Seeking Inspiration?

Aug 24th, 2009, in Travel, by

KelimutuChris finds inspiration atop the famed mountain, Mt Kelimutu, in Flores, Nusa Tenggara Timur.

You may consider this fan mail, but in my humble opinion Mt Kelimutu is one of the truly amazing sights of Indonesia. And, as the official website is pretty crap not very good, I would like to share with you a little about it.

What is it?

Mt Kelimutu is an active volcano with three different craters, all containing lakes but each with its own unique colour.

The 3 craters
The three crater ( lake)s

What’s even more unusual, the colours change over time. The three lakes once adorned the Rp5000 note, when they looked quite different.

That was then
That was then… (red, blue, green)

At a small display case on the path to the lookout, you can read what colours they were when. It is believed that this is caused by the different minerals in the surrounding rocks and soil being leached into the water.

Where is it?

Mt Kelimutu is in Flores, in East Nusa Tenggara (aka NTT) province.

Map of Local Area
The area around Mt Kelimutu

The nearest town is Moni, the nearest airports are in Ende (56 km from Moni) and Maumere (98 km). However, the Trans-Flores Highway is very windy, so you don’t average more than about 40 km/h; going to Moni from Ende/Maumere takes two/three hours respectively.

While Ende’s airport is closer, Maumere’s airport gets more flights and is an easier place to arrange transport to see many other local attractions like traditional villages, diving, Komodo dragons, the Flores Hobbit cave, etc. I have already discussed travelling to Flores by plane and getting around in detail in that article; here I will focus on getting to the volcano.

You can visit any time, but the only time you are guaranteed unobscured views is at sunrise. For this, you need to leave your hotel at 4:30am for the 12 km drive to the trailhead. Halfway up, you need to find, wake up and pay the park ranger Rp20 000 if you’re a foreigner or Rp2500 if you’re local. (Unlike e.g. Borobodur, flashing your KITAS doesn’t get you a discount or the local price). It’s better if you have exact change.

The sole place where you can see all three lakes is rightly named Inspiration Point. The walk up (don’t forget a torch) takes about twenty minutes, and isn’t steep or difficult. You might see a monkey or two along the way. When you arrive, you can just sit back, relax and enjoy the moment as the sun rises.

View over two lakes
Chris was inspired here – 2009

Why is it special?

There were a few things I particularly enjoyed on my visit.

  1. You won’t be fighting crowds and souvenir hawkers along the way.
    The only person we saw selling stuff was a guy selling coffee. There were less than ten visitors to the mountain that day, despite it being the June/July school holidays. This is a nice change/different from Mt Bromo or (to a lesser extent) Ijen Plateau.
  2. The accommodation nearby is generally good and very reasonably priced.
    We stayed at the Watugana Bungalows, and for Rp85 000 we got a room with double bed and single bed each with mosquito nets; our own bathroom; a full breakfast of banana pancake, fruit salad, tea/coffee. The rooms are much nicer than the sign suggests…
  3. Watugana Bungalows
    Watugana Bungalows – blink and you’ll miss it

  4. The interesting people you meet along the way.
    We met tourists there from different regions of Indonesia and different countries, both in Moni and on top of the mountain. Speaking some Indonesian, we also had some eye-opening conversations with local restauranteurs, farmers, etc. This brings me to my next point…
  5. Food there is nice, suited to Western tastes and inexpensive.
    At a restaurant in Moni called “Bintang’s”, I had a macaroni and cheese that – unlike most Indonesian imitations – had a cheese sauce that was thick and creamy. The manager of “Chenty” – next door to “Bintang’s” – is really friendly and the food equally good.

Of course, this is just one person’s experience – what about yours? What would you nominate as a truly amazing place to visit in Indonesia? Please share it below.

14 Comments on “Seeking Inspiration?”

  1. David says:

    The interesting people you meet along the way

    For me that’s the whole point isn’t it.

    Fantastic colours in that crater, looks good for a swim…

  2. timdog says:

    Kelimutu, and indeed all of Flores, is indeed a very fine place, though I don’t know that you would want to swim in those lakes Patung.
    And yes, of course, the people you meet along the way are the point. Always.

    Last time I was at Kelimutu (I’ve been there a couple of times) it did have the slightly melencholy air of a place long-since dropped off the tourist trail. Once upon a time the Southeast Asia backpacker trail went snaking through Nusa Tenggara, all the way from Bali, Danau Toba, and back to its wellspring on the Khao San Road. But between bombs, visa restrictions and the fickle fashions of herd-mentality “travellers” (“Laos, man, I heard Laos is really chilled…”) they forgot all about Indonesia.
    Did you see many other foreign tourists there Chris?

