- Elevation: 2,276 m (7,467 ft)
- Prominence: 1,088 m
- Ribu category: Tinggi Sedang
- Province: Bali
- Google Earth: kml
- Other names: Batukau
This Ribu is Bali’s holy western mountain and is one of the wildest areas on the island. It is actually the highest mountain of a large massif consisting of multiple peaks including Gunung Catur / Penggilingan (2,096m), Gunung Sanghyang (2,087m), Gunung Pohen (2,063m), Gunung Tapak (1,909m), Gunung Lesung (1,865m) and Gunung Adeng (1,826m).
Like all these peaks, until quite recently Gunung Batukaru was rarely visited by anyone other than local people who climb to the temples at the summit but there are now in 2020 more people interested in hiking just for the sake of hiking so there is a moderate chance of meeting other groups on the mountain. There are several trails on its slopes which are in reasonable condition. The name means ‘coconut shell’ in Balinese and there are hot springs and three craters on other parts of the large mountain massif.
Gunung Batukaru is nowhere near as popular as Batur or Agung although the summit area has been cleared and there are some excellent views from the higher slopes to the easternmost Java peaks in the west to Agung and Lombok’s Gunung Rinjani in the east.
Camping is possible at the summit but many make it a long day-hike, starting at first light. There are various routes as follows.
Pura Batukaru route
Historically, the most popular route was the one that leads from Batukaru temple (Pura Batukaru) which is known as Jalur Wongaye Gede. The Pura Lahur temple perches at 823m at the end of the steep road north of Meliling past Wongaya Gede. This was the state ancestral temple of the Tabanan court, and each of the shrines represents a different dynastic ancestor. It usually takes 4 or 5 hours to the summit of the mountain and 3 and a half hours to descend.
However, whilst this route would appear to be the most commonly used, it is very unfortunate that the staff at the temple office have begun to gain a very bad reputation indeed, particularly when dealing with non-Indonesians. They are very unhelpful towards would-be hikers – ridiculous sums of money have been demanded for a guide (which they consider to be obligatory), they will claim that you require permits from various local authorities, and to get onto the trail to the summit itself from the temple car park you have to enter the temple area (for which wearing a sarong is required).
Therefore, the other routes below are recommended instead and are growing in popularity.
This trail is in good condition and the starting point is a very peaceful and picturesque one. To get to the more hassle-free starting point near Jatiluwih it is best to have a local driver who knows the area as the roads up in the hills north of Tabanan are quite difficult to navigate. The trailhead is at another temple – Pura Luhur Bhujangga Waisnawa Gunung Sari (930m).
Broadly speaking, you can either head west for 30 minutes from Baturiti on the main road traversing the island north-south from Singaraja to Denpasar or head north up a complex system of narrow roads from Tabanan. Jatiluwih is a popular spot for day excursions as the panoramas of rice terraces are some of the finest on the island. Staying in the area is possible as there are many hotels.
You could try asking for a guide here but it may be better to try doing so in advance. From the main road near Jatiluwih (at 759m), there is a road leading up the mountainside, but it has no signpost so ask for the temple which is the highest point you can drive a vehicle to.
There is enough space for a couple of cars to park just before the temple. You shouldn’t have trouble getting directions from local people, but if you do, ask for the hen farm – which is halfway up the road to the temple – and stay left at all junctions. There are one or two spots where the road surface is very rough but a regular car should be able to manage it.
There are temples every 200 metres or so but Luhur Bhujangga Waisnawa is by far the most elaborate, featuring one structure with an 11-tiered roof! If you have travelled by ojek (motorcycle taxi) you could actually continue up a narrow cement track past another temple with an excellent view of Gunung Batukaru peak above, up through farmland to a further temple with two painted tiger statues underneath yellow and white umbrella sun-shades (956m). From here, the cement track ends and the hiking trail begins.
In a couple of minutes, and just before the trail enters the forest, you will reach yet another small temple structure with another two yellow and white painted tigers (985m). This suggests that the rumours of big cats still living in the Batukaru forests might well be true. The trail then leads pleasantly up through the forest though the only signs are inaccurate elevation readings. There is not much litter – mainly because not many people use the trail – and the path is very clear for the most part. At 1,432m there is a small junction – stay left (straight on up the mountain). There are a few steep and muddy areas but the terrain should not present any problems to fit hikers.
