Mount Kelimutu, with its tri-colored crater lakes, is probably the most amazing natural phenomenon in Flores. Beyond that, the ‘steaming mountain’ is also the island’s most famous tempat angker, or mystical, haunted place.
Scientific explanations aside, there are many myths about the origin of Kelimutu. This is one of the reasons why Mount Kelimutu was, and still is a sacred place for the local people. Over the years, the three crater lakes have often changed color. At present, one of the lakes is black-brown, one is green, and one is currently changing from green to a reddish color. A reason may be the varying mineral contents of the water. Another explanation suggests that the changing colors are caused by the neglected ancestral souls.
The first lake is named Tiwu Ata Mbupu (lake of the ancestors’ souls ); the second is named Tiwu Nuwa Muri Koo Fai (lake of young people’s souls); and the third is called Tiwu Ata Polo (lake of evil spirits). The first and second lakes are situated close together; while the third lake is about 1.5km to the west. Kelimutu is a beautiful place at any time of the day. However, the best time to enjoy this magical place is in the early morning when the clouds haven’t yet covered the view. Many visitors prefer to see the sunrise.
The most popular and convenient starting point to visit Kelimutu is Moni, a village close to the Transflores ‘highway’. Whereas until not too long ago visitors had to hike all the way up to Kelimutu, there is now a paved road to a parking lot where you can enjoy a 30-minute walk through a lush forest full of birdsong, before entering the lake area.
Moni, too, is worth a stay. You can do many nice treks in the fertile surroundings of rice fields, forests, and hills. Relax in the hot springs nearby, look at some fine Lio ikat in the market, or enjoy a performance of local dance and music. Another starting point to Kelimutu, and a good alternative to Moni, is Detusoko village, which is about 33km from Kelimutu.
Kelimutu National Park
The Kelimutu crater lakes are only a small part of the Kelimutu National Park. This fascinating area belongs to the worldwide protected areas and is internationally recognized by the United Nations Environment Program. Due to its unique natural features, its high biodiversity, and cultural heritage, Kelimutu National Park attracts thousands of tourists each year. Numerous hills and mountains (Mount Kelibara is the highest peak at 1,731 m) give this region its characteristic touch and provide a habitat for at least 19 rare, endemic bird species. As in so many places in Flores, traditional architecture, dances, and ikat weaving are still deeply rooted among the local people.
If you choose Detusoko Village as your starting point, you can spend the night in the guesthouse called Wisma Santu Fransiskus , which is managed by the Sisters of the Saint Francis Order. The nuns use the income of the guesthouse for their social work to help orphaned children in Detusoko.
If you prefer to start from Moni, you can choose one of the many basic to mid-range cottages or hotels. Get ready for your hiking tour with an energetic meal from a local restaurant or warung. In Moni you can find some small shops with a basic range of products, and a market where you can buy agricultural products, food, clothes, and much more for the daily life. The market opens every Monday, Tuesday and Sunday, whereas Monday is the happening day.
How to go there
From Maumere to Moni it takes about 62km, from Ende to Moni 51km (1 hour). Daily public transport connects Bajawa and Ende with Moni. From Bajawa to Moni, it takes about 4 hours. Detusoko, the alternative starting point, is located between Moni and Ende.