Photo pose in front of the Kelimutu craters. (Flores, Indonesia, July 2011)
Photo pose in front of the Kelimutu craters. (Flores, Indonesia, July 2011)

Kelimutu, the volcano to the spirits

  Indonesia: Flores + Komodo + Bali - July 2011

Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic translation of an article originally written in French. I apologise for any strange sentences and funny mistakes that may have resulted. If you read French, click on the French flag below to access the original, correct text: 

"And how long do you have to walk, to see the Kelimutu?" "No, 10-15 minutes maximum." I am wary of Indonesian minutes, often elastics. But Matheus Misir, my driver-guide in Flores, is right. The spectacular volcano Kelimutu, with its three craters, which form giant basins for three lakes with strange colors, is an easy walk.

Perfect! I am a diver, not a trekker...

The "snake road" of Flores

In fact, most of the journey is done by car. Kelimutu is roughly half an hour drive from the small village of Moni, where we spent the night. A small winding road which climbs, which climbs...

In any case, wherever you go in Flores, the road is permanently a "snake-roadas my driver says. A "snake-road" that unrolls fabulous landscapes of rice fields and volcanic reliefs at every bend. Sometimes vertiginous, always splendid...

The road to Flores. Indonesia, July 2011.
The road to Flores. Indonesia, July 2011.
Rice fields, Flores. Indonesia, July 2011.
Rice fields, Flores. Indonesia, July 2011.
Rice fields, Flores. Indonesia, July 2011.

I would not have made this trip in bemo, these local mini-buses overloaded with goods and passengers... All along this crossing from east to west, from Maumere to Labuan Bajo, I appreciated the comfort of my private car: shock absorbers in good condition and air conditioning. This is not a luxury, on this serpent of asphalt in perpetual work. And then, I can ask Misir to stop whenever I want, to take pictures.

I also really appreciate his careful driving. Right from the start, he asks me nicely if I'm okay with his driving.

Yes Yes, "bagus"It's good. Considering the unexpected obstacles on the road - poultry, cows, children, rocks, motorcycles, broken down bemos, potholes - I think it's great that he's driving quietly, "pelan-pelan".

With Misir, I'm going to practice my Bahasa Indonesia for four days!

My driver Misir chatted with a little boy. Flores, Indonesia, July 2011.
My driver Misir chatted with a little boy. Flores, Indonesia, July 2011.

While we climb towards the Kelimutu, turn after turn, I watch the shreds of clouds still clinging to the summit. The sun has just risen.

Kelimutu is beautiful, provided that you don't find yourself in the fog. The summit culminates at 1 639 meters. When the volcano is in the clouds, everything is gray, there is nothing to see! But we are lucky. Today, at the time when we arrive, it is the big blue above our heads. The scarves of fog tear themselves little by little.

A few turns later, we see a small lady who waves to us on the side of the road, wrapped in a big jacket - it is that it is fresh, in the heights. She asks if we can take her up to the Kelimutu park. I nod and say yes: "Tidak apa apa", no problem. Misir is happy, he can chat in Indonesian with our hitchhiker.

She placed a large bundle next to her in the backseat. From ikatShe will try to sell them to tourists in the parking lot of the park.

Kelimutu National Park

Some Indonesian minutes later, we are there. Ticket bought at the counter, car parked on the parking lot. What? 50 000 rupiah more for the camera? Damn, I would have done better to hide my 7D...

Kelimutu, Flores, Indonesia. July 2011.
Kelimutu, Flores, Indonesia. July 2011.

Misir accompanies me to the first lake. He was right, it's easy: a path with steps, going up gently. Then flat ground, by a shaded path, which leads, on the right, to the first viewpoint on the craters of Kelimutu.


Kelimutu, Flores, Indonesia. July 2011.
Kelimutu, Flores, Indonesia. July 2011.

I have the sun in front of me, not great for the pictures, but it doesn't matter... I open my eyes wide, it's worth all the pictures in the world. A thin wall of jagged stone separates the two lakes.

The lake on the right, in the pictures above, is called Ata Polo. It can take a red-brown color. For the moment, it is rather dark blue-green.

The one on the left (that I will discover better after, by taking height), it is the lake Nuamuri Ko' ofai. When I arrive, the sun does not light it yet. In full light, it turns to acid green, almost fluorescent.

The place is popular. The locals also come here on excursions. They greet me kindly: "Hello!" I answer "Pagi!" And even, I add: "Saya orang perancis"because everyone wants to know where I come from... Success guaranteed.

Kelimutu, Flores, Indonesia. July 2011.

