Climbing Mount Agung for sunrise is probably one of the most spectacular outdoor experiences you can do in Bali. It is the highest point on the island, one that grants views of the very outlines of the meandering coastline, above the clouds. Breathtaking – in more ways than one! – battling this great, active volcano through night and day is a rewarding challenge for any nature and adventure lover out there. But, be warned, trekking Mount Agung is no easy feat, and anyone looking to ascend this holy mountain should be wholly prepared.
Note: On 13 September 2021, authorities declared Mt Agung’s status as ‘Level 1’ or ‘normal’, once again allowing visiting, hiking or trekking Agung. The first time since its last eruption back in November 2017.
About Mount Agung
Mount Agung is found in east Bali, in the regency of Karangasem. This towering, active volcano stands at 3,142m high, it is the highest mountain in Bali and is considered in ancient Balinese beliefs as the abode of the gods. The word Agung, also the title of royal or higher caste Balinese, translates to ‘great’, thus Mount Agung is Bali’s ‘Great Mountain’.
With its holy reputation, the Balinese have considered Agung their true north, or ‘kaja’, which has been translated also as ‘towards the mountain’ and also as ‘towards the light’, i.e. where the sun is seen to rise. Kaja, towards Agung, is thus the direction towards the spiritual, where the Balinese orient themselves towards. This orientation is found throughout Balinese structures and is all about orienting oneself with the universe. You can understand more about this in our Podcast episode Kaja, Bali’s True North.
There are many legends that surround Agung, that it was brought to Bali by the giant serpent-dragon, Basuki to stop the island from swaying to-and-fro; this is in fact the origin of the name for Bali’s mother temple, Pura Besakih, that runs up the mountain’s southern face. This makes trekking Mount Agung an even more special experience.
Trekking Mount Agung – The Experience
Mount Agung is found in Bali’s most eastern regency, Karangasem. The drive east often puts people off, perceived as being long and tedious, but having passed through the hectic urban centres, the roads clear up and the long Ida Bagus Mantra highway takes you out away… slowly, the busy Bali one is so accustomed to in the south transition into a green, lush landscape that is more akin to ‘yesterday’s Bali. This is certainly the charm of the east!
It’s important to note that there are several routes in which you can hike up Agung, but here we discuss the most common, accessible and also satisfying experiences, the Mount Agung sunrise trek starting at Pura Pasar Agung.
In order to reach the top of Mt.Agung by sunrise your trek should begin at around 2am. You will start at the parking area of Pura Pasar Agung, a famous public temple which is situated approximately 1,400m above sea level and therefore takes brings you almost halfway up the mountain already.
With headlamps lighting the way, you will begin your ascent up 350 steps up towards the temple, which, in the dead of night, holds a truly mystical atmosphere, with the outlines of the gapura temple gates and meru shrines just just visible against the night sky.
From a path found behind the temple, the real Mount Agung hike begins. The air is already cool and the path immediately steep. All you will see is the earth at your feet and the soft mist of your breath. This is a steep jungle path, but with the low visibility you will find it hard to see your surroundings — the trek is repetitive and tiring.
At a certain point, you’ll be rewarded with a flat, open area where you’ll be rewarded for your efforts. No trees block your views down to the see where you’ll see the whole outline of the southern peninsula. Weather depending of course, the starts are clear against the night sky and the lights of civilisation dot the fee of the mighty mountain. Only half way up and Agung’s views will already impress you!
After around two to two-and-a-half hours or walking, around 2400m above sea-level, the dense woodland area will end and the earth will turn to hard volcanic rock. Agung’s eruption in 1963 had left behind weathered, hardened lava on which we were now walking. After this point you will begin to scramble (use your hands), crouching fowarrds towards the summit as gradient gets steeper. As you climb this narrow ridge path up to the top, unknown darkness engulfs the areas left and right of you. Trekking Mount Agung is not for the faint of heart.
Approximately 640m after the tree line ends, you will reach the bottom of the crater. Here you will actually have to climb up a small rock face that takes you up to the crater rim. As you reach it, the opposite edge of the crater will nothing but a silhouette against the brightening bluish sky and below, the crater itself, will be nothing but an abyss of darkness. This is it, your viewing platform for one of nature’s most spectacular shows — and you have the best seats in town.
Just before 6am – between 3.5-4 hours of hiking, trekking and climbing – the show will begin! If the skies are clear, to the east, behind a clear view of Mt. Rinjani on Lombok, the first signs of light will appear. A warm glow of orange and red surrounded by the dark azure of the surrounding sky.
As the sun rises, light filled the land to the west and we could finally see and feel the height of the Great Mountain. The expanse of green at Mount Agung’s feet extended to the coast. All of Nusa Penida can be seen too. As the sun continues to rise, the colours of the land changed. From the cool blue of first light, to warm amber and finally the brilliant green shining off the sun’s strong strike. It’s a great time to pull out your snacks, replenish your energy and take in the vast views before you.
The best part about doing the Agung sunrise trek is that means the journey up and the journey down are two completely different experiences. Now, in the light of day, you can finally see the terrain and the surrounding view…
You’ll be amazed to see the terrain you’ve climbed that same morning; steep, craggy rock that forms and moulds the top half of Agung, with sharp ridges and drops to both sides and a long stretch of trees as far as the eye can see. Grey monkeys are spotted too, often found roaming when the sun comes up to find food left behind by pilgrimages or trekking groups.
Whilst the walk down is tiring and difficult – big, steep steps down tangling roots – the scenes you missed on the way up will keep you entertained. The changes you saw only through the path under your feet will be visible; the volcanic rock, to a sparse woodland and finally into jungle again. However, the descent is more difficult than the ascent, and requires a lot of focus and perseverance. It can take around 4 hours, depending on your fitness level.
Back at the bottom you’ll reach Pura Pasar Agung again, now busy with its daily pilgrims and prayers. Still, here 1,400m above sea-level, the view and ambience is awe-inspiring. Yet, nothing can quite beat the view from the top having completed your trek of Mount Agung .
Guide to Trekking Mount Agung – Practical Information
• First and foremost, for your own safety use an experienced guide to trek Agung, especially if you are planning to do the Mount Agung Sunrise Trek. We recommend www.mudigoestothemountain.com. This company also offers other routes up Agung if you wish to explore those other than the Pura Pasar Agung trek described above and will deal with the entrance fees and authorities as necessary.
• Approach this adventure with the proper attire, use hiking shoes if possible, at bare minimum use sturdy sports shoes with a good grip. If possible please use hiking attire (long sleeves and long trousers are recommended).
• Head lamps are a must for the sunrise trek (should be provided by guide, please make sure); and hiking poles are a great benefit as well.
• It gets very cold and windy at the crater/summit, we strongly suggest wearing warm clothing, at least three layers. Layers can be removed as it gets warmer during the day for the descent. Please also bring a waterproof jacket. Gloves are also a great help, not only for the cold but for when you have to scramble near the top.
• Bring at least two litres of water, and it is fully recommended for you to bring appropriate food and snacks for the journey, especially for the break at the top of the mountain. Hint: a thermos of hot tea or coffee is a great treat at the top.
• Agung Trekking Difficult Level is around a 3, with a 3.5-4 hour ascent and 4hr+ descent, depending on your fitness level.