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 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.
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.!!!!
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 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 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?
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.