Kintamani is an all-encompassing label applied to the Mount Batur caldera and the half dozen villages that sit within the volcano’s footprint. Kintamani, Batur and Penelokan villages sit on the rim of the caldera overlooking the Batur crater lake and Toyo Bungkah village on its shores.
Despite its peaceful appearance, Batur is still an active volcano. The most recent eruption occurred in 2000 but it’s only one of many since the first documented eruption in 1804. A large lava field formed during a 1968 eruption near Kintamani village still remains visible today.
The frequent eruptions have however, created rich volcanic soils in which the local villages grow rice, bananas and other crops. Water hyacinth and fish are farmed on Lake Danau, which also supplies much of Bali’s drinking water. A thriving tourism industry has also sprouted up around Batur. Watching the sun rise over the caldera from Penelokan on the southern edge of the crater rim is a popular starting point for a whole range of tours whilst others incorporate it as lunchtime stop.
Trekking Kintamani has become increasingly popular. The trek to the summit of Mount Batur is a relatively straightforward 1.5-2 hour hike culminating with gorgeous panoramic views over the entire caldera, Mt Abung, Mount Agung and on clear days as far afield as Mount Rinjani on Lombok island. The descent route takes you past the lava fields and most trekking tours incorporate a stopover at the volcanic hot springs at Toya Bungkah village on the western shoreline of Lake Batur. On a cautionary note, whilst the source of the hot springs is entirely natural, the springs themselves have now been formed into modern pool facilities so don’t expect a natural environment.
As well as exploring the lake, Batur is home to Pura Ulun Danu Batur, one of Bali’s nine directional temples. The impressive temple was rebuilt on the northwest crater rim after the original one down by the lake was destroyed in a 1926 eruption. Dedicated to the goddess of the lake, Ida Batara Dewi Ulan Danau who the Balinese believe controls the entire water and irrigation system of Bali.
Kintamani is usually reached from the south (via Ubud) and entering at Penelokan. There’s also a route from the northeast. Public buses ply the southern routes regularly but can be painfully slow climbing up the mountain and frequent stops. Those coming by private vehicle will need to pay a 10.000Rp per person charge payable at the entrance. Keep the ticket with you as you may be asked to produce it again. The fee is already included in bus ticket price and tour prices for everyone else. The private tourist information office in Penelokan is open from 10Am -3PM daily and is a good place to start your Kintamani outing.
Sunrise from the summit of Mount Batur is highly recommended and for this you need to commence your climb by 4AM, which means a 2-3AM pickup from your hotel down south. If that’s too early for you plan to be climbing by no later than 8AM as misty clouds generally start rolling late in the morning and obscure any views. On that note keep in mind the highland climate is noticeably cooler than Bali’s coastal and lowland regions so be sure to bring a wear something warm. On the flip side, daytime trekking conditions are generally quite pleasant. Also keep in mind, there’s no public transport to Kintamani that early in the morning so you’ll need to either stay overnight in Kintamani or arrange private transport.
A guide is not necessary to explore Kintamani or climb Mount Batur climb but many who have gone independently have reported being harangued to the point of giving in and forking out the 300.000-400.000Rp for a guide. Don’t expect to get it any cheaper as the local guides operate a cartel over the mountain and turning up with a non-local guide will only lead to further harassment. To ensure you’re employing a local guide, ask to see proof of their membership of the Association of Mount Batur Trekking Guides.
Given the early start, the difficulty around guides for Mount Batur and the cost of private transport, this is one occasion where it may simply not be worth going independently. There are a multitude of companies offering a range of Kintamani packages taking in some or all of the highlights, including door to door transport from you hotel, breakfast and/or lunch. Prices are very competitive and can often be haggled down even further, especially if you can get a small group together.
Kintamani also contains several traditional Bali Aga villages, descendants of the original aboriginals who resided in Bali long before the 14th century invasion by the Majapahit people from Java. Trunyan Village on the eastern shores of the lake is noted for its ancient cemetery and can be visited quite easily whilst you’re in the area.