Kelimutu, Indonesia
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Best 3 Day Itinerary Exploring Kelimutu And Its Villages With Teens (2024)

Last Updated on March 13, 2024 by Nicole

Kelimutu is a small dormant volcano on Flores Island with three summit crater lakes made up of different colors. It is extraordinary to climb to the top, watch the sunrise, and discover each of the lakes as the sun uncovers them. Beneath it are small villages where traditional customs are still observed largely untouched by the modern world. We spent 3 days with our four children exploring Kelimutu National Park, visiting the villages, learning about their customs, and witnessing the artistry of their handicrafts. It was simply amazing. Here is our 3 day itinerary and planning guide for your incredible journey to Kelimutu in Indonesia.

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At A Glance

I know you are busy. If you only have a couple minutes to spare, here are the key takeaways from this article.

  • Kelimutu National Park is easy to get to from Komodo National Park or Bali.
  • Kelimutu Crater Lakes Ecolodge is modern and comfortable accommodation available below Kelimutu in Moni.
  • It is worthwhile to visit if you want to watch the sunset on top of a dormant volcano with incredible views of summit crater lakes that are different colors.
  • There are many untouched villages around Kelimutu that you can visit that offer a glimpse into the lives of the people, their customs, and their traditional handicrafts.

If you can find more time, try to read my full article. It explains my suggestions, gives you details about experiences that you will have, and provides travel tips.

Background To Our Kelimutu National Park Adventure

My family of 6 went to Indonesia for 17 days. My children were 13, 14, 16 and 20 years old. We went to five unique destinations and had dozens and dozens of mind blowing experiences.

We went to Bali, Komodo National Park to trek with Komodo dragons and swim with giant manta rays, Kelimutu on Flores Island to climb a volcano and visit traditional villages, Borneo to trek for orangutans, and Yogyakarta on Java Island to see Borobudur, the oldest Buddhist temple in the world.

Each destination offered us extraordinary adventures and experiences unlike anywhere else in the world. For my kids, it offered one amazing experience after another and kept them totally engaged, excited and happy.

Kelimutu, Indonesia
The traditional Village of Wologai near Kelimutu.

How To Get To Kelimutu On Flores Island

We were already planning a visit to Komodo National Park, several islands off the coast of Flores Island. We could reach Kelimutu National Park with a one hour flight across Flores Island (from Labuan Bajo to Ende airports), followed by a two hour drive.

If you are starting from Bali, you could also fly to Ende. Even though it is quite close, expect to have to land in Labuan Bajo before continuing on to Ende.

Ende is the largest city on Flores Island. Notwithstanding it has a population of approximately 60,000 people, it still felt like a small town. I spotted a bank and a restaurant or two, and a couple of other more important government buildings.

However, within seconds of leaving the airport, the vast majority of the buildings were one story huts, some in very bad condition, with chickens and dogs running wild.

Flores Island
Typical homes seen on our journey from Ende to Moni on Flores Island.

Where To Stay?

We stayed at Kelimutu Crater Lakes Ecolodge, in the town of Moni, below Kelimutu National Park. It offered comfortable western accommodation, all our meals, and transfers to and from Ende. In addition, it included a full three day program exploring local villages and Kelimutu National park. 

Kelimutu Crater Lakes Ecolodge was beautiful. The buildings were set into the rolling green hills and exotic colourful flowers were everywhere. A lovely creek ran just below our rooms. Every night and every morning, we fell asleep and woke up to the sound of water rushing along the creek bed.

Indonesia volcano
One of the beautiful flowers that we saw from our lodge.
Our view from our hotel room and patio near the Indonesia volcano
Our view from our hotel room and patio.

During our stay, we had three large rooms in our own cabin. The beds were very comfortable. We also had a small patio out front of each of them.

All meals were served outside in a nearby building. For every meal, we chose the time and menu, and each meal was freshly cooked for us. It was lovely.

Indonesia volcano
A two bedroom cabin at our hotel.

From what we saw during our 3 day stay, Kelimutu Crater Lakes Ecolodge was the nicest accommodation offered. In fact, after witnessing the poverty and harsh living conditions of the locals, I was a little stunned that such a lovely place existed.

