Weekend Wanderlust: A Sunrise Trek Up Mount Batur Volcano

Updated on 13/06/2018

It’s almost the weekend and that means it’s time to get outside and explore the great unknown! Or in our case, the less developed, unpopulated side of Bali. Come along and follow the Bali Reporter as she goes where no Bali Reporter has gone before… This weekend we did the impossible…and no, I’m not talking about trekking up Mount Batur, a 1,717m tall volcano, although we did that too.

I’m talking about waking up at 1 am.

Brutal on both the body and the soul, it was a necessary evil in order to make it up Batur in time to see the sunrise over Bali.

Right Before The Trek

The four of us got dressed in silence, torn between excitement at the adventure we were about to embark on and letting loose a stream of expletives at the person whose idea this was. Pretty soon the excitement took over and we put on our war paint (sunscreen) and our battle armor (trekking shoes) and went out the front door, only to be met by what some would call rain, but what I prefer to refer to as “Poseidon’s unholy wrath”. Imagine a bathtub full of water being repeatedly dumped over your head, multiply that by about a thousand, and you have a clear image of the amount of rain pouring down on us.

Mount Batur Trek

We briefly considered canceling the trip and returning to our beds but then we remembered that we’re awesome and we don’t let little things like thunderstorms destroy our carefully laid out plans. With renewed vigor, we ran to the car, put on our killer playlist, and set off on the one and a half hour drive from Denpasar to Mount Batur.

As we neared the volcano, the car became enveloped in the heaviest fog I’d ever seen in my life – thick and brilliantly white, it surrounded us completely and the road disappeared entirely. Thankfully, we were very close to Mount Batur and we reached our destination not ten minutes later.

The Trek

After negotiating with the tour guide, packing on the layers, and grabbing our snacks, the adventure began and we started the trek. Having safely made it up and down the volcano, I can in hindsight break the trek down into three parts, and three difficulty levels – ‘beginner’, ‘intermediate’, and ‘someone carry me up this darn volcano please’.

Let me preface this next part by saying that I am not the most athletic of people. My idea of exercise is running after my bus when I arrive late to my stop. It usually involves me running out of breath, probably some sweating, and definitively some swearing. I had never done a trek in my life but I enjoy adventure, I love sunrises, and my friend, knowing that I don’t back down from a challenge, goaded me by saying “come on Serena, my grandma could do this trek in her sleep”. Great, she’s gone and made it personal now. My pride is at stake and I’m not backing out of this.

So here we are, it’s 3am, and we’ve just started this trek. As I said, the first part is “beginner” – it’s basically just winding roads on an incline. We are on these roads for a good thirty minutes and I’m thinking “pff, I’ve got this.”, I’m walking fast, we all are, we’re confident that we’re going to make it up this volcano in less than the 2 hours advertised on the flyer. We’re laughing and talking and just having a great time. It’s even stopped raining, everything is going our way! It’s also such a fun experience to do a trek in the complete dark, with no light to illuminate your path except the one coming from your flashlight. We’re also bonding with our tour guide Jerro, who has an impressive 97% approval rate on TripAdvisor and who we highly recommend, and who tells us he does this trek four times a week. I look at him in quiet awe and silent worship because clearly this man is a superhero and I’ve always wanted to meet one in real life.

As we’re walking and talking, I notice that the landscape starts to change – the roads are being replaced by rocky territory, and pretty soon we’re on the “intermediate” part of the trek which is a mix of walking and climbing up the rocky terrain. If you’re vertically challenged like I am, have no fear, your wonderful tour guide will help pull you up past some of the larger boulders. This part of the trek takes forty-five minutes to an hour, depending on how many little breaks you take. It’s tougher than the first part, but our foursome is making great progress. It has started raining again so we all have our rain capes on and the image is pretty funny. It’s so dark and all you can see is the white of the capes so it looks like four ghosts are ascending this mountain. My legs are starting to get tired but mentally I am on fire, we all are. We are having fun, we are making great time and we are generally owning this volcano. Villa Bali Team 1 – Mount Batur Volcano 0.

At this point, it has been an hour and a half and we have made it to the “point”, a man made little cabin just twenty minutes from the peak. It’s where most hikers take a break before starting the toughest part of the ascent and we decide to stop and light one of the floating lanterns that I brought. What better place to light one and watch it float away than on top of a volcano in pitch black darkness? Sadly, it’s a huge fail because, no sooner is it out of its packaging, than the wind rips it to shreds. Villa Bali Team 1 – Mount Batur Volcano 1.

We decided to keep the second one for when we’ve reached the peak, after all we’re just twenty minutes away! At this point, Jerro tells us that this is the hardest part of the trek, but I’m still in my victory mode so I give him the “dude, please” look and walk past him. Two minutes into part three of the trek, I’m ready to walk back down this mountain. It is the most frustrating terrain ever – part rock and part sand, you take one step and fall back down two. It doesn’t help that it’s raining, that my legs are weak, and that it’s the crack of dawn. At this point, Jerro is basically hauling me up the mountain like the superhero that he is and I am letting him do it. These 20 minutes are never-ending and my legs have given up. Mentally I am still cheering myself on, but my legs have suddenly remembered that they are French and they’ve decided to go on strike.

