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Difficulty

Easy

Duration

30min

Distance

0.6km

Elevation

135m

Batu Caves: OK Caves, Bad Hike

You will find photos of the 272 multicoloured steps to Kuala Lumpur’s Batu Cave, guarded by the colossal golden Lord Murugan Statue, in every guidebook and travel website featuring Malaysia. It’s one of the country’s most iconic sites.

The Batu Caves are one part Hindu temple and one part tourist attraction. Actually, Hindu temples (plural) is more accurate. Multiple cave temples are spread across the limestone hills here with many popular Hindu shrines.

But are the Batu Caves a good spot for a hike? Well, we put that to the test. Read on to find out.

Planning Your Own Walk – Batu Caves Hike Itinerary

When should you visit Batu Caves?

Early. The Batu Caves are open from 7 am-9 pm every day.

My advice is to get here as close to 7 am as you can. Not only will you avoid the heat of the day and get the temples looking their best in the early morning night. You will also avoid the bulk of the crowds which seem to arrive a bit before 9 am.

How to Get There and Away

Getting to Batu Caves from downtown is super easy, From KL Sentral you can hop on the KTM and less than half an hour later hop off at the Batu Caves Station. It’s just a five-minute stroll from the station to the cave entrance.

The U6 bus from Titiwangsa Bus Terminal will also bring you here.

And if you’re scared of public transport, then in Kuala Lumpur the ride-hailing app Grab is always your friend. You can easily catch a lift out to Batu Caves in less than 30 minutes. Simple

Is there an entrance fee?

Yes and no. The main cave is free but some of the others in the cave complex such as Cave Villa and Ramayana Cave will cost you a few ringgit.

Is there a dress code?

The Batu Caves are a religious site so just be respectful with how much skin you have on display. No hot pants and no boob tubes. 

Route Description: My Batu Caves Hike Experience

Now I’d like to start with a disclaimer. This is a hiking blog where I review hikes. It’s not a cave review site and it’s definitely not a temple review site where I review religious sites. What a weird website that would be?!

So with this disclaimer in mind, everything I say below is from the perspective of “Is this a good hike”, I wish to cause no offence.

I came to Batu Caves as loads of sites that discuss hiking in Kuala Lumpur mention it as a must-do. And it’s just not. In fact, if it’s hiking you are coming for then it’s a straight-up must-avoid.

Read on to find out what I did and didn’t like.

If You’re Going, Get There Early

In the other articles on visiting Batu Caves, I read you should get there early to avoid the crowds. I’ll concur 100% get there early to avoid the bus loads and you will have a better time.

We made it to the cave entrance a little before 8 am and were on the way down just before 9 am as the crowds really started to pile in. 

Monkey Mayhem

If you’ve read any of my other Kuala Lumpur hike posts you will know I love a good monkey sighting. It’s one of the things I love the most about hiking in KL. An urban hike always feels more adventurous if you see a troop of monkeys leaping around the treetops.

Not here mind, the Batu Caves monkeys are some mean little shits. We arrived just before 8 am and already the roaming macaque monkeys were getting riled up for a day of full-on anti-social abuse.

Batu Cave monkey mayhemPigeons are cool but the Batu Caves monkeys are not!

Guard your Snacks

In the five minutes or so we wandered around the area below the steps we saw one monkey steal a guy’s banana. Which I suppose is fair enough, monkeys do love bananas. We then saw another stage a lighting raid on a poor lady’s handbag.

The one that reality surprised us was a monkey trying to rag another lady’s dress off her body. Now, she was holding a fried treat of some kind that she was refusing to share, but the monkey seemed to be taking out its rage on her poor dress.

All this when the crowds were thin. I can only imagine what utter monkey carnage occurs when the huge crowds arrive.

The tallest Lord Murugan Statue in the worldThe tallest Lord Murugan Statue in the world at 42.7 metres high. Oh, and some monkeys.

Follow the Multicoloured Brick Road

You will have likely seen photos of the Batu Caves before you arrive.

