Visiting Batu Caves from Kuala Lumpur

Monkeys, strange festivals, striking temples and stunning natural features – you’ll find it all here!

Written by Michael Turtle

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle. A journalist for more than 20 years, he's been travelling the world since 2011.

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle and has been travelling full time for a decade.

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Visiting Batu Caves from Kuala Lumpur

The series of dramatic caverns at Batu Caves, along with the fascinating religious devotion that has grown inside them, makes this a fascinating site.

I think a visit to Batu Caves is a highlight of a trip to Kuala Lumpur, and to help you plan, I've got lots of information in this article.

After a while, you get used to the monkeys. Running up the steps, sliding down the banisters, fighting in the trees, running across the tiles if they spot food.

The monkeys are as much a part of Batu Caves as anything else – but they’re not the main attraction, just an interesting sideshow.

Batu Caves, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Thankfully the monkeys tend to leave the human visitors alone. Perhaps they know that we’re here for something else.

Well, two other things, to be precise. Batu Caves is about the natural formations… and it’s about the religion that has taken them over.

What are the Batu Caves?

The Batu Caves are a series of limestone caves in the northern suburbs of Kuala Lumpur. Within the vast caverns, temples and other important religious sites have been built.

Why are the Batu Caves so special?

The natural beauty of the Batu Caves (especially so close to the capital) is enough to make them significant, but it’s the fusion with the religion that makes the Batu Caves so special. People visit to both explore the caverns and worship.

Is it worth visiting the Batu Caves?

The Batu Caves are certainly worth visiting, and I think they’re one of the best things to do in Kuala Lumpur. There’s something adventurous about climbing the steps into the cavern, plus the cultural aspects are also fascinating.

The caves themselves have been here for a long time – experts estimate the limestone is about 400 million years old. And, besides the monkeys, there are lots of other animals here.

Thankfully the bats mainly stay hidden in undeveloped caves and, even more thankfully, so do the local spiders. Batu Caves claims to have the rarest spider on earth living here.

Batu Caves, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

For most visitors, it’s the humans who are the most interesting animal here – and, more specifically, what they have done to the caves.

A natural wonder has inspired a natural house of worship. Throughout the main caverns is a large Hindu temple complex filled with colourful statues and other religious items.

An enormous 272-step rainbow-coloured staircase leads up to the cave temples, while there’s a festival-like atmosphere on the ground with other temples and stalls.

For a guided experience that takes care of all the transport, I would recommend either this half-day group tour or this affordable private tour.

You might think you’re visiting the Batu Caves just for the spectacle of the temple, but there’s much more to see here than just that.

The history of Batu Caves

The limestone caves may have been formed here up to 400 million years ago, but the human history is much shorter.

The caves were probably first used for shelter about 3000 years ago, but there isn’t much evidence of any major settlement here.

It wasn’t until the late 1800s, when Chinese settlers gathered guano from the caves to fertilises their crops that anyone really paid the site too much attention.

Batu Caves, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

It was around this time, in 1890, that people saw the potential for Batu Caves as a religious site.

An Indian trader called K Thamboosamy Pillai established the first temple here, putting a sacred statue of the deity Murugan in one of the most beautiful spots he could find.

Batu Caves has been dedicated to Murugan ever since.

Over the next century or so, Batu Caves evolved into an important Hindu centre in Malaysia, with relatively easy access to Kuala Lumpur.

More caves were dedicated to Hindu deities and the caverns were decorated with statues and other adornments.

Batu Caves, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

And in 1920, the grand staircase was added. For everyone now, a visit starts with a climb up the steps, all 272 of them.

Arriving at Batu Caves, I look up and begin the walk to the top up the coloured steps. The climb is necessary – to get from the ground up to the entrance of the main caves – but it also brings a spiritual elevation to the experience, closer to the gods.

