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Introducing Danau Toba

Danau Toba has been part of traveller folklore for decades. This grand ocean-blue lake, found high up among Sumatra's volcanic peaks, is where the amiable Christian Batak people reside. The secret of this almost-mythical place was opened up to travellers by the intrepid, and Tuk Tuk – the village on the lake's inner island – became as much a highlight for Southeast Asian shoestringers as Haad Rin and Kuta. It was almost overrun with tourism: wild full-moon parties would kick off, and travellers in beach-bum mode would get 'stuck' on the island for months on end. Whilst the travelling world has hardly forgotten about Toba, those heady party days are certainly a thing of the past. Nowadays the Batak people continue to warmly open their arms to travellers after a lazy, low-key lakeside sojourn.

Expect a chorus of 'horas' ('welcome') to greet you at every turn, as the locals quietly strum away the afternoon on their guitars while passing around a flagon of jungle juice.

Danau Toba is the largest lake in Southeast Asia, covering a massive 1707 sq km. In the middle of this huge expanse is Pulau Samosir, a wedge-shaped island almost as big as Singapore that was created by an eruption between 30,000 and 75,000 years ago. Well, Bahasa Indonesia calls it an island, but those visiting the west of Toba will discover that Samosir isn't actually an island at all. It's linked to the mainland by a narrow isthmus at the town of Pangururan – and then cut again by a canal.

Directly facing Parapat is another peninsula occupied by the village of Tuk Tuk, which has Samosir's greatest concentration of tourist facilities. Tomok, a few kilometres south of Tuk Tuk, is the main village on the east coast of the island. Pangururan is the largest town on the west coast.