Defying Mount Batur: Climbing an Active Volcano in Bali

12:40 a.m.

1:22 a.m.

2:11 a.m.

I kept waking up all night thinking of my impending doom. It all started when I went for a walk around Ubud on my first day in Bali. Wandering up and down the streets photographing ornate doorways and temples, I came across a sign offering treks up an active volcano. An active volcano? That certainly caught my attention. Indonesia is laden with volcanoes, but how often do you get to climb one? With my curiosity piqued, I went into the travel agency and got a bit more information about the excursion – a 3:00 a.m. pick up, a hearty chocolate pancake breakfast, a 2 hour hike up to the crater, and a glorious sunrise to boast – I was in! But just what was I in for?

View of Lake Batur at sunrise, Bali, Indonesia.

Monkey chilling out at sunrise atop Mount Batur.

Seeing as I couldn’t get any sleep on the eve of the big day, I got up long before my alarm went off and started getting ready. I put on leggings, a tank top, stuffed a hoodie into my daypack in case it got windy once we reached the summit, and pulled out my dusty sneakers which were stained orange from the last time I wore them in Jordan. A sign of how often I like to exercise…

At 3:00 a.m. our driver arrived at the hotel and I piled into the van with Sam and his dad, George, who also agreed to join me on this little expedition. I drifted in an out of sleep the whole way over, but finally woke up when our drive slowed down to a crawl as a result of the thick fog which hung over the land. We could hardly see the end of the road and it was only the occasional light from roadside homes that kept us from veering too far to the right or the left.

A few minutes before 4:00 a.m. we reached the base of Mount Batur. Flashlights lit the dark parking lot and we met our guide Gede whose name sounded a lot like Gooday and made for a funny introduction.

“Hi, I’m Audrey. What’s your name?”Β 

“Gooday.”

“Ah yes, it’s a gooday… What’s your name?”

“Gooday.”

“Ohhhhhhh….”

Without wasting a minute, we fell into a single file formation and started following our guide. Still unfed and walking in the pitch dark, my mind was swirling around those chocolate pancakes I had been promised.

“Mmm, gooey chocolate chip pancakes… I wonder if the other climbers found pancakes? Maybe they’ll have them once we reach the summit… They are so much better than blueberry pancakes… When was the last time I ate chocolate chip pancakes, anyway? Those would be so good right about now!”

While the trail started out sandy, it quickly became rocky and steep. Requiring more concentration not to lose my footing on a jagged end of volcanic rock, my mind – or my stomach – eventually accepted a fate with no pancakes and focused on getting one foot in front of the other.

We continued our walk feeling the brush of tall grasses against our legs and seeing nothing but the dark silhouettes of nearby trees and the odd flicker of light from the climbers ahead of us.

I’m not going to lie, the climb was easy for about the first 20 minutes, but my legs quickly started to cry out, “Why are you doing this to me?!” I tried to appease them but guzzling bottles of Pocari Sweat and taking multiple breaks, but my legs were shaky by the time we reached the top.

Exhausted but not defeated, I took shelter in a little wooden shack at the sunrise point and waited for the first rays of sun to shine in the horizon. A little glimpse of orange appeared, and then the sky was slowly painted yellow, pink, and lavender.

This was the reason we had chosen to climb this volcano in the wee hours of the morning, and it was totally worth it!

I sipped on my cup of hot chocolate and took it all in.

Watching a colourful sunrise atop Mount Batur, Bali, Indonesia.

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1717 meters and I reached Mount Batur!

After a spectacular sunrise, our guide Gede led us closer to the crater for a little surprise in the form of monkeys! Yes, these little macaques live atop the volcano because they enjoy the warmth that emanates from the ground.

I was also surprised to see what the crater looked like – no bubbling lava; just a hollow, rocky interior with an ever present cloud of steam. It was a sight that made me revere nature.

Monkeys atop Mount Batur, Indonesia.

Looking inside the crater of Mount Batur, Indonesia.

