Staying in Songan the Day Before Our Climb

The Family's Private Temple in Songan, Indonesia

The Family’s Private Temple in Songan, Indonesia

Since most package tours to go climbing Mount Batur start with a 2 AM hotel pickup on the coast, and because most of those tours don’t go to the summit, Sarah and I opted to spend the night before the climb in on site. We found a beautiful, two-room guest house in the caldera, right on the edge of Lake Batur in the little village of Songan. There isn’t a lot to do in the tiny town, so we just walked along the lakeshore to take in the scenery. Serendipity often has me stumbling upon great things when I am on a little walkabout, and this time it had us stumble upon a friendly Hindu family celebrating at their private temple. When they saw that we were interested in watching the proceedings, we got invited inside to their home. We were sat down in a place of honor, given some tea and cakes, exchanged the stories of our lives and played with the children.

Family Get Together in Songan, Bali

Family Get Together in Songan, Bali

Tour to Climb Mount Batur

First Light Climbing Mount Batur

First Light Climbing Mount Batur

Anyway, instead of a 2 AM loadup into a van, we got a 3:30 AM knock at the door by our guide, and our little adventure began. Even though we were squarely in the tropics, the altitude and the morning air made the temperatures pretty cold. The walk started off easy enough with just a few groggy stumbles by flashlight on a wide path on an uphill grade. The stars were out in force, and the Milky Way looked as if you could reach out and stir it. I was starting to feel quite confident about my fitness level, even as the grade began to increase.

Climbing Mount Batur

Soon we were moving, still in the dark, through a humid, deep forest canopy, and up ever narrower trails. An easy walk soon turned into having to search with my boots, for unseen footholds to lift myself upward and maintain balance. Despite the still crisp air a trickle of sweat was falling down my back and making me clammy. My legs started to get heavy, and I began to question why I do these things to myself when I could be warm in bed somewhere, but at this point, we were out and on a mission. It didn’t take long until we were through the forest and we stopped for a quick rest. In the east, we could see the first signs of dawn.

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We began again, and our guide started doing a countdown of sorts for us — “30 minutes” then 20 minutes later, “only 20 minutes!” 15 minutes later, “just ten more minutes.” We were getting onto his game. Sweat was running down my face and getting in my eyes, my legs were burning and my knees were throbbing. The sky was lightening further, and soon we were able to put away our flashlights and navigate without them. Finally, as we topped what felt like an almost vertical climb we could make out our destination; the top of Mount Batur.

Sunrise from Mount Batur Volcano. On the right in Mount Agung. Just below the sun, you can see a reflection off of the Bali Sea. In the middle, on the horizon, is the island of Lombok. Steam is from volcanic vents. Lake Batur and Songkan are at the bottom of the caldera.

Sunrise from Mount Batur Volcano. On the right in Mount Agung. Just below the sun, you can see a reflection off of the Bali Sea. In the middle, on the horizon, is the island of Lombok. Steam is from volcanic vents. Lake Batur and Songkan are at the bottom of the caldera.

As we approached the summit, it appeared that the air was thickening with a warm fog. There was a stiff breeze blowing, and I went from being chilled from the combination of sweat and wind to being warmed by the mist as patches floated past. We weren’t the first people at the summit, but we did beat sunrise by about 30 minutes. I bought myself a cup of instant coffee and Sarah a weak cup of tea from the makeshift restaurant at the top and found a bench where we could celebrate, rest, talk with our fellow trekkers and wait for the sun. As visibility increased I saw that what I thought was warm fog was in fact steam escaping from the volcanic vents that were set in crevices and hidden behind foliage in meadows near the peak. The outline of Mount Agung’ Bali’s other active volcano started to become visible as the stars faded into the yellowing sky and finally it was time for the main event.

It Wasn't Much, But It Was Great to Find a Restaurant at the Top of Mount Batur

It Wasn’t Much, But It Was Great to Find a Restaurant at the Top of Mount Batur

As the sun rose, we could see reflections from the Bali Sea and even further in the distance the Indonesian Island of Lombok. We just sipped our drinks and marveled at how beautiful everything was. As the sun rose higher, we could begin to pick out the starting point of our hotel, far below, on the shore of the lake. This was the payoff for all the effort and discomfort. Again, the challenge was worth it, and all doubts of our sanity were washed away. We were only halfway through the adventure (what goes up must come down), and I had that satisfied feeling that I was happy to be out doing something worthwhile with my time and my retirement.

When is the Best Time to Climb Mount Batur?

The best time to trek Mount Batur is from May to September, the dry season in Bali. We hiked in May which was a perfect time. You wouldn’t want to climb a volcano in the dark when it’s raining.

What to Wear When Hiking Mount Batur

It’s best to wear layers. It will a bit chilly when you start the trek but as you climb, you will start to warm up but once at the top of the volcano and waiting for the sun to rise, you may need to start putting on the layers again. Running/walking shoes are ok, you don’t need proper hiking shoes for this hike but if you have them, even better. Don’t forget to bring a torch/flashlight.

How do I get to Mount Batur?

There isn’t a marked path up to the summit and as you will be starting the trek in the dark, it’s best to use a guide. The easiest way to do the Mount Batur Sunrise Trek is to book a tour. The price of your tour will include a pickup from your hotel, but the pickup time is around 2 AM. If like us, early mornings aren’t really your thing, consider staying at one of the many hotels or guesthouses near the base of Mount Batur in Songan. YOur guesthouse can arrange a guide for you. Obviously, it’s still going to be early, as the sun tends to rise before 10 AM, but you will be waking up a more respectable hour and can walk straight up from your guesthouse.

How hard is it to Climb Mount Batur?

Well, that depends on your physical ability, we wouldn’t say that it was difficult but it’s not easy either. It takes about two hours to reach the summit in the dark.

Descending Mount Batur

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