Magic of Mount Kelimutu in Flores, Indonesia

posted in: Asia, Indonesia, Nature | 85

From the vibrant culture of Bali to the scary Komodo dragons to the fantastic tri-colored beaches of Padar, Indonesia was turning out to be really colorful. What made it even more colorful was discovering another tri-colored wonder of nature – the three volcanic lakes of Mount Kelimutu. MAGICAL is the word to describe this entire experience of Mount Kelimutu – from the magic of the colored lakes to the stunning experience of the sunrise over it, the enchanting tales around it and the almost midnight hike to reach it. Let me share it all with you.

Introducing Mount Kelimutu

Kelimutu Crater Lakes
Kelimutu Crater Lakes

Kelimutu is essentially a volcano, at 1639 m above sea level. Located in the East Indonesian Island of Flores, the interesting thing about this volcano is its three crater lakes that are filled with volcanic liquids. These fluids impart distinct colors to the crater pools. When I say different colors, I do not mean different shades of the same color  – I really mean, three distinct colors. Typically, they are found in red, blue and green colors but what is amazing is that these lakes are periodically and constantly changing colors. What I might have seen as blue would be green or black the next time one of you visits it.  MAGICAL as I mentioned.

The periodical changing colors is due to the complex reactions of the minerals and sunlight of these lakes. That of course, is the scientific reason. However, the locals believe that there is another, deeper and a more mystical reason for this. Read on to discover what that is.

Hiking up Mount Kelimutu

The quest to discover the magical craters started with a wake up call at 2:00 am. Bleary-eyed bloggers sleep-walked their way into a bus at Ende and for the first time, the bus was quiet as it sped along narrow roads to the town of Moni. The Kelimutu national park is located around 11 kms from Moni and once you are here, you need to park your vehicle and hike up the rest of the way to get to the highest viewing point at Mount Kelimutu. The good part – it is an easy 1 – 1.5 km hike with well laid out trails and carved steps. The not-so good news – you got to start with a torch-light trek in the chilly temperature of under 10 Celsius.

Breaking dawn over the Kelimutu mountain
Breaking dawn over the Kelimutu mountain

For me, the early morning trek was almost like an eerie adventure. It couldn’t be anything else with a place which was punctuated by nocturnal sounds and where you can barely make out what was around you. The torch lights added to the shifting shadows making the whole experience quite interesting. With a lot of enthusiasm, I along with my fellow companion Tika, started off the trek to suddenly stop at the sight of this chilling character staring at us under our torch lights.!!!!

The Eerie face that stared back at us during the hike to Kelimutu
The Eerie face that stared back at us during the hike to Kelimutu

Creepy! However, given the legends of Mount Kelimutu, the presence of this character should not have surprised us. After this thrilling start, the rest of our hike went off peacefully as we continued our ascend to the peak of the mountain.

The legend of the lakes at Mount Kelimutu

Time to share the legend of the three crater lakes at Kelimutu. As I mentioned earlier, while modern science gives you a logical reason for the ever-changing colors of the three crater lakes, the locals have their own reasons to believe why this phenomenon occurs. They believe that the lakes are a sacred resting place of departed souls. They believe that depending on the age that the person dies at, his soul enters one of these lakes. Naturally, the lakes are named as

Tiwu Ata Bupa
The Blackish Blue Lake of Old People at Kelimutu
The Blackish Blue Lake of Old People at Kelimutu

The lake of the Old People, which was originally white in color. This is the smallest and the Western most lake. Later the white turned blue and when we went, it was blackish blue.

Tiwu Ko’o Fai Nuwa Muri
The Green Lake of Young Men and Maidens at Kelimutu Mountains
The Green Lake of Young Men and Maidens at Kelimutu Mountains

The Lake of Young Men and Maidens was for people who died early in life. Souls of infants, kids and young people are said to have end up here. Rumored to be green on most cases. Pretty much the same color when we visited

Tiwu Ata Polo

Surprise, surprise ! Can you guess what this one is for?

The blue bewitched lake at Kelimutu
The blue bewitched lake at Kelimutu

Well it is for those wicked souls who have committed some crime in their lives and is usually red in color. This eastern most Lake of bewitched souls was in fact, blue on the day we visited.

