Should You Visit Kelimutu National Park?

Is it really worth going to Kelimutu National Park to see the tri-colored crater lakes? That’s the question I kept asking myself when I first arrived in Indonesia.

The answer: yes!

I spent over 2 weeks on Flores Island where I hiked Mount Inerie, dived in the Komodo National Park, and took a very sketchy drive to Riung.

Adding a visit to the Kelimutu Lakes in Moni was the cherry on top of an incredible time on the island.

So, I put together this post detailing everything you need to know about Kelimutu National Park and why you should include it in your Flores itinerary!

Is it worth going to the Kelimutu National Park in Flores?
What a view!

About Kelimutu National Park

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.

There’s no denying that visiting Kelimutu National Park should be on your Indonesia bucket list! These tri-colored lakes are a natural phenomenon and seem surreal until you witness their beauty with your own eyes.

The tri-colored lakes of Kelimutu
The lake in the right of this image is normally a reddish color!

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?
The local bus that got us from Ende to Moni safely (after the engine overheated)

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.

Entrance to Kelimutu National Park
Entrance to Kelimutu National Park

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.

The multi-colored lakes of Kelimutu
Admiring the beautiful lakes at noon

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”!

Sunrise at the peak of Mount Kelimutu
A not-so-perfect sunrise at the peak of Mount Kelimutu

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!

This experience taught me one thing – pack carefully when traveling to Indonesia. You need solid trainers as well as warm clothes when visiting Kelimutu Lakes as it’s chilly at sunrise. Here’s my comprehensive packing guide.

Getting to Kelimutu National Park from Moni
Note the muddy helmet and yes, I was recovering from a fall when I took this snap!

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.

Visiting Mount Kelimutu during the day was a better choice!
Visiting Mount Kelimutu during the day was a better choice!

I’d given the magical Kelimutu Lakes a second chance at impressing me and wow, was I was completely blown away by their beauty! This is why I recommend planning your Indonesia itinerary so that your days are flexible.

In my opinion, noon is the best time to go on a Kelimutu Lake tour.

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.

The Lake of Old People on Mount Kelimutu
The Lake of Old People

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.

The Lake of Young Men and Maidens
The Lake of Young Men and Maidens

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.

The Enchanted Lake in Kelimutu National Park
The Enchanted Lake

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.

READ MORE: The Best Places To Visit In Bali

Where to stay

Moni is a small village with only a few basic accommodation options available. I highly recommend you stay in Moni, but if you prefer a more luxurious option, then you’ll need to stay in the bigger town of Ende and drive a bit further to reach the Kelimutu Lakes in Moni.

  • Budget: Santiago Bed & Breakfast is one of the best places to stay near Kelimutu National Park and offers great value for money. The hosts will go out of their way to assist you and ensure that you have a memorable time in Moni.
  • Mid-Range: LCR Hotel is a new hotel that’s just opened in Ende. The rooms are modern and clean, and come with great reviews. Given the price, this spot is extremely affordable for budget or more luxurious travelers.
Mount Kelimutu trekking
Driving among the rice fields in Moni

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.

Practical information for Kelimutu National Park

  • Kelimutu entrance fee: $10 per person
  • Best time to go: During the afternoon
  • What to expect: A short trek to the peak of Mount Kelimutu and about 1 hour exploring the park
  • Bring: a warm top if your visit Mount Kelimutu for sunrise

Looking for more Indonesia travel information? Check out my other posts!

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About Carryn

Hi, I'm Carryn.  I’m a South African trying to figure out my way through life by traveling and exploring. Join me as I share my travel stories and tips of life abroad.

7 thoughts on “Should You Visit Kelimutu National Park?”

  1. What a stunning park! I can’t get over the blues of the lakes! I’d love to visit Kelimutu National Park. I’ve been wanting to get to Indonesia for so long.

  2. What at adventure. I know from experience how sketchy muddy roads in indonesia can be. Glad you didn’t hurt yourself too much face planting into he mud! Awesome photos too. So many reasons to head back to Indonesia.


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