Climbing the popular Mount Batur volcano was one of the parts of the trip I was most excited for, and the sunrise that we saw from the top was totally worth waking up at 2am for. Being one of the most popular activities you can do in Bali, it was definitely crowded at the top and on the way down, but in this case, I could understand why this hike attracted so many people - the views are one of a kind.
Elevation Change: 2,250 ft.
We booked online through Bali Trekking Tour for $80 per person. This was the most expensive activity we did, and we found out later that we could have easily saved money by booking it in person with one of the many tour services on the streets in Kuta or Ubud. We had booked beforehand because of the great reviews for this specific travel agency and for peace of mind, since we had so many other activities planned.
They picked us up from our hotel at 2:30AM in a private car, and it was about a 2 hour drive from Ubud to the start of the hike, in the village in the Kintamani region. We met our guide there, and he provided flashlights, walking sticks, and water. Both the driver and our guide spoke great English and liked practicing, so we got to learn about what it was like living in Bali.
What to Bring
When deciding what to pack, definitely bring and wear layers - it was chilly at the top, but sweaty on the climb up. We just wore running shoes which were fine, but ideally something sturdy and with traction. We also brought our own headlamps, which was nice to keep our hands free for stabilizing yourself on the rocks.
We climbed the entire mountain in complete darkness. The first 1/3 of the hike we trekked through forest-like vegetation and then eventually the trail got steeper and turned to dirt and rock. I definitely broke a good sweat and my legs were burning in between breaks. There weren't very many switchbacks, since the trail kind of just went straight up the side of the mountain. We made good time and arrived at the top at 5:15AM, well before most of the other groups.
We first ventured down into the crater to watch our guide put some eggs and bananas in a hole on the side of the wall to be cooked with the hot steam from the volcano. He then took us along the rim away from the standing huts and benches to an isolated spot that we had to ourselves. We huddled for warmth and watched the string of lights heading up the side of the mountain while we waited for the sun to rise.
Our guide brought us egg sandwiches, banana sandwiches, chocolate wafers, hot chocolate, and salak (snake fruit) - my new favorite fruit in Bali! After the sun rose, we hiked around the crater to make a full loop and even hiked down to the edge of it to see how massive the crater actually was.
On our hike down, it was extremely steep and we had to stop occasionally to empty our shoes of sand/rock. We saw plenty of Balinese monkeys and our guide gave them some water and leftover salak - which they loved!
One drawback to the trip was the hike down took a while since there was only one trail, and you are fighting the throngs of crowds the entire way down. I'm glad we left the top a little early to beat most of the crowd.
We headed to the hot springs nearby and got to enjoy the several pools of varying temperature before the rest of the hikers showed up.
If you're wondering whether to book a guide or not - most hikers had a guide, and I would recommend booking with one mainly because they picked us up from our hotel, and breakfast was a nice touch on the top of the mountain. It was also great to learn about the history of the volcano and gain perspective on how the booming tourism industry affects locals. Although there were many forks in the trail, it seems like they all would lead to the top, so having a guide on the trail wouldn't be completely necessary.