The 15 Most Awesome Things to do in Lake Toba (An Insider’s List)

It’s not hard to find things to do in Lake Toba. Whether you’re a thrill seeker or a chill seeker, you’ll find something to float your boat here (quite literally, actually.)

The problem for most travellers is lacking the time to really explore a destination. If you’ve got a few weeks to spare, you can wander around and discover the best spots yourself. But it’s more likely you’ll only have a few days to get the most from your trip.

Luckily for you (and us!), we’ve had the pleasure of spending weeks or months at a time soaking up the Batak vibes in Lake Toba over the last five years. We’ve discovered all our favourite things to do in Lake Toba, and share some of our top activities with you below.

If you need more inspo and info on Lake Toba, visit our Ultimate Guide to Lake Toba.

Meanwhile, in this insider’s guide, we share our favourite things to do in Lake Toba; where to eat, what to see, and where to go to have an unforgettable time.

2024 UPDATE!
We have now lived in Lake Toba for two years, so we have created a much more comprehensive Top 50 Things To Do In Lake Toba blog AND a matching video!
Check them out below.

Discover our 50 Top Things to Do in Lake Toba!

Contents

1. Catch the Live Music at Roy’s Pub

Our top thing to do in Lake Toba is to hang out with the gang at Roy’s Pub for some live music.

Roy’s Pub is a Samosir Island icon; a rustic, loveable, and cool-without-even-trying venue that makes you feel right at home the minute you walk in the door.

The pub itself is open every Friday and Saturday night. Fridays are a bit quieter but no less enjoyable. On these nights, you’re more likely to hear a lot of local or acoustic music, but requests are welcome.

For a bit more of a boogie, head out there on Saturday nights. You’ll hear everything from Bruno Mars and Queen to Metallica and Led Zeppelin – with local tunes and blues thrown in for good measure.

Jajabi Band is the in-house band, but there are often guest musicians. You can make requests or even get up on stage if you fancy yourself a star.

Even if you’re not there on live music nights, there’s a super-cute coffee shop (Roy’s Coffee) out the front which is open in the during the day. 

We’ve spent many a fantastic night at Roy’s Pub. It’s friendly and safe – even for solo female travellers, so put it at the top of your list!

Check them out on Facebook here: Roy’s Pub

2. Walk Around Tuktuk Village

Even though Tuktuk village is a “touristy” spot, it’s still so beautiful and quiet (unless you are here during a public holiday, and then it’s a little more chaotic!)

We loved this village when we first visited a decade ago, and things have changed a lot – the roads are better, there are footpaths and more buildings around – but it’s still delightful to walk around!

Say hi to the village dogs and cats, stop for a coffee, juice or Bintang, look at all the cool flowers, chat with the lovely locals, and just soak up these stunning village vibes while you’re here.

3. Eat Pizza at Jenny’s

There’s no shortage of quality restaurants in Tuk Tuk, and no shortage of pizza places either! Unlike many areas of Sumatra, the cheese isn’t made of plastic and the pizzas are delicious. As huge pizza fans, we’ve tried many spots in Tuk Tuk, and Jenny’s remains our favourite.

It’s not just the pizza though, all the food at Jenny’s is delicious, and it’s got quite a name for itself – particularly for the seafood.

Foodies looking for things to do in Lake Toba should try and eat here at least once. There’s free wifi and even cocktails, so wander over and peruse the menu!

4. Sample the Local Tuak

A beer glass filled with tuak (light brown/cream liquid)

If you’re observant, you’ll probably notice that many of the men (sometimes joined by women) in Tuk Tuk start gathering at small shops around 5 pm until late. It’s a daily ritual that sees them all congregate at the local tuak bars to drink this distinctive alcoholic beverage.

While we’re not suggesting that every tourist should invite themselves to one of these watering holes, if you’re lucky enough to get an invite, take the opportunity. You’ll find a welcoming community enjoying a drink and often singing some beautiful Batak songs.

