This imposing stratovolcano is the holiest place on the island of Bali — a place wherein the Gods themselves are said to reside. Much of Balinese religious culture is oriented around this majestic peak in east Bali’s Karangasem Regency, about two hours from Denpasar. It is the highest point on the island at a towering 9,944 feet (3,031 m). The volcano is still active and last erupted in 1964. It is considered the most challenging climb out of all of Bali’s mountains.
Balinese faith holds that Gunung Agung, or Mount Agung, is a replica of the holy Mount Meru. In Hinduism, this is the center of the entire physical, metaphysical and spiritual universe. The Gods themselves are said to inhabit the volcano, prominently dragon God Naga Besukian. Pura Besakih, the mother temple of Balinese Hinduism, has set high on Agung’s slopes for over 2,000 years. The Balinese orient the building of their homes and their sleeping positions in line with the sacred mountain. Volcanic eruptions are seen as signs of the Gods’ displeasure.
A significant volcanic eruption occurred in 1350. This event led to great soil fertility and a bountiful rice crop in the Besakih region. The last major eruptions in 1963 and 1964 were devastating to local villages. Close to 2,000 people perished in the eruptions and aftermath. A lava flow missed the Pura Besakih Temple by mere meters. This event is considered a miracle, as the Gods rewarded the faithful Balinese by sparing the temple.
Trekking tours up Gunung Agung to the summit, or to the slightly lower crater rim, are readily available. They are recommended only for those in good physical condition. While the climb does not require mountaineering skill or ropes, the two possible ascent paths are steep with rugged terrain. There are also challenges of altitude, variable weather conditions, and climbing in the dark. Most ascents begin at 2:00 AM in order to reach the top for sunrise, then head back down before clouds cover the peak by 9:00 AM. On clear days, those who reach the top are rewarded with amazing sunrise views all the way to Mount Rinjani on the island of Lombok. Hire a local guide in Besakih, through a local tour operator, or your through your accommodation to ensure safety and success on this tough but rewarding trek.