If you are wondering why the lakes change color, the locals say that when the souls are restless, there is a shift of colors. 🙂

Catching the first rays over Kelimutu

The trail up to Kelimutu Mountain
The trail up to Kelimutu Mountain

As we bounded up the long flight of stairs, the sky brightened up with the first light of dawn. The first lake that we spotted was Tiwu Ata Polo (The bewitched lake). Eager to race the sun, we did not stop but accelerated to the highest point of Kelimutu – the Inspiration point. We weren’t the first ones to reach for there were already some tourists waiting to see the sun rise over the lakes. I moved around a lot to figure the best spot. As I looked around, I was enraptured by the sight of all three lakes – the three differently colored wonders of nature.

As the clouds blew over the craters and the sun rose over Kelimutu
As the clouds blew over the craters and the sun rose over Kelimutu                                                          Pic Courtesy: Jaclynn

The most amazing part came in as the sun rose. Clouds blew over the lakes onto me, creating one of the most magical moments that I had ever experienced. With that little orange glow in the far end and the swirling clouds blowing over, I for the first time, realized what the phrase – “On Cloud Nine” meant. I cannot really express more than that but can definitely give you a small feel of it through this video that I captured.

Bidding Adieu to Kelimutu

Despite the chill (and I have a low tolerance for it), most of us were reluctant to leave the high point. There always seemed to be a new wonder and new cloud or a new flare of light that we wanted to capture in our memories. However, with the sun fully up, and time being short, we made our way down to the parking area. With the sun up and the nocturnal sounds giving way to the sweet sound of chirping bird, I noted how gorgeously green and beautiful the trail was.

Dew drops covered greens along the way, Kelimutu National Park
Dew drops covered greens along the way, Kelimutu National Park
Lucie and Me at the Blue lake, Kelimutu
Lucie and Me at the Blue lake, Kelimutu

Along the way, we stopped by the Bewitched lake to take a few more selfies and admire the gorgeous blue paint pot. And with that last memory, we were back in no time to the little cafe near the parking area for a quick breakfast. The ride down the Kelimutu mountain was dotted with a lot of greens and some scattered towns. It made me feel that perhaps, spending a day or two around here would be a good idea – for there was a lot of more waiting to be discovered around the Kelimutu National Park.

Bidding adieu to Kelimutu National Park
Bidding adieu to Kelimutu National Park
Green valleys around Kelimutu
Green valleys around Kelimutu

I sure would love to experience another day on “Cloud Nine” for it was an out of the world feeling. Any of you game to experience the same? Check out the Getting there section to know how to experience the magic of Mount Kelimutu in Flores, Indonesia.

kelimutu-pin

Getting there:

  • Ende and Maumere are the nearest airport to Kelimutu National Park. There are regular flights from Bali to Ende and Maumere. You can also, catch a flight from Labuan Bajo to Ende or Maumere. You can click this link for all the possible flight options and the best flight prices from anywhere in Indonesia to Ende.
  • Ende is around 60 kms from Kelimutu (around 1.5 to 2 hrs drive). You need to either hire a car or take a bus to Moni.
  • Maumere is a little further from Kelimutu as compared to Ende. It is around 104 kms and takes around 3 hours to reach here by either a hired car or bus.
  • There are plenty of tour operators who can be found online as well as in these two towns. They can help arrange for this hike.

Travel Tips:

  • You can opt for a stay at either Ende or Maumere. The two hotels that I can suggest based on my experience are – Grand Wisata Hotel in Ende or the Coconut Garden Beach Resort in Maumere. Alternately, you can check out the other options on the Skyscanner Hotels search.
  • Moni also, offers a few options for a stay in the form of home stays.
  • I would recommend catching the sunrise at Mount Kelimutu for the magic that I experienced. However, there are a lot of people who head here for the Sunset. However, note that you need to leave before it gets really dark.
  • Carry torches for your hike.
  • The temperature atop the mountain drops to 10 degrees Celsius and below. So, remember to dress warm.
  • I would recommend closed shoes for the trek as they will help protect you from the cold as well.
  • Carry plenty of water for the hike.
  • You can get some basic snacks at the parking area just after sunrise and before the sunset. You can even get some hot tea atop Mount Kelimutu at Sunrise. Some locals hike up to set a make-shift shop for the same.
  • Rest rooms are available at the parking area of Kelimutu.
  • Beware of the monkeys atop the mountains. Keep a hold on your belongings as they are prone to snatching those.

