One of the most amazing things to do in Kuala Lumpur with kids is to pay a visit to Batu Caves. It’s easy to get to, fun and educational, plus there’s tasty affordable food… what more could you ask for from a day out?
We loved our day at Batu Caves, but found the information available before we went was fairly sparse, so we wanted to share with you some of our insight so you can make the most of your day there too.
What are Batu Caves?
Around 14km north of the city of Kuala Lumpur stand the tall limestone hills of the Gombak district. Although a local aboriginal tribe, the Jukan, had been aware of the presence of a deep, expansive cave system for some time, the realisation of the importance of these caves only came about after an American explorer, William Hornday, discovered them in 1878.
In 1891, Malaysian Hindus declared the site of religious importance, and established a temple in the ‘grand cathedral’ cave, the highest of the caves and open at the top to the daylight. The temple was built as a shrine to Lord Murugan, and inspired dangerous pilgrimages to the caves over the jagged rocks. In the 20’s, wooden steps were built to make the journey easier, which were later replaced with the 272 concrete steps here today.
How to get to Batu Caves
Getting to Batu Caves from KL is super easy, you’ll be glad to hear. Simply get yourself to KL Sentral station, where you can pick up the red KTM line Klang – Batu Caves. The journey takes around 40 minutes and is super cheap, around 2RM per person one way.
A word of advice, if you buy your tickets at a monorail station or on the Kelana Jaya or Star lines, you will have to pay for both adults and kids all the way to Batu Caves. However, the KTM trains do not charge for kids, so it’s worth just buying your connection to KL Sentral at your local station, and then buying onward tickets just for the adults from there.
Download a train map here to help with your planning. For some reason KL City Guide don’t put Batu Caves on the map, but it’s about two stops on from Sentul on the red line.
Batu Caves is the last stop on the line, so there’s no chance of missing it! Once you arrive at the station, follow the crowds through the small collection of stallholders by the gate and towards the main sites. Head to the right, pausing if you like to see the big blue Hindu statue by the gate, and the pretty temple on the road to the caves.
When to go to Batu Caves
If you’re around at the start of the year, the spectacular Thaipusam festival sees great crowds of Hindu’s visiting the temple, with shrines to Hindu Gods skewered to their bodies. This takes place in January and February each year, and is quite a spectacle by all accounts, although maybe not the best time to visit the caves themselves.
Throughout the rest of the year, there’s not really a bad time to visit, although you might want to avoid really rainy days as the steps can become slippery when wet. It’s advisable to go early morning if you can, as the walk up is pretty arduous in the heat of the midday sun. The temple cave closes at around 7pm, and the dark cave closes at 5pm and all day Monday.
What to do at Batu Caves
There’s more to Batu Caves than just a big climb up some steep steps. Here’s what we loved on our trip to help you get more out of yours:
- See the golden statue: At the foot of the steps stands an awe inspiring golden statue of Lord Murugan himself, adding a definite wow factor to the experience. At 42.7m tall, this is believed to be the tallest statue of this chap in existence today.
- Say hi to the monkeys: If you like a bit of primate action, this is the place to see them up close and personal. The ground level of Batu Caves is pretty much always swarming with monkeys, looking for coconuts, discarded food and unsuspecting tourists. You’ll probably meet a few on your way up the stairs too, and in the temple at the top. Our advice? Just don’t take snacks!
- Climb the stars: It’s a must do, even if your kids complain! Take water, and take lots of breaks at the rest stops on the way up to enjoy the views of KL down below and catch your breath.
- See the temple: At the top of the stairs, you enter the first cave which is decorated on left and right walls with shrines and Hindu art. Walk through this cave and up a small flight of stairs to reach the cathedral cave and beautiful temple. The daylight streaming in from the open top of the cave gives the place a truly ethereal feel, and is guaranteed to make even the most difficult to impress kids say ‘wow’. There is pretty much no dress code enforced at this temple, but out of respect you might want to cover shoulders and refrain from too much exposed leg.
- Do the Dark Cave tour: The temple cave is free to go in and the train is cheap, so use your savings here to fund a tour of the Dark Cave. The Educational Tour costs RM35 for adults and RM28 for children under 10, and is worth every penny of the cash. The 45-minute tour, led by enthusiastic guides with excellent English, takes you deep into the heart of this protected cave system, discovering bats, giant centipedes and the unique ecology of this incredible ecosystem. Kids will learn about guano, different types of bats, cave geology and more. We absolutely loved this experience, and would highly recommend it both from an educational point of view and to support the charity that keeps these caves protected.
- Have lunch: When you eventually make your way back down the steps, there are plenty of options for lunch awaiting you. The food places directly opposite could so easily be overpriced, poor quality tourist traps, but thankfully they are most certainly not. You and your kids will be happy to fill your tummy with some delicious fried rice, satay or curry from these low priced eateries.
- Visit the Cave Villa: Next to the steps on the right hand side is the Cave Villa, which apparently houses lots of Hindu statues and paintings. It’s around RM15 per person to get it, so we didn’t bother, but if you like to get the most from your days it might be worth a look.
Batu Caves makes for a lovely day trip from the city centre, and is a unique place to visit with kids of any age. It’s one of our top things to do in KL with kids, so pop it on your itinerary if you’re planning to visit soon. If you’re going with older kids and can make the climb a bit faster, you could even combine this with a visit to KL Bird Park which is close to KL Sentral. For us, travelling with young ones, this was plenty for a full day out, and left time for a cooling swim when we got home too.