A beautiful sunrise rewards pre-dawn trekkers in Bali

Forget Bali’s beaches. Scale its hills in the pre-dawn darkness and you’ll find the island offers some of the most beautiful sunrise views on the planet. Joe Minihane pulls on his walking boots for a night walk with an incredible ending.

It’s 2.45am in Bali. My eyes are battling to stay open, my clothes are scruffy and my hair’s a mess. However, I’m not falling out of a Seminyak nightclub. Rather, I’m about to clamber the slopes of Mount Batur to witness sunrise over the centre of this paradise island.

After speeding north from the central town of Ubud, our minibus arrives at a small base camp at the foot of Mount Batur. Local guides are there waiting, togged up in down jackets and walking boots. Despite the searing heat of Balinese summer, the nighttime temperature is low and we’re grateful for the extra layers we packed just in case we were crazy enough to get up this early and attempt this pre-dawn ascent.

Torches on, our group of eight sets out at what could politely be called a brisk pace. It’s just gone 3am and we need to be at the crater of Mount Batur at 5am in order to see the sun appear in the east, over the Indian Ocean and the neighbouring island of Lombok.

In daylight, this kind of walk would be described as tough. But with just our torches and a dull moon to guide us, picking out toeholds in the rocks isn’t always easy. It’s all about staying focused on the next step. There are no views yet and when I do occasionally look up, all I catch is a glimpse of bobbing torches in the distance. And fellow tourists who’ve also come to witness nature’s spectacle.

Batur monkeyMount Batur's monkeys scavenge food from hikers
iStockphoto / Sean Randall / Thinkstock

After two hours at lightning speed, we reach the final ridge and strike out across the flat ground, which surrounds the eastern side of Mount Batur’s crater. The summit stretches up behind us, still dark as we’re shown around to some makeshift benches. Our guide pulls out a flask and hands us a much-needed cup of instant coffee. He’s even got banana sandwiches, a rare breakfast treat and one I certainly wasn’t expecting to be munching on while waiting for the sun to appear.

Its glow begins faintly. With it, the sound of Mount Batur’s monkeys starts to build and echo from the crater. The animals screech wildly as they belt down precipitous cliffs in search of tourists and any food scraps that might be on offer.

Trying not to be distracted by their incessant squawking, we stare eastwards. The sun crests the horizon and a blaze of colour illuminates the sky. Mount Agung, the taller, more strenuous peak, which sits on the other side of Danau Batur lake, is silhouetted against it. The hills of Lombok are likewise dark against the rising sun.

Ever-changing reds, purples, oranges and yellows are virtually impossible to capture with my camera. And so I stop pressing the shutter and take in the scene. My weariness from earlier is replaced by utter elation. This magical, shifting sky lasts around thirty minutes, the sun’s heat soon letting us shed our winter layers and take a stroll around the crater.

After exploring the steaming geysers which pockmark the surface, we begin our descent. Once again we move at speed, but this time on a different route. After negotiating a series of steep, igneous rocks, we enter a gorgeously shaded forest, strolling past hidden temples and across small rice paddies, farmers already busy with their day.

By the time we get return to base camp, it’s 8.30am. Shattered, we drive slowly back to Ubud. We might have got up as the rest of Bali was going to bed, but the views of this beautiful island at sunrise were undoubtedly worth setting our alarm for.

BaturhikersBalinese hikers on the mountain
iStockphoto / Eirik Evjen / Thinkstock

Anyone who wants to experience Bali away from its sometimes teeming beaches and bars. The tour offers a chance to see island life in a more serene, mountainous setting. Adventurers who’ve enjoyed the surf in Seminyak and further west will definitely get a buzz from this early morning mountain climb.

The cost of tours vary depending on where you’re picked up. From Ubud, the trip costs 500,000 IDR (around £30) each, rising to 650,000 IDR from the coastal town of Kuta. That includes transfers, guides, torches, food at the summit, water and entrance fees to the Kutamati region, home to Mount Batur. Considering the views on offer, it’s a price worth paying.

Occasionally the route to the summit can feel crowded, with so many tourists hungry for a glimpse of the sunrise and Mount Batur’s famous monkeys. These are small quibbles though and ones which we were happy to put up with.

Decent footwear is an absolute must. There’s always one person attempting the ascent in sandals. The ground is rocky and uneven and the terrain gets very steep very quickly. To that end, you’ll need to have a decent level of fitness, especially as the guides are keen to get you up to the top as quickly as possible.

Remember, while it’s always warm in Bali, night time temperatures at this altitude plummet into single figures. Bring warm layers and a backpack for stashing them in once the sun comes up. A head torch of your own, rather than the handheld ones guides hand out, makes it easy to clamber up rocky outcrops without losing your balance.


Various tour companies operate Mount Batur treks from Ubud and coastal towns on the south of the island. Bali Sunrise tours is a good bet, with tours available online. Local operators and hotels will offer their own versions, with the same facilities.
Price: £30.


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