Against this beauty, was a lot of poverty. Ramshackle homes were scattered here and there along the road. Electricity and plumbing were lacking in most places.

Nevertheless, everyone was kind, generous with their time and their stories, and usually had huge smiles.

Our 3 Day Vacation With Teens Around Kelimutu National Park

In the balance of the article, I have set out what we did each day on our 3 day holiday in Komodo National Park.

Day 1 – Transfer To The Village Of Moni.

We were collected at Ende airport by the General Manager of the Lodge, with two cars and two drivers. We loaded up the cars and started our two hour drive to the Kelimutu Crater Lakes Ecolodge.

After leaving Ende, we reached the countryside very quickly. We spent most of our trip on a winding paved road hugging the side of a mountain. The roads were in pretty good condition.

I was stunned by how spectacularly beautiful and untouched it was. Everywhere I looked, I saw hills and mountains covered in trees and lush greenery.

In between mountains, I saw pretty terraced rice paddy fields or other signs of farming. Occasionally, we passed a group of small ramshackle huts with happy kids running around barefoot outside. However, that was pretty much it for the 2 hour drive.

I loved the drive and found it very relaxing. If you don’t want to organize private transfer, you can book a local bus for the trip.

Flores Island
Houses just below the main road from Ende to Moni.

Exploring The Village Of Moni

After arriving and eating lunch, our guide took us to explore Moni village.

We drove 5 minutes from the lodge, got out and walked down a path to a pretty waterfall called Muru Nda’o. After a few minutes admiring it, we realized that we had to cross over the creek in order to continue on our walk. Unfortunately, we soon realized that this was going to be a little dicey!

There were two bridges; however they were only thin tree trunks bound together without any guard rails. In addition, they were very narrow with gaping holes. We kind of bounced as we shuffled over them – not the most reassuring feeling when there was nothing stopping us from toppling down 6m (or 20 feet) onto sharp rocks and the water below!

Indonesia waterfall
The sign just before we walked down a path to the waterfall.
Indonesia volcano
The waterfall, creek and bridges.
Indonesia volcano
Mike cautiously crossing the bridge.
Indonesia volcano
Not a good idea to look down!

Thankfully, we all did it – not with a lot of grace or athletic finesse! I am sure local children run over them  blindfolded daily!

After we shuffled across the bridges, we followed a paved path that took us back up to road level, although the road was now far away. We were now deep within the jungle.

After a few minutes, we came into a clearing and were surrounded by local farms. We continued on the path, met children playing in the fields, and watched farmers at work. Our guide explained local farming practices and the history of Flores Island. It was very interesting and I loved seeing how the locals lived in their daily lives.

Taking a moment to celebrate getting across the bridges!
Friendly children from the village.

After 15 minutes walking along the path, we arrived at the original and traditional village of Moni. Most of the houses were without electricity, running water or any indoor plumbing.

Barefoot children ran around and apart from the paved path, mud and dirt were everywhere. Nevertheless, the people smiled, welcomed us and permitted us to take their photos.

Exploring the traditional village of Moni with our guide.
Some local ladies chatting outside a home in Moni.

Download my personally crafted 17 day Indonesia travel guide with my hotel and restaurant recommendations, tours and activities that I enjoyed.

Day 2 Morning – Hiking Up Kelimutu Volcano To Watch The Sunrise

After wrangling everyone out of bed at 3:35 am, we started our adventure. We were heading up to the top of Kelimutu, a dormant volcano with three enormous different coloured lakes at its peak. The lakes sit in huge craters formed from previous eruptions. Incredibly, these lakes change colour during the course of each year, reacting to the change in mineral deposits within the lakes, the weather and volcanic gas.

We drove around 40 minutes in the dark on switchbacks hugging the side of a mountain. There were a few other cars on the road heading in the same direction, but not many. We arrived at a relatively empty parking lot and began the climb to the top of Kelimutu.

Thankfully, the first 25 minutes was a very pleasant walk. The path was wide and flat with a gentle incline. There were trees all around us. It was pitched dark and we really couldn’t see anything.

