As if Mount Rinjani was not enough, I had to set my sites on yet another volcano to climb during my short time in Bali. Mount Agung, the highest volcano on the island of Bali and fifth highest in Indonesia, had been skulking around the back of my mind for some time now, since I first heard about it shortly after hiking to the summit of Mount Batur.
I knew that I wanted to do it, but I wasn’t exactly sure how I was going to do it. For one thing, it was more expensive and less popular than it’s sister Batur, due to it’s more challenging nature. Because of this, it wasn’t nearly as easy to group together with other hikers for a discounted price.
Luckily, I met some really cool people during my stay in Canggu, Bali, who were all up for the hike (even after sharing this blog post with them)!
We ended up hiking Mount Agung as part of an intensive 4 day adventure, where we snorkeled with manta rays in Nusa Penida and explored the USAT Liberty shipwreck off the coast of Bali in Tulamben.
Now, for the lowdown on climbing Mount Agung from start to finish.
Should you do it?
If the prospect of climbing up a steep mountain face in the dark on little to no sleep for four straight hours doesn’t phase you, then yes, you definitely should. The satisfaction of having made it up such a steep ascent, and the reward of getting to see such a beautiful sunrise makes it all worth it.
We paid 350,000 rupiah per person (about $35 CAD), starting from the village of Tulamben. If you start from Ubud, a far more popular starting point, you can expect to pay around 500,000 rupiah per person. If you are by any means interested in snorkeling or diving, than a trip to Amed and/or Tulamben is definitely worthwhile, and is a nice break from the busy and hectic pace in Ubud.
If you do end up starting from Tulamben, then head over to Wayan’s Restaurant and ask about getting a guide to trek up Mount Agung. They’ll hook you up with the right people.
We found a backpacker’s hostel in Tulamben called Tulamben Backpackers, which turned out to be one of the most luxurious hostels I’ve ever stayed at. They have shared rooms (four beds per room) with prices starting from 100,000 rupiah per person. Not bad for a hostel that also has a swimming pool and poolside bar! We ended up getting a shared ensuite with three separate bedrooms and common area which featured a marble toilet and bathtub. It was a bit more pricey, but well worth it for getting to soak your aching muscles in after a long day of hiking.
You have two options when climbing Mount Agung. The Pura Pasar Agung Temple or the Besaikh Temple. If you are gung ho on reaching the true summit of Agung, then you need to start from Besaikh. We opted for the ‘easy’ route and started from Pura Pasar Agung, which is about 1200 m elevation gain in three to four hours (depending on fitness level) versus a six to seven hour ascent starting from a lower elevation if coming from Besaikh. More detail on the starting points can be found in this Wikitravel Guide.
It took us just under 12 hours from start to finish to climb Mount Agung. This was from the time we left our hostel at Tulamben Backpackers to the time we returned back to our hostel (after a short photo session in front of the temple). Driving time was approximately 3 hours there and back, and hiking to the summit was approximately a four hour ascent, with about the same time required for coming back down. Don’t expect to save time on the descent, as the steepness makes it even more challenging (in my opinion) than the ascent.
How to Get to the Summit
Here is what you need to know to get to the summit.
1. Get some sleep
Our 4 day adventure was so action packed with activities, that it left little to no time for sleep. I was one of the lucky ones, having been able to sleep for a little over an hour before waking up at around 11:30 pm to get ready for the hike. We were also staying at one of the most beautiful hostels I have ever been in, so it wasn’t a surprise that a few of the others were more into the idea of drinking by the pool rather than sleeping.
To their credit, they still managed to make it to the top on zero sleep and after pounding back a few beers! Not that I would ever recommend trying this, but I still feel like they deserve some recognition.
2. Go with the right people
In lieu with number one, the people you decide to hike up with play an enormous role in your well being and your likelihood of making it to the top. So go with positive people who will encourage you rather than those who ask the guide, ‘how much longer’, every five minutes.
3. Zone out
Ignore those thoughts in your head asking you how much longer until you reach the top. For hikes like these, sometimes it’s best to simply zone out and accept your fate. I like to fill my head with the simple mantra of ‘one, two, one, two’ on repeat when I get into a rough spot.
4. Be prepared
I wasn’t expecting to find this hike to be more challenging than Rinjani, but I did. Not that I would go so far as to say that it was more challenging physically, but mentally, on only one hour of sleep and from trudging up in total darkness, I definitely was pushing myself to my limits. I also tend to get anxiety when climbing up very steep mountains with little to nothing to hang on to, and Agung was precisely that. So take it one foot step at a time, and remember to breathe!
5. Respect the Mountain
At the base of the Pura Pasar Agung Temple, our guides tooks a few minutes to make an offering. We sat around in a half circle in silence as they lit some incense and passed a few flowers around for us to put behind our ear. Just having those moments of silence before commencing the climb made me take the time to appreciate the significance of what we were all about to undertake. Although I don’t have much to any understanding of Balinese Hinduism, it truly felt like a spiritual and sacred moment, with the mountain towering above us.
Are you planning on hiking Mount Agung, or have you already? Where did you start from?
You might also like: Hiking to the Summit of Mount Batur, Bali’s Second Highest Volcano