Which Bali volcano should you climb?

Climbing a volcano might not be an obvious activity in Bali, with so many white sand beaches just waiting to be laid on, and turquoise waters just waiting to be swum in. But if you’re planning to be in Bali for a decent amount of time, or if you live in Bali and have explored every beach on the island (that’s an impressive achievement, by the way), it’s definitely worth doing a trek or two to one of Bali’s gunung merapi.
 
But before you rise at the crack of dawn and put on your trekking shoes, there are a few things you should know — like whether the volcano you’re climbing matches your fitness level or length of time you’re willing to spend trekking.
 
Here are our tips on which Bali volcanoes you might want to consider getting your trek on, depending on how fast you get out of breath when you’re tackling tanjakans by foot or your tolerance level for leg-soreness. 
 

1. MOUNT BATUR 

 
Gunung Batur is probably the “most climbed by tourist volcano” in Bali. While the trek is definitely not a walk in the park, it doesn’t take too long to get to the summit. Climbers have reported climbing time of one and a half hours to two and a half hours, which is definitely doable for novice climbers.  
 
Mt. Batur is an active volcano, and also has the largest crater-lake in Bali. The hike is mostly off road trails and rocky terrain. While the trek can’t exactly be done in flip flops, experienced climbers have commented that the landscapes aren’t too challenging—local regulations require you to to climb with a guide (you can try going without one, but it’s likely that you’ll get aggressively harassed at the foot of the mountain by the Association of Mt. Batur Trekking Guides).
 
Sunrise treks to Batur are a popular option. You have to get up at the ungodly hour of 2 am to get picked up, and then you start the trek around 4 am. At the top of the climb you will be rewarded with the view of sunrise and a breakfast that includes eggs cooked on lava-heated rocks. Trekkers who’ve done this said that the view of the sunrise is worthwhile, though they lamented that getting up at 2 am was something they’ll probably only do once.
 
Mt. Batur IS the volcano for you if: You want an easy(ish) climb and don’t mind sharing your trek with tourists who feel the same way.

Mt. Batur IS NOT the volcano for you if: You see a two-hour climb as a “light-walk” and are looking for physical challenges as well as incredible views. 

 
Mount Batur Sunrise
Photo: Flickr
 

2. MOUNT AGUNG

 
For the savvy trekkers, physical activity enthusiasts and serious mountain climbers—Gunung Agung won’t disappoint. However, those who shudder at the thought of running five kilometers probably won’t enjoy this trek. 

Mt. Agung is Bali’s highest point, a stratovolcano standing at 3,031 meters—which means that the trek up there is definitely for the fit among us. The routes are also much more difficult to follow than Mt. Batur, so hiring a guide is recommended (even for experienced climbers, otherwise you might end up like these poor naive tourists here).

There are three main routes to climb up to the summit.
 
From Besakih, it is about a six to seven hour ascent to the summit (with the final hour being the most challenging). From Pura Pasar Agung, it is a three to four hour climb, which starts as a trek through the dusty, thick forest, before transitioning into a long climb over rocks and boulders, and then moving on to the most difficult part, an extremely steep ascent to the top with no ropes or harnesses (and may or may not involve walking over solidified lava). The third route, starting from Duku Bujangga Sakti is the least used (but also the least demanding) route, with the option of camping at 1700 meters for those who wish to break to save energy. This route also allows you to circle the rim of the crater.
 
Mt. Agung IS the volcano for you if: You are a serious and an experienced climber who is not phased by unmarked tracks and harsh conditions that volcano summits can sometimes pose.

Mt. Agung IS NOT the volcano for you if: You are an impatient and novice climber and protest to having your body absolutely destroyed after the climb.
 

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It’s a pretty sexy view from the top…
Photo: Flickr
 

3. MOUNT CATUR (BRATAN CALDERA)

 
The Bratan Caldera is located in the northwest of Bali and is a stunningly beautiful area with lakes, waterfall, and a botanical garden. The Temple at Lake Bratan (Pura Ulun Danu Bratan) is probably Bali’s most photographed temple on the island after Tanah Lot.
 
