Last Update: June 2021
6 minute read
Now here’s one for your bucket list.
Or is it?
You’ve been saving up every penny for that trip to Bali in Indonesia. Now you’re here and you’ve enjoyed the gorgeous beaches, did some chilling, surfing, diving maybe. Clubbing in Seminyak was out of this world. In Ubud, you’ve tried out the yoga mats with outdoor sessions amidst the beautiful green rice fields. So now it’s time to climb Mount Batur!
Or is it?
Sure, you know that Mount Batur is an active volcano in the Northeast of Bali with 26 eruptions since 1840. You also know that the latest eruption took place as recent as 2000. Furthermore, you did your research and it’s no secret to you that the trek to the top at 1.717m (5,633ft) is extremely popular with travelers. You fully understand that everyone wants a piece of the sea of clouds and the magical sunrise and you won’t be there alone.
So, is climbing Mount Batur still a good idea and worth it? Here’s a first hand account of the climb by our guest writer and fellow traveler Gabriella Fisher: 8 reasons NOT to climb Mount Batur + 1 reason why you should.
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It’s too darn early!
Pick up time from our Ubud guesthouse was set at 1:30am in the morning, or night, or however you want to call it. That’s pretty darn early, even measured by countryside standards. You know you really need some sleep before you go, so that means pushing yourself to go to sleep early. Have you ever tried this? It’s impossible.
We did manage to squeeze a mere 4 hours of sleep in, but at 1:30am we couldn’t get our hands on some coffee. When our pick up arrived we were still very drowsy and tired to the bone.
Physically fit REALLY means physically fit!
Many of the different tour descriptions we read stated that the climb required participants to be ‘physically fit’. To me that’s quite a broad term. I’m certainly not an athlete, but I do consider myself rather fit. However, as it turned out, I was not prepared at all! It really was an exhausting climb that required balance, stamina and strength.
I expected it to be a relatively straightforward hike up a hill situation. Well, it kind of was, but only for the first part. After about one hour into the hike the terrain got much steeper and a lot of actual climbing was involved. We had to conquer steps over a meter high (I’m 1.60m so this also required some flexibility). Slippery rocks and loose gravel compelled us to stay focused all the time, especially since we were climbing in the dark.
Honestly, if it wasn’t for my pride, chances are I would have quit. According to our guide, about 40% never make it all the way to the top.
It’s cold on Mount Batur!
Going up in the morning the temperature was fine. Yes it’s cold and wet from the morning dew, but you are doing a pretty intense workout so you don’t really feel it. I was happy to have brought my rain jacket though.
The shivers started immediately after we reached the top. There wasn’t much to do but sit and wait for the sun to rise so our body temperature dropped due to inactivity. Mind you, we were at 1.700 meters above sea level, it’s cold! Business savvy locals rent out lined winter jackets, too bad they charge ridiculous prices.
The way down can be very warm as it heats up quite quickly once the sun is out. Again, I was happy with my rain jacket, which was easy to tie around my waste.
They promised us breakfast!
When booking the tour it was advertised that and included breakfast would be cooked right at the volcano. They really sold us on the gimmick of boiling our eggs in the heat of the volcano, how cool is that!
Such a bummer when we were just handed some pre-boiled eggs and a piece of stale bread. We were at the volcano alright, so yeah that part was true. The dryness of the meal could be washed away with a cup of watery coffee. Well, coffee is coffee and very welcome at that point.
Dogs & Monkeys?
Whilst climbing up we were surprised to notice a few dogs on the mountain. Stray dogs are a common sight in Asia so we didn’t think much of it. As the sunrise set in however, more and more dogs appeared with some of them really scary looking creatures.
Then, as if by command, a large troop of monkeys arrived and swarmed out over the viewpoint area. We saw them eyeing our unfinished breakfast and maybe we were just being naive, but we decided not to feed them as not to spoil them. Little did we know.
Suddenly, one large monkey decided it was time and it ran right by us, quickly grabbing a dry bread crust along the way. A fierce looking dog noticed and immediately attacked the primate resulting in a fight with claws, teeth and a lot of ferocious vocal sounds.
Man, this fight was really brutal and as close as a few meters distance from where we were sitting. Though scary, fortunately the fight ended quickly and we were back to enjoying the sunrise.
After the strenuous climb we were finally relaxing on top of the mountain and taking in the well-deserved views, as suddenly we heard a hum. Confused, we looked at each other and around us as the humming grew louder. Then, something flew very close over our heads and before we knew it, we were surrounded by drones. Okay, maybe not surrounded, but there were three drones constantly flying back and forth.
This is the era of technology and travel bloggers so I reckon this is a more and more inevitable event. Although it can be impressive to see drones in action, many of our photos were ruined because of a freaking drone in the shot.
So if you plan on bringing a drone, please be mindful of others and pick your moments. Being at the top is supposed be a peaceful and magical experience. Don’t ruin the fairy-tale moment with the constant noise and sight of flying drones. Flying a drone is fun and I wish for everyone to have their fun, but frankly, after a while it just became downright annoying
The climb down Mount Batur
On most hikes and climbs, the way down is usually more dangerous than going up. You’re tired from the climb up and your step gets wobbly, because your legs feel like spaghetti. As it quickly gets warmer, fatigue kicks in and you begin to lose focus.
Also, to make it worse, all the hikers went down the mountain around the same time. Going up we already sort of realized that there were many climbers. We just couldn’t see them in the dark except for their flashlights. After sunrise it became clear that there were hundreds of climbers and now we were all trekking in one line down the mountain.
Not only did this bring a lot of irritation (people getting impatient and trying to pass when there is actually not enough space), there is also some danger involved. People slipping a hundred meter above us made loose rocks fall and roll down the mountain, making us target. I’m not joking, I actually saw people get hit!
