Drinking in the Tri-Coloured Lakes of Kelimutu National Park

“This volcano had seriously better be worth it,” one of the girls said as we sat by the roadside under dead weight of the Indonesian sun.

The local bus we had taken from Bajawa onto the next town of Moni was only supposed to take five to six hours, and our bus wound up taking about double that.

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These things are to be expected for the most part, and we did have a good laugh as we watched them rip apart the interior of the bus in order to fix whatever was broken underneath. We also had a good time playing around with the little local kids who were entertaining themselves by pushing this broom-like toy with wheels at its bottom through the windy roads. The game seemed simple and ordinary, but it also seemed to keep them pleasantly entertained.

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Moni is an incredibly small town that sits at the base of Mount Kelimutu – one of the more famous volcanoes in Indonesia.

Kelimutu National Park sat high on my bucketlist for my return to Indonesia. When my obsession with making a trip out to Flores first took hold, it was one of the first things on my itinerary of things I wanted to do – actually, it may have been the only thing on my itinerary.

Kelimutu National Park is the biggest drawcard for tourists making their way across Flores.


The rim of Kelimutu gives way to three deep, volcanic lakes that have become known as the Tri-Coloured  Lakes. The name derives from the differing colors of the three lakes, which are likely to change colors on a regular basis due to all the sediments and minerals falling into the waters. Yet to local people and in history the three pre-dominant colors are brown, turquoise and black.

Kelimutu is sacred to the local people, and legend has it that the spirits of those who have passed end up here.


The spirits of the young go on to the warmth of Turquoise Lake, or Tiwu Nuwa Muri Koo Fai; the souls of the old to the cold Brown Lake, or Tiwu Ata Polo; and all those wicked souls go to the Black Lake, or Tiwu Ata Mbupu.

Most make the hike up Kelimutu just before dawn so they can catch the sunrise over the craters and the lakes within.

Though I love my sunrises and have brought myself to do some pretty extreme hikes to see some of the world’s most beautiful sunrises – like that time I camped on Mount Rinjani or the that time I climbed up a rope to the summit of Borneo’s Mount Kinabalu or even that time I saw the sun break through the clouds above the Himalayas – Kelimutu before dawn was not in the cards for us.

That night we arrived in Moni was one dominated by clouds and a star-less sky, which meant there was a strong possibility that we would not get much of a show from Mother Nature.

Furthermore, one of the men who works in Bingtang Hostel where we stayed told us that it was best to see the three color lakes under the strength and shine of the morning sun. Then, he said, the waters would truly sparkle.

We left around 9 a.m.the following morning to make our way to the base of the mountain. Much unlike Gunung Rinjani, Kelimutu was an easy hike that could be done in just a couple of hours. In fact, I would not really call it a hike at all as it requires little to no physical strength, fitness or stamina.

Most travelers hire an ojek to take them to the base of Kelimutu, which is about a 30 minute drive from Moni town. Yet we decided to rent a van because it was the cheaper option (we each saved about a dollar).

We stopped at the ticketing gate to purchase our visitors passes; we needed to both buy an entry ticket and a ticket for our camera that collectively cost about maybe nine bucks.


From there the van brought us up to and left us at the main entry gate. Most travelers tend to get one-way transportation and hike down from Kelimutu through the small villages nestled throughout the mountainside.

We hiked up a long set of stairs until we reached the first lake, and when we got to the top and peeked over the crater, I half expected to see some giant, enraged artist throwing her hands into the lake and splattering its contents across the sky.

I had never seen anything like this. The lake looked as thick as tar; in fact, it almost looked like tar. It was as black as black gets, yet around its rim were shades of this golden, maple-syrup looking brown.



We hiked up to the top of crater and sat there for a while, stunned at how dark the waters below truly were.


Off in the distance we could see the bright shades of the turquoise lake shinning through, but we couldn’t be moved. We just, and together we thought about all the incredible things we have been able to see.


Eventually we made our way over to the turquoise lake, which has this yellow line swirling through its centre. Perhaps a few days from now the lake would be more yellow than turquoise.

But this lake almost looked like seeing the earth from above, like those space-taken images you get of the earth’s surface.


The sun started to dip behind the clouds, and the lake started to lose its shine. We walked up one more set of stairs that led us to the third lake, which we all found somewhat unimpressive and unmoving.

The lake was a deep green, as if the leaves of all the trees in a forest had melted off and settled into the crater lake. It was dull looking, and it has nothing about it that held our gaze for longer than a few minutes.


When it came time to leave the park, the girls and I made our way down by hiking through the villages.

The path can be easily missed, and unfortunately there is not road sign of any sort indicating which direction the villages are in from Kelimutu; only once you get back down into the town of Moni can you find a sign leading you toward the hiking path.





Unfortunately, as I have talked about countless times before, this trek was entirely downhill, which means I enjoyed it about 10 percent of the time. That 10 percent of enjoying the trek came from the locals we met along the way, the little piglets we gawked over and the villages we passed through on our walk.








A lot of those in the villages seemed to farm and pick coffee, which they had spread out on blankets to dry in the sun.


The scenery was dense for the most part, and we were canopied by trees above. All together the trek down took nearly three hours, and just before we reached the roadside we passed a group of girls on their way home from school. We stopped and talked to them a little bit in the small bits of Indonesian we had picked up, and of course we all had a photo shoot together.




The path through the mountainside eventually led us to the roadside, where we walked for about 15 minutes or so before arriving back at our hostel. It was still early enough in the afternoon, and we got wind of a wedding that was going on the following morning.


It was a Christian wedding, so there would be some slight similarities to those back home, but I was still keen to go and see what an Indonesian wedding was about.

Category: Asia, Indonesia, Trekking

2 comments on “Drinking in the Tri-Coloured Lakes of Kelimutu National Park

  1. Love the photos! Kelimutu and the tri-coloured lakes is definitely on my list to go to!
    Good to know that it was not such a tough hike. I did Mount Bromo and Ijen last year and was so exhausted on Ijen because I didn’t think about training haha. Some of my fit friends climbed Rinjani and they said it was madness.
    Is the trail to go up the mountain well-marked though? If i cant find a friend to go with, i’d probably go alone but i dont want to be lost in the mountain or worse, fall and injure myself! :s

    love your blog! and you’re so lucky to have had the chance to live in so many countries. as a writer myself, i know that writing doesn’t pay much!!

    • sorry for my delay! it’s been great living around the world. Now I just need to plan where I’ll head next! The trail at Kelimutu is very easy and very marked off – nothing like other hikes. Maybe a set of steep steps, and that’s about it! I hope you’re enjoying your travels wherever you are, and thank you for reading!

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