Aside from watching the sunrise, coming down the volcano was another highlight. I had done the entire climb in the dark, where all I could see was the dimly lit path illuminated by my flashlight. I hardly knew what lay to my left or my right, however, walking down with the sun now up was a completely different experience. The landscape now revealed itself in its best light showcasing Lake Batur, green rice fields, and a lava field below. It was a wonderful sight to behold.

The verdict? If you’re active and are looking for a unique experience in Bali, then climbing Mount Batur for sunrise is something that I would definitely recommend.

Tips for climbing Mount Batur

Dress in layers. The temperatures can change quite drastically from the base of the volcano to the summit. While you may be okay in shorts and a t-shirt when you first start the climb, you’ll find that it’s very windy once you reach the top and have to wait for the sun to come up. Bring a hoodie or a windbreaker just in case.

Wear the right shoes. I hiked in running shoes and I was fine, but if you have a pair of hiking boots, that might be a better option. You’ll be climbing over sharp volcanic rock and there will also be sections with loose gravel to watch out for. You want to wear a shoe that has a good grip.

Pack a headlamp. While the guides will provide flashlights for the climb, sometimes there won’t be enough for each individual climber and you may have to share. If you own a headlamp, I would opt for that over a flashlight because there will be sections of the trail where you will be using your hands to hoist yourself up. That’s when a headlamp comes in handy.

Bring water or a sports drink. The climb is quite steep so you’ll get tired a lot quicker than you’d think. Pack a drink so that you can stay hydrated.

Consider your fitness level. 1,717 meters may not sound like a lot, but keep in mind that the incline is steep! I met a few people along the trail that were just hating the experience, so think about whether or not you have what it takes to reach the top and then come back down. It should be a total of 3.5-4 hours of hiking (up and down) if you’re able to keep a steady pace.

You can eat breakfast at the top. There is a small wooden shack at the sunrise point on the volcano where you can order a little breakfast. The menu includes hot drinks and things like toast, boiled eggs, and ramen noodles. It’s a simple fare, but you’ll probably be hungry after the 2 hour climb. Most items cost anywhere between 20,000 to 25,000 rupiah (around $2 USD).

Tours can be arranged at most travel agencies in Bali. The sunrise climb up to Mount Batur can easily be arranged once you’re on the island. Most operators will charge 350,000 rupiah ($30 USD), but if you’re a group they are always willing to negotiate the price. This cost includes transportation to and from your hotel, an experienced guide, and supposedly a pancake breakfast.

Be mindful of nature’s ways; Mount Batur is still an active volcano. The last serious eruption was in 1968 when the lava field tragically covered an entire village. The volcano was active again from 1997 to 2000, and in 2000 it shot 300 meters of ash above the crater. The hiking trail was also temporarily closed down in 2009 after some activity was detected. Keep informed before you decide on the hike.

Would you climb an active volcano?

What’s the most challenging climb you’ve ever attempted?

Mount-Batur-Climbing-an-active-volcano-for-sunrise


58 Comments

  • chelsea says:

    it’s beautiful! we were in bali a few years ago and stayed at a hotel with a gorgeous view of the volcano! i so wish that we would have done the early morning hike up to the summit! ahh well, just another excuse to go back right?

    • Audrey says:

      The views were fantastic! I stayed in Ubud and Sanur so I didn’t have these volcano views from my hotel, but I did eat at a place called Sari Restaurant which overlooked the volcano – best lunch with a view I’ve ever had! πŸ™‚

  • Dennis Kopp says:

    Hi Audrey, your climb of Gunung Batur sounds very interesting. I drove around Bali on a scooter and I actually spent one night down at the lake in Toya Bungkah. But unfortunately some local guys literally harassed on the motorcycle while forcefully trying to sell overpriced hikes up to the top of Gunung Batur, so that I simply refused doing it altogether. Now that I am seeing your nice photos, especially the first one, I quite regret my decision…

    But what I did do and what I definitely recommend is visiting Gunung Bromo on Java. It is also an active volcano, spitting powdery ash and making strange wave sounds, but it can be climbed very easily without an expensive tour. And I am sure you can even get some fine chocolate pancakes in the close by village as well… πŸ™‚
    Dennis Kopp recently posted..Sunrise Climb at Volcano Gunung BromoMy Profile

