Is it really worth going to Kelimutu National Park to see the tri-colored crater lakes? That’s the question I asked everyone after arriving in Flores Island. After all, these lakes aren’t the easiest to get to and it’s quite the trek from Komodo National Park (as that’s where I was headed).
The overwhelming answer… Yes!
So, of course, I backtracked and took a detour from Bajawa to Ende and then continued on to Moni which is home to the famous Kelimutu Lakes.
About the Kelimutu Lakes
Mount Kelimutu is located to the east of Flores Island in the East Nusa Tenggara province, Indonesia. It’s a dormant volcano sitting at 1 639m with 3 lakes at its peak.
Translated directly, keli means “mountain” and mutu means “boiling”. However, this “boiling mountain” is famous for its multi-colored lakes rather than its volcanic activity. These tri-colored lakes are a natural phenomenon and seem surreal until you witness their beauty with your own eyes.
How to get to Kelimutu National Park in Indonesia
There are a few ways to get to Kelimutu National Park, depending on where you’re starting off from. The easiest is a direct flight from Bali to Ende in Flores. If you’re coming from the Komodo National Park, you can also catch a short 50-minute flight from Labuan Bajo to Ende.
Whilst Ende is the main transportation hub leading to Kelimutu National Park, it’s a small town that doesn’t have much to offer. I suggest you move on straight to Moni which is the closest village to the Kelimutu Crater Lakes and lies at the foot of Kelimutu National Park.
To get to Moni, you can either rent a scooter, take a private vehicle or hop on a public bus from Ende which only costs 35 000 IDR ($2).
Whilst it’s only 50km from Ende to Moni you should give yourself about 2-3 hours for this trip to account for traffic (and the possibility of your bus breaking down – which ours did!). The road is in good condition compared to some I’ve traveled on in Flores, but expect a lot of windy parts and sharp turns.
How to get to Kelimutu National Park from Moni
Once in Moni, you need drive 11km to Kelimutu National Park.
The easiest way to do this is by hiring a scooter for the day which will cost 125 000 IDR ($8). This allows you to enjoy Mount Kelimutu at your own pace and explore the rice paddies that surround the villages thereafter.
Your other options include an ojek (motorcycle taxi) which costs 100 000 IDR ($6) for a round trip. Aternatively, you can hire a private driver which will set you back 200 000–300 000 IDR ($13-$20).
After arriving at the parking lot, it’s a short 1.5km hike to the peak of Mount Kelimutu which shouldn’t take you more than 30 minutes to reach. The path is well marked with a gradual incline and is a pretty easy route to walk.
Kelimutu National Park entrance fee
The entrance fee for Kelimutu National Park is 150 000 IDR ($10) for a daily pass for foreign tourists. You’re able to revisit the lakes numerous times throughout the day so ensure you keep this ticket on you.
When’s the best time to see the Kelimutu Lakes? Sunrise or daytime?
This one’s debatable.
Yes, watching the sun rising behind the beautiful turquoise lakes is something special but you aren’t guaranteed perfect weather conditions. This is something I learned the hard way.
Pictures speak a thousand words, so you decide for yourself.
Visiting Mount Kelimutu for sunrise
I left Moni at 04:15 and began the trek to the peak at 05:00. I suggest you skip the first viewpoint and head straight to the main viewing area to catch the sunrise.
Instead of a clear morning with the perfect sunrise, I was met by a fierce storm instead. It was cold and wet, and I found comfort in the coffee and warm noodles being sold. The next hour saw everyone rushing to get a snap of the Kelimutu Lakes as the sun occasionally beamed through the clouds.
Not ideal and not “picture perfect”!
After an hour at the peak, we decided to head back down, unaware that more events were in store for us.
At the time of writing (September 2018), there were major roadworks on the road between Moni and Kelimutu National Park. After a few hours of rain, getting back down to Moni was a challenge. What was a smooth, dirt road when we first arrived, had changed to a muddy disaster zone thanks to the early morning showers.
Vehicles and motorbikes couldn’t reach the park entrance and all that could be heard were the sounds of locals shouting “hati-hati” (which means becareful). Unfortunately, despite their warnings, I still managed to find myself face first in the mud!
Visiting Mount Kelimutu during the day
The reason I’d come all the way to Moni was to see these lakes and the morning session hadn’t given me much to write home about. So, after a rather disappointing, yet eventful start to the day, we decided to go back to Kelimutu National Park.
I was happy to find the slippery mud had dried and so getting to and from the lakes wasn’t as difficult as it had been earlier.
Arriving at the top, I couldn’t believe I was at the same spot I had been a few hours back. The lakes were all brightly colored with no shadow falling on them. The sky was clear blue and the views, spectacular. It was also peaceful and quiet with only a handful of other tourists around.
I’d given the magical Kelimutu Lakes a second chance at impressing me and wow, was I completely blown away by their beauty!
In my opinion, noon is the best time to see the Kelimutu Lakes.
The magic behind the changing colored lakes of Kelimutu
The colors of these volcanic lakes change dramatically and unpredictably from blue to green to brown and even red. These changes are caused by a chemical reaction of the lake’s minerals, the gas activity of the volcano as well as the changing weather conditions.
The local beliefs and spiritual significance
Whilst modern science has its reasons for the changing colors of these crater lakes, the locals have their own theories.
These beliefs are based around the idea that the lakes are the resting place of their ancestors’ spirits. It is said that the changing color is due to spirits that have become restless and begin to wander.
Because of this, it is easy to understand why the Kelimutu National Park is a sacred place with spiritual significance.
Exploring Kelimutu National Park
The westernmost lake, pictured above, is called Tiwu Ata Mbupu, the “Lake of Old People”.
This is believed to be the home of those souls who have lived a long, good life. This lake was dark green in color at the time of our visit (which was slightly underwhelming when compared to the other two volcanic lakes).
Next are two lakes which are located besides each other, separated only by a crater wall.
The most striking is Tiwu Nuwa Muri Koo Fai otherwise known as the “Lake of Young Men and Maidens”. This lake, pictured below, is said to be where those young souls and children go to rest.
Finally, the “Enchanted Lake”, Tiwu Ata Polo, is the first lake you will come across after entering the Kelimutu National Park. This lake, below, is home to the spirits of those who have committed crimes and lived an evil life.
Mount Kelimutu trekking
For those interested in hiking, there is a 10km trek which includes a more scenic route through Kelimutu National Park. This trek takes about 2-3 hours from Moni to Kelminutu National Park.
I suggest you take an ojek or taxi to the Kelimutu Lakes parking area (as most people do). From there, make your way to the lakes and thereafter take the longer route down to Moni where you will walk through the local villages and rice paddies before reaching the town 3 hours later.
The verdict: Is it worth going to the Kelimutu National Park?
Hell yes! This part of Flores Island is incredibly beautiful and it’s not just the lakes that make it worthwhile, but also the journey that it takes to get there.