Medan to Jakarta via Lake Toba

A visit to the points of interest of Medan, Sumatra including the Mosque of Medan, the Maimun Palace and Lake Toba before traveling to Jakarta.

Medan is the capital city of the island of Sumatra in Indonesia.  Medan offers the following points of interest for tourists and photographers;

  • The Great Mosque of Medan (Masjid Raya Al-Mashun), Sri Deli Park
  • Maimun Palace
  • Our Lady of Good Health Church
  • Sri Mariamman Temple
  • Trips to Berastagi and the Instagrammable Natural Park Lumbini
  • Trips to Lake Toba
  • Trips to Bukit Lawang Orangutan viewing center

Hotels in Medan are very cheap, you can find famous luxury hotel chains at very low prices.

Great Mosque of Medan (Masjid Raya Al Mashun)

Great Mosque of Medan (Masjid Raya Al Mashun)

Completed in 1909, the Great Mosque of Medan is over 100 years old.  What makes this mosque unique is that it was designed by the Dutch who were in Indonesia at that time.  The marble was imported from Italy, Germany and China, the stained glass windows were imported from France.  The mosque was designed to look more elegant than the Maimun Palace (below) which I think it does.  If you visit the mosque when it’s raining you can get a wonderful reflection shot.

Maimun Palace, Medan

Maimun Palace, Medan

The Maimun Palace is the Royal Palace of the Sultanate of Deli.  The palace is very Instagrammable but unfortunately my photo does not do it justice.  There was a huge fair going on when I visited which meant the gardens were full of huge tents (above left).

In Indonesia it’s incredibly cheap to hire a car and driver to take you wherever you want.  I chose to go to Lake Toba for a couple of days.  Lake Toba is a volcanic lake, located in the caldera of a super volcano.  The drive from Medan to Lake Toba takes 3 hours and you’ll pass endless rubber tree plantations on the way.  You could stop in the town of Berastagi on the way where you can visit a few interesting sites.  Notable sites in Berastagi  are Sipiso-piso waterfall and the Natural Park Lumbini.

Parapat, Lake Toba

Parapat, Lake Toba

Parapat is a small village on the edge of Lake Toba.  In Parapat you’ll find a market, a few hotels and boats offering rides to Lake Toba Island (Samosir).  I stayed at Parapat which is a small village on the edge of Lake Toba.  The other popular place to stay is Tuk Tuk which is located on Samosir Island in the middle of Lake Toba.

I didn’t see many good eating options in Parapat, I’d recommend looking for restaurants in the hotels.

Lake Toba, Sumatra

Lake Toba, Sumatra

Lake Toba is nominated to be a UNESCO world heritage site but has not yet been classified as one.  Here are some Lake Toba facts;

  • Largest volcanic lake in the world
  • Largest lake in Indonesia
  • Known as Danau Toba in Indonesian
  • It occupies a caldera of a super volcano
  • The super volcano last erupted over 74,000 years ago, this is known as the Toba eruption
  • Most humans on earth were killed during the last eruption and following volcanic winter
  • The Toba eruption was the most recent eruption of a super volcano
  • The large island in the middle of Lake Toba is called Samosir Island
  • Lake Toba is located close to the great Sumatran fault line
  • The super volcano is active
  • The local people are Bataks

There are many boats located on the banks of Lake Toba in Parapat and Tuk Tuk which you can hire.  The boat drivers know where to take tourists and you must negotiate a price which will be very cheap.  You can alternatively organize a boat tour with your hotel which will be a little more expensive but with a driver trusted by the hotel.

Batak Museum, Lake Toba

Batak Museum, Lake Toba

The local people who live around Lake Toba and North Sumatra are known as Batak people.  Located on the Samosir island in the middle of Lake Toba is the Batak Museum where you can learn more about their culture, customs and history.  The Batak houses are an unusual design (above).  They are designed so the back of the house is higher than the front.  The children will sleep at the back of the house to signify they must reach higher than their father in life.  The number of steps leading to the door signifies how many children the family wishes to have.  As you enter the house through the low doorway you must bow showing respect to those already inside.

