The Amazingly Colourful Crater Lakes of Kelimutu

Nature never fails to astound me. Every time i think I’ve seen something amazing, i go somewhere new and get amazed all over again. The tri-coloured crater lakes of Kelimutu in Flores definitely counts as one of the more incredible natural sights I’ve ever seen, and a main reason why you should pick Flores over other Indonesian islands.

See timelapse video here

If you’ve never been to Flores before, I suggest you visit the Komodo Dragons first, but if you have more than a long weekend to spend exploring, definitely consider heading to the central bit of Flores to check out Kelimutu National Park and its famous crater lakes.

The Crater Lakes of Kelimutu National Park

Kelimutu – which translates literally into ‘mountain’ and ‘boiling’ is a bit of an overachiever when it comes to crater lakes – it has not 1, not 2 but 3 lakes at its peak. The special thing about these lakes are the different vivid colours each lake has even though they are right next to each other, AND that the colours change from time to time! I was hoping to see some crazy red lakes, but my colours were fairly sedate: Black, Green and Blue.

Legend is that the spirits of everyone who dies come to Kelimutu, and the Guardian of the area sorts the spirits into different lakes depending on their age and character, which is why the lakes are always such varying colours. Make of that what you will!

Flores Kelimutu Black Lake
Tiwu Ata Mbupu – Lake of the Ancestors’ Souls / Lake of Old People

When you are at the peak, Ata Mbupu lies towards the west side, so don’t stake out this spot during sunrise as it’s facing away! It was a very deep dark blackish colour

Ende Kelimutu Green Sunrise
Tiwu Nuwa Muri Koo Fai – Lake of Young People’s Souls / Lake of Young Men and Maidens

When you’re up at the peak, Nuwa Muri Koo Fai is likely to be the one you spend most time staring at as the monument look out point is set up right in front of it, and also where the sun rises. It was a light green when I saw it – you can see the blue of the other lake Ata Polo just behind this lake. For reference, Ata Mbupu (the black lake) is behind me when I took this shot.

Flores Kelimutu Blue Lake
Tiwu Ata Polo – Lake of Evil Spirits – honestly the colour was really pretty and didn’t look very evil to me…

This lake Ata Polo is right next to Ata Mbulu (see a sliver of it on the left) and separated by a narrow rocky ridge. When you are hiking up to the peak, this is the first lake you will encounter and there is a look out point here as well. I recommend hiking on to the peak before doubling back here after sunrise. It was a jewel-like bright blue when I saw it.

Kiersten from The Blonde Abroad had her drone with her and managed some spectacular shots of the lakes from above – check it out here!

How to get to Kelimutu Crater Lakes

First by plane:

Flores Kelimutu Plane View
Flying in to Ende – the terrain here is quite a lot more mountainous than Labuan Bajo!

You need to find your way to either Maumere (MOF) or Ende (ENE). If you are coming from Labuan Bajo (LBJ), you can fly directly to Ende but not to Maumere and it takes about 45min by plane:

LBJ >> ENE

  • Garuda : 0935 – 1025
  • Wings Air : 1435 – 1520

You could also fly direct from Bali Denpasar Airport (DPS) to Ende or Maumere and that should take you about 1hr 20mins (though for some reason, the Wings Air flight takes 2 hours…)

Check your preferred date and price for flights from Labuan Bajo to Ende on Skyscanner.

DPS >> ENE

  • Kalstar : 1305 – 1425

Check your preferred date and price for flights from Bali Denpasar to Ende on Skyscanner.

DPS >> MOF

  • Kalstar : 1020 – 1140
  • Wings Air : 1125 – 1325

Check your preferred date and price for flights from Bali Denpasar to Maumere on Skyscanner.

Flores Ende Volcano
Window seats are a must when flying over Flores! Check out that perfect volcano/mountain

Then by car:

Flores Kelimutu Rice Paddy
You won’t see this in the morning, but on the way down, we passed by some pretty spectacular mountain views!

In Ende, we stayed at the Grand Wisata Hotel Ende, which is a pretty basic motel, and had an early night in preparation for our sunrise hike the next morning (around 530am)! We set off from Ende via car at around 230am so we could get to Kelimutu in time for the sunrise. It took about 2+ hours of driving, and we started hiking around 430am+.

 

Then on foot:

Flores Kelimutu Sign Direction
Where to? Look out for sign posts to get your bearings en route

For those like me who aren’t really into serious hiking, the good news is that you can drive up pretty far in Kelimutu National Park. From the car park of the highest drop off point, it’s about half an hour of walking up some paved stone stairs to get to the peak of Kelimutu. Entrance fee is 150,000 IDR per person per day (about S$16).

I suggest taking the car up, getting your sunrise on, and then possibly taking the longer route back down if you are inclined to hike, because it’s no fun hiking in pitch darkness…

Flores Kelimutu Stairs
Stairway to heaven, or just the Kelimutu peak

Kelimutu Crater Lakes Viewpoint

A look at what you can expect at the peak

Flores Kelimutu Dawn Monument Silhouette
It was starting to get bright as we reached the peak!
Flores Kelimutu Monument
There is a monument right at the peak, and where everyone kinda sits around watching the sunrise. There are also some enterprising folk who sell some hot drinks and cup noodles if you get hungry!
Flores Kelimutu Plaque
A plaque with more info about Kelimutu
Flores Kelimutu Monkeys
When it is bright enough, monkeys visit too so hang on to your stuff
Flores Kelimutu Cowboy
And no one can forget the Kelimutu Cowboy… CHEESE! Such a fun character

What is the best time to visit Kelimutu Crater Lakes?

Sunrise is a good time because there are less clouds – those start rolling in right after sunrise and while it adds atmosphere, also is a bit of a bummer when trying to get photos of the lakes colours. Also, it’s pretty magical watching the sun come up over the two Eastern lakes.

Flores Kelimutu Casio FR100 Timelapse
This is how I took my timelapse video that you can see at the top of the post, with my trusty Casio FR100

Hiking Tips for the Kelimutu Explorer

Flores Kelimutu Trail Warning
Stay on the trail! The ground is apparently quite crumbly, and while there were people going past the barriers for their instagram-worthy photos, I suggest not lingering too long or taking too much of a risk because you don’t want to end up in those boiling lakes…

The hike is actually not too hard – I’d still suggest shoes for sturdiness, but the ground is quite good for walking. There are barriers and signs telling you to stay on the path

You’ll need a torch for the starting bit as it’s dark and there are no street lights. Your cellphone torch is quite sufficient.

If you are doing the sunrise hike, note that it can get pretty cold up there, so bring a thicker jacket to stay warm, or you might end up like poor Kimi here:

Flores Kelimutu Kimi Cold
Brrr.

 

If you want to explore other parts of Flores beyond Kelimutu National Park, check out this post for more, including details of how to get to Flores from Singapore. Big thanks again to Skyscanner and Wonderful Indonesia for organising and sponsoring this experience.

Pin it! The tri-coloured crater lakes of Kelimutu

 

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