Kintamani is a district in north Bali, known for excellent coffee growing thanks to the high altitude and cooler climate. It is also famous for two natural attractions Lake Batur and semi-active volcano Mount Batur. I spent possibly the most active 48 hours of my life in this beautiful rural area thanks to the organisation of my host Gede, owner of Bali Sunrise Tours and new Kintamani accommodation Bali Sunrise Villas. As someone who has visited Bali twice before and never previously heard of this area, my advice is to definitely combine a trek with any beach time you’re planning: the early starts are hugely rewarding.
// THE BASICS
I think it’s safe to assume that most people who come to Kintamani are intending to view, if not trek, Mount Batur at 1,717m. With either option it’s not essential to secure Kintamani accommodation (trekking tour operators will pick up from anywhere on the island) however the area itself is so serene that it certainly warrants dedicating some time. The drive from the airport and beach resorts like Seminak or Kuta will take at least 2 hours. I know I certainly appreciated the extra time in bed for the Mount Batur trek meet time of 3:30am compared to most people who were picked up around 2:00am.
I booked two nights’ Kintamani accommodation at Bali Sunrise Villas, positioned 5 minutes up the hill from Lake Batur and surrounded by a garden of lush green plants and the sound of running water. There are three villas, finished in 2015, and three individual rooms finished as recently as 2016. All accommodation was developed and designed by Gede. I stayed in the Rambutan room, which was immaculate and wonderfully spacious. The design exemplifies modern Balinese style and all the mostly natural materials were sourced locally. You’ll find a super comfy king-sized bed, gorgeous connected bathroom that feels like you’re outside, and a private day-bed and seating area.
During my stay I stubbornly opted to get up at 3:30am two mornings in a row. On the first day I completed the Mount Batur volcano climb, which was a tough 2+ hours ascent in the dark to view Mount Abang framed by looming 3,031m Mount Agung. We were a group of 10 with three great local guides Adi, Rus and Made. The following day, myself, Gede and guide Mangku Edi also took the Caldera short-trip starting from the other side of Lake Batur – a significantly easier 45 minute climb. Both treks start early so that you reach the peak in time for sunrise, which seems to be spectacular on a daily basis! Personally I found day 1 really hard, but you have the kudos and satisfaction of climbing a volcano. The panoramic view on day 2 was just as, if not more, stunning because you can see Rinjani volcano on Lombok to the east as well as all three major mountains on Bali (Abang, Agung and Batur). Just do both!
// Kintamani Accommodation
// Mount Batur Volcano Trek
// Caldera Short-Trip
// WHAT I LOVED
By staying in north Bali you will be exposed to the more traditional side of this country. Most people are hardworking farmers, growing everything from onions, chilli and cabbages to corn and tomatoes. Rice isn’t grown in Kintamani, as the volcanic soil lacks nutrients and water would need to be pumped up for irrigation. Life is much simpler here: many people are poor (few crops survive during the dry season) and they lack proper access to adequate water supplies, education and healthcare. The main road from Ubud was only built in 1986 whilst many smaller villages have only had a passable track in the last decade, or not at all. Limited access keeps many people cut off from both essential resources and big tourist numbers.
I’m a huge fan of the fact that both Bali Sunrise Tours and Villas are operated wholly by Balinese, as well as the work owner Gede continues to do for the wider community. When there a lots of options out there (and there are) it felt like the obvious decision to go with a business that has a great online reputation whilst being a sustainable option for Bali tourism, and not reliant on foreign investors.
The people I met during my stay made it hugely memorable. I was fortunate to spend time with Gede (based between Kintamani and Ubud) who is hugely knowledgeable of the Kintamani area and passionate about inspiring and educating local farming families. The staff at the Villas are lovely and cook up a mean Nasi Goreng. My favourite time of day was sitting on the sunny central patio with a book and a Bintang, waiting on my much-needed evening feed after all that walking!
// GET TO KNOW
Gede Mangun founded Bali Sunrise Tours in 2001, having worked as an independent tour guide prior to that and establishing himself a good reputation in various travel guidebooks. Gede was born in Songan village, in the Batur Caldera, so he knows the area like the back of his hand and has spent his whole life trekking through the mountains of Bali. His family still live and farm in Kintamani.
He’s a smart and impressive man: at just 12 years old he left to pursue an education because at the time there was no high school in the area (there’s still no pre-school for 3-6 year olds). He didn’t want to be a farmer. Consequently, in 2007 he established the Cempaka Putih Foundation to bring greater education and opportunities to the people of the arid central mountain region of Bali. Classrooms and schooling are a focus, but the foundation also hopes to help people with basic sustenance, shelter and medicine in order to rise out of poverty.
Describe in 3 words how you feel about your business // Hard work with a smile, growing, sharing culture
What would you love to do if you weren’t running Bali Sunrise Tours? // The Villa was a logical development. Guests from trekking kept asking for a place to stay in the area of the trek, so they could wake up not too early and close by the starting point! The Villa is keeping us very busy as it’s so new.
Dream guest? // Someone who has a great time, is satisfied and appreciates the effort put in by Bali sunrise team!
// ADDRESS BOOK
Phone Number: +62 818 552669
Address: Jl. Songan – Songan A, Lake Batur – Kintamani, Bali