Gunung Batur (1,717m), which lends its name to the largest lake in Bali, is revered as the second holiest mountain in Bali. The volcano is still active and smoke can be seen seeping from its main crater. It is possible to climb the mountain on your own, as the trail is straightforward and easy to climb, save for the last stretch of volcanic sand to the summit (it felt like I was sliding back two steps with every step I took). However, it is recommended to hire a guide from the trekking association at least for the first time. I started my climb at 4 am in order to catch the sunrise at 6am and I really appreciated that I didn’t have to grope my way around in the dark.
There are accommodations in some villages around the mountain and the largest is Toya Bungkah, also known as Air Panas (literally Hot Water in Bahasa Indonesia). The village is known for its hot springs and many of the trekking guides come from there.
It was rather chilly around the lake area where I stayed. I was worried that it might be cold at the summit but Ketut, my trekking guide, assured me that it would not be colder than it was at the foot of the mountain. It is windy though so prepare a windbreaker and scarf.
The view from the top was worth every effort. As the sun rises above the ridges, the lake glistens to life and the ocean appears in the horizon. It was breathtaking to watch the clouds sail by, sometimes breaking up as they hit the silhouette of the surrounding mountains. We had a breakfast of hard-boiled egg, cooked bananas and weak milky tea at the summit. Hardly appetizing normally but it tasted really good high up in the mountain.
On the way down, we went past the other two craters. Ketut showed me the little holes where steam is coming out and I can put my hands there to warm them. If you put your ear near some of the rocks, you can hear a hissing sound as steam makes its way through the fissures. Coming down the steep slopes of the mountain was a roller coaster ride with no brakes on. All I could do was to barely stop myself from rolling down like a freewheeling tumbleweed.