What is tuak? It’s palm wine, which is consumed throughout most of Sumatra. Basically, it’s the sap collected from a kind of palm tree and fermented. Like durian, for some, it’s an acquired taste, while others instantly like it.

Ask a friendly local if you can buy some. Don’t be surprised when it’s delivered to you in a plastic bag; this is the standard method of delivery.

A word to the wise: tuak is quite strong and can be a bit harsh on the old gut, so if you’re not a regular drinker, start off slowly with this one!

5. Get the Best Views in Tuktuk from Reggae Guesthouse

A ferry crossing Lake Toba in North Sumatra

One of our favourite things to do in Lake Toba is stare mesmerised out across that enormous expanse of water. The best spot to do this in Tuk Tuk is from the restaurant balcony at Reggae Guesthouse.

We think this place has the best views on the peninsula. Not only can you see out to the horizon, but the sheltered bay on one side framed by bougainvillea blooms is so beautiful it looks like someone dreamed it up.

We always stay at this guesthouse when we visit Tuktuk. The room views are just as stunning, and it’s a peaceful, idyllic area.

Drop in here – particularly at sunset – grab a beer, and soak up the serenity. Make sure you tell Auntie that Charlie and Agung said hi. And if you’re a fan of tofu – order the tofu sambal; it’s out of this world.

Want to spend a few days (or weeks!) at Lake Toba? Check out our in-depth guide to the Best Hotels in Lake Toba.

6. Hire a Scooter and Get Lost

Someone riding a pink scooter wearing a pink helmet down a long empty road fringed by greenery

Samosir Island is a haven for scooter drivers. A good many roads in Sumatra are for the very brave (crazy) – or experienced rider only – or those with a death wish. But the roads on Samosir are generally quiet and calm.

Over the last few years, many of the major roads have been repaired and fixed up, so they’re easy to navigate even for beginners.

You can pick up a scooter in Tuktuk for around 100,000-120,000 per day, and just follow your nose. If you have buns of steel, head around the entire island. It’ll probably take you a good 5 or 6 hours with stops along the way.

Do wear helmets; there are police stops around Samosir and helmets are required. Plus, there are still a lot of erratic drivers here. Take it slow, toot the horn frequently, and enjoy the journey.

You can find a plethora of things to do in Lake Toba when you have your own set of wheels. As well as getting to some of the sites listed here, just take the opportunity to explore!

Choose those roads that aren’t shown on Google Maps and go on an adventure. This is a safe thing to do in Lake Toba, and you’ll get a genuine glimpse into authentic life on the island, as well as the most spectacular scenery.

7. Head to the Hills Above Tomok

Girl in red dress standing in wooden pagoda with bright red flowers on top. Scenic lake views in the background

Shoot through the tourist-oriented main street of Tomok and head up the mountain. The scenery is gorgeous. You’ll see buffalos lounging in mud baths, rice fields to rival the best in Bali, pine tree forests, Batak architecture, waterfalls, and more.

There are plenty of viewpoints to stop off and appreciate the enormous lake sprawling below, plus you’ll find Danau Aek Natonang, a cool lake (on an island in a lake on an island!)

Tip – Bring a warm, long-sleeved top or sarong and a raincoat. It can get chilly up there!

8. Visit King Sidabutar's Tomb

This site ain’t got nothing on the Great Pyramids of Egypt, but it’s an interesting place to stop at if you’re in the area, which you probably will be.

King Sidabutur was, according to legend, the first king of Tomok.  His carved tomb can be seen alongside other tombstones in this small cemetery.

There is very little signage explaining what you see, so you’ll probably get more out of the experience if you bring a local guide to talk you through the history.

You’ll find the cemetery of the Batak King and his clan in Tomok, just behind the main souvenir shopping area. 

9. Discover the Shoreline Beyond Ambarita

Drone shot of white sand beach with crystal water

Enjoy a less hilly ride when you head in the other direction to Tomok. You’ll pass stunning churches, traditional Batak houses, deserted “beaches,” and buckets more culture.

