Exploring Pulau Samosir in One Day

Pulau Samosir is an island around the size of Singapore, located in the middle of the world’s largest volcanic lake, Danau Toba. This unique landscape is the result of the largest known volcanic eruption in the past two million years. Around 74.000 years ago this supervolcanic eruption created an enormous caldera which slowly filled with water and is now known as Lake Toba.

Samosir island is one of the main tourist attractions in Sumatra. The blue lake and the steep green hills surrounding it create a picturesque setting around Samosir island. Another aspect which makes Samosir such a unique place are the Batak people and their culture which can be seen all around the island.

The Batak people combine their traditions and the amenities of modern life. Their beautifully decorated traditional wooden houses often have a second concrete building connected to them in the back.   

Large gravesites decorated with typical Batak elements can be seen all around Pulau Samosir. They are an important part of the Batak people’s complex burial rituals.


Getting to Samosir

You have a lot of options on how to get to Samosir island. It all depends on which direction you are coming from and what type of vehicle you are traveling with.

The main tourist area on Samosir is the small village Tuk Tuk with many hotels, restaurants, and a few simple bars. However, if you are like me and prefer to get away from the tourist crowds, there are plenty of simple hotels and camping spots all around the island. I usually book hotels through https://en.tiket.com/, the Indonesian alternative to Agoda or Booking.com.


By car

Samosir is almost connected to the mainland in Pangururan. That’s where you’ll find the only bridge bringing you to the island. Coming from Sidikalang and wanting to explore the western side of Lake Toba before heading to Samosir we opted for that route. There are a lot of beautiful places to explore when driving to Samosir via Tele. Check out this post to find out more.

However, if you’re coming from a different direction, it might be easier and quicker for you to take a ferry from one of the many harbours around Lake Toba. Check out the different routes and ferry schedules on this website. https://samosirkab.go.id/pariwisata/

We took the ferry from Pelabuhan Sipinggan to Muara on our way back to the mainland. If you choose to do the same, make sure to be at the harbour early as the tickets are limited and sold on a first come, first serve basis. I highly recommend taking the ferry at least once. It will save you some time and more importantly, it gives you the change to see this amazing landscape from a different perspective.

By motorbike or on foot

If you are traveling with a motorbike or without a vehicle you have the additional option to take smaller boats to get to the island. One of the popular routes is from Parpat to Tuk Tuk, the main tourist area on Samosir. You can find the different routes on the website shared above. Those boats are labelled as “Kapal Kaya” which means wooden boat. It looks a bit scary, but motorbikes can also be loaded onto the boats by pushing them over narrow wooden planks.


Best places along the route 

We spent several days exploring the area surrounding Lake Toba and just had one day left to drive around Pulau Samosir and to camp on the island. To make the most of our time there we decided to drive along the northern shore of the island and then to cross over it to see more of its inland.  

Route around Pulau Samosir


There are several beaches where you can stop for a swim and relax for a while all around Pulau Samosir. Just follow one of the many “Pantai” signs, pantai of course meaning beach, from the main road. A popular beach with Indonesian tourists is Pantai Ikan Mas with its many selfie-spots and different water sports options. It’s a great place to visit and people-watch for a while. It will give you some insight into how many local families like to spend their holidays.

Museum Huta Bolon Simanindo

This small open-air museum was once the home of the Batak king Rajah Simalungun. The complex includes the king’s house, well preserved royal tombs, and several traditional Batak houses displaying cultural artefacts such as traditional musical instruments and weapons. The traditional Batak dance “Tortor” is regularly performed at this venue. Make sure to check the dance schedule before your visit. A small coffeeshop, set in a beautiful garden, is right next to the museum.  

Location: Click here


Tuk Tuk

Tuk Tuk is a small town located by the lake. It is the area where most tourists decide to stay as it has many restaurants and hotels for all types of budgets. Many hotels are built directly on the shore of the lake with their own little beaches. You can also experience sleeping in a traditional Batak house as many bungalows are built in that style. Tuk Tuk is also a good place if you’re interested in buying local handicrafts such as woodcarvings.

All that said, I think Tuk Tuk is a good starting point for people visiting Pulau Samosir for the first time. It’s easy to get information about places to visit, rent scooters, make future travel arrangements, and meet fellow travellers. However, during my second time on the island I decided to skip Tuk Tuk and search for a campsite instead of staying in the small town.

Location: Click here


Tomok is a small village filled with important historical and cultural landmarks. There are regular traditional Batak dance performances, called Sigale-Gale, around the village. Tourists are often invited to join the dance and give a small donation afterwards. This village is extremely touristy and has a huge market filled with souvenir shops.  

Location: Click here

Credit: @Kumparan

Parhallow Viewpoint

This is a Warung serving drinks and simple Indonesian dishes with beautiful panoramic views over the hills and Lake Toba. It’s a great spot to watch the sunset.

Location: Click here

Credit: @Andalas

Lake Sidihoni

This is a small lake located in the inland of Samosir. You’ll pass it if you cross over the island. It’s known as the lake on an island in another lake. It’s a quiet place and a great option for a camping spot.

Location: Click here

Credit: @Laketoba.travel 

Air Panas Rianiate

These hot springs are open 24 hours and it’s especially nice to soak in the hot water at night-time when the temperatures at the lake drop.

Location: Click here


Camping spot

There are many spots on Samosir where you can set up camp for a night. Some of the beaches offer camp sites or you can look for some empty land if you prefer wild camping. Just make sure to ask for permission if local are nearby. It’s a bit tricky to find empty land near the lake, as a lot of it is private property or farmland. After a long drive, we managed however to find a beautiful spot right by the lake near Desa Saor. It was the perfect spot for us, and the sunset was mind-blowing.

Location: Click here

A little heads-up 

Make sure to bring some warm clothes when visiting Lake Toba. I had to learn this the hard way during my first visit. The lake is situated at an altitude of around 900 meters above sea level, so it gets quite chilly in the evenings.

Can’t get enough of Lake Toba? Have a look at my other blogs about the area.

Must -see places on the eastern side of the lake.

Must -see places on the western side of the lake.

My favourite road at Lake Toba.

Camping at the tallest waterfall in Indonesia.

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