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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 sunrise on Kelimutu, Flores, Indonesia

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!

black-blue-lakes-kelimutu

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.

The green lake on Kelimutu, Flores, Indonesia

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!

A farm in Moni, Flores, IndonesiaThe countryside near Moni, Flores, Indonesia

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.

READ MORE: 10 Awesome Islands Near Bali That You Can Easily Visit

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Have you seen the crater lakes of Kelimutu, or been to any other volcanoes? Let me know!

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Jon Algie

A travel blogger from New Zealand who hates talking about himself in the third person and has no imagination when it comes to naming websites.
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16 Comments

  1. July 20, 2014 at 12:46 am — Reply

    Intereing and scenic place! I’ve never heard of this before, but the colors of the lake is very intriguing, and it’s definitely going into my bucket list!

    • July 25, 2014 at 4:07 pm — Reply

      It’s worth the long journey from the more touristy parts of Indonesia!

    • Tricky
      September 30, 2015 at 6:42 am — Reply

      Amazing. I was there few months ago and black lake changed color to bright green. I did not think that changes happen so quickly.

      • October 3, 2015 at 11:47 am — Reply

        Nice – pretty cool place huh!

  2. July 20, 2014 at 4:48 am — Reply

    That looks incredible! I love the idea of a guide waving you on because you’d done it yesterday – wouldn’t happen in England haha! Such an awesome looking place 🙂

    • July 25, 2014 at 4:08 pm — Reply

      Haha yeah you’d be fired for that in NZ too!

  3. July 20, 2014 at 5:55 pm — Reply

    Wow, that looks and sounds wonderful! The only volcano I’ve been to was Eyjafjallajokull in Iceland which isn’t very spectacular as it is covered by a glacier. But I guess I’ll see a couple of volcanoes soon as I’ll be going to Hawaii in november. Cheers and happy travels! Anna

    • July 25, 2014 at 4:09 pm — Reply

      Thanks Anna, I’m sure the volcanoes in Hawaii are amazing.

  4. August 8, 2014 at 2:08 pm — Reply

    When writing a travel post, credit your reader with not knowing where Kelimutu is. Had to read down almost to end to discover it is in Flores. And you might also give the location of Flores for people who have only heard of Bali.

    Thank you.

    • August 8, 2014 at 2:40 pm — Reply

      Thanks for the advice Christine, I credit my readers with having the attention span to read past the first couple of paragraphs though!

  5. April 6, 2015 at 1:03 am — Reply

    Ummmm . I’m wondering whhteer it’s volcanic sandstone, rather than limestone it’s the sort of thing I feel I should know but the yellow could, as at Yellowstone, be coming from the sulphur. Jealous of you for seeing yellowstone!

    • June 26, 2015 at 6:54 am — Reply

      Haha I have no idea what it is, it’s amazing though!

  6. stephen
    June 15, 2015 at 6:59 am — Reply

    hey,

    Awesome post! You have great information about Indonesia. I’m planning to go in the next month for a 6 week bicycle tour of lombok, Sumbawa, and Flores. I was just wondering what the road conditions were like. Was it always paved or was it dirt, muddy? I know transport isn’t expensive, but traveling by bicycle is always one of my favorite ways of seeing a country. When you were in Flores just how touristy was it? Were you constantly surrounded by travelers or did you feel alone at certain points.

    Cheers,

    Stephen

    • June 26, 2015 at 6:57 am — Reply

      It was ok assuming you stick to the main highway – some of the other roads are really awful though! You should be alright by bicycle but it is pretty hilly. Some parts of Flores see a lot of tourists but it’s nothing like Bali, and it’s really easy to get to places where you won’t see many other tourists. I’d also try Sumbawa if you’re looking to get off the tourist trail, seems like most people just pass through it on the way to Lombok.

  7. Asali
    June 24, 2015 at 9:50 am — Reply

    Thanks for the details on roughly how much stuff costs getting to and from Kelimutu from Moni. Great photos, and it’s nice to know that it’s not a hard hike and I can walk back to town.

    • June 26, 2015 at 6:57 am — Reply

      It’s definitely an easier experience than most volcanoes I’ve been to!

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