The Colourful Crater Lakes of Kelimutu, Indonesia: Jon Vs the Volcano
After reading the title of this post you might be thinking that climbing Kelimutu was a really difficult and harrowing experience. That couldn’t be further from the truth, although waking up at 4 a.m is always a little traumatic for me. Getting to the crater lakes of Kelimutu requires a 40 minute motorbike or car ride and a short climb of about 20 minutes, but just because it’s easy doesn’t make it any less impressive – Kelimutu is home to some of the coolest volcanic scenery Asia has to offer.
As with most mountains and volcanoes, the optimum time to visit is just before sunrise. I actually went up Kelimutu twice, and both days were pretty cloudy. The sun poked through the clouds for a few minutes on the second day but I could hardly see what I’m sure were amazing views from up there.
When the sunrise is over and everyone has had their fill of photos the whole area becomes very quiet. It’s such a peaceful place, but if you want a bit more adventure you can climb up and around part of the rim of the black lake. There’s a sign reading “Danger, landslide area” but it seemed safe to me (there were tracks – I definitely wasn’t the first person up there). On the second day a local guide yelled at me to come down but I yelled back that I’d done it yesterday and it was safe and so he waved me on. I got a great view of the black lake and the surrounding crater walls from up there and it was dead quiet. Obviously I take no responsibility for any volcano related injuries or deaths – do this at your own risk!
The Crater Lakes of Kelimutu
There are three small lakes on Kelimutu which mysteriously change colour from time to time. No one seems to know exactly why they do this, but someone I talked to got denied entry one day because the lakes had suddenly changed colour and might have been dangerous (he obviously didn’t think so though – he told me he jumped the fence when no one was looking and went up anyway).
The lakes are sacred to the local people – they regard them as the resting place of souls. I’m not religious at all, but if I grew up with a strange volcano like this in my backyard I’d probably be willing to believe it was magical in some way.
READ MORE: If you’re visiting Kelimutu make sure you check out some of Flores’ other attractions especially the 17 Islands Marine Park!
The green lake is the least impressive but it’s a shame you can’t climb down to get a closer look, as the area surrounding it looked really interesting. I couldn’t even see this lake on the first day – it was covered in clouds.
Moni: The town you’ll probably stay in
Most people visiting Kelimutu stay in Moni, a small village with some decent guesthouses and restaurants. It’s the most touristy place I’ve been to in Flores so far (I haven’t made it to Labuan Bajo yet) and it was nice to meet some other travellers, sleep in a pretty flash room (for only 150,000 RP) and have a hot shower. It’s in the hills so it gets cold, and if my experience is anything to go by it rains a lot. I stayed 2 nights and it rained most of the time I was there. Apparently the views around Moni are nice but I could hardly see anything. There are some small villages in the area with friendly locals who are always excited to see a foreigner, and there is a waterfall and a couple of hot springs close to town. It’s worth spending a few days in Moni but most stay 1 night and leave after they’ve seen the sunrise. Moni is in central Flores, about four hours from Maumere and two hours from Ende.
READ MORE: Travelling in Flores? Make sure you visit Maumere!
Getting to Kelimutu
I hired an ojek (motorcycle taxi) from Moni which cost 100,000 RP (about $8 USD). It took me up the mountain and back down again a few hours later. The second day I got an ojek one way and walked back down into town. It took about 2 and a half hours and would have been great if it wasn’t raining. I couldn’t see anything and the road was muddy in parts – but if you’re lucky enough to visit on a nice day I’d recommend it.
Indonesia is full of volcanoes, and Kelimutu would have to be one of the more interesting and unique ones. If you’re travelling in Flores you’d be crazy to miss it, and it might just be worth a detour from the usual Java/Bali/Lombok route.
Have you seen the crater lakes of Kelimutu, or been to any other volcanoes? Let me know!
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