WHY YOU SHOULD GO: Located within Sumatra's Lake Toba, the largest volcanic lake in the world, Samosir is actually an island within an island. Here, you can experience the traditional Batak way of life.
GETTING THERE: From Medan, the capital of Sumatra, it's a six-hour bus ride to Parapat, Lake Toba's port town—speed up the journey in a shared taxi with Nice Trans Taxi (fb.com/nicetranstaxibook; from $6 per person) or book a private car with Sumatra Paradise (sumatraparadise.com; from $80). A ferry leaves Parapat every hour to Tuk Tuk, the main town on Samosir (last boat at 7 p.m.; from $1).
WHEN TO GO: Dry season is from May to September, but if you want the island to yourself visit from October to early November, before rainy season hits. WHAT TO DO: Go for a dip in the cool lake; see the iconic curved-roof bolon houses; learn about Batak life and watch a spiritual tor-tor dance performance at the Museum Huta Bolon Simanindo (62-813/96721133; tickets $3.60); or enjoy the Aek Rangat hot springs that flow from Pusuk Buhit mountain. WHERE TO STAY: Samosir Villa Resort (samosir villaresort.com; doubles from $40) has a range of rooms and its design reflects the traditional bolon architecture. If you want to stay in a real bolon home, Horas Family Home (holidaysumatra.com; doubles from $72) sleeps eight adults.
WHAT TO EAT: Traditional Batak food is flavored with andaliman, the local Sichuan pepper. Try it in a sambal with grilled fish or chicken at Juwita’s Café (Tuk Tuk; 62-813/7531-8783; mains from $2.50), where you can also book an andaliman cooking class with the owner that includes a hike through Samosir's forests to pick fresh pepper berries. —