    • Audrey says:

      Gunung Bromo sounds like a nice challenge! If I were going to Java this time around I would definitely consider doing that hike. πŸ˜‰

    • Hana says:

      Hi audrey..
      Your picture are very awesome
      Im planning to hike mt.batur this month.
      my suggestion for you if you would like to go hike, please visit mt.ijen they have blue lava which is there is only 2 blue lava in the world.
      its very beautiful, its quite difficult takes about 3 to 4 hours climbing.
      depends on ur body condition.
      its located in east java

  • Wow, positively stunning photos. I will definitely do this hike next time I’m in Bali πŸ™‚
    This American Girl recently posted..Same Same But DifferentMy Profile

  • We’re heading to Bali soon – and maybe we’ll hike the volcano?? It sure looks like a great way to get some exercise. And the views and scenery look stunning! Thanks for getting us even more excited about our upcoming trip…
    Sand In My Suitcase recently posted..Mexico’s Colonial Towns a Necklace of GemsMy Profile

    • Audrey says:

      I hope you guys have a great time in Bali! There is plenty of sightseeing to do, but I’ve mainly been enjoying the pool and the beach this time around. πŸ˜‰

  • Amazing! I had to pin this post so that I can come back to it later, I really really would love to do something like this! πŸ™‚ The pictures are beautiful. And your writing is nice. Great post.

    Ps. Ok from one thing to other… I always wonder, when people travel in Asia/India etc, that are there any toilets nearby? πŸ˜€
    AkwaabaGolden recently posted..Attending a Traditional Ghanaian Engagement CeremonyMy Profile

  • What an amazing experience! What a beautiful view! The monkey’s are so cute. Thanks for sharing.

  • Rachel of Hippie in Heels says:

    That sounds like fun! I lugged hiking shoes around India for my treks in the Himalayas, and I really did need them but it is a pain in the butt to carry them! I think I’m going to try to stick to tennies from now on unless I plan a huge trek.
    Rachel of Hippie in Heels recently posted..Best Food in Singapore: A Foodie’s HeavenMy Profile

    • Audrey says:

      Yeah, the only bad thing about hiking shoes is how heavy they are! I’ve only done a handful of treks over the past year, so I can’t really justify lugging a pair around. Running shoes have been fine so far, although on this particular climb I would have preferred the boots since the ground was so rugged and uneven.

  • What a fun story to read! I am leaving for Bali in August and might have to do this hike; it sounds fantastic. Thanks for providing such detailed tips as well, they’ll come in handy.
    Daidri | Thee Getaway Gal recently posted..Outrigger Racing: A Long Standing Tradition in HawaiiMy Profile

    • Audrey says:

      That’s great to hear, Diadri! Wishing you happy travels. I’m sure you’ll have a wonderful time in Bali πŸ™‚

  • Franca says:

    Great views, great experiences despite the lack of sleep and incredibly cute monkeys, I’d do it to only see them πŸ™‚
    Franca recently posted..59 Rivoli, Where Art Can Be Free in ParisMy Profile

    • Audrey says:

      You can also see them at the Ubud Monkey Forest. They aren’t afraid of people, so they’ll approach you if they suspect you have food. πŸ˜‰

  • Jen says:

    What a stunning view. I would love to climb this one day and some other mountains too like Mt Fuji. What happened to the pancakes in the end? That’s so disappointing πŸ˜‰
    Jen recently posted..Where in the World WednesdayMy Profile

  • Aaron says:

    So no pancakes? this seems to be quite common, ive had it happen twice!. The volcano look pretty cool and that’s a great photo of the sunrise.

  • Michael says:

    Definitely worth it! Like Franca though, I would go just for the monkys!
    Michael recently posted..The Best Historic Landmarks to Visit in LondonMy Profile

  • Heather says:

    What an incredible view, and definitely worth the 3am wake-up call! If I were ever going to climb a volcano, this might be the one.

