Home » What it’s really like to climb Bali’s Mt Batur

What it’s really like to climb Bali’s Mt Batur

written by Tammy Burns April 11, 2016

I’m slipping and stumbling up a slope. It’s only a few hours after midnight and I’m hiking in complete darkness, the path illuminated by nothing more than our flashlights.

I trip over a rock and nearly fall on my face before an arm shoots out and pulls me upright. I mumble an embarrassed ‘thank you’ to our Balinese guide, who’s spent the better part of the last kilometre preventing me from breaking various limbs or falling off the side of the volcano we’re climbing.

In the blackness, I can’t tell how far up we are or how much farther we need to go. In many ways, that uncertainty is a relief. I only have this moment, one foot in front of the other, the sight of darkness, the feeling of sweat on my back under my pack, and the sound of people breathing as we form a single line up the narrow switchbacks.

Hiking Mount Batur Bali IndonesiaWe’re headed to the top of Gunung Batur. The sunrise trek is a popular hike for tourists to Bali, and as soon as I heard about it, I knew I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to stand atop an ancient volcano and watch the sun come up over the sea. On my first morning in Bali, I had signed up for the next available trek with no research into how long it would take to reach the summit, how high we’d go, or how difficult it would be.

RELATED: CLIMB MT BATUR WITH INTREPID TRAVEL

The weird thing is I’m actually scared of heights. This would be a pretty unremarkable phobia, except I’m also obsessed with mountain climbing. I blame it on travel. In my hometown of Toronto, I can’t step on the glass floor of our famed CN Tower because the grip of fear is too intense. Looking out the window of a friend’s high-rise condo gives me vertigo. But stick me in a foreign country, and suddenly there’s no such thing as too high — at least not when there’s a peak there waiting to be climbed.

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I’m by no means a professional mountaineer, but if there is a trail winding its way up any sort of hill/ cliff/ volcano/ mountain, I want to be on it, working my sweaty self toward the top. It’s that desire to keep moving higher that’s led me to hike volcanoes in Iceland, mountains in the Andes, and a Sleeping Giant in Canada. (It’s also what’s led me to have an obsession with all things Mount Everest, although I have sufficient healthy doubt in my skills to go that far.)

Travel companions have cursed me for waking them up at 2am so we could watch the sunrise from 1,700 metres or insisting that Machu Picchu isn’t worth seeing if it doesn’t take four days of climbing to reach it. No train for this girl.

Mt Batur Bali Indonesia

Mt Batur

Now, full disclosure: climbing Mt Batur is really not that tough. It’s just challenging enough to make your muscles scream for a few hours — but then, before it becomes unbearable, you’ve reached the top.

And that’s maybe why I’m so addicted to mountain trails. Athleticism has never been my forte, but this steady movement of moving up, step by slow step, is a middle ground where athletic prowess comes second place to sheer desire and determination.

You don’t have to be Sir Edmund Hillary to find a spot where it feels like the world is at your feet. You don’t have to hang from the Dawn Wall to know that you’re doing something beyond the ordinary. You’re just moving and making your way to the top as best you can, and when the view opens up, it feels like it’s there just for you.

READ MORE: SAYING GOODBYE TO MY COMFORT ZONE ON AN ACTIVE TRIP IN BALI

At sunrise, the sky turns from black to inky blue to pink and orange. With the light, we can see how far we’ve climbed. I’m sitting on a stone ledge overlooking the village rooftops, sipping coffee and eating a sticky bun. My feet are dangling into the air and the expanse of the valley stretches before me. I can see the faint outline of the island of Lombok in the distance.

I’m high, high up with nothing to stop me from falling and my phobia is nowhere to be found.

Across the valley there’s an even higher volcano: Gunung Agung, the most sacred mountain and highest point on the island. Hikers regularly make a similar sunrise trek up Agung, and it takes eight hours to reach the 3,000-metre summit. Our guide notices my eyes flicking up along the slopes and eyeing the peak high above our perch, and asks me if I’d like to tackle it while I’m here in Bali. He recognises my obsession. He knows: I’m tired and sore but there are still higher hills to climb.

Want to see Mt Batur in the flesh? Get your climb on with Intrepid’s Beautiful Bali adventure.

