman carrying a bowl, believed to represent the wife of the dead chief.
Beautifully painted traditional adat houses stand in a neat row, with their backs to the lake, complemented with rice barns facing the houses. The elaborate Batak designs on these houses form leaves and flowers and are typically colored in black, white and red.
Further north of Tomok is a small peninsula, known as Tuktuk Siadong, - or simply Tuktuk - , best loved for its sandy beaches and beautiful lush scenery. Here the soft lapping blue waters of lake Toba blend with the green pastures where water buffalos graze or work the land. Although offering beaches and opportunities for watersports, yet the air here is cool as it is located high in the mountains. No wonder, therefore, that Tuktuk has become a favorite with tourists, so that here you will find a plethora of small hotels and homestays, restaurants and handicrafts galore.
Further north are the villages of Ambarita and Simanindo. At Ambarita, some four km from Tuktuk are stone furniture, said to have been a place where criminals were sentenced and beheaded.
At Simanindo, 19 km. further north is the elaborately decorated house of Raja Sidauruk, which is now a museum. Here are regularly performed the sigalegale puppet performance. The human sized sigalegale puppet is believed to be a receptacle for the soul of the deceased at funeral rites.
Lake Toba itself is the largest fresh water reservoir in South East Asia stretching 1,100 km. long and is 450 meters at its deepest point. As a crater lake, the result of a mega volcanic explosion some 30,000 years, Lake Toba sits 905 meters above sea level. Seven districts surround lake Toba, they are the districts of Simalungun, Toba Samosir, North Tapanuli, Humbang Hasundutan, Dairi, Karo, and Samosir. Among these, the island of Samosir is definitely the most favored destination for visitors.