    PS – I love Pocari Sweat!
    Heather recently posted..Becoming a Celebrity in ChinaMy Profile

  • Wee Wanders says:

    I’m heading to Mount Batur later this year so I really, really appreciate the tips! My travelling buddy grew up in Indonesia and recommended that we consider the climb…your photos have definitely convinced me, thanks Audrey.
    Wee Wanders recently posted..1 Million Reasons Why You Should Travel the WorldMy Profile

  • Taylor says:

    did you ever get your pancakes??? Sounds like fun though, I’d like hiking to the top of a volcano for a sunrise, it looks gorgeous and well worth waking up at 3 am for!
    Taylor recently posted..Costa Rican Adventure Part 1My Profile

  • Looks beautiful. I love all of the different colours at sunrise. I’d love to climb this volcano. I hiked up Cotopaxi in Ecuador once, which is also an active volcano. The scenery is so different to normal mountains.
    tammyonthemove recently posted..Surviving The World’s Most Dangerous RoadMy Profile

  • MollyG says:

    Gosh, just beautiful pictures! I’d be all about that hike. The hubby and I spent 2 weeks in a camper van driving all around New Zealand hiking. And we both did it all in sneakers! I don’t think anything could convince me that carrying hiking shoes is worth it. They are just too darn heavy!!
    MollyG recently posted..Hiking Cinque TerreMy Profile

  • Jackie D says:

    Awesome! I hiked up and then boarded down an active volcano in Nicaragua, and beforehand I was really nervous and thought I would be preoccupied with whether or not the volcano would/could/should erupt when I was on it, but the hike up the mountain tired me out so much that I couldn’t think about anything else except how much I wanted to take a nap. I wish there had been monkeys waiting at the top for me!
    Jackie D recently posted..February was for FinancesMy Profile

  • Sarah says:

    These photos are beautiful! I hiked Mount Agung, the largest Volcano in Bali… It was so intense and painful, I have no interest in doing a mini version of it in Batur! Feel like I’ve had my share of volcano climbing for now! πŸ˜€ Instead I drove to another sunrise point to enjoy the beautiful views.
    Sarah recently posted..Nepal in PicturesMy Profile

  • Thank you for the tips and the photos! This post has just convinced us that we’ll have to hike Mt. Batur when we’re in Bali this month πŸ™‚ We’re also planning on hiking Mt. Bromo on our overland trip from Jakarta. Will be a volcanic good time!

  • Dave says:

    Good stuff Audrey. Nice pics too πŸ™‚ Most challenging climb? Gotta be Mount Kinabalu in Borneo (4,095 metres). Yourself & Sam should give that a go!
    Dave recently posted..Suwon Hwaseong Fortress, South KoreaMy Profile

  • Rob says:

    I would totally hike an active volcano, but it was disappointing to hear that you couldn’t see any lava or anything. To my knowledge the only place you can actively see it up close is Hawaii, but I could be wrong.
    Rob recently posted..About MeMy Profile

  • Ah! I love this. I can’t wait to get back to Indonesia. There are SO MANY THING TO DO AND PLACES TO SEE! Where to even start? I have collectively spent around 5-6 weeks in the country and still haven’t even seen a crumb of it. I certainly haven’t’ climbed an active volcano either. I think this will be at the top of my list next time I go πŸ™‚
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  • Karyn @ Not Done Travelling (formerly plasticsux) says:

    Awesome! We didn’t get up to the volcanoes when we were in Bali but next time I am definitely doing it.

    What beach are you staying at? Some are better than others in Bali, hey. πŸ™‚
    Karyn @ Not Done Travelling (formerly plasticsux) recently posted..So…We Just Bought Our Tickets. Whoa…My Profile

  • Backpacking Panda says:

    WOW! what an amazing experience. the photos are so beautiful… soon I’m going to climb the Villarrica volcano in Chile and I’m really excited about it!
    Backpacking Panda recently posted..Enjoying the amazing beaches of Ilha GrandeMy Profile

  • Anna McPherson says:

    Hey Audrey
    Bali is a magical place, but I havn’t climbed Mt Batur, yet! We climbed Lombok’s Mt Rinjani late last year, which has an active volcano within it’s giant caldera. Lombok is a short 20 min plane ride from Bali. It was the toughest physical challenge we’ve attempted. I loved every minute of it. If you’re ever over Lombok way, you should check it out πŸ™‚
    Cheers
    Anna
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  • Renuka says:

    I enjoyed reading your experience. Very well narrated! I can almost have the taste of hot chocolate and the pancake in my mouth. πŸ™‚ The hike does sound a bit intimidating, but I guess the outcome was worth it.
    Renuka recently posted..My 5 Worst Travel Experiences So FarMy Profile

  • Mimi says:

    Thanks for very useful post! As a native Indonesian, I have never climbed this mountain before no matter how countless I’ve been in Bali. What a shame! I made a promise to myself to do that next time I am there.
    Mimi recently posted..Sanur, Bali: town of the rising sunMy Profile

  • Aryn says:

    I recently did a volcano hike here in Hawaii. It was supposed to be a sunrise hike but it was too cloudy. It made for a just as stunning experience though, being up in the clouds like that.
    Aryn recently posted..The Road to Hana and Discovering the Real MauiMy Profile

  • Stephanie - The Travel Chica says:

    Such a beautiful place. Reminds me of the views from a volcano I hiked in Nicaragua.
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  • Really love this post! Adding this to my ever-growing list of places to visit next time I’m in Indo. I’ve always wanted to climb an active volcano! Really helpful and useful tips as well! Wouldn’t have thought to bring a headlamp!

  • Deb says:

    Great story. We climbed in 2003 and I did the exact same thing as you. I woke up every night thinking about “my impending doom” I had no idea what to expect and back then there weren’t blogs to read to see what it was like. I was sure I was going to fall in or be swallowed up. haha. We also didn’t dress well at all. We had our trekking pants and hiking boots but didn’t realize it was going to be so cold at the top. I had been sweating like mad all the way up and when we stopped at the top to wait for sunrise, I froze. We wrapped ourselves in sarongs trying to keep warm. The sunrise was a welcome sight. I’ll never forget it though, once it warmed up it was an amazing day. We cooked an egg in a little hole. The steam boiled it right up! And yes you are right, it was a surprisingly rigorous climb that we didn’t expect, but it was totally worth it.

  • Eva says:

    Is it recommended to go with a guide? I really like to take my time and take pictures.

  • Bryn says:

    Any idea on doing this trek during the day? I don’t fly into Bali until 9pm, and then only have 1 whole day in Bali before flying out the next day to Bangkok

    • Audrey says:

      Hi Bryn, if you only have 1 day on the island, you likely won’t have enough time to climb Mount Batur. It is a bit of a drive there and back, not to mention the climbing time. You’re better off sightseeing around Ubud or taking a 1 day tour of the island so you can see a few of the highlights. Try to give yourself a bit more time if you come back – Bali is massive!

  • Ana Jonessy says:

    Hey Audrey,

    I’m thinking of visiting Ubud sometime next year and I definitely want to climb Mount Batur! I’ve been doing a bit of Googling and I’m leaning towards going with Bali Sunrise Trekking & Tours – I noticed that their tour guide’s name is Gede too. By any chance, did you sign up with them?

    Much love and light to you! x

  • I loved your post about Mount Batur Audrey. We went to Bali in August and my (12 year old) son and I went up this volcano. We were collected at 02:00 and had a breakfast of banana pancake, and sliced bread, boiled egg, and a banana at the hut on the tip of the volcano, an assortment of drinks back at base, coffee poop, and lunch! I wanted to climb an active volcano and I did, but it was awfully exhausting, and I cried a few times. Recommended all the way LOL!
    If you don’t mind, I wrote about it here. If you do, please feel free to delete it. Thanks: http://thebritishberliner.wordpress.com/2014/12/08/the-beginners-guide-to-going-up-a-volcano-because-going-up-a-volcano-isnt-for-everyone/
    Victoria@ The British Berliner recently posted..How I went to 10 incredible countries, and climbed a volcano in 2014. If I can do it, so can you!My Profile

  • Ben says:

    Hey Audrey!

