Just 14 kilometres outside of Kuala Lumpur are the iconic Batu Caves. You would think the gods themselves have created this magnificent complex, but actually, it was all men. Helped a bit by nature as the temples are located in some huge limestone caves. It is the biggest Hindu complex outside of India, so it attracts a lot of visitors every year. It is one of Malaysia’s top touristic attractions for non-religious people. But for the pilgrims who are devoted to the Hindu faith, it means even more and they come from all over the world. And the main part of the complex is free to visit.
What are the Batu Caves?
The stairs and statue
The first thing you’ll notice when approaching the Batu Caves are the stairs with 272 steps leading up to the caves. They used to be just grey, but recently they have been transformed into one of the most colourful sights we have ever seen. All the colours of the rainbow are represented, some hate it, some love it. We simply loved it and thought they fit perfectly with the colourful religion that the Hinduism is. And of course, the provide some excellent photo opportunities.
Even more, because the steps are filled with monkeys. They are everywhere. Again, they provide excellent photos, and it is fun to watch them. But some tourists feed them, try to take selfies with them and or even touch them. Something we strongly advised our kids not to do, as monkeys are still animals and can be quite aggressive or steal your food or belongings. They make climbing the stairs an even bigger attraction, in both good and bad ways.
Next to the stairs is a huge golden statue of 42,7 metres / 140 feet high. The statue represents Murugan, which is a Hindu deity. It is the tallest statue of Malaysia and also the second tallest statue of a Hindu deity in the world. It stands proudly since 2006 next to the steps leading up to the sanctuary.
There are actually 4 caves which are the Temple Cave, Dark Cave, Cave Villa and Ramayana Cave.
Once you have conquered the stairs, you reach the biggest cave, which is the Temple Cave or Cathedral Cave with its 100 metres / 328 feet high ceiling. Inside there are a few Hindu shrines or temples, with their pujari (Hindu priests) blessing the visitors. Even we and our kids received a white dot on our foreheads and the blessing of a long life.
We loved the atmosphere in this cave. The place is gigantic and makes you feel tiny and humble. Especially when the sun rays shine through the ceiling, it gives the place this mystical feeling that we always associate with these sanctuaries.
We loved watching the devoted Hindu people and their priests in all their rituals. The magnificent statues with all their colours, the fruit, candles and flowers, the beautiful clothing of the Hindu people and the huge cave made this place well worth the visit. And of course, there are some monkeys running around and stealing the bananas of the offerings left behind.
The Dark Cave is the second most famous cave and also on top of the stairs. You’ll have to pay an entrance fee there and it can only be visited with a guide. As busy as the main cave is, so quiet is the Dark Cave. The cave is home to bats, insects and some very rare spider. But you’ll probably won’t see those. We decided not to visit the cave as the kids were getting tired and hungry, but we have heard it is definitely worth it. If you like dark caves of course…
The other caves
The other caves are located on the bottom of the stairs. The Ramayana cave is filled with statues illuminated by led lights and might feel a bit like kitsch to western visitors. But it is, however, part of the Hindu culture. Cave Villa is a good place to learn more about Hinduism, but unfortunately, they also keep animals therein not the best circumstances. We didn’t visit these caves, but I found this article where you’ll get all the information you need.
How to get there?
Batu Caves can be easily reached from Kuala Lumpur. We took a Grab, which cost us RM 37 (€7,5/$9) in total for both rides. There are definitely cheaper ways, but it was hassle-free and with a family of four the price is quite ok. You could also take a regular taxi, but those prices will be higher (almost double). The downside of this method, however, is you could hit dense traffic.
Another very easy way is the KTM Komuter, which has a line that goes directly to the Batu Caves. KL Sentral is a good place to take the KTM. It takes you about half an hour from the city centre to reach the caves. And then another 5 minutes walk before you enter the holy site. One ticket, one way only costs RM 2,6 (less than one euro or dollar).
There are also a few buses heading to the Batu caves, leaving Pudu Sentral in Chinatown. It will take you around 45 minutes to reach them. Probably not the easiest way to get to your destination.
When to go
The caves are open all year round, from 7 am to 8 pm (opening and closing times of the temples and the entrance can differ). You might want to avoid the weekend, as it can be very crowded then. We visited the caves on a Tuesday, and even then there were lots of people. If you would come early in the morning or late in the evening, you could avoid the crowds. Every year in January/February (the 10th month of the Hindu calendar) they hold the Thaipusam festival around the caves. More than a million Hindus visit the caves during this festivities, so you might want to avoid the site then. Except when you want to experience the festival of course.
The entrance to the Batu Caves and the main Temple Cave is free. If you want to visit the Dark Cave, it will cost you RM 35 (€7/$8,5) and RM 25 (€5/$6,5) for children. You will get a guide and the tour lasts around 45 minutes. There even is an adventure tour, which is RM 80 (€16/$19) and RM55 (€11,5/$13) for children. This will take around 3 to 4 hours and you will get wet, climb rocks, … Best to bring clothes that can get dirty or have a spare set. The Cave Villa costs RM 15 (€3/$4) and the Ramayana cave is RM 5 (€1/$1,2).
Be aware that there is a dress code. Shoulders and knees should be covered, especially for women. Men sometimes get in with shorts. If you are not dressed appropriately, you can rent a scarf at the entrance.
Hungry after climbing and descending all those stairs? There are some great Indian restaurants at the entrance of the caves. You’ll probably find cheaper and better options in Kuala Lumpur. But still, we really liked the tasteful food and found it very reasonably priced. We paid RM 24,5 (€5/$6,5) for food and drinks for all four of us. Maybe you want to bring your own bottles of water, as you will pay more in the stalls of course. But again, it is still far from expensive.
You can also sleep nearby the Batu Caves. It will be quieter than in the bustling city of Kuala Lumpur and you can visit the caves very early in the morning or late in the evening when the biggest crowds have vanished.
And last but not least, the neighbourhood around the Batu Caves is also very nice to hike, climb and do some adventurous wandering around.
Batu caves with kids
Our kids definitely enjoyed this activity. They are still talking about the colourful steps, the beautiful people and all those monkeys. It turned out to be a good lesson in world religion. They learned a lot about Hinduism, about their temples, priests and habits. They didn’t know where to look first. We didn’t subscribe for a tour, but I bet those are wonderful as well!
So if you are in Kuala Lumpur with your children, be sure to pay these caves a visit. Be aware however that climbing the stairs is not easy, especially when the weather is hot. So maybe try to come in the morning or the evening, when the heat has dropped a bit.
And then like we said before, prepare your kids not to go to close to the monkeys. Respect them for what they are, independent animals that try to survive, not a tourist attraction. So if they see food, they will try to steal it. If they feel they are in danger, they will defend themselves and might bite. No worries, but just be a little bit careful.
Read more: The complete guide to Kuala Lumpur with kids
Definitely, don’t spend a lot of money on an organised tour to the Batu Caves from Kuala Lumpur. You can easily visit the place yourself. It will give you more time to wander around, will cost way less money and you’ll have the same enjoyable experience.
We absolutely loved our visit at the magnificent sight of the Batu Caves. Both because of the temples and surroundings, but also because we learned a lot about Hinduism and liked the mystical religious feeling that this place breaths out.
How did you experience your visit to the Batu Caves? Please let us know in. Or if you have any extra information, feel free to leave a comment below this article.