But yes, yes, sir, I speak the Bahasa Indonesia ! Well, just a little, "setikit", and I'm sorry, but I'm not going to stay here and talk to you, tell you about my life, tell you if I travel alone or in a group, if I'm married or not, or how many children I have, because there's the green lake and the black lake waiting for me, you see, so goodbye and see you soon maybe...

No way to admire the view in silence, in this country...


The lakes of the spirits

Afterwards, to really enjoy the show, you have to climb to the well named Inspiration Point. An eminence, at the top of a staircase, which allows to embrace with the glance the three craters.

Tourists at Kelimutu. Flores, Indonesia. July 2011.
Inspiration Point. Tourists at Kelimutu. Flores, Indonesia. July 2011.

There, Misir let me go up alone. He prefers to go back to the parking lot, to chat with his colleagues. I attack the ascent, enthusiastic. Step after step, the panorama becomes even more grandiose.

And when I get to the top... Wow! Wow!

Kelimutu, Flores, Indonesia. July 2011.

I did well not to come too early. A lot of tourists come here just before 6 am, for the sunrise. Except that at this hour, there is mist everywhere and the lakes are still in shadow.

It surely has its charm too, the shreds of mist above the craters, but I tell myself that it is not a bad choice to arrive a little later in the morning... The surface of the green lake full of sulfur lights up as the sun rises in the sky. Its color, of an intense turquoise green, seems almost supernatural.

On the other side of Inspiration Point, there is the third lake, the black lake, Ata Mbupu. Here again, I am lucky. It is often hidden under a mass of opaque clouds. But these are gradually unraveling under my eyes. We end up seeing the whitish cliff of the crater fringed with greenery reflected in the ink of the water. Astonishing.

Kelimutu, Flores, Indonesia. July 2011.
Kelimutu, Flores, Indonesia. July 2011.
Kelimutu, Flores, Indonesia. July 2011.

The place is sacred for the people of the region. The three lakes are populated by spirits. There is a lake where the spirits of the young people go, another one for the old people, and the third lake, malefic or magic, would welcome the bad spirits (for what I understood from the explanations that were given to me).

I turn around, to watch the evolution of the acid green lake. The sun is higher in the sky. The color of the water is even more violent than before. I take a few more pictures, watching out of the corner of my eye for the clouds that I see looming on the horizon.

Kelimutu, Flores, Indonesia. July 2011.

This is really the most beautiful one. The lake that welcomes the spirits of young people, if I am not mistaken.

And, as a good tourist, I sacrifice to the photo-souvenir ritual in front of the crater, before leaving ...

Kelimutu, Flores, Indonesia. July 2011.

Magic, this little trip to Kelimutu... Really. I have a blissful smile as I get back in the car. "Saya senang!" I say to Misir, who smiles indulgently at my efforts to speak his language.

To learn more about this strange volcano, some explanations at the end of these two links:
→ Wikipedia: Kelimutu Volcano
→ Activolcans: Kelimutu


  Indonesia: Flores + Komodo + Bali - July 2011

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  1. You are right to succumb to the tourist photo from time to time. Moreover this one reinforces the extreme beauty of the landscape. And, it helps to make us dream!

  2. @The other girl: I knew this excursion would arouse your admiration... 😆

    @Pac': The tourist says merki... 😀 And if it makes you dream, then...

  3. I like !!!

    I've been wanting to drag my shoes around here for a while now, and you'll have done it before me!

    Thank you for this report 🙂

  4. Cool! 🙂

    Going there at 5 a.m. when the sun is rising is also an experience, accompanied by a ginger-coffee salesman and his wolfie, you feel like you're on another planet, the cold is biting, there's a sea of clouds, fog, dark craters... 😕 suddenly a ray of sunlight clears the clouds and you see the acid green of the nearest lake appear. 8)

    Then the songs of the birds (Kelimutu is a reserve highly esteemed by ornithologists), once the sun is higher, you go from shadow to light, you feel as if you've crossed the Styx and returned from the underworld. 🙄

    1. Indeed, that's pretty much what I experienced, but we had to wait an hour in the cold before seeing anything. If I'd read this post beforehand, I wouldn't have got up at 4 a.m., because for photos it's actually better a bit later (the lakes aren't in the light at sunrise, especially the dark).

    2. I'm horrified to realize that I've left a whole bunch of typos in my comment: what a horror!
      Of course, it should have read "we had to wait an hour in the cold before we could see...".
      I will not do it anymore, I promise!

    3. Thank you Corinne!
      Spelling mistakes are a real turn-off for me, it's my "old fart / text was better before screens" side.

