The hike begins in the dark, a little past midnight. Underneath the shimmering Balinese moonlight, the rocky and slippery path up Mount Batur is illuminated only by rays of searching flashlights. The air is surprisingly cold and moist.
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Mount Batur is an active volcano perched between two ancient calderas, one of which is the home of Lake Batur, the largest lake in Bali. Further southwest, the most sacred mountain in all of Bali, Mount Agung, spires majestically through the clouds. To the east, along the caldera perimeter, is a hallowed Hindu temple, Pura Ulun Danu Batur.
Although the hike up Batur is neither extraordinarily difficult or too long, a guide is still necessary due to the revered status of the volcano. This can be arranged from anywhere on the island – even at one of the two villages from where the trail begins.
Usually your guide will pick you up at your hotel and bring you directly to the start of the trail, which is only a couple of hours from the peak. For the more adventurous, however, it would definitely be recommended to take an entire day to explore the artistic villages of the surrounding Kintamani area, celebrated in Indonesia for their craftsmanship and expertise in working with silver, wood and stone.
At the starting points in the villages of Pura Jati and Toya Bungkah, the guides equip you with flashlights and breakfast in preparation for the short hike ahead. Toya Bungkah is the more popular starting point, as the trail is more straightforward and agreeable to aching knees, taking about two hours to summit Mount Batur. For more of a challenge, and a bit of an adrenaline kick, starting the trek from Pura Jati requires a scramble through some rough lava fields.
The best – and busiest – time to hike Mount Batur is early morning, allowing you to reach the peak in time for sunrise and avoid the stifling tropical heat. It’s a short hike with plenty of warungs (small shops) at the outset and end of the trail, so only a very light backpack with water and snacks is necessary. More vital are warm clothes, as it does get surprisingly cold for the tropics. As rainfall is high even in the dry season, proper footwear is essential – the trail can get narrow and slippery.
Most guided hikes end on a rocky viewing platform just short of the summit. However, the trail to the top continues a little further where, on most days, there are far fewer tourists. This is perhaps the best spot from which to watch the sunrise as it halos Mount Agung, momentarily bathing this blessed isle in a gold-orange glow from the sea to the rice terraces.
Recent eruptions of Mount Agung, the highest point in Bali, have resulted in the increasing popularity of Mount Batur. Although Batur is shorter, it’s clear that the caldera views and opportunities to explore its craters make this mountain a comfortable rival to its neighbour. From its peak, on a clear and cloudless morning, you can not only see the majesty of Mount Agung, but also beyond to the island of Bali, towards Lombok and the majestic Mount Rinjani.