Bali May Ban Climbing, Hiking Because of Bad Tourist Behavior

The governor of Bali has announced the immediate closure of all 22 of the island’s volcanoes and mountains to trekkers, hikers, and other recreation seekers.

“These mountains are sacred and revered. If their sanctity is damaged, it is the same as degrading the sacredness of Bali,” Governor Wayan Koster stated on May 31, according to CNN. “This ban is in effect forever and is not only for foreign tourists but also domestic tourists and local residents…[with the exception of] religious ceremonies or the handling of natural disasters,” he continued.

Despite the stark language of the announcement, the proclamation needs formal support from lawmakers to become official.

“The issue of banning people from climbing mountains is still being discussed with several regional unit heads in the Bali regional government,” tourism minister Sandiaga Uno said Monday. “When it’s finalized, it will be [announced] by the governor of Bali.”

A Bali beach

Bali’s beaches and mountains attract tourists from all over the world. Not all of them behave themselves. Photo: Shutterstock


The move follows a string of incidents in which tourists on the Indonesian island were caught behaving badly in the mountains. One notable occurrence was the case of 24-year-old Russian national Yuri Chilikin. Indonesia deported him after Chilikin posted a pants-less photo of himself at Mount Agung on social media. The mountain is Bali’s highest and is a sacred site to the local Hindi population. Chilkin eventually removed the photo and issued an apology, citing his ignorance of local customs.

CNN also confirmed reports of an incident in 2021 where a pornographic video was filmed on Mount Batur — another of Bali’s sacred spots.

The country is also cracking down on tourists working illegally as guides and hairdressers, as well as “digital nomads” overstaying tourist visas. The crackdowns follow a surge of both Russian and Ukrainian refugees running afoul of Indonesian authorities in the wake of Russia’s Ukrainian invasion.

An unusual decision

It’s unclear whether the ban, if formally adopted, will apply to guided trips or not.

“We understand that authorities are going after those who misbehave badly and we support that. But Wayan Koster has to also look out for us Balinese who worked in tourism. A strict ban will only scare tourists away, which is terrible,” Che, a guide in Bali, told CNN. “Bali is only starting to bounce back from the pandemic. Now is not a good time to be choosing which tourists we want. Police patrols and fines could be implemented instead.”

The tension between courting tourist dollars and preserving the sanctity of special places should be familiar to long-time readers of this website. Whether those tourists are mountain climbers or the new breed of digital nomads, the issues are roughly the same. But Governor Koster’s hardline stance is a reaction not shared by many countries facing this conundrum.

Mount Agung, Bali's highest mountain, looms in the background of a fishing village

Mount Agung, Bali’s highest mountain, looms over a fishing village. Photo: Shutterstock


“This Bali story reflects a huge issue that will only grow in coming years, which is increased migration through remote jobs,” Andrew McLemore, an ExplorersWeb contributor and American living and working remotely in South America, told me.

He’s witnessed firsthand the response of developing nations to destructive behavior by tourists and his fellow remote workers.

“Here in Colombia, many digital nomads come for the drugs and prostitutes,” he said. “Many others stay for better reasons. But the misbehavior of foreigners is usually regarded as worth the foreign money they bring into developing countries, making Bali’s [possible] decision unusual.”

Andrew Marshall

Andrew Marshall is an award-winning painter, photographer, and freelance writer. Andrew’s essays, illustrations, photographs, and poems can be found scattered across the web and in a variety of extremely low-paying literary journals.
You can find more of his work at, @andrewmarshallimages on Instagram and Facebook, and @pawn_andrew on Twitter (for as long as that lasts).