Behind the Batak museum is a path which leads up to a beautiful viewpoint of the lake.

Batak Museum, Lake Toba

Batak Museum, Lake Toba

There are sets of stone seats and benches at the Batak museum.  The first set was a conference area for Batak kings (above).  The second set of stones seats is where the rajas would make judgement over a criminal or prisoner.  The final set of stones seats is similar to those above but has a central stone which was for executions.  You can pose for pictures on these stones but respect the brutal history.

From Lake Toba my driver took me back to Medan which meant I could continue my journey on to Jakarta.

From Medan I traveled to Jakarta by bus which is a long 2 day journey.  It leaves Medan late afternoon and arrives in Jakarta 2 days later in the evening.  I traveled to Jakarta with Putra Pelangi, you can buy your ticket from their office in Medan.  The bus is quite luxurious and better than I thought it would be.  Putra Pelangi have an Instagram account (above) which has lots of images of their fleet of buses.

An alternative to the bus from Medan to Jakarta is the ferry.  Pelni Ferries offer a direct service from Medan (Belawan) to Jakarta.  You can buy tickets for the ferry and check the schedule in the office in Medan.

Jakarta to Yogyakarta

2017-07-20T17:18:11+00:00July 15th, 2017|Asia, Indonesia|35 Comments


  1. Ada July 17, 2017 at 10:24 am - Reply

    Sound like you had a great trip! I am actually looking for recommendation near KL and Singapore to fit in in my travel and I was thinking about Medan! Its great you can hire a car with a driver so you can explore more instead of focusing on driving. Lake Toba looks great! Love your photos!

  2. Casey July 17, 2017 at 1:29 pm - Reply

    Medan and Lake Toba are interesting destinations in Sumatra. I would have never would have known about these places before reading this! The fact that the Toba eruption was the last eruption of a super volcano on earth and nearly wiped out mankind is quite scary.

  3. Sanne July 17, 2017 at 2:14 pm - Reply

    Unfortunately I ended up in hospital with dengue fever when I was traveling in Indonesia so I didn’t see half as much as I would have liked. Lake Toba sounds like a place I would have enjoyed though. The largest volcanic lake in the world is an impressive title!

  4. Archana July 18, 2017 at 7:58 am - Reply

    I had been to Indonesia before a couple of times but i had not been to Lake Toba. In fact, i didn’t even know that it is nominated to be a UNESCO world heritage site. I am visiting Indonesia soon and I hope see the largest volcanic lake in the world.

  5. Umberta July 18, 2017 at 11:39 am - Reply

    2 whole days on the bus, it seems so long!! 😉 Otherwise it looks like a great trip, your pics are beautiful! I particularly like the Great Mosque of Medan with the reflection. Lake Toba looks like such a unique place to visit and the fact that it’s the largest volcanic lake in the world is incredible.

  6. Suma July 18, 2017 at 3:34 pm - Reply

    The Grand Mosque looks stunning! Definitely want to visit Lake Toba when I visit Indonesia next. There are some interesting facts about Lake Toba such as it’s the biggest volcanic lake in the world, wow!.

  7. Elena July 18, 2017 at 8:27 pm - Reply

    My friend is traveling around Asia now, and I couldn`t join her this time and seeing this photos I understand what I am missing.

  8. Riely July 19, 2017 at 3:08 am - Reply

    Batak Museum, Lake Toba seems like a great point of interest to learn about the Batak peoples history, culture and customs. The Batak houses’ architecture is really interesting. I never read about a home representing the family’s customs quite like this. Definitely worth the visit to Lake Toba.

