There is only thing worthy of waking up at 2 AM for. Chasin’ sunrises. No matter how tempting it was to just stay in bed, adventure called and I begrudgingly answered. I knew I was going to hate myself the entire way but I was going to hate myself even more if I skipped out on the Mount Batur Sunrise Trek.
Mount Batur stands at a towering 1,717 meters above sea level, dwarfed only by the 3,000+ meter Mount Augung standing tall on the other side of Lake Batur. Catching the first rays of the sunrise with Augung in the foreground makes for one of Bali’s most epic views.
It’s no wonder why people, sometimes hopelessly unprepared, decide to take on this otherwise terrible sounding trek. Waking up at 2 AM to hike a volcano in the dark for around 2 hours? Yeah, I’d say count me out any other time. The last time I hiked a volcano was the treacherous Acatenango in Guatemala. The rest of the trek was unforgettable but the bit where we woke up to catch the sunrise at the peak was made completely pointless due to the clouds restricting our vision to about ten feet in front of us.
So there I was, knowing that the chance of getting decent weather was basically a crap shoot. Thankfully, I decided that I needed a little exercise after all the Nasi Goreng that I’ve been eating and hazily hopped in the car to Batur at 2:30 AM. Our trekking squad was only missing our friend Keith, who proudly sports his Nasi Goreng Forever hat everywhere he goes. Is there a correlation between Nasi Goreng and missing the hike? I’m leaning towards yes.
How To Get There
Depending on where you are coming from, the ride to the trailhead can take shorter or longer than the hour from Ubud. It’s much easier to go with a tour because you won’t have to worry about transportation. However, if you are confident that you can find a taxi willing to drive you however long it takes to get to Mount Batur, then go for it. You might have some trouble figuring out a way back once you’re done with the trek, though.
Do You Need A Guide?
Honestly, with the number of people there, you really don’t need a guide to figure your way up to the top. If you can figure out your ride there and back, then you don’t technically need a guide. The trail is relatively self-explanatory and it isn’t too hard to just follow everyone else. However, the local guides are amazing and very friendly. One of our guides does the trek six times a week. The other guide held one of our trek-mates’ hands for a long stretch of very unstable terrain.
It helps the guides a lot if you choose to hire one. They all have interesting stories to tell and can tell you a lot about the mountain, its history of eruptions, and Bali in general. One of the best parts of Bali is getting to know the locals. A few dollars may not be important to you but I know that our group tipping around 500,000 IDR between the ten of us meant a lot to our guides.
How Is The Trek?
The trek is very uphill very fast. It starts off with a gradual increase in incline before going 0-to-100 real quick. The terrain gets much rougher and less stable. It is rocky and it is inconsistent. If you have ever hiked a volcano before, you know what the deal is with hiking on volcanic ash. You take a step forward and fall halfway down. The sheer amount of rocks makes it a bit easier than pure volcanic ash but it is still frustrating.
Prepare your calves and thighs for probably the hardest workout you’ll find in Bali. If you aren’t comfortable with hiking rocky terrain then it is definitely best to take it slow.
What Do You Need To Bring?
It is dark for the first couple of hours so you definitely need a headlamp or a flashlight. I hated having the flashlight because I like having both hands free during a rocky, uphill trek, but it is absolutely necessary to have one. It is really easy to lose your footing on this terrain when you can see. I can’t imagine how much more difficult it is when you’re going in blind.
Bring around a liter of water if you get thirsty easily. I brought a half liter and was fine but its better to be on the safe side in case it gets really hot or you start struggling a bit.
Depending on how long you stay on the mountain, you probably won’t get down until around almost 9 AM. You will get hungry. If you are going solo or your tour doesn’t include breakfast, then you should definitely bring snacks. There are little shacks along the way that sell food. I didn’t check them out but I’m sure they charged significantly more for their food and drinks.
Other things to keep in mind would be the weather. I brought a raincoat just in case. I’ve finally learned my lesson from my fair share of rainy treks. I also brought a change of clothes because I anticipated how disgusting my clothes would be post-trek. Definitely came in handy.
How Long Does It Take?
It really depends on your fitness level and the number of people clogging up the trail, but it can typically take anywhere from an hour to two hours. Give yourself a little leeway so you don’t miss the sunrise. Trust me, that shit is majestic af.
Pictures don’t do the Mount Batur Sunrise Trek justice at all. Looking at all the pictures online made me wonder if it was going to be worth it. Don’t base experiences solely on the pictures. The feeling of accomplishment after finishing the sunrise trek and watching the sky gradually light up is incredible. Watching the rest of the world wake up while you’ve already climbed a freakin’ mountain is pretty badass, too.
You can stay as long as you need to but it will get hot once the sun keeps rising. Once the monkeys wake up, the rest of the tourists typically start scurrying down the mountain.
Staying about 90 minutes to 2 hours at the summit would be ideal. It gives you plenty of time for pictures and to walk around the caldera of the volcano which makes for a cool experience.
The way down feels like it takes forever and the excitement of catching the sunrise is gone. That is probably the worst part of the whole thing. Going down on rocky, volcanic terrain might honestly be harder than going up. The only positive about going down is that you can actually see everything now. You don’t notice anything on the way up because it is so dark but the route is full of gorgeous farms and views of Mount Batur and Mount Agung. I recommend taking a minute to look back up at Batur and just tell yourself, “I climbed that shit. I am a badass. F*ck yeah.”
To Sum It Up…
Catching the sunrise atop Mount Batur is an experience you do not want to miss out on. Forget the comforts of your bed. Forget the feeling of not having your calves on fire. You will be sweaty, hungry, in pain, and exhausted, but in those fleeting moments, you are alive. As the sun creeps slowly above Mount Agung to the east, the brisk morning air feels crisp on your sweaty, exhausted, shiny face. The air feels fresher than anywhere else in Bali. The dozens of other tourists clambering up the mountain won’t even register. Put the camera or your phone down for a few minutes and just take it all in. You’ll have time to get your pictures but once you get up there, just breathe.