    4. @Robin: mouhahaha... At work, I spend all my time tracking them down... But when I'm not working and it's not coming from my keyboard, I let it go... (In my department, it's always the old cunt that I am who gets asked to check past participle agreement and other things that should have been acquired since the fourth grade, which earns me the nicknames of "mistress" or "syntax nazi" 😀 )

  5. From the kelimutu lake to the lake of Genova, what a beauty! Bravo for the text and the photos. 🙂

  6. it's really too beautiful!
    I already found the rice paddy landscapes sumptuous but here, the lakes are magnificent, I love it!!!!

  7. @Elyes: Yes, the view is really stunning !!!

    @Thib: You should like it, Flores. For real walkers (not like me), there are some great treks to be had, between villages, rice fields and volcanoes... I've still got lots and lots of things to talk about!!!!

    @ Ludovic / Wet & Sea: Another atmosphere... I really like the idea of arriving with the loupiotte, too.

    @Manta: Ah, that, yes! Unforgettable, this little excursion ...

    @Ysbilia: Terima kasih baniak!

    @Laurence: Thank you so much! I'm glad I could transport you in a few photos...

  8. I must be the only one to ask the question ... but I ask it anyway: swimming forbidden ^^?
    Can we get closer to the lake with the clouds, the one who is cursed? There are legends around ...?

  9. It's so beautiful! Indonesia really is a diamond, it would take years to see all its riches!
    To say that I only know North Sumatra!

  10. Thanks for the article, it looks really beautiful!
    Arf, it gives me ideas for a future trip ... How long does it take to join Maumere Labuan Bajo?

  11. @Martinoo: You're welcome... 🙂

    @Piotr: Bah, nothing is forbidden. But if you like chemical baths... 😆 I didn't understand whether it was the black lake or the other blue lake that was supposed to house the spirits of the elderly. And surely there are legends, but I don't know them. You can probably access all the lakes, since guys have sampled there in the past. It must make a nice little acrobatic trek...

    @Fabrice: Yes, Indonesia, with its string of islands, offers inexhaustible discoveries... 8)

    @ Pierre-Jean: You can get from Maumere to Labuan Bajo in at least 2-3 days by road, but then you don't get to enjoy anything. It's better to allow yourself a minimum of 4 days, as I did, or even a whole week to do more walking and visit villages along the way, and also take a day to Riung, on the north coast (which I didn't do). My stops : Moni, Bajawa, Ruteng. 🙄

  12. So the 4:30 a.m. mass was good in Ruteng? 😆

    You'll have to tell me about Jeff Mullins too, as I'll be there in 2 weeks. (I'm leaving tomorrow, heading for the auuuuther beach in Weh) 🙂

  13. @ Ludovic / Wet & Sea: The Ruteng convent, my favorite place to sleep, in Flores! A haven of peace. Nothing heard: no bells for mass, motorbikes, dogs, roosters, mosque calls ...
    In Tulamben, I met Jeff quickly, a very nice guy. I stayed at the Liberty Dive Resort, which was top-notch (powerfull hot shower, nickel room, Indonesian dive-guide just for me, efficient, helpful, adorable staff). The food at the restaurant is OK, but not a lot of choice, and rather expensive for what it is. You might as well try the other restaurants in the village.
    At the LDR, they're just finishing work on the extension, so maybe you'll get to top one of their new piaules... Apart from that, you'd better be a diver when you stay in Tulamben. It's not as nice as the Amed-Jemeluk-Bunutan-Lipah coast (where I went back on my scooter anyway).
    Enjoy the other beach... 8)

  14. I'm not going to be original but: the view is incredible! Thank you for these pictures, even if we are a little bit jealous not to be also the ones posing in front like on the last one 😉

  15. @Coralie: Before this trip, I spent a long time dreaming about photos of Kelimutu taken by other travellers, saying to myself: one day I'll go there too... Dream fulfilled!

  16. I LOOK FORWARD!!!!!
    Would you recommend a particular diving club in Labuanbajo? Is the current as strong as they say?

  17. @Vincent: There are lots and lots of dive operators in Labuan Bajo. Just stroll down the main street and you'll be spoilt for choice.
    Then everything depends on your level, and if you dive for the day, or if you want to make a mini-cruise of 3 days, or a longer than 6 days or more ... And, of course, your budget.

    For my part, I dived with the boat on Paschavery well (this will be the subject of future posts). They have a second boat, the Jingo Jingo. UPDATE : the Komodo Aventure website and the Pascha no longer exist...