Enjoy reading about epic hikes? Check out this powerful story on Machu Picchu and these Kilimanjaro tips

Tempted by the allure of Indonesia? Check out where to go in Indonesia according to an Intrepid leader. And read this feature on the nearly untouched island paradise of Sumatra

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35 comments

Kell November 21, 2019 - 12:25 pm

I was so looking forward to climbing Gunung Batur. I had been increasing my cardio exercise at the gym for 3 months in preparation. I got half-way up and started throwing up. In deference to his other clients and their sunrise deadline, my guide put me on the back of a motorbike to the last rest stop before the top. Trying not to feel too demoralised. Will train some more and try again in a few months.

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Christopher Peters January 19, 2019 - 2:36 am

I climbed Mount Batur nearly 30 years ago, the first time during the night following the guide and his group so I didn’t have to pay. I’ve run up and down this at least 3 times since as it is so easy during the day, eventually taking groups that were staying in the same homestead as me. I’ts one of the easy volcanoes. Now Mount Merapi… that’s a different story

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Will February 13, 2019 - 2:13 pm

Where do you take off from?

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Namrata Nagrecha January 16, 2019 - 5:50 pm

Hi,
Is it ok to wear keen hiking sandals for this. I generally carry only those for holidays and would not like to lug my hiking boots unless absolutely necesarry

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Grace September 6, 2018 - 2:58 am

Hi Tammy! Love your post! especially the way you describe your love for trekking up mountains. Absolutely relatable! Would take my legs out for a long walk just for the views and to sweat it out instead of a 4-wheel drive anyday. Recently did a couple of mountains in Yogjakarta, can’t wait to climb Mount Batur!

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nicola June 27, 2018 - 7:17 am

Hi,

should I book this or wait until I arrived in Bali – thanks Nicola
do I need hiking boots

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Freya Lynch May 8, 2018 - 10:26 am

If not a regular walker/hiker or only a few weeks getting ready would you recommend? Also have Asthma but would love to do

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Victoria CELASCHI April 8, 2018 - 10:29 pm

I’m hoping to do this with my 10 and 8 year old children. Is it too hard for kids?? They’re fit and have done some hiking but not constant uphill. Not sure if it’ll be too much? Any thoughts? Victoria

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Rebecca Shapiro April 11, 2018 - 12:06 am

Hey Victoria! Thanks for reaching out! I chatted with my colleague Tammy who wrote this, and she said that physically she thinks kids could do it if they’ve done some hiking before. But it is a steady uphill, so they should be aware of that. The big thing for kids is that it’s in the dark. You have to really watch where you’re going because it’s pitch black when you do the sunrise climb. The kids (well, everyone) should bring really good headlamps. Hope that helps you make a decision! Happy travels 🙂

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Paul March 15, 2018 - 2:50 am

I feel the same way about any hill or mountain. When I see it I just need to climb it. After doing Batur I came back a couple years later and did Agung with my son (and no preparation or gear just a whim). One of the best things I’ve ever done. The feeling you get standing at the top after all the effort and then seeing the view is just the best. The next volcano I Have my eye on is Rinjani that one looks amazing.

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Tina January 1, 2018 - 3:26 pm

Great post Tammy! I’m headed over there in a couple of weeks myself. Reading your post has gotten me pumped to trek to Mt Batur. Thanks for sharing!

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Lee L December 7, 2017 - 2:35 pm

HI Tammy! I’m going to be doing this trek at hte end of April 2018 – what footwear do you recommend? Regular “joggers” (ie I have some asics running shoes) or would I need actual trekking boots (which I don’t have). And I love that you found this trek good even though you suffer from height-phobia – I too get very nervous around/on heights, but I”m really keen to tackle this trek. Cheers, Lee :0

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Tammy December 8, 2017 - 12:18 am

Hey Lee! I just wore regular running shoes for my trek, so you should be fine. But make sure they have decent treads that aren’t totally worn down — the loose ash can be slippery. Enjoy the trek! It’s still one of my best travel memories!

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Lee L December 10, 2017 - 9:26 pm

Brilliant, thanks Tammy! 🙂 I’m so excited, can’t wait to get over there.

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VAISHALI November 18, 2017 - 11:58 pm

Hello – I am somehow scared of monkeys 🙁 was there any monkeys or stuff in your way of hiking?

