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 wet.
Mount Batur is an active volcano perched between two ancient calderas, one of them the home to the caldera lake, Danau Batur, in the southwest.
Further southwest, the most sacred mountain in all of Bali, Mount Agung, spires majestically through the clouds. To the east of the volcano, along the calderas perimeter, the hallowed temple of Puru Ulun Danau Batur houses a virgin priestess and 24 priests, a vivid tribute to just how holy this volcano is to the Balinese.
Although the hike up Batur is not extraordinarily difficult, nor too long, a guide is still necessary due to the volcano’s revered status. These can be organized from anywhere on the island, or even directly at one of the two villages from which the trail begins. Usually they will pick you up at your hotel and bring you directly to the start of the trail, which is only a couple hours away 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 or Toya Bungkah, the guides equip you with flashlights and breakfast to prepare you for the short hike ahead. Toya Bungkah is the more popular starting point as the trail is more straightforward and agreeable to any 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 and serrated lava fields.
The best time to hike Mount Batur, as well as the busiest, is the early morning hike in the dark so that you can reach the peak just in time for sunrise and avoid the stifling tropical heat. It’s a short hike with plenty of little warungs at the outset and end of the trail, so only a very light backpack with water and small snacks is necessary. More vital is to have some warm clothes, as it does get surprisingly cold for the tropics. As rainfall, even in the dry season, is high, proper footwear is most essential as the trail can get narrow and slippery.
Most guided hikes end on a natural rocky viewing platform just short of the summit. However, the trail to the summit continues little further from where, on most days, there are far fewer tourists. This is perhaps the best spot from which to watch the sun rise as it haloes Mount Agung, momentarily bathing this blessed isle in a gold-orange glow from the sea to rice terraces.
The recent eruptions of Mount Agung, the highest point in Bali, have resulted in the increasing popularity of Mount Batur. Although Batur doesn’t boast the renown or the crown of being Bali’s highest mountain, it is becoming clear that the caldera views and opportunities to explore its craters makes this mountain an easy rival to that of its more popular neighboring volcano. 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.