Off the beaten track in North Sumatra, Tarutung & it’s natural springs

Sipoholon & Air Soda natural springs in Tarutung 

If you’re looking for epic natural landscapes, going off the beaten track in North Sumatra is the place for you. Lake Toba, the world’s largest volcanic lake is a must see, but have you heard of Tarutung and it’s natural springs?

off the beaten track: purple flowers in North Sumatra

Just over 100km south of Parapat & Lake Toba you can stay at the small town of Tarutung, which (as far as I’m aware) means “Durian” in Indonesian. It’s a pretty off the beaten track destination and when our group of four visited we didn’t see any other tourists at all. We took a small mini van bus there from Parapat, which we had negotiated for with some locals there. Not the easiest, but definitely definitely possible.

We stayed at a very average, and cheap “hotel”, at 170k rupiah (around €10) for a four person family room. The shared bathroom at the end of the corridor was just a toilet and tank of water with a bucket for washing, yet the outside was painted beautifully orange – rather misleading if you ask me. Basic, but it did the job – I couldn’t tell you the name but it’s just down the road from Hotel Bali which was slightly more expensive. We were all on a budget and given we were staying for just one night, we picked the cheapest option.

During the evening we made friends with a local, Marlon. It was he that guided us to the Sipoholon Hot Spring, and then took us to the Air Soda, which we wouldn’t have found otherwise. He helped us out with the transport, and even managed to get us a hitch hike back into town!  

The Sipoholon Hot Spring

To explore the Siphoholon Hot Spring you’ll need to head 3km north of Tarutung which can be easily done by bus #2. Buses cost around 5k and are small vans with the number stuck on the front. Just hail one down and check it’s going the way you want! 

Upon arrival, it sounds weird but we entered the hot springs area via the back of a school. Climb up and across the rocks, and the landscape opens up to a variety of water sources, colours, smells and temperatures. 

the Sipoholon hot springs with steam rising

I’d read online that the ancient Martimbang Volcano erupted and what’s left was this hot spring in its crater. We didn’t bathe here and there was limited information available online and nearby about this natural beauty spot for us to be sure that it was possible. 

It was an enchanting landscape, with blue and turquoise pools of water. Rusty orange and mossy green, lined the edge of the pools, and we clambered up large grey rocks to view it all. Sulphuric smells filled the air and it had such varied colours across the area.

The negative side was that this spot was pretty dirty with rubbish – bottles littered the small streams and I even found a pair of shorts ha. There’s no “protection” for this site, as a natural tourist destination which is a shame. Despite this, a great place to explore.

the Sipoholon hot springs
Off the beaten track: me at Sipoholon hot springs

Air Soda, Naturally Carbonated Spring 

South of the main town, down a small track you can find Air Soda. One of two naturally carbonated natural springs in the world; the other is in Norway! Not a popular tourist destination at all, but a fascinating experience. 

It’s literally like dipping into a glass of fizzy water. The bubbles stick to your body and you can draw lines and pictures in them without the other bubbles moving. They were also very hot, a strange sensation over your skin as you dipped underwater and swam around. 

Another added bonus – it’s free!! Grab a drink at the small cafe there if you fancy and hitchhike back into town down the road. 

Off the beaten track: Air Soda in Tarutung
myself, Thijs, Marlon, Paula and Jakob
Our little group with Marlon
Having breakfast with locals
Having breakfast with the locals

From Tarutung we took THAT long old bus ride to Bukittinggi (read my post about how to survive long bus rides). Worth visiting though, and it’s always enjoyable to visit an off the beaten track spot, make friends with locals and see natural wonders that not EVERYONE else has seen!

Sarah xx

big orange W

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Off the beaten track in Tarutung, North Sumatra
Off the beaten track in Tarutung, North Sumatra

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