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Anonymous September 19, 2017 - 7:29 pm

I was 56 when I did this great hike and I am not fit, it is hard but well worth it. I found going down harder!! Worth the view at sunrise

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alyssa September 14, 2017 - 3:13 am

this hike was one of the most memorable things i did in bali and i can agree with everything you’ve said in a visceral way. thanks for sharing it with people

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I Jero Susun September 14, 2017 - 12:11 am

The trek absolutely not hard for experiences hiker but will be a bit difficult for novice hikers, take 2 hours from the ease of the mountain and welcomed by an amazing scenery is paid off the effort. I think Mount Batur Sunrise Trek one of the higlight most people during their vacataion. Since I read this article, Interpidtravel write what traveler need about Mount Batur Sunrise trekking tour.

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Anna September 11, 2017 - 12:44 pm

I don’t climb at all but interested with this. Will my climbing take more than 2 hours? Haha~

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Tammy September 19, 2017 - 12:36 am

Haha, I’m not a climber either, but I was totally capable of doing it. So long as you’re willing to get a good workout, you’ll be fine!

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Mandy Owen January 16, 2020 - 11:54 pm

Im thinking of going in May. Im not a climber. is it very steep/rocky? Can i wear trainers?

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phil July 22, 2017 - 1:52 am

I am an experienced day hiker. Older but in very good hiking shape. My question is this: Can this hike just be done in the regular daytime and be a great experience? Getting up in the middle of the night after a 15 hour flight does not appeal to me. I need to find out where it is in Bali as I will be staying in Semanyak. Your opinions are valued. Thank you.

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Tammy September 19, 2017 - 12:39 am

I’m not sure… when I did it, it was only offered as a sunrise hike. I know getting up in the middle of the night is not ideal, but it is worthwhile to see the sun come up. Plus, you’ll be missing the hottest part of the day — it’s VERY hot when you’re coming back down with the sun up, but at least you’re descending. Climbing up in the sunshine would be extremely hot and probably feel a bit like torture. 😉

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Trisha July 4, 2017 - 2:59 pm

It’s definitely a tough one, but so worth it! My advice for those who want to, but haven’t is to just take your time and enjoy each moment along the way! There’s coffee at the top!!!!☕️

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Antonia June 29, 2017 - 11:22 am

Hello, thank you for this article that’s amazing. I am just arrived in Ubud yesterday and I would LOVE to do it, but I kind of broke my toe the day before the trip. I mean I can walk not very fast but I can… do you think I could do it? How long does it take? Thanksss

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Tammy July 4, 2017 - 11:26 pm

Hmmm, it might be a bit tough with a broken toe! The climb up took about two hours, and then another hour back down. It’s very uneven ground, so that would be my only concern with your toe. Also, the downhill might be harder with your toe pushing against your shoe as you descend. If you do it, I’d recommend wrapping your toe up really well to keep it in place and give you lots of padding in your shoes.

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Anil June 10, 2017 - 1:33 am

This is definitely high on my list! I feel the same way about the glass floor at the CN tower too lol. But strangely enough, I went Skydiving in Dubai without a problem!

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Anonymous June 1, 2017 - 10:40 pm

Great read, its in my list to do every time I go to Bali

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Rachel May 20, 2017 - 7:17 am

I would love to do this but am really afraid of heights where there are drop offs with no barrier or fence. I could not get to the top of snowdon in walea due to this. How wide are the paths at Batur! I don’t want to get half way up and need rescuing!

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Tammy July 4, 2017 - 11:22 pm

Hey Rachel! I’m scared of heights, too, but I didn’t find it too bad. The trails are wide enough and there was no spot where I felt like I was at risk of falling. Plus, if you’re with a guide (and I highly recommend getting a guide — I’m not even sure if you can do it without a guide), you’ll have them with you every step to help you along. You won’t be left all alone to fend for yourself!

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Kam April 12, 2017 - 7:33 pm

Hi, which tour guide/group did you use? I’m going next week and am keen to do this trek.

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Jason Nicholson January 16, 2017 - 2:42 pm

Great review, I am planning on doing this with my family for my birthday in March. Hopefully the weather is nice to us.

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Anonymous February 4, 2017 - 12:01 am

ok ! great

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Madhuvanth December 10, 2016 - 2:52 am

Which guide or group would you recommend for this trek?

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Rebecca Shapiro August 5, 2017 - 2:03 am

Hi Madhuvanth! We might be biased but we’d really recommend trekking Mt Batur on this 9-day trip http://www.intrepidtravel.com/ca/indonesia/beautiful-bali-101165. Please feel free to email me at Rebecca.Shapiro@intrepidtravel.com if you’d like some more info 🙂

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