    As for amazing places in Indonesia, there are simply so many of them that it’s difficult even to start. But Sumba and Alor are two places thoroughly, firmly locked into my imagination. And I am very fond of the backroads of eastern Madura…

  3. Chris says:

    Did you see many other foreign tourists there Chris?

    We saw a few in Moni, mostly Europeans – English, French, German, Dutch.

    Funnily enough, we manged to bump into one family again at a restaurant further along the road in Ruteng, the nearest major town to the Flores Hobbit.

    It is quite possible other tourists were going in the opposite direction or the same direction more slowly – I did a shotgun tour.

  4. ET says:

    A very nice way to travel in a small party from Lombok to Flores and back is by chartering a little boat (see pictures below). I still haven’t had the chance to do it myself but a cousin of mine has and he was quite enthusiastic about it. There’s provisions aboard, the skipper usually also cooks, you moor along the way in nice places or small islands and if the conditions permit you sleep on deck under the canvas. You may plan the trip yourself, make excursions on land and stay in the places of interest for as long as you like, within the limits of your charter of course.
    For the financially more endowed there’s also the possibilty to cruise from Bali on penisi schooners but I don’t believe this has the same Robinson Crusoe feel about it.


  5. David says:

    Wow, that looks incredible ET, do you find those boats for hire at any old coastal town or is there a specific good place and any rough idea of daily charges?

  6. Oigal says: about suggestions..young family, beach, nice hotel (young family thing again) beaches sans the trash and plastic?


  7. Oigal says:

    Back a few years ago, when East Timor was still part of Indonesia, we used to disappear for a week with our scuba gear..wander down the wharf and nego a price with one of the fishing boat fleet..

    Good size boat and for fifty bucks a day (or less) the skipper was more than happy to skip the hard yards of fishing…Fantastic diving, pick your own agenda plenty of room to sleep on the boat and isolated beaches. needed to bring everything you, food (besides fish), beer, girls (Optional) scuba gear and compressor (which is a pain to fly around) and pre send your tanks by courier.

    Ah yea..I have been around that long..time flies when you are having fun

  8. Oigal says:

    Bugger…so much for the fake penname to hide the young family bit…

  9. David says:

    Try using a different email address so I won’t think you accidentally put your real name in the box…and so your avatar image won’t be exactly the same as the ‘Oigal’ ones, bit of a giveaway there….back to topic.

  10. ET says:

    @ Patung,

    Wow, that looks incredible ET, do you find those boats for hire at any old coastal town or is there a specific good place and any rough idea of daily charges?

    I’ll have to check with my cousin which may take a while. I only know they boarded in Lombok, went to Flores and back and took these pictures along the way.

  11. timdog says:


    We saw a few in Moni, mostly Europeans – English, French, German, Dutch.

    That’s nice to know. I had got the impression that in the last two years or so Flores has been rising once more as a destination for foreign tourists, though I suspect most of them fly in and out now, rather than follow a long overland trail through Nusa Tenggara…

    Patung – you can set up trips on those boats easily enough in Lombok (either through travel agents in Senggigi, or independently around Labuan Lombok). You can also do it in Bima or Sape at the far end of Sumbawa. And of course, the easiest place to do it is in Labuanbajo at the western tip of Flores. Lots of people do a one day or two day trip on boats like this to the islands of the Komodo National Park (the third of ET’s photos was definitely taken there; some of the others too I would guess), but it’s perfectly possibly to hire the boat for longer and spend several days drifting between ribbed green islets and snorkling in clear water…
    Can’t remember the charges exactly, but it was per-day, inclusive of food, and was far from prohibitive.
    I’m sure you could set up a similar thing in other, less freuented places if you had the time and the inclination, but Labuanbajo is definitely the place to step off the plane/ferry, head for the harbour, and a few hours later be sailing off into the sunset…

  12. timdog says:

    Oh yeah, Oigal – there’s a couple of places on Sumba, but it’s a loooooong way to go. There’s also a couple of places on the little islands near Labuanbajo, but the hotels aren’t exactly luxury…

  13. Lairedion says:

    This Dutch tour operator organizes some sort of trip around NTB/NTT, including a 7 day boat trip but Sumba is not included:

  14. hary says:

    Actually, the new hotspot in Flores is Labuanbajo. Real Khao san feel. There’s great snorkeling, the Komodos/Rinca, and of course cheap cold beer.
    I enjoyed Moni. It has a lovely setting and the walks from Kelimutu (downhill of course) offer superb views. Good to know that the sole hawker, coffee seller, is still there. Nothing oike a good Java in the bitter winds ontop of Kelimutu.

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