It was still dark when we reached the summit. We sat on the edge of the mountain and watched a line of lights flicker as people walked up the mountain — the volcano’s version of morning rush hour. People from all around the world dedicated their sleeping hours to trekking up Mount Batur, where we’d watch the sun rise over the top of Mount Agung.
When I trekked Mount Batur a few months ago, its neighboring volcano, Mount Agung, wasn’t as intimidating as it is today. As I type this, Mount Agung is steaming and rumbling — threatening to erupt at any moment. Thousands of Balinese residents have evacuated anywhere within Mount Agung’s reach, with extra boats stationed at the ports ready to shuttle people over if the volcano does make its grand performance.
But I didn’t think about destruction the morning we trekked Mount Batur.
My sister, two friends, and I got out of our beds at 2 A.M. to prepare for the trek.
The first section of the hike was flat and winding. My Balinese friend placed her daily offerings at one of the temple entrances. Murmurs from following tour groups weaved through the trees and into our ears. We hardly spoke — everyone was too lethargic from the early morning wake up.
Trekking Mount Batur was the top thing my sister wanted to do in Bali. She hated hiking as a kid, but now hikes to the top of most peaks in Southern California whenever she can find a friend (or a dog) to walk with her. It felt strange to enjoy it together after an entire childhood of my sister screaming to go home after just five minutes on the trail. She always smiled and picked up the pace on the way back.
The flat, dirt path transitioned into a steeper trail made of jagged rocks. Some tourists stood to the side, panting. Others pushed on.
I sensed the sun creeping to the horizon. We picked up our pace and sped to the top, hoping to nestle into an uncrowded spot for sunrise.
Just as my legs started to burn, we reached the summit. Stray dogs ran up and down the trail and sniffed us in search of snacks. My sister fed one mutt a handful of nuts, and it stood loyally by her side for the rest of the morning.
We watched the rest of the hikers reach the top of Mount Batur. Some felt exhilarated and rejuvenated from the accomplishment of reaching the top. Others slumped down in exhaustion.
By the time we’d arrived, locals were already prepared with hot drinks and egg sandwiches. I wondered what time they needed to start to get to the top and ready in time.
The sky turned from dark purple to lavender to orange. With each new change, I could feel my body getting warmer and my mood brighter. We watched the city in Mount Agung’s shadow wake up. The sunshine snuffed out the lights coming from their homes.
We walked past a wooden shelter and onto a trail that wove around the side of the mountain. Parts of the path were narrow, with a steep drop to one side.
A local walked up to us and scolded us, “Where is your guide? You’re supposed to be with him.”
I mumbled an excuse and gestured for him to pass . Back in our own private world, my sister and I walked towards a puff of billowing steam coming from a hot spring like an underground cloud factory
Slowly, as the sky turned blue, people made their way back down the mountain.
We were the last to leave.
Tips for hiking Mount Batur in Bali
Where should you stay before hiking Mount Batur? The closest town to Mount Batur’s base is Kintamani, a small lakeside area with hot springs and spas (the perfect retreat after your hike). I stayed at Black Lava Hostel, a fun and clean place to stay with friendly staff.
Go with a guide: While the trek up Mount Batur is not an especially challenging one for experienced hikers (it takes about four hours round-trip), you will need to go with a guide. The trail is not well-marked and some parts can be very steep. Plus, it’s a great way to help the local economy — guides are typically inexpensive. If you want a cheaper price, consider booking outside of the Mount Batur entrance through your hostel/hotel.
Choose the right path: There are two paths to the summit of Mount Batur. One is longer with less of an incline while the other is steep, rocky, and slightly shorter. We chose the steeper, shorter trail for our hike up Mount Batur.
Get there early: If you snooze or take your time walking to the top of Mount Batur, you’ll regret it. Start early and push through the discomfort to ensure you find the perfect spot to watch the sunrise.
Wear layers and sturdy shoes: The trail to the top of Mount Batur has many loose rocks, branches, and holes, so wear a sturdy pair of shoes to save your ankles. I suggest wearing legging or workout pants, a T-shirt, and bringing a light jacket or sweater in case it’s chilly at the top.
Bring water and sunscreen in a small backpack: Keep your hands free by throwing your water bottle in a small backpack. You’ll want sun protection for the way back down.
Don’t eat too much: This isn’t an all-day excursion, so you should eat just enough to keep hunger pangs away — but not too much, or else you risk feeling sick or lethargic. A small sandwich, handful of nuts, or banana make for great pre-trek snacks. Celebrate your trek with a feast once you’ve made it back down the volcano.