  9. Mariella July 19, 2017 at 3:46 am - Reply

    I couldn’t agree more with Suma – The Great Mosque of Medan looks absolutely stunning. Accommodations goals to its finest 🙂 ! Thank you for sharing your experience, looks like a great place to explore. Now that I know Lake Toba is nominated to be a unesco world heritage site, I am curious about learning more about it. Safe travels. – Mariella

  10. Iza Abao July 19, 2017 at 10:09 am - Reply

    The Grand Mosque of Medan is gorgeous. Lake Toba sounds like a fascinating place to explore. The story about the Batak houses is very interesting. I wonder if the parents have daughters instead of sons, would they encourage the daughters to reach something higher than what the mothers have accomplished?

  11. My Travelogue by Bhushavali July 19, 2017 at 11:52 am - Reply

    The white and blue reminds me of Greek buildings! Indeed it was clever to visit during rains and the shot with reflection is stunning. Interesting to know about Lake Toba. Volcanic lake that’s 74000 years old??? The super volcano is still active??? Whoa! That’s old and thrilling!!!

  12. Rahul Khurana July 19, 2017 at 1:02 pm - Reply

    Medan looks really an interesting place to visit. Loved the design of the mosque and the palace as it has very vibrant colours. Stunning architecture. Enjoyed reading the facts about Lake Toba and the roof of the Museum looks so cool. 🙂

  13. Lisa July 20, 2017 at 2:12 pm - Reply

    I take your word when you say you the Maiman Palace is wonderful. Sometimes my photos don’t do the places any justice either! Never heard of Lake Toba, but interesting to know it’s the largest volcanic lake in the world. Batak Museum looks really authentic, and my kind of place to visit.

  14. Suzanne July 20, 2017 at 2:13 pm - Reply

    I was surprised to learn that the mosque was designed by the Dutch! How very strange! I would love to visit Lake Toba but I’m a bit cautious because you said the super volcano is still active! When did it last erupt?

  15. David July 20, 2017 at 6:43 pm - Reply

    This is very interesting! It sounds like I will have to take a trip to Lake Toba. I find it amazing that the last time the super volcano erupted, most of the humans living a that point were killed! I can only imagine how big the eruption was! It will also be cool to say i’ve been beside the super volcano haha! Great read!

  16. Agnes July 20, 2017 at 7:19 pm - Reply

    I have only visited Bali in Indonesia but there is so much more left to see. The Great Mosque of Medan is impressive. I cannot really imagine a two day trip on a bus but the bus looks actually pretty comfortable and spacious, is that right? And I guess taking the bus is more affordable.

  17. Lydia July 20, 2017 at 10:37 pm - Reply

    Never been here but I got delighted to read that you opted for a driver than driving. When travel matters, I can relate……… Medan and Lake Toba look like nice places from what you’ve written.

  18. Tania Mukherjee July 21, 2017 at 9:03 am - Reply

    The mosque wet in the rain looks so dazzling and other worldly. I have never been on a 2-day long bus journey, I wonder how I will perform if ever I do it. Thanks for such an informative post! 🙂

  19. Manjulika Pramod July 21, 2017 at 12:30 pm - Reply

    Great Mosque of Medan looks beautiful in blue and white. I have been to Indonesia but U missed doing Lake Toba.
    Thanks for listing down so many interesting things about it. Now there is no reason to miss it if I ever get a chance to go there.

  20. aareeba July 21, 2017 at 2:45 pm - Reply

    Wow as always, I love your pictures and the way you describe everything in detail. I never knew about this place if i have not stopped by here. I totally love the mosque and palace .<3

  21. Tatum Skipper July 21, 2017 at 9:10 pm - Reply

    Wow those hotels look amazing! I’ve never even heard about this place but I feel most parts of Indonesia are equal parts -cheap and beautiful-! The markets in Indonesia are some of my favorite in the world. So many diverse things to pick up and take home!

  22. Kate July 22, 2017 at 12:11 pm - Reply

    The mosques and palaces are so beautiful! I’m trying to talk myself into a solo trip to Indonesia. Still seems a little daunting. Seems like car rentals are the way to go?

