Kelimutu National Park – Stunning Crater Lakes

This post was last updated on June 22nd, 2020 at 02:31 pm


The Kelimutu Volcano with its three colored crater lakes is, without a doubt, one of the most famous attractions on Flores. The crater lakes each have their own unique color and are located at an altitude of about 1,600 meters. A visit during the sunrise is an absolute highlight because from the highest point you have a stunning view over the national park.

 

Visiting Kelimutu soon? Then read on, because in this guide we tell you everything you need to know and we also share our best experiences with you.

 

Moni – The Ideal Base

From the village of Moni, you can drive to the Kelimutu National Park in half an hour. This makes it the ideal place to use as a base for your trip. However, it is not cozy or fascinating, it’s just a long street with motorbikes racing past continuously and there are some guesthouses and homestays.

 

We drove to Kelimutu in the early morning at 4 a.m. As said, this takes about half an hour. The road is in good condition, although it is full of curves. So drive calmly. In any case, booking a driver (350,000 IDR – about US$24.60) is really not necessary. The rental of a scooter is 100,000 IDR (~ US$7) per day, usually arranged at the accommodation where you are staying.

 

Despite the fact that you will probably be tired, the road to Kelimutu is already an experience to remember. When you look up, you’ll see a sky filled with thousands of stars. Magic. And next to you lies a valley full of rice terraces, although you only see it on the way back when it is light outside.

 

Green Rice terraces near Moni in Flores Indonesia

 

Use the Maps.me app and you’re always in the right place. In any case, there is only one road, so it’s pretty much impossible to drive the wrong way.

 

By the way, some people go to Kelimutu from Ende, although we don’t recommend this. You will then be on the road for 2 hours, something you probably don’t feel like doing that early in the day. Therefore, don’t make it too difficult for yourself.

 

Accommodations in Moni

Since you have to wake up early (3:45 a.m.) to drive to the volcano, it is nice to have a somewhat quiet place to sleep.

 

A great place to stay overnight is the Bintang Lodge. Fortunately, the rooms are a bit away from the road, so you will experience relatively little noise from traffic. You get a welcome drink of your choice, something we have rarely seen on Flores. They also rent motorbikes and the nice owner Tobias also offers private transport around the island, useful if you are looking for a driver.

 

Another tip is The Geckos Homestay, although we didn’t sleep there ourselves. Many other travelers recommended this place to us, which is why we mention it here. The homestay is off the busy road which is a plus.

 

Terrace with a view of the hills at the Bintang Lodge
Great view from the Bintang Lodge

 

Restaurants in Moni

Good restaurants are scarce in Moni. The restaurant that stands head and shoulders above the rest is, in our opinion, Good Moni Cafe & Resto. All dishes are prepared with fresh and organic ingredients, and you can definitely taste it. You will find Good Moni just outside the busy center as you walk up the hill. In addition, the menu is attractively priced, as it is a local warung.

 

If you are looking for some entertainment in the evening, Mopi’s Place is a nice place to go. There is often live music and it’s relaxing to sit here for a while.

 

Hot Springs and Waterfalls

Except for Kelimutu, there is not much to do around Moni. However, there are some hot springs and waterfalls that you can visit afterward.

 

On the way back from the volcano, it is wonderful to wash away your tiredness in the warm water of Permandian Air Panas Lia Sembe. Nearby you will find the Kolorongo Hot Spring in the middle of the rice fields. A beautiful setting, although the water is quite lukewarm, which we personally thought was less optimal.

 

Would you like to cool down? Near the center is the Murundao Waterfall, which is particularly popular with locals in the afternoon. It is not the most impressive waterfall, although it is nice to relax for a while.

 

Murundao Waterfall near Moni

 

Local Market

A market is held in the center every Tuesday morning. Don’t be alarmed, this is from 3:30 a.m. to 9:00 a.m.

 

Woman tailoring clothes in Moni's local market

 

How to Get to Moni

We traveled to Moni from Bajawa with a shared car. Good to know is that you have to make a transfer in Ende. To Ende (3 hours) we paid 100,000 IDR (~ US$7) and for the last 1.5 hours to Moni 50,000 IDR (~ US$3.50). The bus, Gunung Mas, is another option. This bus goes directly to Moni, without a stop in Ende.