P.S: I was a part of the Bloggers’ trip organized by Skyscanner and Ministry of Tourism of Indonesia.

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85 Responses

  1. The clouds look absolutely mesmerising! WOW! This sure looks magical.
    Loving your Indonesia posts Ami! 🙂

  2. I loved the color of the Lake for wicked souls ! Wonder what it says about me ! Would have loved to see the red too 😉 . Amazing post and the place is absolute mesmerizing !

  3. Very nice post!! I have to go back to Indonesia to see this volcano!!

  4. Nice one Ami! It is funny to see that we experienced it differently: I thought it wasn’t really cold, pretty easy and not really a need for torch lights 😉 It was great to spend time with you! Thanks for the mention!

    • Lucie…you forget that I am from a tropical country 🙂 It was fun spending time with you tooo…glad I captured those memories .

  5. What breathtaking photos, Ami! It truly looks like you had an “out of this world” experience. Thx so much for sharing.

  6. Need to explore rest of Indonesia next time…

  7. shobha42016

    I love the stories behind the volcanoes lakes – so much more interesting than the scientific theory. Being blue when it is supposed to be red is actually a very big color change!!

  8. I didn’t know about the story of those lakes. It’s so interesting!
    What I find more interesting though is the fact they change colors from time to time.

  9. Those colors are stunning! It’s hard to believe that there are places like that on earth! I absolutely love your photos.

  10. Fascinating about the green lake and its association with young souls lost. It reminds me of the green flash of sunset that sometimes happens and is said to be caused by lost souls crossing over. There’s got to be something about it…

  11. Volcanic lakes are always a spectacular affair! I can recall climbing the Indians Nose in the pre dawn dark in Guatemala. It wasn’t until we descended after sunrise that we realised how amazing it had been we hadn’t slipped! lol

  12. Love the name “lake of bewitched souls”. the whole place has an enchanted, fairy tale feel to it. Would love to visit sometime, so going on my bucket list!

  13. Its really awesome to have a midnight hike between those sounds and flickering shadows making it a bit spooky but to have those first rays you need to make an effort. The color changing lakes is nice and someone should shoot a time lapse..

  14. Yogi Saraswat

    Lovely and interesting post equally supported by information and grand pictures !! Thank you Ami for taking us at a new place .

  15. The torch light trek to the crater of a volcano sounds creepier than usual. Very interesting tale of the souls! Lovely photos!

  16. Climbing up there so early is what is scaring me most. But then I think you won’t feel tired when looking at this wonderful scenery! The water of the lakes has a color that reminds me Tiffany blue

    • It was not so bad in the morning, especially since the trail is well marked with steps. It was kind of fun. You should definitely try it.

  17. What a magical and beautiful place this is! I am in complete awe at it. I would love to visit but we would need at least 10 days to really explore Indonesia and see as much as we could. This is fantastic! Pinning it right now!

    • Thanks Sheri. Indonesia sure was an amazing destination. You might find 10 days also, a little less!

  18. Oh to explore beautiful Indonesia. You are very lucky and I love seeing it through your posts. Gorgeous mountains and clouds. Wow.

  19. All the captures are so beautiful. You seem to have had so much of fun, exploring the beauty of Indonesia. Love the video; it gives the realistic view of the place…

  20. Oh my gosh – how incredible those lakes look! I never heard about this place and you just added a brand new destination to my bucket list 🙂
    Alessandra

  21. Wow!! Awesome Photography

  22. Can I congradulate you for including lots of practical information at the end of your post? So many bloggers don’t ever think to do that. As for your sunrise trek, I’ve done a few of those in my life and I never felt it was worth it to get up so early, so I’m glad that at least you had a good experience with it.

    • Thanks Tom. Glad you found the post useful. And as for the morning trek, trust me, it is just one day and worth the effort.

  23. The blue bewitched lake is my favorite. The legend behind the these lakes sounds interesting. 2am sounds too early for me but I am glad you enjoyed the trip.

