It is easy to understand why the locals believe souls of the departed find their resting place in three coloured lakes of Kelimutu. When you reach the summit and look around you’ll find yourself above the clouds looking at wonderful colours of three crater lakes you can bet you will feel stricken by the mystical beauty of the place.
Kelimutu translates into Boiling (Keli) Mountain (Mutu) in Manggarai – the naitive language of Flores. The summit is at attitude of 1639 meters above sea level and you don’t want to miss the trip to the top when you are in Flores. Kelimutu crater lakes were one of the places we knew we had to see long before we planned our trip to Indonesia. The lakes are exceptional as they all have different colours which change over time depending on the minerals released into the water from the volcano or perhaps by the character of the souls inhabiting them at the time as some believe. When we went the colours were: turquoise, blood red and greenish. You could smell and see the sulphur on the turquoise lake.
The westernmost lake is called Tiwu Ata Mbupu, meaning “The lake of old people”, the middle one is called Tiwu Nuwa Muri Koo Fai, or “The lake for young men and maiden” and the easternmost is called Tiwu Ata Polo, or “The lake for evil spirits”.
There is a platform at the summit from where you have the perfect 360 view at all three crater lakes. It is spectacular and unforgettable and we considered ourselves lucky as for the most part we were the only ones there. Apparently all the tourists come here to see the sunrise which is understandable as you should not have any shadows on the lakes then but we like to do things our way so we decided to see the sunset instead. We did not regret it!
We hanged around at the very top waiting for the sunset, shooting photos and taking the atmosphere in when suddenly the thick white clouds surrounded the mountain and started coming in on us. After no more than three minutes we were literally covered with clouds and felt heavenly. After initial amazement we wondered whether to go back as we did not expect to see much more of the sunset. At this time another couple arrived and as it turned out we ended up feeling sorry for them as the craters were completely covered by the clouds at this point. They looked around disappointed and left so we were again by ourselves on top of the volcano. We decided to put some more layers on as it became quite chilly and have a snack before heading down when to our surprise we realized that the coulds were not there to stay but as quickly as they came they went revealing beautiful orange and blue colours of the sky. We got really excited and shooter happy again. Sometimes you just need some patience and luck for the nature to show you the magic.
We stayed observing the landscape and the clouds till it got fairly dark. Luckily we carry head torches in the backpack most of the time and finally we could make a good use of them. We started walking quite fast and we walked even faster when we saw two wild eyes sparkling in the dark! Was it a fox or a soul haunting the crater lakes before finding peace in one of them? We will never know. We armed ourselves with monopod and a stone for throwing just in case. Luckily for us the trek to Kelimutu is really easy and maybe takes 20 minutes to reach the parking lot from the top. Most likely it took us half the time to go down thanks to our animal friend… We looked back a couple of times but the shiny eyes stopped following us after a while and we reached our motorbike safe and unscattered. Ufff…
You will find there is a lot of treks up volcanos in Indonesia which you usually do at night in order to reach the peak by sunrise. I believe Kelimutu is one of the least demanding, but one of the most stunning at the same time! There is no excuse not to see it when you reach Flores Island in your travels. For those who enjoy trekking you could trek up from Moni which is a sleeping base for most people but majority of the trek would be up an asphalt road unless you are adventurous and wish to wander off the asphalt road with all the souls heading up to rest in the Kelimutu crater lakes 😉 Anyway you do it the view from the summit will compensate you for your efforts.
Written by Alex and Milo
->The entrance fee to the park is IDR 20,000 per person, there is also camera fee IDR 50,000 per camera and motorbike costs IDR 3,000 (prices from July 2014).
->You can either hike up to the park entrance or take a minibus from Moni. We rented a motorbike in Bali.
->Take warm clothes as it can get cold after/before sunset/sunrise.
->In Moni (sleeping base) you can find a couple of budget places to sleep which do provide hot water. We recommend you opt for those as it can be chilly at night. If your budget stretches further the hot water is a standard. We did not book anything in advance and had no problems in finding a clean place to stay for IDR 300,000 in mid-July but we arrived quite early in the day. However, I have read reviews which stated in high season (July-August) everything may be fully booked so consider booking in advance especially if you don’t have your own mode of transport.
->You get to Moni from Ende which takes about 2 hours (51km) by motorbike and the roads are fairly good with few road works on the way and truly stunning mountain views. Alternatively from Maumere it’s about 62km. Both these cities have airports that you can use to get to Kelimutu