 

The Ende-Moni route is really beautiful. You will pass countless deep valleys consisting almost entirely of green rice terraces. You can see all this from a great height because you drive through the mountains.

 

If you go via Maumere, take into account a travel time of 3 hours. Here too you can grab the Gunung Mas or a shared car to get to Moni, possibly with a stop in Koka Beach.

 

Local buses are also possible, although it’s more of a hassle and you will be on the road for longer.

 

Stunning Views in the Kelimutu National Park

After an emotionally long zigzag road from Moni, you end up at the entrance to the Kelimutu National Park. Here you can buy your ticket plus a parking ticket, after which you drive another 3 kilometers before you reach the starting point.

 

If you parked your scooter in the parking lot, a fairly easy hike follows to the highest point of Kelimutu National Park. You start on a staircase, and you are up in 20 to 30 minutes. Locals sell coffee, tea, noodles, and stuff like that.

 

Then you wait for the sun to rise and the lake (Danau Alapolo) gradually turns into a turquoise color, while the rising sun provides a beautiful red-yellow sky. Next to this lake lies Danau Kootainuamuri, although it is only visible for a short distance from this place. On the other side, you will find the third – much darker – lake, Danau Abutu.

 

Sunrise over Kelimutu volcano craters

 

It is recommended to walk to the lesser-known spots in addition to this viewpoint. It was quite busy when we were there and then we saw a viewpoint that was much better at the bottom. Better because from that location you have a more complete view of the lakes Danau Alapolo and Danau Kootainuamuri together. Especially if you stand on the crater rim.

 

We decided to walk there. Unfortunately, it was indicated that you had to stay on the platform for safety reasons, although we saw a sand path with footprints leading to our intended goal. We thought it was safe enough and that’s why we just went for it.

 

And yes, there we were. All completely silent. No voices. Pure nature. This made it extra special. We were then rewarded with these downright phenomenal images:

 

Edge of Kelimutu volcano crater with blue water lake

 

Colorful brown and blue crater lakes of Kelimutu

 

As you can see, the gray-brown, rugged volcanic landscape is also impressive. The blue-green water and the sunlight matched perfectly.

 

By the way, don’t make the mistake of leaving too soon, because the longer you wait, the brighter the colors of the crater lakes become.

 

Blue crater lake seen through the trees on Kelimutu volcano

 

Superstition

Speaking of the colors, locals believe there are ghosts living in the lakes, which they believe explain the remarkable colors. Thus, the dark waters of Danau Abutu would be the final destination of bewitched souls, and young spirits travel to Danau Kootainuamuri.

 

However, the scientific reason for the color difference is less exciting. The lakes all contain different minerals, which in turn provide unique colors.

 

Ticket Validity

You can go back again in the afternoon. The national park is open until 6 p.m., and your ticket is valid all day. Only, in practice, you will probably have little appetite for this, since you will probably feel quite tired after the visit in the morning. Moreover, it is usually a lot cloudier.

 

Bring Warm Clothes

Early in the morning, it is quite cold, especially when you ride through the mountains on a scooter. A vest or sweater and long trousers are required. Once you walk you will notice that you start to feel warmer, although waiting at the top is quite cold afterward. Fortunately, there is tea and coffee, which provides the necessary warming.

 

How Much Does a Visit to Kelimutu Cost?

The entrance fee to the national park is 150,000 IDR (~ US$10.50) for the whole day, plus 5,000 IDR (~ US$0.35) to park your scooter. Please note, on Sundays and public holidays, admission costs 225,000 IDR (~ US$16) per person. Knowing that locals pay 7,000 IDR (~ US$0.50), these amounts are a complete rip-off, but you still have to pay it.

 

Continue Your Journey to Koka Beach or Bajawa

A very nice destination to visit after Moni is Koka Beach. Are you traveling the other way? Then we recommend visiting Bajawa. Ende, the city in between is nothing special.

 

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