Sidemen is a typical Balinese village tucked away in peaceful green valley, a great place to start a Bali trek. It’s the quintessential rural image of people do their washing in the river, farmers working in the fields and carts slowly rolling along the dusty tracks. On the horizon the majestic volcano beckons and if you’ve got the stamina you can climb all the way to the summit. You’ll be staying in a rustic cottage in the green valley within walking distance of the river.
Gunung Agung Sunrise Trekking
Most adventurous travelers looking to climb an active volcano in Bali end up on Mount Batur in Kintamani. While Mount Batur is certainly exciting, the two-hour trek pales in comparison to Gunung Agung. Trekking up Gunung Agung requires a minimum of seven leg-burning hours to reach the summit; plan on around four more hours for the descent. Depending on the route taken, extremely fit trekkers can make the summit in around five hours with very few breaks. A midnight start is crucial for reaching the summit before sunrise and enjoying the views before afternoon clouds take over.
Although there are several approaches to Gunung Agung, the most jaw dropping start is in the Sidemen village with endless greenery view.
The hike starts from the Pasar Agung temple, with prayers to ask permission of the gods for your climb and to prepare your spirit for entering an area the Balinese consider the spiritual hub of the whole island, and this temple has to be approached with care and respect. From here there is a step walk up a winding path through the trees. Above the tree line, the path will become quite stony, with you having to climb over large boulders and screed during the last quite demanding section of the trek. You will need a good level of fitness and sturdy footwear.
As daylight slowly breaks as you get closer to the top the hardy will be rewarded with a sunrise breakfast with spectacular views over Bali and Lombok from the summit. You will also get to see great views inside the volcano crater. Before it gets too hot you’ll head back down again, arriving back at your cottage around lunchtime for a well-deserved swim in the cool river.
The overall trek will take approx. 7-8hrs from start to finish, but the trekking time will be approx. 4-5hours long. During your trip it is essential to have a good torch, a warm layer and light rain jacket. A pair of gloves and hat might also be useful.
About Gunung Agung:
Often obscured by clouds, Gunung Agung dominates the horizon in East Bali. Not only is Gunung Agung the tallest volcano on the island (10,308 feet), the slopes are home to the most sacred Hindu temple in Bali: Pura Besakih.
Gunung Agung’s 2300-foot-wide crater occasionally belches menacing smoke, reminding all that the volcano is only taking a break between eruptions. Adventurous trekkers have the opportunity to climb the sacred mountain for an unforgettable sunrise and views that encompass most of Bali. Even Gunung Rinjani in Lombok can be seen before the clouds move in.
A Miracle on Gunung Agung
In Hindu belief, the Eka Dasa Rudra ceremony is to be performed every 100 years in order to save the world from destruction. Before the ceremony could be performed in 1963 – the scheduled year – Gunung Agung erupted explosively, costing at least 1,500 lives; more perished during a secondary eruption later that year. The violent eruption actually removed the top 400 feet from the mountain, but miraculously Pura Besakih was untouched during the devastation. Reports claim that the lava came within yards of the temples in different places, but none were destroyed.
When to Go
The best time to climb Mount Agung is in the dry season of April to October.
Trekking Gunung Agung during the wet months between November to March is un-recommended. The slippery paths become dangerous; the mudslides can be fatal. At lower elevations it remains tropical but becomes distinctly cold and often very windy on the high bare rock slopes.