a mountain with clouds above it

Thrill seeker? Hardly. Early nights, occasional fun drinks and lots of Netflix would best describe daily life in this household. For one morning in Bali however, all of that went out the window, or rather – up the mountain.

At first glance- the thought of climbing an active volcano in what’s initially pitch darkness seems dangerous and scary. Second glance- enticing, interesting and perhaps a worthy once in a life time experience. In practicality- it’s all of the above, all rolled into one, but it’s all totally worth it.

a monkey climbing up a hill
This was on the way back down, it was nowhere near this light on the way up. Pitch dark, in fact…

At 2AM our alarm sounded at a remote hotel just outside of Ubud. Shoes on, and onto motorbikes we went- through remote rice fields to reach our driver.

After a sinuous, hour long ascent, we reached base. Now it’s roughly 3AM, pitch dark and we’re greeted by one of the native guides trusted to take people up the mountain. Our equipment? Water and a very, very basic flashlight. Best advice: don’t ask questions you don’t really want the answers to. More on that later…


So many questions you could ask of the trust inspiring guide- so few answers you’d likely enjoy. Are there snakes? Does the volcano ever spit? Probably best to just leave it, particularly in the dark.

What started as a fairly nondescript walk in the woods began to feel like a boot camp, with an instructor who adores lunges and Bikram yoga. The cool of the night was long gone, the meat sweats were on.


And then it got steep. Seriously steep. The volcanic rocks seemed to grow, their sharp edges seemed to protrude further and even for a fairly active, fit 30 year old, things got a bit edgy. So edgy, that my sister in law quit, until the guide told her that the monkeys may pick on her, if she doesn’t go all the way to the top.

a mountain with clouds above itThat sorted that.

After an hour and forty five minutes of continuous climbing on loose volcanic rock and who knows what else, we reached the summit. My god, I am glad we did. I’m not religious, but this was a holy sh*t moment.

a man and woman kneeling on a mountain top

Sunrise wasn’t quite in the picture yet, but you could see it coming and that wasn’t all you could see. We had just summited Mount Batur, and were now directly facing Mount Agung, the largest volcano in the area, just off in the distance and YES, WE WERE NOW LITERALLY ABOVE the CLOUDS.

Sunrise-nothing short of spectacular, and I’ll never ever forget it.

a mountain with clouds above itWhat can only be described as fluffy clouds in the distance began to take on beautiful pink, orange and red hue’s while the dramatic black volcanic face created the perfect backdrop against the ever changing blue sky. This was heaven, or at least as close as we’ve come, and in reality for me, definitely as close as I ever will…

Almost any hotel in the main areas of Bali can arrange a Mount Batur trekking tour and they’re very reasonable. The sunrise tours are the very best views and are a right of passage. You’ll want to wear active clothes, conducive to serious exercise and supportive shoes. If you’re not in relatively good shape, I certainly wouldn’t attempt this, but if you are, it’s a must…

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. Gilbert – There’s not many things I can claim to ‘out-do’ you on…but Valcanoe climbs are one of them! Next time you’re in Bali…nip over to Lombok and climb Mt Ranjani…brutal, but rewarding. You can do a 3night/4day trek. That was my 30th birthday treat (10 years ago) Was meant to be going NYC on VA -UC for my 40th in May, but sadly not to be :(.

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