Sunrise Hiking Up Mount Batur in Bali
4am in Bali and I'm trying to find my footing as I take a huge step up a steep path of rocks in the pitch black. I shine the flashlight, ridiculously attached to my head, and take another deep breath as I repeat this again and again until we reach a small plateau and our guide calls for a water break. Covered in sweat, I shed my jacket, and take a gulp from my plastic bottle "Looks like we're close to the top," I say cheerfully, a glimmer of hope in my eyes.
He just laughs as he shakes his head, "We're about half way there."
As soon as I heard there was a volcano to hike for sunrise views of Bali, I was in. I love doing something physically challenging on a trip. It makes your holiday rewarding when you can look back and know you achieved something. Mount Batur sits 5,633' high and hiking to its summit to enjoy the sunrise seemed like the perfect way to spend my birthday eve. I wanted to go out on 27 with a bang! It was also Valentine's Day - and my best friend and I thought thought this activity - sure to leave us sweaty and covered in dirt - would be an incredibly romantic way to kick off the day.
Mount Batur is actually an active volcano. It last erupted in 2000. From its summit, the views over Bali are really incredible, so it's worth climbing to the top. Since the goal of the hike is to be at the top of the volcano for sunrise (6am) and it's about two hours up, you have to start around 3:30AM. The mountain is in the Kintamani District, which is about an hour from Ubud, so our driver picked us up at 2:30AM.
A lot of people in town offered trips, but I booked a Mount Batur hike online that offered private pick up, a guide, breakfast at the top, and return transfer back. I prefer to do things one on one rather than with a large group, and I recommend this for this particular hike. It will allow you to move at the pace you want rather than waiting on others.
At 2:30 AM our ride arrived and drove us (passed out in the backseat, drooling) an hour to the mountain’s base where we met our guide. My best friend and I laughed as he handed us hiking polls and head-flashlights. In our minds we were so above these tools - and we laughed at how silly they looked and how we wouldn’t need either of those things - incredibly fit mountain women that we assumed we were. Cut to twenty-minutes later, when that poll was the only thing keeping me from meeting an untimely death, and I’m wondering why I’ve never owned a head-light before...
Be warned, this hike is challenging! It’s a steep and rocky hike uphill with no actual path, and you’re doing it in complete darkness. Bring proper hiking shoes if you have them and definitely wear activewear. While you're hot and sweaty on the way up, at the top of the mountain it's pretty cold, so you'll need a lightweight jacket or sweatshirt to enjoy the sunrise.
In total honesty, the hike up was horrible. My bestie and I exchanged many looks of horror en route - telepathically communicating what the **** were we thinking doing this? We could be asleep in that amazingly cozy bed, dreaming of our next smoothie bowl! It took us about an hour a half to get to the top of the mountain instead of two because we didn't stop much. There were times our incredibly kind guide actually grabbed my hand and helped me upward through the rocky terrain. I was climbing on all fours for a good part of the final descent to the top. Since it's dark, you're not enjoying any of the scenery and it's hard and joyless.
But then, you make it to the top.
And it's like childbirth as soon as that sun starts to rise - you forget how painful and traumatizing the whole ordeal was, because it's so beautiful that it's worth it. And suddenly - you feel like Wonder Woman having made it to the top in one piece.
The 360 degree views of Bali are stunning, and while your guide prepares hot coffee, banana sandwiches, and eggs hard-boiled in the steam of the volcano, you get to walk around the mountaintop and just marvel. We stayed on the top of the mountain for over an hour, watching the sun come up, taking photos, and just enjoying the view.
Up there in the clouds, it is really peaceful. Well, aside from the monkey families you may encounter, eager to steal your banana sandwich by any means necessary! We had a little group of them jump onto our backs without any notice and as we began our descent, we were positively covered in monkey prints!
The way down is as steep as the way up, and while the daylight certainly helps you to see where you're going, it doesn't make the hike much easier. My pole was a my lifesaver yet again. I can't recommend having one enough.
While the way up was definitely torture, the views of Bali that accompany the way down make for a beautiful two-hour hike back to the start. You pass an amazing temple on the way, and it is definitely worth stopping to explore. I brought my iPhone and played some tunes on the way down, which everyone really enjoyed - including the monkeys who followed us for a while before realizing there were no bananas in it for them.
Most of my time in Bali I was relaxing by a pool, or watching one of the epic sunsets, or savoring every amazing mouthful of my beautiful smoothie bowl. In two weeks, it didn't get much more strenuous than holding Utkatasana. So I was so so thankful for this hike - which not only kicked my butt and earned me my coconut ice cream that day, but really challenged me, and helped me to see Bali from a different perspective. When you really work for something, the payoff is always more meaningful, and that is certainly the case with hiking Mount Batur. This hike is something I will both remember forever, and at the end of felt truly accomplished!
What to Wear
Tank top or long-sleeved workout top
Lightweight jacket or windbreaker
Hiking shoes or Trainers
What to Bring (Or Ensure Your Guide Brings)
SPF - sunshine on the way down is serious!
Flashlight - my head flashlight was awesome since I didn't have to hold it!
When To Go
Book this for a day where the weather has no chance of being bad. They hike rain or shine, but I can't imagine doing this hike in the rain. After hiking two hours, you want your sunet to be epic - not cloudy and rainy.