For more touristy things to do in Lake Toba, visit Pasir Putih (White Sand Beach) and the Batak Museum at Simanindo. You can catch a show here to see traditional dancing and learn more about the culture.

10. Visit Huta Siallagan and the Stone Chairs

Beautiful wooden houses with tradtional peaked Batak roofs

When you pass through Ambarita, you’ll see the ancient Siallagan village, now a tourist attraction.

Surrounded by a stone wall, the village contains several traditional houses, but most notably, chairs and a table carved out of stone.

These stone artifacts – or Batu Parsidangan – are an estimated two centuries old. One of the sets was used as a meeting place, the other for official executions. Again, this is quite a touristy little spot, but that doesn’t take away from the rich history contained within.

As far as Batak history goes, this is one of the more interesting – and gruesome – sites you can visit. You won’t need much time there, but squeeze it in as part of your itinerary to learn about the cannibalistic past of the Batak people.

11. Go Waterfall Hunting

There are several notable waterfalls in Lake Toba, but visiting one might be a bit weather dependent. At certain times of year, the waterfalls in the immediate area disappear entirely. Even after a couple of days with no rain, some of them may be nothing more than a trickle.

From the famous – and massive – Sipisopiso on the way to Lake Toba to Situmurun Waterfall which cascades from the mainland into the lake, there are endless options for the waterfall lover in you.

Follow your nose or ask around to find them, or head across to our Best Waterfalls in Lake Toba guide.

12. Eat Some Truly Excellent Local Food

There are so many fantastic places to eat here in Lake Toba. Head to a local warung (small eatery) and partake in some local cuisine. 

For breakfast, there’s Lontong, rice compressed into a cake, served with egg, veggies and tasty sauce (beware – like many Indonesian dishes, this is spicy!)

Nasi Bungkus is another favourite – pretty much any small warung serves up a mix of rice, vegetables, meat, eggs, and spicy sambal. Dine in or get it “bungkus” (wrapped to go in brown paper).

Then of course, there’s the Batak food to try – spicy, tasty arsik (a fish dish), chicken napinadar, babi panggang (BBQ pork) and much more.

This cuisine is heavy on the meat, but don’t fret if you’re vegetarian or vegan: there are plenty of places in the area that are catered to you. Check some of our faves out in our Top Restaurants in Tuktuk post.

13. Hit the Lake

person in bright yellow kayak on still blue waters with steep hills in the background

With such an expanse of clear, fresh water just waiting for you to dive in, it’d almost be rude not to enjoy it, don’t you think!?

Whether you launch yourself into the mirrored waters on a rope swing, gently paddle around the shore on a kayak, or truly destroy the serenity by being towed behind a speedboat on a giant inflatable, the lake is yours for the taking.

Most homestays will either have a kayak or stand-up paddleboard for you to hire, or direct you to somewhere that does. The same goes for jet skis and speedboats.

For a slightly more serene water experience, there are cruises that sedately explore the lake on the larger, colourful boats.

Often, they’ll have live music and food provided as part of the experience. Ask your homestay, or pop into Jenny’s Restaurant to ask about their tour; although it is dependent on numbers.

14. Visit Tele Tower

You’ll have to go a bit further afield for this one, but if you have time, it’s well worth the journey. Tele Tower is a stunning viewpoint over on the mainland, and the journey there is every bit as awe-inspiring as the landscapes on arrival.

Take a scooter if your butt can handle it, or hire a car and driver to head across to the mainland from Pangururan. You’ll climb twisting and turning mountainous roads and won’t be able to resist stopping at least a few times on the way for incredible photo ops.

Once at the top, the eagle-eye view of the lake and surrounding areas from the three-level tower are gorgeous.

15. Take a Hike

Lake Toba is a hiker’s dream – in theory. Those incredible natural surroundings will have you lacing up your sneakers and looking for the nearest trail. Which is kind of the problem; there aren’t a lot of clearly marked trails, and very little info out there on where to go.