    Those photos really look amazing. By any chance can I find out with tour agent you went with?

    Cheers!

  • Five Day Weekend says:

    Great adventure! What a beautiful place and I want to visit someday. πŸ˜€
    Check out Crazy Aussie Climbs Into Deadly Volcano: http://youtu.be/DUAG8gJUHyg

  • Bradley says:

    Thanks so much for sharing your experience, you’ve just convinced me to do the hike when I head back to Bali from Lembongan next week! Nice insta account as well btw!

  • Angie says:

    Hi Audrey!

    I love your pictures of the volcano and the sunrise looked so beautiful! May I know what camera you used? Thanks!

  • Kristen says:

    I noticed on a lot of tour websites they say minimum of 2 people for booking. If I book it on the island can I be put in with a random group of people to go with? Solo traveler but really want to experience this.

  • Danial says:

    Great post! I’ll be attempting Gunung Batur next week so your experience and tips will definitely come in handy πŸ™‚
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  • Paul SIMR says:

    I concur! It looks easy in the beginning but the hiking trail gets more challenging almost halfway through. There are a few routes too where it is lesser steep. I should’ve read your experience before hiking last Thursday. Nonetheless, it’s a wonderful experience!

  • Chris says:

    Where can I get this tour for $30. Most of the ones I see online are $60 and up.

    Thanks

    • Audrey says:

      It’s best to book in person once you’re already in Bali. Just drop by some of the tour agencies in Ubud and ask around about prices. I booked mine through the Jalan Jalan Villa and Spa.

  • Jero says:

    That really good post, thank you very much to write awesome post about my places, I did mount batur trekking over then 1000 times and most of our guest said like that too. With my pleasure I would like to say big thanks to you Ms. Audrey. I am Jero I am a local who born and grow up on the put of Batur volcano and I know about our places but your post completely very helpful. Fee free to visit our site on balitrekkingtour.net. If you don’t mind I wrote about it here. If you do, please feel free to delete it.

    Thanks,

    Jero
    Jero recently posted..5 best spot enjoying Batur CalderaMy Profile

  • Greg Goodman says:

    Hahahaha. I am working on a post about Mt. Batur right now and found yours … we had the same guide! Gooday! I wonder how many others can say the same (probably thousands). Hope all is well with you πŸ™‚

  • Ray says:

    Thanks for the tip (RE: not booking the volcano hike until you get to Bali). Much appreciated! I am planning my Honeymoon to Bali next year, and we are thinking of being there for November time frame because of our work commitments. Would that be a good time of the year to climb Mount Batur at all? Or does it really get rainy in Bali at this time of the year?
    Ray recently posted..Backpacking Banff – Block Kitchen & BarMy Profile

  • Aredhel Winter says:

    I’m fresh from Mt. Batur. It was an amazing experience! Thank you for the clothing tip, it helped.

    Our taxi driver booked for 2 persons and we were charged roughly USD$44 per person + transportation. It would have been USD$34 if we had a third person, but unfortunately we didn’t so we couldn’t negotiate it lower than that.

    Apparently, not many guides will tell you about the 2nd crater, you have to slowly drag it out from them. Some are rather reluctant to bring you to the summit (overheard some conversations between guides and tourists), including mine. I can understand that the peak is rather packed during sunrise, but I’m not sure why they never offered to finish the climb when you had your fill of the sunrise.

    We convinced our guide to bring us to summit and then to the 2nd crater. The latter has a STUNNING view! It was a bit more challenging to trek and it is best that you have proper shoes. The guide wouldn’t charge extra for this trek, but they do expect a tip at the end of it. So yes, if anyone still has any endurance and strength left, do go to the 2nd crater.

    The cost is not inclusive of insurance, so do be careful when trekking. It is not a hard climb but because of the loose rocks and sand, you might lose your footing and tumble down if you’re not careful. A football-sized rock rolled down when we were climbing. Luckily no one got injured. So yes, be mindful of where you step.

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