When I was planning our 17 day trip to Indonesia with my family of 6 (13, 14, 16 and 20 year old children), I wanted to include a hike up an Indonesia volcano. Indonesia has more active volcanoes than any other country in the world. Currently, there are approximately 127 active ones, with many more dormant. When I researched the various options, Kelimutu rose to the top of my list. Now, I had to figure out how to get there; where to stay; whether it was safe; and what we needed in order to hike up Kelimutu volcano. Here is my planning guide and everything that you need to know in order to experience this amazing adventure.
Why This Indonesia Volcano?
- I was fascinated to learn that Kelimutu had three different coloured lakes at its peak. In addition, they changed colour throughout the year and sat in enormous craters that were formed from previous volcanic eruptions. In addition, Kelimutu was not currently active.
Kelimutu and Flores Island Indonesia
- I liked that Kelimutu was located in an isolated and rural part of the Flores Island. In addition to exploring an Indonesia volcano, I also wanted my family to spend time in small villages learning more about local customs and traditions. I was curious to see the countryside and the day to day life of the people.
How to get to Kelimutu on Flores Island Indonesia
- We were already planning a visit to Komodo National Park, several islands off the coast of Flores Island, to hike with Komodo dragons, swim with manta rays and explore deserted pink beaches. We could reach Kelimutu with a one hour flight across Flores Island (from Labuan Bajo to Ende airports), followed by a two hour drive. If you are interested in reading about our truly unbelievable experiences at Komodo National Park, please read An Epic Trip Exploring Pink Beaches, Komodo Dragons, and Padar Island.
Where to Stay – Kelimutu Crater Lakes Ecolodge
- Finally, I found Kelimutu Crater Lakes Ecolodge, near the Indonesia volcano, that offered comfortable western accommodation. Included in the price of our stay, was a full three day tour program exploring local villages and Kelimutu volcano. All of our meals were also included in the cost of staying at Kelimutu Crater Lakes Ecolodge.
The Details Of Exploring The Indonesia Volcano
Travelling from Ende on Flores Island Indonesia
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.
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. It seemed quite impoverished.
What to expect in the Countryside of Flores Island Indonesia
After leaving Ende, we reached the countryside of Flores Island very quickly. 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.
What the roads were like to Kelimutu from Ende on Flores Island Indonesia
I thought that the road itself to Kelimutu from Ende was safe and in pretty good condition. We spent most of our trip on a winding paved road hugging the side of a mountain but one with a gentle slope. Over two hours, we hardly saw another car or bus. I loved the drive and found it very relaxing. However, if you plan to hop into one of the local’s buses for the trip, it will likely be a little more stressful.
Kelimutu Crater Lakes Ecolodge near Indonesia volcano
We eventually arrived in Moni, the village nestled below the Indonesia volcano, and where Kelimutu Crater Lakes Ecolodge was located.
Kelimutu Crater Lakes Ecolodge was beautiful. The buildings were set into the rolling green hills . Everywhere I looked, I saw exotic colourful flowers. 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.
During our stay at Kelimutu Crater Lakes Ecolodge, 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.
From what we saw during our 3 day stay below the Indonesia volcano, 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.
However, Kelimutu Crater Lakes Ecolodge was not perfect. Depending on what kind of traveller you are, some of these might bother you. Others might read the “problems” and find it ridiculous that I am even mentioning them. For us, they were minor annoyances to which we quickly adapted.
Concerns with Kelimutu Crater Lakes Ecolodge near Indonesia Volcano
Nevertheless, if you are interested in Kelimutu Crater Lakes Ecolodge, you should be aware that:
- The Lodge did not have wifi.
- There wasn’t any air conditioning
- The bedrooms did not have ceiling fans.
- It cooled down at night, but none of us were brave enough to sleep with the windows open. They did not have any screens on them. Mosquitos were not bad for most of the day, but they were around. There were also some ginormous unidentifiable (we think harmless…) bugs floating/crawling around that I had no interest finding in my bed. Accordingly, the windows stayed shut which caused the rooms to be a bit warm and stale at night.
