As we stepped out of the car at Batu Caves, monkeys were the first thing to catch my eye. Just beyond a troop of long-tailed macaques (wild monkeys) stood the largest Batu Cave statue, the 43-metre tall golden figure of Lord Murugan. Behind Lord Murugan are the Batu Caves steps leading to this Malaysian temple. In total, there are 272 steps, each taunting us to climb them.
Once at the top, we enter Cathedral Cave, one of three main limestone caves featuring temples and Hindu shrines. Here, we find high ceilings with holes that illuminate the space, and several shrines and other Hindu areas. It’s beautiful and instantly worth the climb to get here. For us, walking around and taking photos was perfect. However, abseiling, spelunking, and rock climbing Batu Caves are all popular amongst the adrenaline junkie crowd. There are more than 160 climbing routes up the limestone hills. Most trails start from the northeast side of the cave complex, while the staircase we climbed faces south.
Earlier, we had debated whether or not to visit, as we had heard such mixed reviews of Batu Caves as a tourist destination. Some told us it was too crowded, while others went as far as calling it a tourist trap, a name that made no sense to me, as the main Temple Cave is free to enter. However, we didn’t want to miss out on seeing one of the most popular series of Hindu temples and shrines outside of India.
We were glad we opted for a private Batu Caves tour guide and found the added information he provided to be fascinating. However, plenty of people visit on their own.
Tour Batu Caves and Other Sites
Also on the Grounds:
A very brief Batu Caves history: It was discovered in 1878 by American naturalist William Hornaday, although it had been known previously to the indigenous people. Hindu pilgrims have travelled here for more than 120 years. The caves are the focal point of the Hindu festival of Thaipusam in Malaysia.
Batu Caves Monkeys
Adorable as they are, it’s important to remember that the Batu Caves monkeys are wild animals. While they are accustomed to having humans nearby, they are not domesticated, and therefore should not be touched. They have been known to bite, scratch, or steal from visitors. If you are going to ignore this advice (or even if you are not), I would be sure I was carrying comprehensive medical insurance, as infection from Batu Caves Monkey bites is not uncommon. We use World Nomads, as they are full travel insurance in addition to medical. And importantly, they are one of the few companies that allow you to purchase insurance after your travel has started (although you would need the insurance in place before any incidences occur).
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This was our first exposure to wild monkeys. These long-tailed macaques are very different from the tailless Barbary macaques we saw scampering in Morocco.
Taking any wild animal photos should always be done at a safe distance, even at Batu Caves. Food should not be brought to the area, as its smell will encourage the monkeys.
Additional Information and Tips for Visiting Batu Caves:
- Batu Caves opening hours are from 7 am to 8 pm daily. It’s best to go early in the morning to avoid the heat. Remember, you will have to climb 272 stairs to enter. (The caves are not wheelchair accessible.)
- Prayers are held at 8.30am and 4.30pm daily.
- There is a different Batu Caves entrance fee in different areas, but entry to the main Cathedral Cave is free. There is a nominal charge for the car park.
- The dress code does not permit short pants or skirts above the knees.
- If you are not familiar with the hose in Malaysian style facilities, you might want to bring your own toilet paper.
- We chose to stay at the luxurious Federal Hotel in Kuala Lumpur. It was walking distance to many things we wanted to do, had a nice pool, and was clean and well presented. The concierge service was top notch and the dim sum meal we had was outstanding. There are accommodation options closer to the caves, but we found the Federal really met all our needs.
How to Get to Batu Caves
- Batu Caves are in Gombak, Selangor, Malaysia. It is just 13km to the north from Kuala Lumpur to Batu Caves.
- It is easy to get there on the KTM commuter train, on the bus, on the monorail (and then a bus), or with a private vehicle.