I’ve hiked all of the major mountains in Bali, but Mount Agung is the most intense. There are two official routes and some non-official, more extreme routes you wouldn’t want to try without the skills of Bear Grylls.
I’ve climbed Agung 7 time and I personally like the route from Pura Pasar Agung, which is about 1.5-2 hours from Kuta or Denpasar. Once you reach the village of Duda, the road is extremely steep so make sure that your vehicle is in good condition and is tough enough for the climb. When you park the local guides will ask you to use their services. I’ve never used a guide, but it’s a good idea if it’s your first time up Agung. If you choose not to take a local guide you’ll just pay the registration fee (Rp50,000-100,000) and they will stop bothering you.
The hike itself starts from the parking lot, going up steep stairs to the temple. Once you reach the temple there is a path on the left hand side that leads to a clear jungle path taking you about one fifth of the length of the route. The path then becomes rocky and steeper, but the open space lets you feel the breeze and see the stars if the sky is clear.
At this point you can choose to turn to the summit or stay on the main route and end up on the crater rim. The route is marked with white paint on rocks but this part of the hike is strenuous and the terrain can be challenging, so should only be attempted by those who have some experience in route finding in the mountains. I have always warned my friends that it will be hard, but they still talk about how difficult it was afterwards.
“When I heard that it was quite a hike, I automatically assured myself I’d be able to do it as I am pretty active already. I go on 15-20 kilometre runs regularly and had done a full marathon a few months prior, but this was definitely more difficult than I expected.” said Diana, a friend of mine from Canada.
When I hiked with my friend Jake he said it was “not a leisure hike by any means”. He was carrying a backpack filled with water and his drone camera, which was pretty heavy. We ended up taking turns carrying it on the way down to avoid dropping the camera on the rocks.
In general, hiking Mount Agung is like climbing up and down a steep broken staircase. There are a few spots where you will need to use your arms to lift your body up to the next step. The way down is tough because you need to balance and choose the right spots to step to avoid slipping. And of course you need strong knees to support your body. I regretted taking my friend Max, because he had such a hard time going down with a weak knee. I thought that a few days hiking in Nepal that he had done was a good marker of his ability but I was wrong.
In the end, Max made it to the top, hiked down slowly and even drove a motorbike home. He said that the key is to “just do one more step, again and again”.
There will be a point where you think that you cannot make it and want to give it up. This is when you need to fight with your mind and telling yourself that you can make it, despite of having super tired legs.
One day when I was hiking in on a dark rainy morning, a tourist using a local guide service told me he felt like they were paying to be tortured. Maybe you will feel the same, so why do it? Because as Diana said, “The view at the top makes you forget every pain existing in that moment” and I completely agree with her.
Here is the important information you need to plan your climb:
- The hike will take about 3.5 to 6 hours depending on your fitness, so start to hike about 12-2 am to catch the sunrise. And don’t forget to bring headlamp!
- If you want to do it without local guide for the first time, do not start earlier than 5:30 am, as it will be tricky to find the white marks in the dark.
- Shoes with good grip are essential! No flip flops!
- A pair of gloves is handy to avoid injuring your hands on the way down.
- Bear in mind that it is cold on dark or windy days, and very hot on the sunny days. Prepare the right clothes is essential. Take a waterproof jacket in case of rain, and sunscreen for the way down.
- There are some spots for camping before the junction to the summit or crater lake but be warned there is no water source!
- Bring enough food and water (minimum 2 liters of water per person for the sunrise hike). And please take your empty bottles and any other non-organic waste back down with you.
- Last but not least, prepare your body and your mind. If you live or work in a high building, stop taking the elevator and escalator, choose the stairs instead!