Mt. Catur is the summit you want to climb up to (we’ve been told it’s the one with the most breathtaking view). Unlike Mt. Batur and Mt. Agung, this volcano is extinct so you won’t be able to eat lava-rock cooked eggs at the summit.  You start the hike at Lake Bratan at Gua Jepang (literally translated to “Japanese Cave”—supposedly built by Indonesian prisoners of war during Japanese occupation). The hike is roughly three hours up with many picturesque landscapes during the journey as well as various shrines and remains of sites where the Dutch used to flock for their weekend retreats. At the top you will be met with a beautiful view of Lake Bratan and its surroundings as well as a temple called Pura Puncak Manggu.
 
While the toughness of the hike no way compares to Mt. Agung, if your fitness is below-average you might want do some endurance training before attempting this climb. 

Mt. Catur IS for you if: You want a picturesque area that you can explore or chill-out in after your hike, or you want to be able to hike and do other activities in the same day (i.e. watersports in Lake Bratan).

Mt. Catur IS NOT for you if: You are looking for a leisurely hike or a serious challenge. Mt. Catur probably falls somewhere in the middle. 
 

Photo: Flickr

4. MOUNT BATUKARU

 
Mt. Batukaru is the second-highest mountain in Bali. It is a dormant volcano.
 
What sets Mt. Batukaru apart from its fellow mountains is its landscape—very dense forests. Unfortunately this means lack of lookout points—but we think that the unique terrains makes up for it.
 
The shady nature of the forest possibly makes this gunung less popular than the others, because Instagram has made people’s obsession of getting lookout photos to document evidence that they’ve climbed a mountain even worse. On a clear day though, the Batukaru summit allows for breathtaking views of the crater, Bedugul lakes, Mt. Agung and even Java.
 
The trek is about five hours long, so definitely not a stroll. As it is a tropical forest, you might even see some wildlife running around, such as the little civets responsible for defecating into Bali’s famous Kopi Luwak, kijangs (small deer), and macaques (leaf eating monkeys).
 
Mt. Batukaru IS the volcano for you if: You love walking through tropical rainforests and you want to go somewhere that is definitely way off the tourist trail.

Mt. Batukaru IS NOT the volcano for you if: You envisage taking selfies at lots of lookout points throughout the hike. 

Rice fields at Batukaru
Photo: Flickr

5. MOUNT RINJANI (LOMBOK)

 
OK, we know it’s a bit of a stretch to call Mt. Rinjani a “Bali” volcano since it’s not actually in Bali. But Lombok being just a very quick plane ride away, it would be wrong NOT to include Mt. Rinjani on the list.
 
For starters if what you’re looking for is a multi-day, over-night adventure, you might think that Bali volcanoes are all way too tame for you (apart from the active part, we guess).
 
Climbing to the summit of Mt. Rinjani will likely involve a three day trek, spending some nights camping in the mountains. You can do it in less, but then you won’t get to visit the amazing crater lake Segara Anak and take a dip in the nearby volcanic hot springs, which is going to feel oh soooo good after a strenuous hike, don’t you think?
 
The climb geneally starts at Senaru, so best to book accommodations there prior and after the climb.
 
This hike is definitely not for the unfit and faint-hearted. While the view at the summit and the crater lake is nothing short of incredible, you definitely have to be prepared to rough-it for a few days, including sleeping in tents and going to the toilet in nature. Previous Mt. Rinjani trekkers have commented that while they were really glad to have done the hike, and many of them admitted that it took a toll on them physically and mentally.
 
Mt. Rinjani IS for you if: You think that climbing Mt. Agung isn’t going to be challenging enough (which makes you a little bit crazy).

Mt. Rinjanis IS NOT for you if: You are opposed to camping and can’t stand the thought of roughing it up on the mountains for a few nights. 
 

Can’t deny that’s a helluva sight…if only it isn’t such an excrutiating climb
Photo: Flickr

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