Indonesia has dozens of stunning hiking and trekking opportunities awaiting the intrepid traveler that border on spiritual experience. For those who may be visiting Bali and want to dip their toe into hiking rather than commit to a multi-day trek – essentially multiple days with no formal washroom facilities – then hiking Mount Batur, or Gunung Batur to locals, is a perfect choice. With a two to three hour trek up and considerably less time to get down, hiking Mount Batur is an ideal way to spend a half day when in Bali, especially in the early morning when the views are enhanced by the rising sun.

Although less intense than other hiking opportunities in Bali, most notably the larger Mount Agung previously profiled by fellow Departful writer Alex Rathy, hiking Mount Batur is still a challenge; it’s a hike that will make your legs feel like they are on fire and surely involve several twisted ankle ‘close calls’, but it’s one of the most ‘accessible’ treks I’ve done. Even my 56-year-old mother did it with relative ease – how’s that for peer pressure?

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Batur is located along the northeastern highlands of Bali with a modest 1,717m elevation compared to its aforementioned cousin Mount Agung to the southeast at 3,030m. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of Batur is that it’s still an active volcano with the first recorded eruption in 1804 and the most recent in 2000 – but don’t worry these were just “minor”. The real magic of forming the two concentric calderas of Batur, the term for the collapsed top of a volcano, is thought to have occurred over 23,000 – 28,500 years ago. In between the two calderas is Bali’s largest lake, Lake Batur – its calm and clear waters are truly a sight to behold. In 2012, UNESCO made Mount Batur a part of the Global Geopark Network, so I’m clearly not the only one who’s impressed.

While most people opt to climb Mount Batur with a guide, us included, it is possible to go it alone but do your research first. You can also hire one at the entrance as there are always guides eagerly awaiting an opportunity to take a group up. Another option is to book a full service guide in advance who will provide transportation to and from Batur as well as some information and details while on the trek.

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What to expect when hiking Mount Batur

To catch the sun rising, which happens around 6am, you’re going to have an early morning. Be prepared for a pick up shortly after 1am if you’re coming from the south near Kuta or around 3am from north coast areas like Tedjakula. You’ll drive through bumpy, winding roads in near pitch-black conditions, likely prompting you to wonder what the hell you’ve signed up for, but eventually you reach the Kintamani region and a relatively organized car park and staging area to meet your guide.

There are actually two commonly used routes to ascend Batur, each about the same hike time. The most popular is from Toya Bungkah as you enjoy the relative ease of half the trip being in a flat shaded forest path. From Pura Jati you cross interesting ancient lava fields but lack shade and the terrain can be difficult for those with poor knees. A quick tip – use the washrooms in the parking lot as there aren’t any others on the climb.

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Climbing starts at around 4am and the first hour is quite pleasant as you travel through a shaded forest along a wide dirt path to the base of the true ‘climb’. From there it’s a mix of impressive boulder scrambles and narrow ledges to navigate in the dark. For good measure, throw in a bit of morning dew on the rocks and the odd keener tourist who tries to pass you – or worse, those who are painfully slow and unprepared whom you need to pass.

As you climb, the sky begins to change from black, to indigo blue, and eventually wisps of warm orange and red appear. You’re getting close! And if you’re not, try to confer with your guide about how much hustle you’ll need to reach the top before sunrise. I refused to go on the hike and miss sunrise and I wanted to secure my position at the top for the ‘best’ photos, so I waved to my mom and ventured off on my own for the last 15-20 minutes, leaving her, the guide, and one other hiker in our group behind. I’m a horrible daughter. My mom agrees the photos were worth it, though.

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At the “top” viewing platform you may find yourself jockeying for a good position amongst the other climbers with their cameras, but it’s not too bad. Then you just sit watching the colours unfold, and can even sip on hot tea or coffee for sale. Pure magic.

What happened next was not something the guides warned us about: in the blink of an eye once the sun had risen, monkeys descended on the area. We’re talking loads of monkeys. Lured by tourist food and naturally awaking from their slumber by the sun, these guys are fearless, and will, sadly, steal your bottle of Coca Cola right out of your hands.