However, the local community in Tuk Tuk are working hard to change that! Over the last year, Annette from the lovely Tabo Cottages has been hard at work identifying and planning hikes and putting signage up in the area.

We recommend popping in to chat with her or her team to find info on suitable hikes near Tuk Tuk.

If you want to go further afield, there are several well-trodden options.

Bukit Holbung (Holbung Hill)

This is an Insta-favourite which only takes 10-15 minutes to wander up. You’ll get “Sound of Music” type views, but probably won’t have the place to yourself.

You can also camp here. However, it is a fair way away from Tuk Tuk, so if that’s home base, give yourself a few hours to scooter across to the mainland from Pangururan and reach the hill.

Pusuk Buhit

Offering more of a challenge, this is a sacred spot, legendary birthplace of the first Batak King. Hiking to the top takes anything from three to five hours, but isn’t a particularly strenuous climb. Again, you’ll need to travel towards Pangururan to start this trek.

FIND THIS BLOG HELPFUL?

We create all our content for free, to help travellers like you have the time of their lives in this amazing place. If you’d like to support us to keep creating Sumatra content, you can make a small, one-time donation at the secure link below. Terima kasih! (Thank you!)

These blogs are awesome too - have a read!

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. Terrell

    Thank you for the insight, I’m planning on travelling all through Indonesia this coming july, and will be spending 4-5 days at tuktuk village. Can’t wait to explore it!

    1. Carly

      Hey! So great to hear that you’ll be visiting this part of the world in July – it really is a fantastic destination! Hope this blog helps you figure out the places you’d like to see (and our newer version with the top 50 things to do that we link to as well). Happy travels!

  2. ruud looijmans

    This blog sucks in enormous quantities. It’s more a payed recommendation to certain guesthouses and bars. I normally don’t react to blogs, but this one annoyed me so much, i had to

    1. Carly

      Hi Ruud! Thanks for your feedback. We will admit this is a much older blog from when we hadn’t explored as much of Lake Toba. However, it is 100% personal recommendations of places we loved and highly enjoyed visiting or experiencing. If only it was paid haha – things don’t really work like that here in Sumatra. I can assure you that if we ever were paid to give a review or recommendation it would be 100% honest and we would disclose that. You may have noticed at the top of this blog that we have an updated, much more comprehensive list of the top 50 things to do in Lake Toba. Perhaps this might suit your needs more? Of course, there are some restaurants and bars listed in that one too, because many visitors do appreciate tips on good places to eat or spend time. All the best for your trip planning!

  3. Andrasch Neunert

    What is missing?
    1. Visit Laster Jony’s Guesthouse in the evening, if you don’t enjoy staying there already – and lean back: You have best chances to listen or be part of a little or bigger group of musicians sharing Batak Songs, Reggae and American Folk Songs in a great session until deep at night with Bintang, Barbecue and making new friends. Maybe the night you catch will be unforgettable!
    2. Visit Batuhoda Beach and forget all you think to know about the perfect beach club. You will find something completely different, with maximum charme, minimum perfection – and you will love it.
    3. Go to the football stadium of Tuktuk near Roys Pub at 5pm. The young guys will meet there for playing til around 6.30. Join them and make new friends. Or watch the enthusiasm of these young talents!
    4. Look for a quiet place at the lake for sunrise. Watch the fishermen starting their work and the begin of the daily life on the lake. When you go home, you will feel nothing but peace inside you…

    1. Carly

      Hi Andrasch, lovely to hear from you! These are fantastic additions!! Thanks for sending them through. Laster Jony’s is a great place and love hearing them get the guitars out for a singalong! I don’t think we’ve been to Batuhoda beach, so will definitely add that to our list for next time. And yes to the soccer and sunrise recommendations 😀
      So looking forward to discovering more to add to this list over the years!

Share your thoughts with us