Gunung Batur

Gunung Batur (1717 meters) is the most popular volcano hike in Bali.  It isn’t the tallest volcano but it rises 700 meters over Bali’s largest lake, Danau Batur.  From the summit hikers are able to view nearby Gunung Agung (3031m) and Gunung Abang (2152m).  Further in the distance they can view Gunung Rinjani in Lombok on a clear day.

I was unaware that the volcano had erupted almost a dozen times in the last 150 years with the most recent lava flow in 1999-2000.  Most of the western flank remains covered in volcanic rock and trucks haul the rock almost 24/7 out of the crater.  This map shows the extent and years of the different lava flows.

On your hike you will see huge areas of rock seemingly painted red.  These rocks are colored by the sulphur emitted from the steam vents.  Or at least it is something like that.  These are the same steam vents that your guide will use to hard boil eggs for a summit snack.

Rating and length – moderately strenuous – 6 kms – 4 hours (round trip) – 600 meters of elevation gain

How to get there – There are two options for hiking Gunung Batur and both require a guide.  Gunung Batur is near Kintimani and the trailhead we used was in between the summit and the lake.  There are multiple trailheads.  You will have to use the GPS coordinate below if you are driving it yourself.  We made a few turns in the dark and I couldn’t give you decent directions.

1)  Many choose to do the hike through their guesthouse in Kintimani (closest), Ubud or even Denpasar.  The upside of traveling to Kintimani to book the trip is that you don’t have to wake up until 3am to start the hike.  The downside is that you lose a day of travel and spend more time in Kintimani instead of the other cities.  Those traveling from from southern Bali will need to get up 1-2 hours earlier.  The price/person for booking through a guesthouse seems to be around 500,000 IDR (+/- 100,000 IDR) and it includes transport, a group guide (ours spoke excellent English), local guide, flashlight, water and snacks.

2)  You may also choose to use your own transport and hire a local guide yourself.  A couple of kilometers before the trailhead there is a guide association waiting in the morning.  There will dozens of vehicles and people running around in the dark.  These prices are negotiable but a hard negotiator can get the price down to 100,000-150,000 IDR/person (feedback appreciated).

3) This is not a good option imo.  The local guide requirement has created a big stir on the Internet and many believe that local guides aren’t required.  I don’t know what the answer is and don’t really care.  The trail is not ridiculously hard to follow but there are a few junctions and it would be possible to take a wrong trail in the dark or the fog.  If you want to hike without a guide then expect to be harassed by the locals that will insist that a guide is required.  It is my recommendation that you at least hire a local guide.

The hike

The hike begins between 4 and 4:30am in order to see the sunrise.  There are many different trailheads in the same area.  We parked near a small temple and walked past another one in the dark.  The trail is fairly easy to walk (even in the dark) for the first kilometer until the rest area.  Take a right at the rest area and it starts getting steeper.  Once you emerge from the trees the trail becomes very steep and you will be walking in a mix of solid volcanic rock, broken up volcanic rock and volcanic sand.  That isn’t fun on a dry day but it would be quite unpleasant in the rain.  It will take around 1.5 hours (total) to get to the summit depending on the fitness level of your group.  At the top there is a small shack, drinks for sale and your guide might prepare a snack of hard boiled eggs, bananas and possibly bread.  Be warned that it is very cold in the morning and you will want to have pants and at least a light jacket while waiting for sunrise at the summit.

Many groups return the same way that they went up but weather permitting you can also hike around the ridgeline to the crater as shown below on the map.  Part of the ridge is a stunning knife edge where caution should be exercised.  After about 10 minutes the trail becomes steep again and you sink deeply into the volcanic sand with every step down.  The trail becomes less steep and you are able to empty the sand out of your shoes.  In 10-15 more minutes there will be a shelter rest area that will likely have begging monkeys.  Just after the shelter is the Batur Crater.  It is very deep but not that far across and it doesn’t hold water.  The trail continues down steeply until leveling out about 5 minutes before the rest area where you rejoin your original trail.

Guides – required (supposedly)- info above

GPS – trailhead S8.248555 E115.391613 – summit S8.236548 E115.378478

Date visited – 6/15/2015

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