Traveljunkieindonesia.com – Set in plunging craters at the summit of a volcano, the coloured lakes of Kelimutu are undoubtedly the most spectacular sight in Nusa Tenggara.
Astonishingly, the lakes periodically change hue – on our visit the largest was an iridescent turquoise, its neighbour chocolate brown and the third lake dark green.
A few years ago the colours were blue, maroon and black, while back in the 1960s the lakes were blue, red-brown and café au lait.
It’s thought that the lakes’ colours are in constant flux due to dissolving minerals, a process that can accelerate in the rainy season.
The moonscape around the summit gives Kelimutu an ethereal atmosphere, especially when clouds billow across the craters and sun shafts add luminescent pinpoints to the lakes.
Kelimutu is sacred to local people, and legend has it that the souls of the dead go to these lakes: young people’s souls go to the warmth of Tiwu Nuwa Muri Koo Fai (Turquoise Lake), old people’s to the cold of Tiwi Ata Mbupu (Brown Lake) and those of the wicked to Tiwi Ata Polo (Black Lake).
The volcano has attracted sightseers since Dutch times, and today there’s a sealed road up to the lakes from Moni, 13.5km away at the base of the mountain.
Kelimutu’s relative isolation means that surprisingly few visitors make it here outside of the July–August high season, and even then it’s not too hard to find a peaceful spot to enjoy this natural wonder.
Visit in the rainy season or in the afternoon and you may even have Kelimutu, in silence, to yourself.
There’s a staircase up to the highest lookout, Inspiration Point, from where all three lakes are visible.
It’s not at all advisable to scramble around the fringes of the craters – the scree is loose and a couple of hikers perished here recently.
Pray for a sunny day – sunrise is stunning and the turquoise lake reaches its full brilliance in the sunlight.
If the weather is not good, come back the next day – Kelimutu is really worth seeing at its best.
Happy Green Travels!