    • James Smith July 23, 2017 at 6:19 am - Reply

      Yes, car rental with driver, it’s very cheap.

  23. Stephanie July 22, 2017 at 1:19 pm - Reply

    Medan and Lake Toba look so amazing along with its history. The Toba Super Volcano history was one I didn’t know and is still very active. Must be one on the ring of fire. Great photos! Thanks for sharing…I pinned this for later.

  24. Lolo July 22, 2017 at 2:22 pm - Reply

    Medan looks liked a very interesting city to visit, I love the Grand Mosque. I would love to make the trip out to Lake Toba the largest volcanic lake in the world!! I’ve never heard of Batak culture or people but the Batak museum looks interesting.

  25. Pam July 23, 2017 at 5:29 am - Reply

    I believe Medan would be a great wrap-up side trip/reward for my upcoming visit to Indonesia. The Batak culture sounds rich and vibrant, and there are plenty of things to see and experience. I’d love to see the largest volcanic lake in the world, Lake Toba, this is a real bucket list item!

  26. Jean July 23, 2017 at 10:42 am - Reply

    The Great Mosque of Medan of looks amazing. I had no idea it was designed by Dutch! How bizzare. One day I’ll pack my bags and get to see the largest volcanic lake in the world. Another item to add to the list.

  27. Garth July 23, 2017 at 3:09 pm - Reply

    Good timing, me and Phil were only just talking today wether we should start planning a trip to Indonesia! It’s fascinating how much the Dutch influenced places around the world, the mosque is beautiful. The Batak houses have a unique design too, looks like a great place to explore, thanks for sharing your story.

  28. Andrew July 24, 2017 at 8:49 am - Reply

    We didn’t make it to Sumatra but it looks lovely! I love Lake Toba and the facts you gave make me want to travel there! As I am still in Indonesia and know there is still more I want to see if this country, I have pinned this post!

  29. Rachelle July 24, 2017 at 9:17 pm - Reply

    Lake Toba seems like it should be on my destinations list. And that blue mosque is absolutely gorgeous! Cool tip about the boat drivers being for hire! I would love to check this out!

  30. Shona @ July 28, 2017 at 2:41 am - Reply

    Wow, an eruption that could have wiped out mankind, that’s kinda scary. This looks like it was a fantastic trip. I’d like to see more of this part of the world.

  31. Travel Lexx July 30, 2017 at 6:18 pm - Reply

    I really want to explore Indonesia more next time I am in that part of the world. I have only managed Bali and the Gili Islands but would love to see more of it. Love the look of Medan and Lake Toba!

  32. Abigail Sinsona August 23, 2017 at 5:19 am - Reply

    Wow I am impressed with the Indonesian architecture. The Mosque of Medan is an absolute architectural beauty! I also love the architecture of the Batak Museum!!

  33. VICTOR May 2, 2018 at 6:35 pm - Reply

    Dear friends. Its nice to introduce my self. I am Victor and I live in the city of Medan- Indonesia. I am director of Tiara Tours Indonesia and my office based in Jalan Panglima Denai No 76 Medan. If there are some friends or family wish to come to Medan please contact us through cellular / wa : +62 85358982828, +6285762820068. I wish you welcome to Medan and welcome to the Lake Toba. Horas …!!! Horas …. !!!

  34. Indra October 15, 2018 at 10:26 am - Reply

    Hi Victor
    I am Indra wishing to visit Sumatra Java and Bali can u let me know which is the best time/ month to visit
    Can u put in place the provisional itinerary from Madan visit interesting and important places in Sumatra
    Then proced to Java see /visit interesting and important places in Java and then proceed to Bali vist important and interesting places and finally couple of days on the beach to reflex before flying back home
    How many days u need and what could be the cost in good 3/4* Accomodation
    Wait to hear from u E mail me for any further information you need

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