Panoramas of North Sumatra and Lake Toba

The jetty at Parapat, where most visitors embark on a short boat ride to Samosir Island.

Visitors to North Sumatra have been extolling the beauties of Lake Toba for decades, and this is the first time I had a chance to experience it for myself. Danau Toba is one of the world's largest volcano lakes, formed after a mega-eruption on the island of Sumatra tens of thousands of years ago. What we have is a very scenic and relatively unspoilt destination, visited mostly by Indonesians and Southeast Asian tourists (with none of the avarice that Caucasians bring out from the locals). The portal of entry is the city of Medan, just an hour's flight from Singapore. However its a 5-hour car ride through rugged country roads (no highways to speak of) lined by rubber and oil palm estates. Once one reaches the lake at the town of Parapat, the true beauty of Lake Toba is unveiled. 

A view of Parapat from the lake.

Boats and ferries ply between the towns of Parapat and Tomok and Tuktuk, two coastal  towns on Samosir Island.
 
A most delightful view of the Samosir Island town of Tomok. The island, located in the centre of Lake Toba, is dotted with churches like this (the Toba Batak inhabitants are mostly Christian and Catholics), which give it a resemblance of a parish in Austria or Switzerland. The sheer volcanic cliff in the background, site of several plunging waterfalls, makes it look a bit like Hawaii. Switzerland and Hawaii in Indonesia, its a novel idea!

The earlier generations of Toba Bataks were animists, which explain the number of  idol statues at the cemetery of King Sidabuta at Tomok, on Samosir Island.
 
The jetty at Tomok, on the return trip to Parapat.

A hotel with a view: Lake Toba from Hotel Niagara on the hills of Parapat.

A view of Lake Toba from its northernmost end.


The spectacular bridal veil waterfall of Sipisopiso at the northernmost end of  Lake Toba, as it plunges from the Karo Plateau into a deep canyon.

The marketplace of Berastagi, a hill station on the road from Lake Toba to Medan.

The smoking volcano of Mount Sinabung near Berastagi, from the plush grounds of the Grand Mutiara Hotel.

Istana Maimoen, the official home of the Sultan of Medan.