Before I got to Bali, there was only one activity that I was desperate to do during my visit, and that was to see the sunrise on the top of Mount Batur.
Australia and New Zealand were full of hikes and breathtaking auroras, but I had yet to combine the two. While Mount Batur in Bali is not an overly strenuous trek, it’s famous for its beautiful views and striking sunrise, so I absolutely had to experience it for myself.
Mount Batur is an active volcano located in the centre of two volcanic craters in North East Bali. The summit is 1,717m above sea level, and from here you can see the ominous 3,031m peak of Mount Agung in the distance. The first recorded eruption of Mount Batur was in 1804, and the latest was in 2000. The landscape beneath Mount Batur encompasses a huge lake and a solidified lava field that are the products of various eruptions. If you are lucky enough to climb the volcano on a clear day, the views are phenomenal.
Straight away, it’s best to make it clear that this trek is one of the most popular activities for tourists to do while they’re in Bali, so you will not, no matter which day you choose to do it, be hiking up there alone. In fact, so many people do the trek every morning that while you are climbing, you will see an endless chain of flashlights all the way to the top. If you are looking for more of an exclusive experience then I would suggest looking into hiking up Mount Agung which is considerably higher than Mount Batur and will involve at least 8 hours of climbing in the heat. Nevertheless, regardless of the fact that every man and his brother does the Mount Batur sunrise trek, it was still completely worthwhile!
The best place to do the trek from is Ubud. Practically every tour office in the city has the activity on offer, but it’s worth shopping around a bit for the best price, and make sure you try your hand at negotiating it down. Don’t book it via your hotel or hostel as it is likely to be more money. I managed to get my trip for 250,000 IDR (about £14) while the other people in my group (6 others in the car that picked me up) paid at least 300,000. That price includes transport there and back, drinking water, a light breakfast at the base camp, again on top of the mountain, and a guide. If you choose to do the trip from Seminyak or Canggu, you will end up paying considerably more as these areas are a lot further away from the base-camp. I have a friend who paid 800,000 IDR from Canggu!
The most difficult part of the whole experience is getting up at 1.30am for a 2am pick-up…particularly when you’re staying in a hostel with 7 other sleeping people! The bonus is, you can always have a little nap in the car, as it’s at least an hour drive to the place where they serve you your first breakfast. This consists of tea or coffee (much needed at 3am) and a traditional Balinese banana pancake. It is a bit bizarre eating such a sweet breakfast in the middle of the night but I wolfed mine down to give me some energy. I would advise bringing a few snacks with you in case you don’t fancy the 3am breakfast or feel the need for an energy-boost halfway up the mountain.
After breakfast, we were driven a little further to the base camp where everyone starts the trek. At that point we had about 2 and a half hours to get to the summit in time for sunrise…plenty of time! Well, it was plenty of time for us, as we had potentially the oldest guide on the mountain, who decided that he was going to bundle our group into the back of a pick-up truck for the first kilometre or so, to get ahead of the crowds. Initially we thought we’d lucked out as we cruised past lots of weary folk embarking on the trek. Soon it became a truly hilarious experience as he drove us over the steepest and bumpiest terrain, throwing us all over the place in the back of the pick-up. Really we were all a bit petrified, in fits of hysterical laughter, as we got half way up steep slopes and started rolling backwards on several occasions. It really was more effort than it was worth and after a while of protesting we just got out and walked, because ultimately we had paid for a trek, not a perilous lift up the mountain!
The climb was a little tiring due to lack of sleep, but in terms of exertion, it was fairly easy. We were climbing slowly as there were so many people everywhere, we didn’t have much choice. Nevertheless, we still got to the halfway point after about 45 minutes. At this point, our ancient little guide decided he was going to stay there with an older lady in our group, so the rest of us youngsters continued up the steeper section to the summit. Once we reached the top, we had plenty of time to find a nice spot to park ourselves and admire the incredible views. We were extremely lucky with the weather and the temperature was cool but not cold. The sky was crystal clear so when the sun began to poke up from behind the peaks in the distance, we could see the separate rays fanning above the horizon. I have never seen such a beautiful sunrise. It was breath-taking. I think the photos speak for themselves…
Once the sun was completely up, we leisurely made our way back down to the half-way point and had a boiled egg and banana sandwich prepared by our guide. Then we went to check out our surroundings properly – now we had daylight on our sides! On the edge of the steaming crater, mischievous monkeys antagonised tourists and posed for selfies. On the other side, we had a fantastic view of the lake and the lava from the 1968 eruption. We leisurely made our way back down the mountain and the heat started to rise.
When we reached the pick-up truck, our guide ushered us into the back. We rapidly bumped back down the final stretch of pathway, past the weary walkers again. It was totally unnecessary but a humorous addition to the experience and it meant that we got down to the car-park before everyone else, which we were very grateful for as the fatigue had now set in. On the way back, the drivers are supposed to take you to a coffee plantation, but we all agreed that we didn’t want to go and spend unnecessary money, so luckily our driver took us straight back to Ubud and we were back by 10am.
Although the walk itself is not particularly challenging, the views are nothing less than magical. For the sake of £14, it’s an awesome experience and one that anyone staying in Bali for a couple of weeks should do. Next time I go to Indonesia, I want to try my hand at Mount Agung and the three-day trek of Mount Rinjani in Lombok!