The multi-colored crater lakes of Kelimutu are a beautiful and mysterious geological anomaly. Although they share the crest of the same volcano and are practically next to each other, the lakes periodically change color independently of each other.
The volcanic lakes appear to be boiling as gases continue to escape from the volcano below. The activity of the fumarole below the surface causes the colors to vary from red and brown to turquoise and green. The Kelimutu Lakes are one of the most popular attractions in Nusa Tenggara and once featured on the rupee, the national currency of Indonesia. Local communities even believe that the lakes are home to ancient spirits.
Get to Kelimutu
Kelimutu is located in central Flores, Indonesia, approximately 40 miles from the city of Ende and 52 miles from Maumee . Both Ende and Maumere have small airports with flights from the main hubs in Indonesia, however the service is unpredictable and tickets must be purchased at the airport. The journey from Maumere, the larger of the two cities, takes around three to four hours.
The narrow road through Flores is hilly and slow; Most visitors choose to visit the lakes by staying in the small town of Moni . Crowded public buses run the road to Moni regularly or you can team up with other travelers to rent a private car.
Moni is only nine miles from the lakes and is the usual base for visiting Kelimutu, although some tour companies operate buses from Ende. Accommodation is limited at Moni and things fill up quickly during the peak months of July and August .
Your guesthouse in Moni will arrange transportation to the summit. Expect to leave Moni around 4 am to reach Kelimutu before sunrise. During the off-season, transportation can be as simple as riding on the back of a motorcycle!
Tips for visiting Kelimutu
- Heavy fog often obscures the lakes, so most tourists make it to the summit to watch the sunrise.
- Mornings are cold and windy at the summit; wear warm clothing that can be removed as the day heats up later in the afternoon.
- The trail is well marked, but bring a flashlight if you intend to hike before sunrise.
- There may be vendors offering coffee and tea along the way, but take your own water and snacks.
- There is little shade around the lakes, wear a hat and protect yourself from the sun.
- Kelimutu is a national park – you are expected to pay a small fee at the entrance gate.
Strolling through the Kelimutu lakes
Kelimutu National Park is home to several endangered plants and animals, always stay on marked trails to avoid further erosion of its fragile environment.
Although there is an unofficial trail that runs along the edge of the lakes, walking is not recommended. The loose shale and volcanic rock make parts of the steep trail dangerous, and the noxious fumes rising from the crater will literally take your breath away.
A fall in the lakes would be fatal.
Going back to Moni
Most people go out shortly after sunrise, however the afternoon sun really brings out the brilliance of the colors on Kelimutu. You can even have the lakes to yourself only during the afternoons in the off season!
Not all transport organized at Moni includes the return. Many visitors choose to walk back into town by taking a steep, scenic shortcut up the mountain. The walk passes a waterfall and a favorite bathing spot for the locals. The trail starts near the gate to Kelimutu, ask someone for directions.
If you decide not to walk back to the city, you can find other transportation options in the parking area or mark any public bus on the way back to Moni.
Kelimutu and the supernatural
The otherworldly colors and thick fog surrounding the volcano have given Kelimutu an unearthly reputation. Local villagers believe that the spirits of the dead rest in one of the lakes based on events carried out on Earth.
- Tiwa Ata Mbupu , the lonely lake on the west side of the summit, is believed to be where the elderly and wise people go.
- Tiwu Nua Muri Koo Fai is the lake where young people go when they die.
- Iwu in polo is the cursed home of evil spirits.
In and around moni
Moni is a small farming town, but several inexpensive guesthouses have popped up due to the proximity of Kelimutu. Moni is certainly not the place to stay if you want to shop, dine lavishly, or party, but there is a charm to the outdoors.
Some of the neighboring villages produce beautiful traditional fabrics and it is interesting to see the weekly market day held in Moni.
There is a nice waterfall and swimming spot just a mile from a town just off the main road to Ende.
- Trekking Kelimutu is quite easy. Read about more challenging volcano hikes in Indonesia.