Then, everything opened up. Trees disappeared and all we could see was rock and the sky. The path got a whole lot tougher at this point. It turned into steep stairs and we trudged up for another 20 minutes, stopping here and there for quick breaks. This was not a popular part of our day with a couple of my kids.

Kelimutu, Indonesia
The stairs to reach the peak of Kelimutu.

The Peak of Kelimutu

After a final push, we reached the top of Kelimutu. Around 20 people sat or stood on a large cement viewing block or next to the simple wood fence overlooking one of the craters. It was still very dark, but the sun was starting to rise.

Clouds moved quickly in and out so that our views of the sunrise and the volcano were at times stunning and at other times, muted and misty. It was cold and we huddled together to keep warm.

Kelimutu, Indonesia
Waiting for the sunrise on Kelimutu.

Eventually, the sun rose high enough above Kelimutu and we could spot a lake in a deep crater. It was blue, tucked below us, and very easy to see.

Behind us, we spotted the green lake. Not as easy to see as the sun was rising on the opposite side of the volcano, but still, quite obviously green.

Later, on our walk down from the peak, we would see the third lake, about where the path originally opened up from the trees. This one was more greyish with a hint of red.

Kelimutu, Indonesia
Kelimutu, Indonesia
The blue lake at sunrise on Kelimutu.
Kelimutu, Indonesia

As you can imagine, there is a lot of tribal folklore and tradition around Kelimutu Volcano and its lakes. The locals believe that the blue lake is where “good” young people’s souls go to rest. The green lake is where “good” old people’s souls go to rest. The last one – the reddish one- is where all the bad people go.

Over hundreds of years, sacrifices and ceremonies on this volcano have been a fundamental part of the locals’ lives. Remarkably, they continue to this day.

We descended the rest of the way and went back to the hotel for a hot breakfast and a well deserved nap.

Tips For Climbing Kelimutu Volcano

  • You need to be in reasonable shape to walk up Kelimutu from the parking lot. Although the first half of the walk is on a gentle incline, the last half is not. There is no rush, but if you think you will need extra time,  you should start the climb earlier than others.
  • It was very cold at the top. Even after the sun rose, it remained cold. You should wear layers and lots of warm clothing.
  • Be prepared for fast moving clouds that quickly obscure the craters and the lakes below. Normally, you will need to spend a couple of hours at the top to be able to see the lakes as the clouds move in and out changing the quality of the views.
  • You should wear running shoes or hiking shoes. Any other type of shoe will make the walk more difficult and unpleasant.
  • The path’s surface was level and easy to walk on. When the climb became steep, the path was replaced with stairs and handrails.
  • For those with children, the path was safe and without dangerous drops. At the peak, there was a large level viewing area. However, there was only a simple low fence between the viewing platform and the craters below. Accordingly, I would keep young children close by.
  • There were locals offering hot tea, beverages and snacks at the top. However, I did not know feel comfortable trying any of it. I would recommend bringing your own. We did feel very thirsty and hungry shortly after arriving at the summit.
  • There were bathrooms near the parking lot but none at the top.

Day 2 Afternoon – Visiting Nuamuri and Jopu Villages

After lunch, we went to Nuamuri Village, a 20 minute drive, to visit a family who made “ikats”. Ikat is a dyeing technique used to pattern textiles prior to weaving the fabric. Weavers bind individual or bundles of yarn with a tight wrapping applied in a desired pattern and then, dye the fabric and weave.

Kelimutu, Indonesia
Traditional dyeing and weaving.
Kelimutu, Indonesia
Finished tapestries at Jopu Village.

This is a female skill that has been passed along from generation to generation. We met a grandmother and mother who explained and showed us the dyeing and weaving process. The creations were very, very beautiful.

As an aside, the women in this village are the “heads” of the family as they are the breadwinners. This was a stark contrast to the other male dominated traditions and power structures that we came across in the other villages that we visited.

Kelimutu, Indonesia
A local woman weaving.

Of course, we could not resist and we bought a beautiful tapestry for our dining room table.

