Climbing an Active Volcano at Sunrise – Mount Batur

Posted in: ASIA, INDONESIA | 0

1:30 AM – Our alarm goes off. We groggily roll out of bed. We’ve only gotten about 4 hours of sleep, partially because we were excited/nervous about our upcoming trek, partially because we were too stubborn to go to bed earlier.

2:00 AM – We step out into the humid night air. It’s pitch black, the city is sound asleep and yet somehow it’s still a million degrees out. Our driver picks us up and we are on our way to the base of Mount Batur. We immediately fall asleep on the bus, which is probably for the best considering they drive quite fast here.

Mount Batur

3:30 AM – We arrive at this quaint little restaurant in the middle of nowhere. They serve us tea and a simple breakfast of fried bananas. We’re not really hungry but we eat it anyway – we’ll need the energy for our hike. After breakfast, we get back on the bus and drive for another 30 minutes. This time it’s harder to fall asleep and the driving hasn’t gotten any better. We start to feel a little car sick.

4:00 AM – We arrive in the parking lot at the base of Mount Batur. It is an absolute zoo out there. There are so many people trying to walk everywhere, cars/buses trying to park, and guides calling out to their groups. There go our visions of having a solo hike, with just us in the Balinese wilderness…

Mount Batur

4:30 AM – Our group has assembled. We’ve had time to go to the washroom (which we both didn’t do and regretted about 5 minutes into the hike) and were given a water bottle as well as a box containing a raw egg and two pieces of bread. They only provided one flashlight for the two of us so we are thankful to have a headlight as well.

5:00 AM – Pitch black darkness, steep inclines and sliding rocks, we feel like professional hikers. Our guide stops a few times to check on the group but for the most part, we just kept trucking along, trying to remember that the summit will be well worth it!

Mount Batur

5:30 AM – Even being hours before we normally would wake up, our muscles are fully warmed up by this point as we are scaling some pretty intense rock paths on our way up the volcano. A neat moment is looking up and seeing tons of dancing lights bobbing up the slope ahead of us from all the flashlights of others making the trek.

6:00 AM – As we crest the first lookout point of the trek, we quickly understand the appeal of the climb. Turning our heads up and out we glimpse the view that awaited us. Vast valleys, crater ridges and a deep lake stand down before us. Even though the top is quite crowded, the view is breathtaking nonetheless.

Mount Batur

6:30 AM – Our guide explains that a second lookout point exists at the actual top of the volcano and would be just another 15-20 minute hike from the first. Having come this far, we think ‘damn right we have to say we went to the top!’ Making that last climb in the clouds is quite the experience; after finally sitting down side by side watching the sun wake up and rise into the sky on the top of a volcano, we are overcome with emotion. The feeling of freedom and accomplishment definitely rings out of us and among the other climbers.

7:30 AM – After we’ve had a chance to gaze at the sunrise and the clouds, we head back down to the first lookout point. This is where we can see one of the volcano’s craters and are immediately told not to fall in as we would surely die if this happened. Gee, thanks for the advice. Next, we check out the nearby array of monkeys. They aren’t as aggressive as we thought they would be, especially considering the amount of people they must encounter every day. People are feeding them, letting them climb all over their shoulders. We opt to look at them at a distance. We then walk over to the Mount Batur summit sign and take an obligatory ‘we made it to the top’ picture. Don’t we look good 😉

Mount Batur

8:00 AM – We begin our descent down the volcano, but after about 10 minutes we realize that we can no longer find our guide or our group and scramble back up the volcano. We are so tired of climbing at this point and are really frustrated with ourselves for our mistake. Once we’ve found our group again, our guide brings us to a temple on the side of the volcano and we get to feel volcanic steam. It’s pretty cool! Incredible that we can can feel it from this far up.

8:30 AM – We begin our descent down the volcano, for real this time! It’s rocky, it’s crowded and we’re all really tired at this point. But we stop plenty of times for pictures nonetheless – it’s a gorgeous view after all!

Mount Batur

10:30 AM – After what seems like the longest walk on Earth, we finally get back to the parking lot. Somehow the walk down seemed 40x longer than the walk up. Perhaps it was because of the excitement? Or maybe because it was so dark when we started we had no way of knowing how far we went…

12:00 PM – After a few stops on the way home, one at the Tegalalang Rice Terraces and one at a coffee plantation for a tasting, we finally make it back to our hotel. We are so bone achingly exhausted at this point that we simply crash into bed, barely taking the time to take off our stinky, sweaty, sandy clothes.

It was a hard journey (much harder then we thought!), but it was so worth it.

Mount Batur

Tips for hiking Mount Batur
  • Bring a headlamp. Your tour guide will likely only give you flashlights and there probably won’t be enough for the whole group so you will end up having to share. Trust us when we say that it will be pitch black outside and that you will want to have your hands free during the hike.
  • Wear comfortable walking shoes. Or better yet, hiking boots! We saw people in sandals and have no idea how they made it up the volcano without breaking their ankles. It is very rocky and unstable on the way, and particularly on the way down so be sure to have something that will support your feet.
  • Pack an extra water bottle and lots of snacks. You’re going to be up there a really, really long time and won’t be able to purchase any food. The breakfast that was provided really wasn’t enough for us, so do yourself a favour and bring lots of snack bars, nuts and fruit along with you.
  • Bring your camera. It’s a gorgeous sunrise. Enough said.
  • Pack everything in a small backpack. To put all of your things in and keep your hands free! We love our Eddie Bauer Stowaway Packable Daypacks.
  • Wear light, breathable clothing – and many layers! It will be so hot at the bottom and on your way up but as soon as you get to the top and cool down a little you will be thankful for those extra layers. You may also want to consider bringing a towel/blanket to sit on once you get to the top.
  • Consider your fitness level. We found this hike to be challenging and we are reasonably fit and active people. Yes your tour guide will take breaks along the way but they will be very brief. A rule of thumb, if you have trouble climbing 4-5 flights of stairs, this is not for you.
  • Go with a guide. It’s actually illegal to go without one since the volcano’s last eruption. Two tourists were killed because they didn’t know the volcano was erupting and didn’t have a local guide to tell them. Remember that it’s an active volcano so please go with a local who knows these things!

Have you ever hiked up a volcano? 

Please don’t hesitate to ask questions or share your thoughts in the comments below!


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Mount Batur


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Hi, we're Jordon and Katherine, founders of travel and lifestyle blog World Abound. We're a working couple who hope to be able to say one day that we've travelled the world together, even while still working our 9-5 jobs.

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