It was like the view from a plane window, the whole of Bali spread out below me. Clouds swirled round the peak of Mount Agung. The caldera of Mount Batur was below me, the lake shining under the light of the morning sun. I sat down, my muscles still aching from hiking Mount Agung and soaked up the view.
I had convinced Wira from wiranurmansyah.com to make the climb with me. Hiking Mt Agung had taken half of the night. It had taken more than eight hours to reach the summit. I was tired, exhausted even, but happy. The view of Mount Agung in the morning sunlight made the journey worth it. Let me share what to expect from the hike up Agung Volcano.
Mount Agung Hiking
Mount Agung, Bali, rises up over 3,000 meters above sea level. The peak of Agung volcano is the tallest point on the island. Like Mount Olympus the history of the volcano is entwined in myths and legend. Many still believe that the Hindu God Pasupati formed the volcano. On the slopes of Mt Agung is Besakih, the most important Hindu temple on the island.
The second thing that you need to keep in mind is that Mount Agung is an active volcano. You should check the activity levels of the volcano, before hiking Mt Agung. You can check the activity levels for all of the volcanoes around Indonesia here.
Mt. Agung: Routes to the Top
There are two main routes for people hiking Mount Agung. One trail is from the South. This route leaves from Pura Pasar Agung and ends at the crater rim. The second route is from the West and leaves from Pura Besakih (start point is Pura Pengubengan) and goes to the summit of the volcano, this is the trail I had taken.
The Pura Pasar Agung Trail
The Pura Pasar Agung trail takes between 4-5 hours to climb depending on your fitness level. The trek starts at 1,700 meters above sea level and ends at Mount Agung crater rim, which is 2,866 meters above sea level. Out of the two trails this is the more popular route. It is the easier and shorter climb. If you take this route then you will start the hike at around 2:30am.
The Pura Besakih Trail
The Pura Besakih trail takes 6-8 hours to trek to the summit. The trek is more difficult that the Puru Pasar Agung trail. The trail starts at 1,200 meters and takes you to the absolute summit of Mount Agung (3,142 meters above sea level). This is a hard climb and it’s only recommended for people who are physically fit and well prepared. The bonus of this route is that there will be almost no other tourists at the summit.
Hiring a Guide
Hiring a guide for Mount Agung is relatively simple. While I hired a guide through a personal contact, there is an authorised trekking association. The guide explained that there are two types of guides. One group work as guides for international tourists and the second group work as guides for domestic tourists. While there are two groups, the price is the same, the only difference is that the international guides can speak a second language.
While it is possible to hike Mt Agung without a guide I would advise against it (the guide was telling me that a lot of Russian tourists do hike Agung without a guide). The route to the top of Mt Agung is easy to follow. However, it would be very easy to fall and injure yourself and that would be a big problem if you are hiking without a guide.
Preparing for the Hike
Climbing Mount Agung is a lot harder than climbing Mount Batur. Mt Agung is also further away from the popular tourist towns in the South of the island. It’s a 2 hour drive from Sanur to Mt. Agung and if you are planning to drive there you will need to leave at night.
Whichever route you take I would definitely recommend staying close to Sideman village, which is within an hour of Mount Agung. Here are a few other things that you should consider if you’re planning to climb Mt Agung:
- Comfortable Shoes: Climbing Mount Agung is a proper hike and you need to bring suitable footwear for the climb. Trainers should be ok, but forget about climbing this volcano in flip flops or beach sandals.
- Wear Layers: It gets very cold at the top of Mount Agung and there’s no shelter from the wind at the peak. Dress in layers and make sure to bring a windbreaker for the climb.
- Sleeping Bag: This is optional, but I would still recommend one, especially if you are climbing to the summit as you will stop for some sleep close to the top.
- Headlamp: On most tours you will be provided with a headlamp for the climb. However, a good headlamp is definitely preferable as it leaves your hands free as you climb.
- Food and Snacks: Whichever route you take it’s going to be a long trek to the top of Mt Agung (and back down again). Your guide should bring a meal for the top. I’d advise bringing snacks, like energy bars for an instant sugar rush.
- Energy Drink: I’d advise bringing a litter bottle of an energy drink like Pocari Sweat for the climb to the summit of Mt. Agung.
- Wear Gloves: Ok. This is an optional one, but a nice pair of warm gloves will keep your fingers warm. A nice wool hat is also good for when you sit down and rest.
- Bring Sunscreen: You will be hiking back in the day and as soon as the sun rises it starts to get very hot (especially in the areas where there is no tree cover).
Climbing Mount Agung
If you’ve ever climbed Mt Merapi then you will have an idea of what to expect climbing Mt Agung. Whichever route you take hiking Mt Agung is a tough climb. There are three sections to both trails. The first section is through tropical forest. As you get closer to 2,000 meters you will enter evergreen forest. Finally the forest ends and it’s just rock and small shrubs.
While I can’t comment about the Pura Pasar Agung, the Pura Besakih trail was really steep and muddy. As you climb through the forest you’ll need to use your hands from time to time to pull yourself up. Once you leave the forest behind you the volcano becomes very rocky. There were sections of the hike where you need to pay close attention, because if you fall it’s going to hurt (especially as I got nearer to the summit of Mt Agung Volcano).
The highlight of climbing Mount Agung has to be the view from the peak of the volcano. As you get close to the peak before the sunrise you can see the whole of Bali below you lit up. When the sunrises the view becomes really amazing. From the top of Mt Agung you can look straight down over the caldera of Mt. Agung.
Mount Agung actually has four summits. The lowest summit can be reached from Pura Pasar Agung trail. From the Pura Besakih trail there are three summits. The first two are easy to reach. To reach the final summit where you can look into the crater you have to follow a narrow path, which drops steeply away below you, for 50 meters. If you have a fear of heights you might not be able to do this part of the trail.
I’ve been told that when you climb Pura Pasar Agung trail you will meet a lot of people at the top. The guide I was with said that on average 20-30 people a night climb this trail. Fewer people climb the Pura Besakih route and even with a dozen other people on the summit it feels like you have the whole place to yourself.
For many people the climb down from the top of Mt Agung is a lot harder than the ascent. I found the climb down really tough. I was already tired from the hike up and my muscles ached. While the views were amazing, I wanted the climb to end a lot earlier than it did.
For most people the climb down will take almost as long as the climb up to the top of Mt Agung. If you are taking the Pura Pasar Agung trail you should arrive back at the parking area by around 10 am. If you are taking the Pura Besakih trail you should arrive back at the parking area at around midday. It can take a lot longer though.
Trekking Mount Agung is easily the hardest hike in Bali. It is a lot more difficult than trekking Mount Batur, but the view of sunrise from the peak of the volcano is a lot more impressive. I’d definitely recommend hiking Mount Agung over hiking Mount Batur. The volcano is a lot less crowded, the guides are friendly and the atmosphere is a lot more relaxed.
Have you hiked Mount Agung? What did you think about the experience? Share your thoughts in the comments below.