Download my personally crafted 17 day Indonesia travel guide with my hotel and restaurant recommendations, tours and activities that I enjoyed.

Jopu Village

Further down the road, we met “Mama Maria”, daughter of the Chief of Jopu Village. With a smile and laugh that made you feel good about everything in life, she led us into the ceremonial tribal hut in the centre of the village.

This was not a tourist hut – a model meant to replicate the real one. This was their actual ceremonial hut and we were very humbled by the invitation.

Inside, we sat on the bare wooden floor and listened to stories of her community. She explained the ritual of how the Chief’s first male born child must cry during a ceremony in this hut in order for him to be anointed as future Chief. 

If he does not, on another day (and still a third day, if necessary), they try again using different rituals. If after all that, he still hasn’t cried, then the Chief’s next male born child is put through the same ceremonies until a male child cries and a successor is found.

It was very interesting and made us wonder how and why such rituals began.

Kelimutu, Indonesia
Inside the ceremonial hut.
Kelimutu, Indonesia
Kelimutu, Indonesia
Mama Maria in front of the ceremonial hut of Jopu Village

Day 3 – Wologai Village And Transfer To Ende

This was our last day. We packed up and started the two hour drive back to Ende to catch our flight to Bali. On our way, we stopped and visited Wologai Village.

Access to this village was wild. We drove on the main highway for around 20 minutes. This was a pretty decent two lane road. After 20 minutes, we turned off the main highway and basically started going up the mountain! The road was paved, but incredibly narrow and steep.

We drove another 10 minutes, through little villages and past a large school where the children spotted us, started laughing and running after our car.  At the end of this road, we reached a dead end gravel road with barely enough space for a car to turn around. This was the entrance to Wologai Village.

Papa Alouisius

We were met by Papa Alouisius, another Indonesian with a massive infectious smile, who led us through his village. This place was incredible. Everyone lived in traditional huts without electricity, plumbing or running water. The position of your hut was commiserate with your position in the community.

Everyone had their role to play. One hut was off limits to women – they used that one for their important traditional ceremonies where only men were welcome. Another hut was designated for a family that were basically serfs to the others. Status could change by marriage but this was carefully watched.

Apart from the smart phone Papa Alouisius took out to photograph us, the first Canadians to ever visit his village, I felt like time had stopped here.

Kelimutu, Indonesia
Papa Alouisius
Kelimutu, Indonesia
Where the locals live.

Traditional vs. Modern Homes

The traditional homes were very simple, and without modern amenities. They were beautiful looking and felt natural in their surroundings. This was a stark contrast to the dilapidated concrete/brick homes that were scattered along the main highway and even in the town of Moni, where our hotel was located.

I asked our guide why they lived in these traditional huts whereas other communities do not. He said that the ones who live in concrete houses have torn down their traditional huts to live like “modern” people. This is the case even though the concrete homes do not have electricity or plumbing just like the traditional huts.

Kelimutu, Indonesia
The traditional homes of Wologai Village.
Houses near the Indonesia waterfall
Modern houses along the main road from Ende to Moni.

Last Word

We loved our time in this remote part of Indonesia. Watching the sunrise at the peak of Kelimutu volcano was otherworldly. Discovering the three lakes as the sun slowly unveiled them was mesmerizing. Finally, being welcomed into villages and homes, and learning about sacred customs and traditions was both humbling and extraordinary.

Download my personally crafted 17 day Indonesia travel guide with my hotel and restaurant recommendations, tours and activities that I enjoyed.