Due to the chaos and the large crowd we were separated from our guide. Fortunately, friendly guides from other groups helped us out, but I couldn’t help feeling a bit like clumsy cattle being herded down the mountain. (Don’t worry, we were shortly reunited with our guide). Because of the traffic jams and all the confusion it took approximately 30 min longer to get down then up.
The Mount Batur Volcano
Just below the top is the ‘active’ volcano. I didn’t do proper research on the volcano, so that’s on me, but I kind of expected a wide crater filled with red hot bubbling lava and intense heat. Well… that was a deception. Yes, there was a crater with the teeniest-tiniest plume of smoke coming from somewhere between some rocks.
So, not really much to see here, except for… more monkeys! Some of the smaller ones were cute, but way too comfortable with tourists. They were jumping on peoples backs and heads (yeah really) and constantly begging for food and water.
When the sun finally rises all the hardship disappears. Gone is the cold in your bones, the soreness in your calves and the musty aftertaste of overcooked eggs.
The view is so magical and amazing it’s almost spiritual. Words and even photos fail to capture this overwhelming experience. The ever changing colors of the sky behind the silhouette of Mount Agung in the distance are truly breathtaking and left us completely in awe.
Sunrise at Mount Batur is something you have to experience for yourself. So, forget about my rant on all things difficult, tiring and not-that-great. I recommend and suggest, no I insist that you go up that mountain. You’ll probably curse me during the climb, because yes it’s early and cold and tough, but it only makes the sunrise that more climactic.
Nice to know before you climb Mount Batur
What to bring
Bring a sweater and plenty of water. There is (of course) the possibility to rent a jacket/sweater at the top, but as you might expect the prices are ridiculous, so just bring your own;
Make sure to wear shoes that provide stability and grip. Some of the rocks are pretty slippery and loose gravel can make you slip as well. I saw people (trying to) go up wearing flip-flops… please don’t;
A small snack like a protein bar is no unnecessary luxury, especially when the provided breakfast is not your vibe;
Don’t bring: a full bladder, there are no restrooms along the path;
Visit from Ubud
In Ubud we stayed at the cozy B&B Griya Jungutan Homestay which I totally recommend. Rooms are adequate for the low rate and the common areas with the small pool are super nice. The Griya family is friendly, helpful and serves an excellent (included) breakfast. It’s close to all the fun, but tucked away in a quiet and very green alley.
We stayed in Ubud, but a visit to Mount Batur is possible from all directions;
You can book a tour through your hotel, at kiosks on the streets, your driver or online. With regards to price it’s not going to matter that much. We ended up booking through our driver (but primarily because he was nice) and paid IDR450k per person;
You can either book a group tour or a private tour. We did a group tour and it was fine, the groups are rather small anyway (our group was 6pax). Just realize that your hiking pace is as slow as the slowest one in your group. Depending on your group’s fitness the climb up can take between 1.5-2hr.
Please tip your guide. It’s hard work and most of them climb up and down almost every day;
The weather cannot be predicted accurately, but try to consult with whomever you’re booking with on when they expect the nicest weather. It turned out that we were there on a specifically beautiful day, so we were lucky. I can’t imagine going through all that hard work only to end up with a view blocked by clouds. So if possible, pick a clear day so you can enjoy the best view.
Enjoy the sunrise!
–– Gabriella Fisher for walkaboutmonkey.com
Wait, there’s more! Scroll down to read some important stuff about the Mount Batur Mafia.
Do the sunrise trek and visit the natural hot spring in one tour! Pamper your aching body after climbing and get fit again in no time. Relax, enjoy excellent food and special drinks amidst beautiful views over lake Batur. All entrance fees and transport included.
Mount Batur Mafia
Can you climb Mount Batur without a guide? Yes you can, but you can’t.
Despite the many signs, officially it’s not mandatory to hire a guide. According to government regulations, you just pay the entrance fee (to cover maintenance for the Unesco site) and you can go up. However, the web is full of stories about people being intimidated, threatened and even violated by locals when they try to climb the mountain without a guide. Sadly, a lot of the stories are true.
It’s a shame, it really is. Even more so, because it’s not very difficult to find your way up, just follow the crowd. Despite the harassment, people are still trying to circumvent this corrupt system. But what’s the point?
Gabriella’s story above mentions a tour price of IDR450k. That’s just $35 folks!. This includes transport, entrance fee ($8), a guide to help and coach you up the mountain, a once in a lifetime experience and a delicious breakfast (gheghe). Are you really prepared to risk your health just to safe a few bucks?
If it’s the principle you’re concerned about, I get it, I really do. But, if that is really important to you then just don’t go. There are other mountains on Bali offering a beautiful sunrise without having to deal with corruption. I know, it’s not fair, but you’re on a holiday and it should be fun. Why submit yourself to all of the hassle and danger? There’s no need to put yourself in harms way and for $35 it’s certainly not worth it.
No, no, no, don’t you dare skip this part, even if you think that travel insurance is boring. If something happens to you on the volcano, let’s hope you didn’t skimp on travel insurance.
Healthcare on Bali is hopelessly underdeveloped, so any serious ailment or injury will almost certainly involve medical transport to Bangkok or Singapore. Trust me, that’s serious money and payable upfront if you lack proper insurance.
Always make sure that medical care abroad, evacuation and repatriation are included. Also, don’t forget coverage for adventurous activities.
Read more about travel insurance here, or get a non-committal instant quote right now!
Mount Batur deserves to be on your bucket list. Are you planning to climb the volcano? Let us know in the comments if you are. Of course if you already climbed Mount Batur then we would also like to hear from you. Share your experience and tell us how you liked it.