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After seeing the sky complete its transition and taking in the peaks of Mount Rajani on Lombok, Mount Agung, and even the ocean to the north, it’s time to explore a bit more. You may tour the complete crater, which takes upwards of an hour or walk around just a few hundred meters if you’ve already had your fix. Gazing down into a steaming crater, or peering into a stalactite cave triggered thoughts of magical lands akin to Lord of The Rings landscapes. Eventually the clouds roll in and it’s time to head back to reality.

The walk down starts to heat up in the sun, and while it’s much faster than going up, it’s also more dangerous as hordes of fellow tourists are bounding down the mountain face with little apparent control of their bodies. Your guide may also be in a bit of a hurry to wrap things up, but don’t be afraid to find a ledge to rest on and enjoy the view – you’ve earned it.

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Tips for hiking Mount Batur

Packing

You’ll start the adventure when it’s fairly chilly and pitch black, and if you’ve hooked up with a simple guide in the parking lot at the base, then you’re on your own for pretty much all supplies as they only carry their own flashlight. In addition to dressing in layers and wearing a solid pair of runners – or better yet legit hiking shoes –head lamps, mini flashlight, two bottles of water and a good camera are must have items. I also recommend snacks to keep your energy up. Don’t forget a bit of money, so you have the option of buying coffee at the top, or beer on the way down, or both as we did. Remember to keep your bag light so you don’t have to haul unnecessary weight up to the summit.

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Guide

This can really make or break your experience if you let it. We were pretty relaxed about the situation, opting to have our trusted driver – Bali Blue – drive us to the site, arrange payment and confirm details with one of dozens of guides who hang out at the carpark area waiting for business each day. Looking back, he could have offered more geological history on the site and helped us with our bags, but we managed just fine despite moderate English. Since you’re likely paying for a private guide for your group of two to four friends, don’t be afraid to set your own pace and take breaks when it works for you. Otherwise the guides, many of whom do the hike up to three times per day, will be happy to whiz up the mountain. Prices for most private tours including transportation, light meal, and an experienced guide range from $50-60 USD per person.

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Scheduling

Technically Mount Batur is open for business all year round, however various religious holidays – and Indonesian’s love their holidays – often close the mountain to tourists. Ideally one also avoids the rainy season from October to March to ensure the safest experience and most drool worthy photos. I did it in May and the experience was perfect. Like much of the region, crowds and prices climb during the peak tourist period of December to January.

Most of the large organized tours will immediately drive you back to your hotel after the hike – perhaps pre-book a massage for that afternoon – but if you have a private driver, and aren’t entirely bagged, make the most of being in the north and ask to visit a few temples (there are multiple located around the crater lake), local Warung restaurants, or a coffee plantation on the way back. Beware of tourist trap restaurants with lovely views in Kintamani that most guides assume you’ll want to go to – you’ll have to explain to your driver what style of traveler you are or you risk the “tourist bus buffet experience”.


Hiking Mount Batur photos by Madeline Burch


 

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Madeline Burch

Madeline Burch

Madeline was born and raised in Toronto Canada, educated in marketing, and has worked in brand management and the alcohol industry for nearly a decade. In search of great drinks, stories and photos, she has travelled to South East Asia multiple times including a recent eight month stint based in Vietnam. From luxe travel to volunteer missions, she’s interested in it all.

Departful is a full service travel agency for busy professionals seeking unique and transformative custom travel experiences. We create memorable holidays that are 100% tailored to our clients, saving them time and energy by handling all of the little details while providing value by leverage our expertise and network of travel partners. We are based in Toronto.

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Departful is a full service travel agency for busy professionals seeking unique and transformative custom travel experience. We create memorable holidays that are 100% tailored to our clients, saving them time & energy by handling all of the little details while providing value by leverage our expertise and network of travel partners. We are based in Toronto.

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