    • Thanks Julie. It was fun discovering the lakes and the legends. And the 2 am trek was not such a biggie after this. 😀

  24. The pictures and the way you captured the lakes are so amazing, I loved learning something new today. The Bewitched Lake is mesmerizing. What an amazing experience.

  25. Sarah @ Expat of the World

    I love finding out these things from the locals, about the souls and such! It must have been an eery yet fascinatingly stunning place to stumble across.

  26. What an eye-catching piece. It is very interesting all the beliefs around the lakes of Kelimut being where souls go. I have not been to Indonesia, but would love to get there at some stage! There is so much to see and do there and these lakes are amazing.

  27. Amazing! Such a magic place… the colors are stunning. Your tips are also really helpful, I’m marking this post for future travel reference. Thank you!

  28. I have some friends that just went, now with your article it makes me even more eager to go! Indonesia have so many nice places to go and visit but this would be on the top list of to-dos!

  29. The way you described the changing colours of the lake was something i could liken to that of a mood ring! The valleys around Kelimetu are also absolutely stunning, I can’t believe how green they are! Thanks for sharing this new and exciting place to visit!

  30. Indonesia continues to amaze me with it’s natural beauty! This looks like a place I couldn’t afford to miss when I travel there. Great tip about the temperature drop, 10 degrees is a lot!

    • Thanks Kevin. Am sure you will have a blast here. The climb isnt too difficult, even with kids.

  31. Such fantastic images. I love the myth about the 3 different coloured lakes. It all does look rather magical. Would love to catch a sunrise and sunset there.

    • Thanks Verushka. Glad you find it interesting. And I hope you get to experience a sunrise or sunset here.

  32. This place looks like it’s something from another world! Breathtaking, magical – I loved learning about it! Thank you for sharing 🙂

  33. I feel, I’ve been only the the mainstream places in Indonesia. Your posts on Indonesia makes me feel, I need to explore this different side too. Thank you, for this information!

  34. It sounds (and looks) like your early morning wake up was well worth it. I’ve been above the clouds before but your description of the “cloud 9” moment and the accompanying image are quite magical.

  35. Komang ayu

    I have never been there. But many people say this place is great. Maybe I should try to go to Mount Kalimutu. But I’m not strong trekking, it was very tiring, very distant place.

    • Thanks Komang. I think you will find this trek not too difficult. You can take it slow and attempt it. I think you will love it.

  36. The Mount Kelimutu hike sounds to be a really rewarding one though getting up at 2.00AM must have been a downer. But the amazing views and the lakes surely must have made up for this discomfort. The legend behind the crater lakes is fascinating.

  37. What a legend… souls entering lakes!
    It seems to be a great experience that started right from 2AM! But definitely worth the effort.
    I wasn’t aware of this destination in Indonesia!

    • Thanks Indrani. It is one of the landmark destinations of Indonesia – the image of it is printed on one denomination of their currency , 🙂

  38. A truly magical place! Thank you for sharing it with us! The legend was really interesting, would love to check the lake of the wicked people. Sounds quite eery! Waking up at 2am was definitely worth it to see all those gorgeous places!

  39. I love local legends, they are so much better than the real scientific story of why the lakes are changing colors. I would also be afraid to start a hike in the dark, especially not being able to see much in front. I guess the cold would be bearable with layers of clothes though.

    • Thanks Joanna. The layered clothing did help a lot. And yes, legends make the entire place more interesting.

  40. Kelimutu looks like another Indo destination I need to add to my list. Must have been exhausted by the time you got up! So many incredible places to see tehre, hoping to visit next year so defo gonna keep checking in on the blog, it’s awesome 🙂

    • Thanks a ton. The trek was not too bad. In fact it was easier than the other treks. I think I was just sleepy after the trek …given all the early morning and adrenaline kicks.

  41. AHH!!! Flores is the next destination on my list to visit and I LOVE hiking, nature, and seeing unique scenes. This is incredible. I am definitely bookmarking and will come back to this in a few months when I head there 😀

  42. Mount Kelimutu’s crater looks mesmerizing. It’s beautiful. I wonder if this volcano is an active one.

    • Thanks Blair. I think the volcanic activity does keep happening but it is not as violent or active as most others.

  43. In the photographs it looks incredible! Thanks for share this. Indonesia has so many places that the most of the people didn`t know it

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