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Our family hiked to the peak of Kelimutu volcano to watch the breathtaking sunrise. Later, we visited several villages where we visited traditional homes and learned about their customs which were hundreds of years old. #travel #familytravel #Indonesia #Asia #travelwithkids #travelwithteens #responsibletravel | ceremonial hut, craters, customs, dyeing, Ende, Flores, ikats, Jopu Village, Asia, hiking, Kelimutu Crater Lakes Ecolodge, lakes, Moni, Nuamuri Village, peak, weaving, Wologai Village
Our family hiked to the peak of Kelimutu Volcano to watch a breathtaking sunrise. Later, we visited several remote villages where few have gone before and learned about unique customs hundreds of years old. It was amazing! #travel #familytravel #Asia #responsibletravel | ceremonial hut, craters, Ende, Flores, ikats, Jopu Village, Kelimutu Crater Lakes Ecolodge, lakes, Moni, Nuamuri Village, peak, weaving, Wologai Village

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  1. Kelimutu looks to have a rich culture and society. I must agree with your last call to action as visiting a place like this is a double-edged sword; fascinating to learn but disturbing if you change and affect it. I would not have wanted to be one of your kids on that morning you woke up to climb the volcano. I like the story on the locals’ beliefs about the three lakes at the summit.

    1. The locals definitely want to improve their lives so it is unfair of me to tell them that nothing should change. However, all I have to do is look at Bali and see what tourism has done to this beautiful island. It is hard to feel any authentic connection to Bali and its traditions. There is just too many tourists crawling over temples and other important sites. I guess it is just best to get to these little jewels before the inevitable happens.

  2. Indonesia was always stunning for me, can’t wait to visit it one day! But sad to hear that this is happening, people need they own peace beside the massive tourism.

  3. This is one of the best experiential travel blog posts that i have come across! I am glad you visited the heart of the destination and interacted with the artists whose art forms are nearing extinction. By the way, if you come to India, you can witness Double Ikat art that is practiced in India and is one of the toughest techniques to practice!

    1. Thank you! It really appreciate your compliment. I have been to India but did not come across the double ikat art. Wow, I bet that is something to behold.

  4. I’ve never been to Indonesia but now want to go. And it’s always good to stay several steps ahead of the tourist crowds.

  5. I’m surprised your teenagers woke up so early for the hike and didn’t just stay in bed 🙂 It’s great that you got to see the three lakes as the sun rose and on the way down. It was interesting reading about the different villages you visited. I agree that it’s odd that concrete houses were built without modern amenities. One would think that it’s best to stay in the original huts if there were no upgrades to building a concrete house.

    1. Ha ha! I would definitely have had a rebellion if I had another morning like that. But, thankfully, they are game so long as it only happens once a trip!

  6. Such a great travel experience you had interacting with the local artisans and staying immersed in that incredible natural landscape. I am pretty sure this is a lifetime experience.

    1. I think that you are right. As our world gets smaller, and people find themselves heading out into more remote places, I think it will be harder to find cultures that haven’t been changed by outsiders. I am happy to be experiencing these places now.

  7. I feel for your kids, lol! I would have struggled getting up at 3:45am! It sounds like it was worth it though…..even though those stairs sound rough too! The view from your hotel room is gorgeous!

    1. Yes, waking up for 3:45 am wasn’t fun, but I think it was worth it. Besides, as we know, these make for the best stories. I will be hearing about this for the next 30 years, knowing my kids.

  8. This sounds (and from your photos also looks) like an incredible experience, especially one to have with your entire family. Getting up that early for anything would be hard, but seeing how beautiful the photos are, I think it looks like it was worth it! I love to see travellers immersed into the culture and sharing these experiences to those who may never have this opportunity (like me!).

    1. I think that you have had some pretty great adventures. But, thank you. I love discovering places that haven’t quite been discovered and trying to learn as much as I can about these unique cultures.

  9. I’d love to visit Indonesia, and this sounds like a very special trip! I’m like your kids, I hate getting up early, but the view of the sunrise from the mountain would definitely be worth the early start! What a magical place to visit!

    1. Thanks Claire. You got to push yourself out of your comfort zone every now and then, right??? LOL! At least that is what I tell my kids. I think they get it – at least they still travel with us!

  10. That is a beautiful place! But what I love most is that you interacted and immersed with the local culture. Meaningful travel is when you truly experience the culture, the region’s food, partake of their celebrations/rituals, etc.

    1. I completely agree. This is the best type of travel for me. I don’t want to feel like I’m tourist number 1000 that week. I understand this is unavoidable for places that see a lot of tourists, but while I can, I want to go places where people are still happy to see you and want to share their world with them.

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