Bali is the travel capital of Indonesia — a whirlwind of luxe hotels, beaches, and cuisine. But for the traveler who prefers a revelatory experience in the quiet of the Bali skies, there’s Mount Batur. Sunrise signals a new day, something we all desperately need right now, and the active volcano of Mount Batur is the best sunrise in Bali.
Legend has it that the great giant Kbo Iwo was tricked into digging a well after he rampaged through Bali; the hole he produced became Lake Batur and the mound of dirt became Mount Batur. The geologic reality involves no mythical beings but is still rather fascinating, involving one of the most forceful eruptions in Earth’s history and leaving two concentric calderas with Mount Batur in the center.
Yes, Mount Batur is an active volcano, but there haven’t been many mild eruptions since the 2000s, and there certainly weren’t any when I went. The best time of year for the hike is during the dry season from April to June, which will see fewer tourists than July through September, allowing climbers the opportunity to avoid both rain and the tourists.
Those hoping to eschew the cabanas and crowds of Kuta and Seminyak will find a number of luxury accommodation options in Ubud, which is the obvious choice for an early morning drive to Batur. The newest of which, Capella Ubud, is a tented camp based on the experiences of the Dutch colonialists who first came to the shores of Bali in search of spices.
The spa-goer may opt for the Mandapa, Ritz-Carlton Reserve, but my stay involved waking up at the COMO Shambhala Estate, ideally located for incorporating both cultural immersion and wellness. The team at the property is prepared to have your early morning coffee or juice ready for you before departing.
As counter-intuitive as it sounds, it will get quite cold on this tropical trek, so be sure to put on your hiking boots and your layers. The dark two-hour drive to the base of the volcano, as it is the middle of the night, might be a good chance to catch a bit more sleep before the ascent.
You will arrive at the base of the volcano in darkness. It is important to climb with a guide; not only are they there for safety and to watch your every step to ensure that you make it to the top, they are familiar with the volcano itself, as well as its warning signs and stories.
In the darkness, travelers are led forward by specs of light, and pushed ahead by the flashlights behind. Each step seems harder than the one before, with every traveler on the rim hoping to reach the sunrise. At 5,663 feet above sea level, it is recommended that climbers have a decent level of fitness but the climb takes about two hours though summit times vary.
What we found when the top of the volcano became visible in the daylight was worth it. The black of night gives way to the pinks and orange of sunrise over Mount Agung.
After the climb to the top there are two ways to descend back to the luxury of your hotel suite: drive or freewheel almost the entire way down from the crater’s edge to the village of Sebali.
For travelers hoping to head back to Ubud, there is plenty to keep the busy traveler occupied. If you are staying at the COMO Shambhala Estate, as I did, then fine diners will likely want to check out the picturesque 150-year-old former Javanese residence that is the Kudus House.
Wildlife lovers and those with children should head over to Ubud Monkey Forest where there are more than 600 monkeys that call this sacred forest home. Conflicts are inevitable among monkeys, this is a safe family destination to get up close and personal with these adorable little macaques.
However you want to proceed, hiking Mount Batur for the sunrise is the best possible way to start the day in Bali.