As an avid hiker, I knew I’d be trekking up a volcano at some point during my trip to Indonesia last spring. With many volcanoes to choose from, this is an activity that almost everyone does at some point during their travels through this incredible country. Sunrise volcano hikes are very popular, so when I heard about an early morning hike up Mt Batur from my guesthouse in Ubud, Bali, I signed up. The hike went as expected for the most part but there were a few things I wish I’d known before hand. Here’s a run down on what to bring and what to expect while hiking Mt Batur for sunrise!
After getting picked up at my guest house in Bali at 2 am (and making 2 stops to pick up some more hikers), we made our way an hours drive outside of Ubud into the mountains. We stopped off at a picnic area (for lack of a better term) owned by the company who ran the tours and were fed a breakfast of banana pancakes (yum!) with tea or coffee. There were tables set up with a basic washroom and its here where we were handed small water bottles for the hike.
After about 30 min we all piled back into our respective vehicles and were driven another 15 min to the starting point of the hike. Here we were all corralled into larger groups and introduced to our guides. Each group is given 2 guides as the group usually splits into 2 during the hike – fast hikers and slower hikers.
The trek takes about 2 hrs to reach to summit, but this very much depends on the speed of your group and how crowded the hike is. My group ended up splitting into 2, each half taking a guide. I was in the faster group which was great, until we had to keep stopping to wait for the other half to catch up.
The hike starts out on a basic paved road that soon turns into a dirt road. This takes you directly to the base of the volcano and isn’t very steep, making the going easy. From there the real work-out begins as you start hiking on a 45° angle, straight up the rocky side of the mountain. Everyone is single file and it’s fairly tough going. At the sub peak, everyone stops for a break before tackling the last bit to the top of the crater rim.
Once at the summit, everyone finds a spot to sit or stand and we all wait in anticipation for the sunrise. Most guides will produce mats of some sort for you and your group to sit on and there is a small shelter with picnic tables to sit at. Looking out across the massive Batur Caldera, you will have views of Mt Agung as you watch the sun rise just to the left of it.
Unfortunately for my sunrise, most of it was obstructed by clouds that began to roll in just as the sun began to rise. While this wasn’t ideal it did make for some pretty unique pictures!
After the main event, every group is fed a basic breakfast of warm banana sandwich and a hard boiled egg, cooked from the volcanoes steam.
Our group was the last to be fed as all the tour guides share the cooking facilities and have to wait their turn. Though we waited a bit longer, in the end this worked to our benefit. All the other groups had began their decent and by the time we were ready to go, we had the peak of the volcano and the trail to ourselves. The clouds hanging low over our heads began to clear up resulting in the best views we’d encountered and with half the crowd!
On the way down, we stopped off at the sub-peak to peer down into the massive crater. We had fun taking pictures of the monkey troop that lives on the volcano but had to be careful as they like to steal stuff!
We were able to do a short hike down into the crater to see the steam rising and glimpse into a large cave that’s home to a sacred shrine (we were not aloud to enter).
From there we hiked back down the volcano and enjoyed incredible views of the massive caldera and lake, Danau Batur, the largest crater lake on the island of Bali. Looking out across Danau Batur we could see Mt Agung and many other smaller volcanic peaks.
Once back at the starting point, bathrooms were available and there were a few vendors selling drinks and snacks. I didn’t think twice about purchasing a fresh coconut as a well deserved treat!
With the hike at its end, everyone plied back into their vehicles and were driven back to their guest houses in Ubud, arriving around 11 am.
Tips On What To Bring
Food: Bring some of your own snacks. You do get fed 2 basic breakfasts but after doing such a strenuous hike, you’ll be hungry for a bit more, especially once you’re finished the hike.
Water: As mentioned above, they do hand out water bottles and there are vendors selling drinks at the sub-peak, but still I suggest bringing what you think you’ll need.
Camera: Well this one goes without saying! I brought my GoPro as well as my DSLR for this hike and put both to good use. Be prepared to take photo’s in all lighting conditions (night to day).
Flashlight: Since half this hike takes place at night, don’t forget to bring a headlamp or a flashlight! The guides all have one and they do offer extra ones for those who forgot theirs.
Clothing: One words: layers! After spending 3 weeks traveling around Indonesia in sweltering temperatures, I was quite surprised at how cool it got on this hike. Being at a higher elevation definitely made a difference and I was very glad that I packed some thermal layers. While hiking, I stripped down to my t-shirt and shorts but once at the top, sitting around in the cool morning air waiting for the sun to rise, I got pretty chilled. I suggest packing a thermal layer, a jacket and an outer, waterproof shell (Gortex is the best option). Once the sun rose and we began our decent, I again un-layered myself down to shorts and a t-shirt. By the time we reached the bottom, it was hot and sunny, the usual Indo weather.
Footwear: While I did see many people hiking in running shoes, I suggest proper hiking boots (one girl was hiking in ballerina flats!). The second half of the trail is steep and rocky, changing to loose volcanic sand and hiking boots will help keep your feet nice and cozy warm once you’re at the top. Having proper footwear will definitely make or break your hike!
Backpack: You need something to put your snacks, water, camera, flashlight and extra layers in right? A basic day pack will be sufficient enough though I always like the ones with a good waist strap so the weight of the bag is carried on your hips rather than your shoulders.
As one final point I’d like to mention that this hike is crowded! This caught me completely off guard and during the hike I swore up and down, NEVER again. I’m used to hiking in the back country where you’re likely to meet a few other hikers but generally have much of the trail to yourself. This was far from the case at Mt Batur as a lot of people do this hike. I found the real problem to be during the second half of the ascent when we were lined up, single file, taking one painstakingly slow step up the mountain after another. It was very difficult to pass anyone due to the rocky and near vertical terrain we were hiking.
That being said, I absolutely loved this volcano trek and it was a truly unique experience. I love to explore the outdoors wherever I am and this hike was a great introduction to the wilderness of Bali. Watching the sun rise from the top of the world while clouds swirled around me was one of the highlights of my time on Bali. I very much hope to go back to do a few more volcano hikes one day!