After about 3 hours of delightful forest hiking, you should have reached about 2,000m elevation. From this point, the trail gets a lot more overgrown – there is a lot of bracken and dense undergrowth to climb through – but the route remains obvious. The final hour of climbing is quite exhausting but the narrowness of the ridge is very impressive – if there was no vegetation to hide the sheer drops here it might even be quite scary! If you are on the way to see the sunrise then by now early daylight will have given you a first glimpse of Bali in every direction. Finally, after about 4 or 5 hours you should have reached the grassy summit area. The summit is home to various shrines which are the final destination for many pilgrimages from villages surrounding the mountain.
There is a lot of space here for tents but you may well find that the summit area itself is covered in vast amounts of litter and offerings left to rot – a real shame that local people do not take their litter back down with them. Indeed, there was even a dog up here when we camped, going through the litter looking for food and howling all night!
However, the views in clear weather are astounding – mountains in East Java including little Baluran and large Ijen-Merapi and Raung, the north and south coasts of Bali, Lake Tamblingan to the north, Gunung Batur and Agung to the east. In very good weather you should be able to see Lombok’s Gunung Rinjani in the far distance, just to the right of Agung. It is a fabulous panorama. The Bakosurtanal map suggests a summit elevation of 2,271 metres but GPS data is in support of 2,276m or even higher.
You can return the same way in about 3 hours, or if you are feeling adventurous you could descend to Batukaru temple, which takes a similar amount of time.
There are a lot of leeches on this trail so make sure to check your clothing every half an hour. The trail is slightly monotonous and muddy but especially on the way down you will be able to admire many species of mushrooms, a large variety of ferns and some amazing huge trees. The first landmark of any note on descent to Batukaru temple is a cement pillar at what is sometimes referred to as Pos 3 (1,867m). Shortly afterwards is Pos 2 (1,594m) with a curious ‘Seacology’ stone tablet and a minor trail leading off to the right (don’t take it – stay on the main trail!). There is another open area where people probably stop for a rest at 1,437m but it is not recommended because of the number of leeches in this forest! There are some fallen trees at 1,207m but they are quite easy to climb over if you take care and go slowly. The trail then flattens out and the final 45 minutes of descent is very pleasant though incredibly humid virgin forest.
Eventually you will reach the edge of the Batukaru temple complex. Given what has already been mentioned above, it is better not to take a left down to a river and then up cement steps to the comple itself, but rather follow the trail further down to beyond the temple and into local villages.
This trek is ideal for adventurous hikers who have perhaps already climbed Agung and Batur and are looking for something a little more isolated and want to enjoy new panoramas of the island.
Three other routes to consider
The mountain can also be climbed from the south at Biyahan (807m). This trail, known as Jalur Sarin Buana, leads via Pura Jati Luwih (1,078m) – not to be confused with Jatiluwih itself! It joins the Wongaye Gede route about halfway up.
Another trail from Pujungan (1,194m) in the north-west starts at Pura Malen temple. It is known as Jalur Pujungan Pupuan.
Finally, there is a route up from the south-west known as Jalur Sanda, but it is currently not well-known.
Bagging information provided by Daniel Quinn. With thanks to Heinz von Holzen
Gunung Catur / Gunung Penggilingan (at least 2,096m)
The so-called fourth-highest mountain in Bali (after Agung, Batukaru and Abang) is the highest point on the rim of the Bedugul or Beratan caldera which contains the large lakes of Danau Tamblingan, Buyan and Beratan. It lies to the north-east of Batukaru and is rather like a twin of Gunung Abang in terms of its topography.
There are two main trails up to Pucak Mangu temple which is the main target of hikers in this area. You can follow the forested rim from near Goa Japan (Japanese Cave) on the southern shores of Lake Beratan (1,255m) on the outskirts of Bedugul or head up from the trailhead / forest entrance (1,324m) beyond Pura Pucak Manik temple (also around 1,250m elevation) which is to the south-east of the peak in the village of Pelaga / Plaga. The Pelaga trail is shorter but perhaps less interesting.
The Bedugul / Danau Beratan trail requires around 3 hours up and 2 hours back down again. After the end of the road, take a left into forest (1,280m) before reaching the first shelter (1,275m) which we will call Shelter 0 as motorbikes can actually be left here rather than at the road end. From here the trail is obvious except at one point (1,310m) where you must go straight (left instead of right) at the fork.
There are four more shelters on the trail as follows: Shelter 1 (1,347m), Shelter 2 (1,445m), Shelter 3 (1,512m), and Shelter 4 (1,550m), all of which actually offer some shelter in the event of heavy rain. After the shelters, the trail begins to get considerably steeper, but you are rewarded with occasional panoramas of the lake below and the Batukaru mountains to the south-west.