    I can also recommend Bertrand's boat, which I met on site, the Tidak Apa Apa. The site: (This is the boat that Matthew, who spoke earlier, was on).

    Well, yes, the currents are very strong and rather treacherous. Along with Nusa Penida / Nusa Lembongan, off the coast of Bali, these are the sportiest dives I've done in my short diving life... Try to dive there outside the periods of the full or black moon, as there will be a little less juice. But a serious operator will usually be able to adapt the dives and choose the sites according to the level of the participants.

  18. Hello,
    I'm currently in the middle of planning a trip to Indonesia for May-June 2012. I'll be visiting Bali, Lombok and Flores from west to east with my boyfriend. I came across your site by chance and I have to say that your photos are so beautiful, they make me dream!

    Flores sounds like an incredible island. As for transportation on Flores, I'm looking for a guide-driver and yours seemed to be a very good one. I'd like to know if you can give me the contact details of the driver-guide you had to cross Flores? How much did you pay per day for the driver?

    Thank you so much! Your information will be very useful in planning my trip.

    We look forward to hearing from you soon,

  19. @Maryse: Welcome to Mes Petites Bulles d'Ailleurs, delighted to be able to make you dream...

    My driver Misir actually works with the Ankermi Happy Dive resort in Maumere where I was:
    There's really no way of contacting him, other than by phone or through the resort. A very nice guy, very careful on the road, but his level of English was still pretty basic.

    For a real "guide" and not just a driver, I can recommend the excellent Dino Lopez, whom I met on the road in Flores while he was transporting a family of Singaporeans (and who did me a big favor in Moni for an overbooked reservation). A very nice guy, very professional, who has his own car and knows Flores perfectly. He has an excellent level of English, has lived abroad and therefore understands the expectations and needs of tourists. He has his own website:
    The page to contact him is here:
    I don't know what Dino's rates are (I'm sure you can arrange them by e-mail), but with my driver Misir, it came to 3,200,000Rp for the 4-day trip from east to west (to which I had to add the price of a day for his return trip: 640,000Rp x 4 + 640,000Rp = 3,200,000Rp, i.e. around €50 a day). You'll probably be able to find something cheaper, but not necessarily with the same services (air-conditioned car in good condition, à la carte itinerary, English-speaking guide, etc.).

    In any case, if you book a hotel locally, they'll surely be able to help you find someone.
    Good preparations!

  20. Thank you very much for this information! I will probably try to contact Dino Lopez. I think having a driver guide in Flores is important, given the conditions in public transport. Thanks again for your help!

  21. Wow! Beautiful! Are the photos retouched? (I don't think so, but you never know). Makes you want to take off right away! I haven't had a chance to visit Indonesia yet, but photos like these make you want to!

  22. @Maryse: You're welcome! And, yes, having your own driver-guide is a definite plus in Flores. Good luck with your preparations!

    @Lucie: No, I don't retouch my photos, if at all. I content myself with simple adjustments: cropping, reinforcing contrasts, lightening any parts that are too dark, etc. In short, nothing that "cheats" reality. In short, nothing that "cheats" reality. The colors of the lakes in the images are real!!!! That's what's so crazy!

  23. Hi, Corinne, I'm leaving on the Pascha in September and as soon as I get back, I plan to do the Flores crossing in the opposite direction and I'm interested in the name of the T.O. website concerning your guide. I look forward to it.

    terima kasih

    1. Sorry, I read the post just after I wrote my message and thanks to your information, I contacted Dino, and normally everything is ok, thanks to you, and know that his rates are a little higher than those you got but it's logical since he is really a driver and especially a guide.
      P-S: I'm a diver and I've been to Egypt (of course), Sipadan, the Similans, the Maldives... so I understand your top 3 dives and I must admit that my next trip is likely to be Raja Ampat, with of course a huge break in the piggy bank!
      Good bubbles

    2. @ Hervé: no problem, glad you managed to organize your trip. Dino is top, I think you should not regret your choice ... You'll tell me.

      As for Raja Ampat (I've been back since July 2012, I'll tell you all about it in new posts soon), I swear it's really worth breaking the bank...

      Have a nice trip !!! 8)

  24. These photos are magical, and the climb looks relatively simple. Can we do it without a guide? I've read that on some Indonesian volcanoes a guide is compulsory.

    1. @Loïc: On some volcanoes where it's quite an expedition to get there, it's better to have a guide, surely. But Kelimutu is an easy, touristy walk you can do in flip-flops, the locals come there on weekends with their families to stroll around, nothing to do with a real trek... 😀