On the uniquely beautiful island of Flores is the Kelimutu National Park, where the famous Mount Kelimutu volcano resides with its striking tri-colored lakes resting in its caldera.
These stunning colored lakes are the most famous attraction in Flores and an absolute must visit. They are without a doubt one of the most amazing natural phenomena in Flores, if not the world.
The Colored Lakes of Mount Kelimutu
Going from west to east, the first of these lakes is called Tiwu Ata Mbupu (Lake of the Ancestors’ Souls, Lake of Old People). This first and most westerly lake is located 1.5 km west of the other two lakes. The second lake is named Tiwu Nuwa Muri Koo Fai (Lake of Young People’s Souls, Lake of Young Men and Maidens)and the third lake is called Tiwu Ata Polo (Lake of Evil Spirits, Bewitched or Enchanted Lake). The second and third lake are separated by a steep, narrow stone wall of crater measuring 50 to 150 meters.
The three lakes vary in color from each other and each one changes colors irregularly, almost whimsically, lending the whole area a wonderfully surreal atmosphere that has led to many locals myths and speculations about the origin of Kelimutu.
Currently, one of the lakes is black-brown, another is green, and the last one is in the process of changing from green to red. When Dutch geologists discovered the craters in 1914, the colors were reported to be red, blue and white. A few years ago, the lakes were white, turquoise and red. In November 2009, they were black, turquoise, and a coca-cola brown. And again in July 2010, the lakes were resplendent in various shades of green. As you can see, they change colors almost as often as a mood ring on a teenage girl and the changes happen suddenly.
A popular myth suggests that the changing colors are caused by the neglected ancestral souls. The scientific community chalks it up to discoloration by sunlight and the varying mineral contents of the water from Kelimutu volcanic activity. Which explanation you choose to go with is up to you 🙂
How to Get to the Tri-Colored Lakes at Mt. Kelimutu
Mount Kelimutu is located in the center of Flores, Indonesia and is roughly 40 miles from the town of Ende and 52 miles from the town of Maumere.
Both Ende and Maumere have small airports with flights to and from major hubs in Indonesia.
Whether you arrive at Ende or Maumere, your destination will be to the town of Moni, a town located only 9 miles from the lakes and the usual base for visiting Kelimutu.
From Maumere, the trip to Moni will take around 3 to 4 hours.
For Ende, the trip to Moni takes around 1 to 2 hours.
Getting to the lakes is a little adventure in itself. You’ll first take the drive up Mount Kelimutu and then walk on foot for 1.5 km until you get to the foot of the 127 steps leading to the edge of the crater. It’s worth the walk and the climb – once you’re at the summit (1690 meters high), you’ll have an incredible, panoramic view of the three colored lakes.
When is the Best Time to Go to Mount Kelimutu
The best time to see the colored lakes is at sunrise. You might have to wake up as early as 3:30 AM to make it in time, but the dramatic atmosphere on top is worth the lost sleep.
For information on the best season to travel to Mount Kelimutu and Flores Island in general, check out our guide to Flores.
What to See Around Mount Kelimutu
The most popular attraction around the Kelimutu area is the tri-colored lakes, but once you’ve had your fill of the beautifully colored lakes, there’s still plenty to see and do in this region!
Explore Kelimutu National Park
Kelimutu National Park has an arboretum and a mini jungle in which you can see a variety of the flora and fauna of Flores Island. The arboretum consists of 78 types of trees, including several that are endemic to Flores like the uta onga, turuwara, and arngoni.
You’ll also have the chance to see some fascinating creatures endemic to Flores Island, like Hainald’s Rat, as well as some endangered animals like the Javan Rusa and Red Junglefowl.
Get to Know Moni
Moni is best known as the town most people stay in on their way to Mount Kelimutu, but this oft-overlooked town is a beautiful place to spend a few days. The town is surrounded by fertile rice fields, forests and hills which you can trek. There are also hot springs nearby, as well as a waterfall and swimming spot around a mile from town.
You can also find beautiful traditional weavings at the once-weekly Moni market or in the surrounding villages nearby.
Mount Kelimutu Travel Tips
Most travelers to Mount Kelimutu stay in the town of Moni, since it’s only 9 miles from the lakes. Keep in mind that accommodations here are very, very basic. Accommodations are also quite limited, so if you’re planning on traveling during the peak months of July and August – be sure to book well in advance as rooms tend to fill up quickly.
The best time to see the colored lakes at Mount Kelimutu is very early in the morning to catch the sunrise when the fog clears as the sun comes up. Trekkers usually have to be up 3:30 AM to be in time for sunrise. It is super cold around this time of day so dress warmly in clothes you can remove as it gets hotter throughout the day.
Bring your own snacks and drinks when going to Mount Kelimutu. There are usually vendors selling coffee and ginger tea on the trail and the top of the mountain, but it’s best to bring your own water just in case.
The trail up to the lakes at Mount Kelimutu is well-marked, but if you’re hiking before sunrise, it’s a good idea to bring a flashlight. An LED headlamp is helpful, too.
There’s a fence surrounding the lakes – please stay behind the fence at all times. A few people have fallen into the lakes and those that do fall in do not come out alive.
The area around the lakes has pretty much no share so be sure to wear a hat and bring plenty of sunscreens.
And as always – don’t travel without travel insurance.
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