The Peak

Mount Batur peakAs I am thinking that I’ll never make it, the peak sneaks up on us and I only realize that we’ve arrived when Jerro shakes my hand and yells “congratulations, you made it!” I drop to my knees like we’ve just arrived on holy land, because we kind of have, and I am all set to take a nap right then and there in starfish position, but Jerro sits me down at a table and sets a cup of coffee in front of me. The damage he could do if he used his powers for evil.

mount batter guide

Our awesome tour guide, Jerro

As I am blowing on my cup of coffee, the sun begins to rise and I instantly forget the last twenty minutes of my life because all of a sudden there’s enough light to see the view and it is absolutely breathtaking. And I mean that in the actual physical sense, I think I momentarily forgot how to breathe. As you’re climbing this volcano, you can barely see three feet in front of your face, it is so dark. You know you’re on a mountain and you can imagine what your surroundings look like, but nothing prepares you for when you actually see it. Because it had been raining the sky was grayish blue but that did nothing to spoil view. From the top of Mount Batur it feels like we can see the whole world – we can see Mount Agung, the lake, villages, surrounding mountains, the grooves left in the earth by previous eruptions, it is gorgeous and well worth the trip. There are no words to describe what it’s like to be up there – you feel like you have conquered the world and like you can accomplish anything. We sit and eat breakfast for an hour, watching the sun rise, taking pictures and enjoying the view. We light the second lantern and it flops miserably to the ground and refuses to float. Maybe we did it wrong, we’re not sure, the instructions were in Russian so we kind of winged it.

mount batter lantern

Going Down!

After over an hour of chilling at the top Jerro informs us that it’s time to go back down and I inform him that that is not happening. He pretends like he doesn’t speak English and didn’t understand what I said, hauls me to my feet and points authoritatively towards the path that leads down the volcano. This effective pep talk is just what I needed and I start the descent. Very quickly it becomes obvious that my legs haven’t recovered because I start to slip on every rock I put my foot on. I don’t know what is happening to me, the others are flying down this mountain like their butts are on fire and I am ready to just slide down the side of this volcano on my face and hope for the best. Jerro is the picture of patience, he grabs my hand and starts to carefully lead me down the path, testing each foothold himself to make sure it is steady before instructing me to place my foot there.

While he remained cool and collected, I held onto his hand like my life depended on it and, not to be dramatic, but it probably did. Instead of focusing on the path, I let my overactive mind wander and focused my attention on what truly mattered – just how soft his hands were. For a man who makes it his mission to hike up a volcano four times a week, his hands were ridiculously smooth and I was instantly jealous. So what had begun as a purely professional deathgrip between two consenting adults eventually morphed into a gentle caress with me absentmindedly stroking his fingers, trying to get some of that smoothness to rub off on mine. After about five minutes of this unwanted massage I realized with belated horror what I had been doing and went back to my original deathgrip. Thankfully, he was either too immersed in getting me down the volcano or too much of a gentleman to comment on the situation and I’ve since then taken my humiliation in stride. I like to blame the entire incident on a unique combination of factors – my lack of sleep, the four-hour long trek, and most importantly, the altitude messing with my already impaired brain function.

As we were making our way down we ran into a group of monkeys who had emerged from their homes at the smell of food. Monkeys in Bali are absolutely adorable and not afraid to jump on you to come after whatever you’re holding in your hands. Soon there were forty of them running around, stealing our food, and generally making us laugh.

mount batur imageAs we continued the descent the views just got more and more stunning, confirming what we already knew – that this trip was well worth the effort. And when we arrived back at the starting point, we were overjoyed at having completed the adventure! Even if it almost killed me at times, I would do this trek again in a heartbeat. It was an amazing experience, with once in a lifetime views, good friends, hot coffee, and great memories!

Feel free to email the adventurous trekkers for more info!


Mount Batur as seen from a neighboring village

  1. Do not book your trip online! The prices are ridiculously expensive and go up to 650,000 IDR per person. Take your car or hire a taxi to take you up there and then negotiate with the tour guide on the spot. We were able to negotiate 100,000 IDR per person, combine that with the cost of the taxi and it’ll definitely be cheaper than buying a tour online.
  2. Bring cookies, nuts, energy bars, general sustenance to keep you going during the trek
  3. Prepare for all kinds of weather – bring sunscreen, a raincoat, sunglasses, a hat, etc
  4. Layers! Layers are a must because your body temperature is going to fluctuate like nobody’s business. You’ll be hot, and then you’ll be freezing, and you’ll wish you brought an extra sweater. So pack on the layers.
  5. Bring a camera. The view from the top is beautiful and you’ll want to remember the moment forever. What better way to do that than to take photos and make your friends and family jealous?
  6. Bring friends along! Trekking Mount Batur is an amazing experience, one we highly recommend, especially if you’re with your best buds.

Want more challenges? We hiked Mount Agung, too! Check out how we did it!

See our villas in Bali. Inspected and selected by Villa-Finder.com.


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