Things to see at Batu Caves

Guarding the staircase is an enormous golden statue of Murugan. At 43 metres tall, it is the largest statue devoted to him in the world and needed more than 300 litres of gold paint.

Batu Caves, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Once I get to the top, the Cave Temple, the complex’s enormous main cavern, opens up in front of me. There’s some water falling lightly from the ceiling, incense burns at some of the shrines, floodlights give colour to a few of the crevices, and people mingle on the vast floor beneath.

It is relatively quiet in here today. Even with quite a few tourists, the huge space stretches out further than they could come close to filling.

But there is a time each year when every spare bit of space is taken – the Thaipusam Festival.

The annual Thaipusam Festival has been held here at Batu Caves since 1892, just two years after the first temple was founded, and takes place around January or February. It can have hundreds of thousands of worshippers taking part – and tens of thousands watching.

The reason there are so many spectators is because it’s a slightly strange ceremony.

One of the things that people do is pierce their skin, mouth and tongue with things like hooks and skewers. A bit gruesome but quite the spectacle!

Batu Caves, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Through the main cave, there’s another flight of steps (and plenty more monkeys jumping all over it). I walk up them and arrive at the final cave, different to the previous one.

Here, there’s a large hole above me where the sun streams in. There’s no need for artificial lights, nature is doing the job for us.

The tiled floor is wide and in the middle is a structure called the Sri Valli Deivanai temple. It’s rather simple for what you might expect in a complex that is so grand.

Small candles burn around the outside and, in the middle, someone is praying.

Batu Caves, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

This is the original spot where the first tribute to Murugan was placed. It’s the whole complex’s reason for being but it seems rather sedate. Just one worshipper – everyone else walking around are tourists.

I stay awhile and watch. One of the men from the temple walks over to the side of the cave and throws food to the monkeys. Other ones come running from different areas.

Batu Caves, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Back towards the staircase, there’s an entrance to an area called the Dark Cave. It has been closed since the pandemic and there’s no word on whether it will ever open again.

It’s a shame, because it offered quite an interesting walk through a natural part of Batu Caves that hadn’t been covered with any temple structures and was a nice way to try to spot some of the animals who live here.

Batu Caves, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

I retrace my steps through the main cave, back down the staircase to the ground level.

Walking past a smaller temple at the base of the cliffs, I hear music. They are simple sounds with drums and metal percussion – but rhythmic and hypnotic.

I take off my shoes and go up to look. There’s some kind of ceremony going on and I can see people being blessed.

I guess it’s part of some wedding celebrations but, without a large crowd, not the main ceremony.

Batu Caves, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

It’s a reminder that Batu Caves is still an everyday place of worship, even if it’s become a bit of a tourist attraction.

Speaking of tourists, there are two more things to see at Batu Caves when you’re on the ground level, but they are both paid attractions.

  • Ramayana Cave: Inside the cave, the epic story of the Ramayana is told with statues along the walls. It’s colourful, quite impressive, and a lot less crowded than the main cave.
  • Cave Villa: The cave is decorated with Hindu art and advertises itself as an art gallery – but I’ve also had reports there are animals on display here in inhumane conditions so, if true, I would avoid it.

I would suggest that you don’t need to see either of them unless you have a particular interest in covering the whole site. If anything, I would recommend the Ramayana Cave.

Visiting Batu Caves

The Batu Caves is one of the best things to do in Kuala Lumpur and it’s worth your effort to head out to see them.

The caves are actually the last stop of the KTM Komuter route that was once called the Seremban Line, but is now known as the KTM Batu Caves–Pulau Sebang Line. In other words, it’s easy to reach by public transport.

I would recommend giving yourself about two hours to visit Batu Caves. Although the main cavern is not enormous, between the climb up the staircase and the smaller sights in the complex, that’s probably about how long it will take.

Batu Caves, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

If you’re short of time or don’t want to worry about the logistics of public transport, there are some good tours to Batu Caves.