The most striking thing, apart from the giant golden statue of Lord Muruga a Hindu deity that guards the entrance, is the hundreds of multi-coloured stairs that lead up to the temple complex.

From a distance they are very beautiful, unfortunately as you are walking up them you can see they are very much worse for wear and could do with a nice lick of paint. But that’s probably fair enough as they are walked on by thousands of feet every day.

Refuelling the tourist shops at the topRefuelling the tourist shops at the top.

Are the Batu Caves Stairs a Hard Climb?

As you can see from the photo above of a chap carrying up some refreshments to the keychain & fridge magnet shop they decided to place at the top. The Batu Caves stairs are no steeper than normal stairs.

Sure there are nearly 300 of them but I’d say if you have even close to average fitness you’ll make your way up them with absolutely no bother.

Now there are a lot of people walking up the Batu Caves who aren’t hikers and who don’t have “average” fitness. The caves are a pilgrimage site so there are people from all walks of life climbing up and for some, it appears to be a big achievement to reach the top.

So you may get stuck behind a few roadblocks but go steady, and be respectful, this is a temple site after all. But also a good reminder to get here early as you might get stuck behind an entire busload of grannies.

The steps down into the main Cathedral CaveThe steps down into the main Cathedral Cave.

Underground Cave Scene

Disclaimer again. I’m not a cave or temple expert.

The main cave in the Batu Caves complex is also known as Temple Cave or Cathedral Cave. It’s the one we visited and it’s kinda impressive. I mean it’s big. But it’s not so big that it blows your mind. Just big.

The shrines are kinda interesting but for a non-worshipper, they weren’t anything too special that you can’t see elsewhere in Kuala Lumpur.

Apparently in both Ramayana Cave and Cave Villa, there are more elaborate paintings and scenes of Hindu Gods, this may have been a bit more interesting visually than the main cave. But the crowds were growing by this point so we decided to get out before it got too busy. 

Where are the Bats?

If you are thinking where are the bats that give Batu Caves their name, you clearly don’t know that Batu just means rock in Malaysian. So Batu Caves are just rock caves. A little disappointing right?

Well, we didn’t see any bats on our visit to the main cave but apparently, in Dark Cave which stretches for 2km into the limestone hill, you can get a guided tour to go deeper.

There’s a whole heap of bats in there. Oh, and also one of the world’s rarest spiders, a variety of Malaysian Trapdoor Spider which is only found here at Batu Caves and one other cave complex in Kuala Lumpur at Templer Park.

One of the Cave Temples in Cathedral CaveOne of the Cave Temples in Cathedral Cave.

Back Down the Steps

We were back at the main Batu Caves entrance about an hour after we’d arrived. I’d scheduled a much longer visit but you may have realised by now that the Batu Caves didn’t really float my boat.

Now, that’s mostly my fault. We came expecting it to be a bit more of a climb. Something a little physically taxing. It’s not. It’s just a tourist attraction with a few steps.

We seemed to have timed our exit well. As we were leaving numerous buses were disgorging their hordes of passengers and the monkeys were getting very excited by the prospect of fresh victims.

Would I come to the Batu Caves again?

Would I come again? Yeah, possibly. After our visit, I did a little more research (which yes I should’ve done first). And I read about the Thaipusam Festival which falls in January or February each year apparently gets hundreds of thousands of believers.

Some of these devotees will impale themselves with hooks and skewers as a means to show devotion. That would be interesting to see. 

Final Thoughts: A Cave to Rave About or Not?

As a place to go for a hike, the Batu Caves get a big thumbs down. As a tourist attraction, it’s just ok.

What’s a little disappointing is that they are most impressive from a distance. When you arrive and you see the Murugan Statue and the painted steps in front of the limestone it’s genuinely striking. Once you get inside it’s a bit of a letdown.

The caves are ok. I think I just prefer my caves undeveloped. But again, if you are a Hindu pilgrim coming for the shrines you will have a very different opinion.

I wonder if there is a Hindu God of Hiking? If there is then that’s a temple I’d like to visit.

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