Just before Pucak Mangu is what appears to be an old landslide area, with a bit of rope to help you up and also a fantastic view. Then is Pucak Mangu itself where the Pelaga trail meets this one. There is a shelter and enough space for several tents.
The most common elevation figure given for Gunung Catur is 2,023m, but this refers to Pucak Mangu temple which is not located at the highest point. Indeed, according to the Bakosurtanal map, ‘Gunung Mangu’ is only 2,020m.
The true highest point is around 1 kilometre further north along the rim and is known as Gunung Penggilingan with a height given on some maps and signs as 2,096m. Beyond Pucak Mangu the trail is a little more overgrown but most hikers will be able to reach the small shrine on Gunung Penggilingan in around 40 minutes (one way).
It appears that the rim could actually be followed all the way round to the north-west at Pura Yeh Ketupat near Danau Buyan but an experienced guide would be very much recommended for anyone attempting that. According to the Bakosurtanal map, the highest peak of Penggilingan is just off to the right (east) of the rim and 2,153 metres high which would put it above Gunung Abang and therefore the third-highest mountain in Bali. A second spot height further along the rim to the north-west is given as 2,105m.
The highest reading we got on our GPS at the Penggilingan shrine and sign was around 2,106m, which given the +/- 10m accuracy of these devices supports the 2,096m figure. We couldn’t see this 2,153m peak through the trees and reckon it might be an error, but there was another peak of a similar height to the north-west – perhaps the 2,105m spot height. If anyone discovers the 2,153m peak please let us know!
Gunung Lesung (1,865m)
Another peak very much worth exploring in this area is Gunung Lesung (1,865m) which lies to the south of Lake Tamblingan. Anyone who has seen this on a topographic map will have noticed the wide, deep crater with the very evocative name of Lubang Nagaloka (“The Dragon’s Hideout’). Despite being a short hike it is not very popular yet the trails are clear and a circuit of the crater rim is possible.
You can hike straight up to the summit from the north on the southern shores of Lake Tamblingan or take a bike further up plantation tracks to the west of the peak. The plantation tracks disintegrate higher up to it is best to leave motorbikes at around 1,424m where in clear weather you can see the easternmost mountains of Java in the distance. From here, continue up the trail past a couple more simple plantation houses before reaching the col with a view of Gunung Sanghyang (2,087m and also accessed from here) and taking an unsignposted left/east turn into the forest (Pintu Rimba, 1,547m).
Pos 1 (1,646m) is soon reached. A tree is draped in ceremonial cloths and the trail going off to the right here leads in just 5 minutes to Goa Lubang Nagaloka (1,735m) which is a small shrine above a deep and pitch-black near vertical pit, or hole, or indeed ‘cave’. This is definitely worth visiting, perhaps on the way back down. Be very careful not to get too close as it would be very difficult to get back out again!
Beyond Pos 1 the trail continues up the side of the mountain to Pos 2 (1,763m) which is the crater rim junction. According to the Bakosurtanal map, the crater floor is at 1,667m so it is around 100 metres deep from the lowest part of the rim. In 2020 there was a very faint trail leading down from Pos 2 and a second trail leading down about 100 metres further east (anti-clockwise) so the crater floor can seemingly be reached.
There appears to be no volcanic activity here now and the few glimpses between the trees down in the ‘dragon’s hideout’ reveal dense vegetation. It’s perhaps Bali’s most mysterious and isolated spot.
From Pos 2, the quickest way to the summit is to head left / clockwise because the summit lies on the north-western part of the rim, but as a full circuit of the rim is very much recommended either left or right makes sense. The finest views are on the rim both before and after the summit with the best being an excellent panorama of Bali’s western mountains and the easternmost volcanoes of East Java. This is most likely in the early morning.
Like most mountain summits in Bali, the peak is marked with a shrine and a hiking club sign. It’s a pleasant spot to take a rest and it should not have taken you more than 2 hours or so to reach this point. Going down takes a little less, except of course if you visit the crater floor or descend using the other route from the lake.
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- Permits: Not necessary but have a photocopy of your passport just incase and, if ascending from Batukaru temple, be prepared to deal with some stubborn people!
- Water sources: Take sufficient supplies with you.
Local Average Monthly Rainfall (mm):
Origins and Meaning
Batukaru has a large crater, the largest in Bali, but this crater is open at the southern end, allowing the river Mawa to escape. It is this that gives it the name “Batukaru”, which means “coconut shell” in Balinese. (Wikipedia, 2011)
Links and References
Wikipedia. 2011. List of mountains in Bali. Accessed from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_mountains_in_Bali