Waterfall-hunting is one of our favourite travel activities, and Sumatra has no shortage of cascades to discover. The Lake Toba area, with its rugged, volcanic terrain and plenty of rainfall, boasts some of the best waterfalls in Sumatra.
Even better, Lake Toba is made for exploration. The roads are quiet, making it super easy to jump on a hired scooter and head for the hills in search of a waterfall pool to swim in. Because Samosir Island is our second home, we’ve had plenty of time to suss out the best waterfalls in Lake Toba.
Because we’re sharing, caring kind of folk, we decided to share our favourites with you, so you can add them to your list of Things to do in Lake Toba during your next trip.
From powerful cascades that plunge from the skies to more modest falls that you can swim under, here are our Top 5 Best Waterfalls in Lake Toba.
Thanks to our lovey friend Pauline from Batak Life with French Eyes for the stunning cover image!
1. Sipisopiso Waterfall
Okay, so this one isn’t such a hidden find – it would be hard to keep one of Indonesia’s tallest waterfalls a secret, after all! Nevertheless, Sipisopiso waterfall should be included on your itinerary.
Crashing 120 metres (360 feet) down to lake level, this waterfall is massive and powerful.
Surrounded by lush greenery, it’s worth stopping in to snap a few photos, even if you don’t have the time (or energy) to get down – and more importantly, back up — the thousands of steps.
Okay, so we haven’t actually counted the steps, but my legs estimated around 9,991. But my legs may have been slightly dramatic about the whole situation….
You can choose to merely take photos of the majestically gushing water from the viewing points, but if you can manage it, it really is worth going to the base of the falls to appreciate their power.
Allow half an hour to make your way down, and double it (at least) on the way back up… seriously… there are a lot of stairs. There’s no rush though, plenty of spots to catch your breath as you ascend.
This is not a waterfall you want to stand under for a gentle head massage; you’ll end up about five foot shorter than when you started. And you WILL get wet; the wind and spray created by the water shouldn’t be underestimated, so make sure anything you want to keep dry is stashed away somewhere thoroughly waterproof.
How to Get There
Sipisopiso Waterfall is located in Tongging village, on the mainland in the Lake Toba greater area. The nearest sizeable town is Kabanjahe, which is around 35kms away.
Berastagi is about 45kms away.
The best way to visit is to squeeze a trip in as you head towards Lake Toba from Medan or Berastagi.
You can do a day trip from Tuktuk, but it’s quite a long journey, particularly if you’re getting a numb bum on a scooter. Get yourself across to the port at Parapapat, then Google-Maps-it the rest of the way. The scenery is totally stunning.
Buses will get you there from Medan; take a two-hour bus-ride from Medan to Kabanjahe, then catch another bus to Siantar (around 30 minutes more). Make sure you ask the driver to drop you at Sipiso-piso. You’ll need to grab a local becak (motorcycle taxi) to get you directly to the falls.
This is a popular tourist attraction, so it comes with all the fixings you’d expect: warungs (small eateries), snack stalls, plenty of souvenir shops, and toilets. (Bring some small change for the loo, you may need to pay to “leave a deposit”).
At the time of writing, it cost 5000 to enter the attraction, and 5000 again if you need to park. Bring small money; as with many areas in rural Sumatra, they may not have change for your big notes).
2. Simangande Waterfall
If you’ve spent any time in Tuktuk on Samosir Island, you will have seen Simangande waterfall. Unless, of course, you’re there during dry season when there hasn’t been any rain for a week or so.
This waterfall gushes (or at times, trickles) down the steep cliffs towards Tomok, and you can see it clearly from most parts of Tuktuk.
However, it does disappear pretty quickly when there’s no rain. Even after a few days, it’s almost non-existent, so timing your visit right is essential.
This is a nice easy option if you don’t want to travel too far but crave a mini adventure. Some locals might tell you it’s hard to get to or not maintained, but we found it relatively easy – until the last wee stretch, anyway.
The walk is pleasant enough, with only a slight slope leading up through a forested area.
But be warned: for people that aren’t sure-footed, the last section of the hike might be a bit daunting. The path gets quite narrow and rocky. You’ll be making your way past some steepish drops on rocky ground holding onto branches and rocks.
The last part to get to the pool at the base requires some minor bouldering.
We went when it was relatively dry but there was still a good amount of water flowing down. I would be hesitant to head up after a big rainfall – it will likely be slippery and quite dangerous. Better to wait 12-24 hours until things dry up a bit before heading out.
There are a few different sections to the falls, but the base of the main one has a nice pool to cool off in – and the water is refreshingly cold!