This half-day group tour is really affordable and is a great way to get out there, hear the stories from a guide, plus see a couple of other sights along the way.

If you would prefer to go as a private tour, then this is the one I would recommend, and is also really good value.

There are some other great options here:

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If you’re coming independently, I would recommend trying to arrive before the tour groups, which tend to get here from around 10am onwards.

Because Batu Caves open from early in the morning, you could even come out here before breakfast to avoid the crowds.

Where is Batu Caves?

Batu Caves is in the northern suburbs of Kuala Lumpur, about ten kilometres directly north from the centre of the city.
The official address is Gombak, 68100 Batu Caves, Selangor. You can see the location on Google Maps here.

How do you get to Batu Caves?

The easiest way to get to Batu Caves by public transport is to take the KTM Komuter train, which takes you right to the site.
You can catch it from KL Sentral station and the ticket costs RM2.30 (US$0.50) and takes about 25 minutes each way.
The stop is called Batu Caves and it’s the last one on the line.

When is Batu Caves open?

Batu Caves is open every day from 07:00 – 20:00.
Although the Dark Cave still hasn’t reopened since the pandemic (and there’s no word on when it will) it was previously open Monday – Friday from 10:00 – 17:00 and on Saturday and Sunday from 10:30 – 17:30.

How much does it cost to visit Batu Caves?

When it comes to the Batu Caves entrance fee, one of the great things is that the main temple complex (where all the photos in this article are from) is free.
The Dark Cave environmental tour can only be done with a guide and it costs RM35 (US$7.40) for an adult and RM25 (US$5.30) for a child. (NOTE: It is still currently closed since the pandemic.)
There are two other cave areas on the ground level that have small entrance fees. The Cave Villa for RM15 (US$3.20) and Ramayana Cave for RM5 (US$1.10).
Both of them are quite touristy and have colourful attractions and displays. They could be fun for children but don’t think you’re missing out if you don’t go in.

Are there tours to Batu Caves?

Yes, there are quite a few tour options to Batu Caves and it can make the visit much easier to not have to deal with transport and logistics. They are quite affordable too.
There is this private tour to Batu Caves from Kuala Lumpur
Or there is a group tour to Batu Caves that will teach you a lot about the culture.
If you want to see more than just Batu Caves, this tour combines the Genting Highlands, while this tour also shows you around Kuala Lumpur.

There are plenty of places to get food and drink around Batu Caves, so you’ll be able to easily get a meal if you’re hungry – even breakfast if you decide to come early.

THE BEST ACCOMMODATION IN KUALA LUMPUR

You can get great value accommodation in Kuala Lumpur but there are also wonderful luxury options.

BACKPACKER

If you’re looking for a cheap but fun option, I suggest Mingle Hostel, close to KL Sentral station.

BUDGET

For a nice comfortable budget hotel, try The Mesui in the main shopping district.

BOUTIQUE

With a cool and modern style, the W Hotel is a wonderful choice.

LUXURY

And I think the best luxury hotel in the city is the beautiful Banyan Tree.

6 thoughts on “Visiting Batu Caves from Kuala Lumpur”

  1. Hello.. hope you have a great time in Malaysia.. I read your blog before and i remembered you ask a suggestion which country to visit next.. I replied try visit Malaysia. I’m not sure whether you have read my comment or not but here you are in Malaysia..hehe

    There are also few states that you should really visit.. such as Langkawi Island, Penang island, Melaka, Perak, Terengganu, Johor Bahru and Sabah.. Basically those states have a wonderful scenery and history..

    Well, i like to read you travel journal.. Have a pleasant day.. (^_^)

    Reply
    • Malaysia was an excellent suggestion! It’s a great country and I have enjoyed travelling around it so much. I have to confess that I had always thought it was a little ‘boring’ but I found so much to do and already want to go back! I left a couple of weeks ago but am planning my next trip in my head (I didn’t make it to Sabah or Sarawak, for instance).

      Reply

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