- Each bedroom had its own private bathroom but hot water was touch and go. We had to be strategic, organized and fast to have a shot at a hot shower.
- Food was plentiful, healthy and offered with lots of pride, but overall, was not a highlight of our stay at Kelimutu Crater Lakes Ecolodge. I think they did the best they could with the ingredients available, but I think they had limited access to supplies.
- We were not really consulted about meals. We often sat down and dishes appeared. The net effect was we either ate too much, or didn’t eat enough and there was lots of waste. I would recommend discussing the menu with the kitchen staff upon arrival and being cautious about the quantity of food served.
Moni Village below the Indonesia Volcano
After arriving and eating lunch, our guide took us to explore Moni village.
We drove 5 minutes from Kelimutu Crater Lakes Ecolodge, 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!
Thankfully, we all did it – not with a lot of grace or athletic finesse! I am sure local children run over them blindfolded daily!
The Hidden Village below Kelimutu
After we shambled 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.
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.
Download my personally crafted 17 day Indonesia travel guide with my hotel and restaurant recommendations, tours and activities that I enjoyed.
Hiking Up Kelimutu Volcano
The next day, we woke up at 3:45 am to start our adventure. I was so excited to reach the summit. I couldn’t wait to see the three different coloured lakes at its peak.
It was pitched black when we left Kelimutu Crater Lakes Ecolodge. We drove around 40 minutes on switchbacks hugging the side of a mountain barely seeing a thing. 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 together with our guide, began the walk to the top of Kelimutu.
Details of the hike up the Indonesia volcano
Thankfully, the first 25 minutes of our hike were very pleasant. The path was wide and flat with a gentle incline. There were trees all around us. It was very dark, but we had flashlights.
Then, everything opened up. The trees disappeared and all we could see was barren rock and the night sky. Unfortunately, the path also got a lot tougher at this point. It turned very steep with lots of stairs. We trudged up them for another 20 minutes, occasionally stopping for quick breaks.
What to expect at the Peak of Kelimutu volcano
After a final push, we reached the peak of Kelimutu. Around 20 people sat or stood on a large cement viewing block or next to a wood fence. It was still very dark, but the sun began to rise. Very slowly, I started to see a faint outline of a lake nestled inside of a crater right below the wood fence. It was cold and we huddled together to keep warm.
The three lakes on top of the Indonesia volcano
Eventually, the sun rose high enough above Kelimutu and I could clearly see my first lake inside a massive crater. It was deep blue and shimmered as the sun continued to rise above it. Once the sun rose even higher, I spotted a green lake in another huge crater just behind us. I only found the third and final crater as we walked back from the peak towards the car park. This one was more greyish with a hint of red. Our guide explained that the colours were a result of mineral deposits, the weather and volcanic gases surging through the Indonesia volcano. As those factors changed over the course of the year, so did the colour of the water.
Customs and folklore around this Indonesia Volcano
As you can imagine, there is a lot of tribal folklore and tradition around Kelimutu 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 – greyish/red – is where all the bad people go. Over hundreds of years, sacrifices and ceremonies on this Indonesia volcano have been a fundamental part of locals’ lives. Remarkably, they continue to this day. Of course, only animal sacrifices are still practiced.
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.
Other Things To Do Around Kelimutu Volcano
There was so much else to do around Kelimutu volcano other than climb to the top and watch the sunset. Over three days, we explored other villages, met with chiefs and locals to learn about their history and tribal rituals, and learned about local crafts. In another article, Exploring The Untouched Beauty of Kelimutu Indonesia, I set out our other adventures and activities in this beautiful and remote part of the world.
I loved exploring Moni, seeing its village, meeting the locals and learning about its culture. In addition, I was absolutely thrilled with our climb to the summit of Kelimutu volcano. I felt very lucky witnessing the beautiful sunrise over the Indonesia volcano and seeing the coloured lakes below. This is still a very untouched and authentic part of the world. I would highly recommend finding your way to this beautiful part of Indonesia and experiencing everything that it has to offer.
If you are interested in reading more about our adventures during our three week trip in Indonesia, here is a list of all the articles that I have written:
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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