You’ll also get some stunning views back out over Tuktuk and the lake
How to Get There
Since this is such a visible waterfall, you can kind of follow your nose to reach it. Head to the main road that leads from Tomok to Ambarita; if you’re coming from Tomok, you’ll want to turn left when you see the road pictured above. Literally head for the hills.
Turn left at the end and follow the road. It will get narrower and turn into more of a lane. Carry on until you pass a small bridge. Just after this, you’ll find some traditional Batak houses on the right. Turn into the little path here and you’ll discover a track heading into the trees.
If you get confused, stop and ask a local; they’ll be more than happy to point you in the right direction.
The beauty of this spot is that it’s not set up as a tourist attraction, so it won’t be crowded – though you may find a few local kids enjoying the area.
This means there’s nothing in the way of amenities.
3. Sitamurun/Binangalom Waterfall
For something different, jump on a boat and journey across the lake from Tuktuk to reach this waterfall, which tumbles down from the mainland into the lake.
Known by two names, depending on who you ask, it originates in the village of Binangalom. Loosely translated from the Batak language, Binangalom means “the water that calms your soul.”
This waterfall is about 70 metres high and drops down seven levels before hitting the lake.
You can swim underneath it and jump from the surrounding rocks if you’re feeling adventurous.
How to Get There
The easiest way is to join a ferry tour from Tuktuk, but you’ll probably need to muster up a group of people. A few different places offer trips, but we recommend asking at Jenny’s Restaurant.
You can also hire a private speedboat if your budget allows.
When we visited, there was a simple, narrow concrete walkway where you could get off the boat and chill for a bit.
Now, there’s a fancy new sign to pose in front of, and a slightly higher quality area to relax at.
It’s free to visit, but obviously, you can’t get there by swimming, so you’ll need to pay for transport. Prices for a tourist ferry range between 300,000 and 500,000 per person, and a speedboat around double that.
4. Efrata Waterfall
This gorgeous waterfall is found near Solok Dolok village on the mainland. It’s a bit of a long journey if you’re staying in Tuktuk, but well worth the trip.
We recommend including a stop here as part of a longer day trip. It’s not far from Tele Tower, which is one of our 15 Most Awesome Things to do in Lake Toba.
The trip to Efrata is half the fun. You’ll wind your way higher and higher into the rugged hills with spectacular views of valleys and rice paddies along the way.
The waterfall is particularly picturesque. At 25 metres high, it’s not the tallest, but it’s breadth makes for some gorgeous photos.
This isn’t such a secret location and is growing in popularity with locals and tourists. But the times that we’ve visited, we’ve had the place totally to ourselves.
How to Get There
If you’re travelling from Tuktuk, you’ll need to head to Pangururan and cross over to the mainland. From there, you’ll need to use good old Google Maps to find your way.
It’s been a wee while since we visited, but at that time, there were some very unmaintained toilets. We’ve heard it’s still fairly low key, so don’t expect to be able to buy food, drinks, or souvenirs when you arrive.
When we first visited a few years back, the parking area and entryway were unmanned, so entry was free. However, during the second trip, there were local children charging 5000 for parking. Bring small change just in case.
5. Hadabuan Naisogop Waterfall
Disclaimer: this is the only waterfall on the list we haven’t personally visited yet, but our local friends tell us it’s an awesome place well worth a visit!
Though not the largest or most spectacular waterfall you’ll ever come across, there is something special about it, and it’s a great addition to a broader road trip.
It’s a fairly convenient stop if you’re heading to Tele Tower or Efrata Waterfall, and not too far from Pangururan (where you cross from Samosir to the mainland by road).
Although locals are trying to grow this as a tourist destination, it’s still relatively undiscovered, so chances are you’ll have it all to yourself.
There’s a nice pool for cooling off underneath (although the depth will be dictated by rainfall), and a rock that’s particularly perfect for some sexy Instagram waterfall shots, if you’re into that kind of thing.
The surroundings are fresh and green, with the cliff face dotted with trees and bushes. Bring a picnic tand enjoy some peace and quiet.
How to Get There
Wherever you’re coming from, head for the Pangururan area. We can’t offer much more than this, as we haven’t ventured there ourselves yet, but it’s nearby Urat Village and Batu Hobon. Ask the locals to point you in the right direction (or you can find it on Google Maps!)
From the parking area, you’ll follow an easy path along a picturesque, rocky river for about 20 minutes to reach the waterfall.
Because it’s still a bit of a secret, you won’t find anything in the way of shops or snacks. Be prepared for some jungle toileting.
As far as we could determine, it’s free to visit. But bring small notes just in case you come across a parking or entry fee.
Have you visited one of these beautiful Lake Toba waterfalls? Or maybe you know of one that we should add to the list?
We’d love to hear from you about the best waterfalls you’ve seen in Sumatra – that way we can add them to our ever-growing trip bucket list!