We’ve seen lakes with some pretty crazy colors before, but Flores, Indonesia may take the cake. At the summit of Mount Kelimutu summit, there are three crater lakes in three different colors — and those colors change all the time. It’s a naturally occurring phenomenon tailored to travelers’ dreams.
A Volcanic Mood Ring
According to Indonesia Travel, Kelimutu’s westernmost lake, Tiwu ata Mbupu (Lake of Old People) is usually blue. Lake Tiwu Nuwa Muri Koo Fai (Lake of Young Men and Maidens) is typically green, and Tiwu Ata Polo (Bewitched or Enchanted Lake) is usually red.
However, the lakes can and do change color at any time—even to black. As Indonesia’d reports, “A few years ago, the lakes were white, turquoise and red. In November 2009, they were black, turquoise, and a coca-cola brown. And again in July 2010, the lakes were resplendent in various shades of green.”
Whereas other colored lakes often get their hues from certain species of bacteria, Kelimutu’s lakes are a bit more mysterious—especially since their colors change so often. People believe that particular minerals in the water may interact with volcanic gas to create the mercurial shades, but it’s hard to know for sure.
Color for the Afterlife
The names of these mysterious lakes come from local folklore. Many believe that the lakes are a resting place for departed souls, and Mae, a god of the afterlife, will send those who died to different lakes depending on their merits in life. (Hence lakes named for the old, young, and prophetic.)
If you plan on visiting the volcano while living, you can simply drive up the 8 km path to take a little gander at these beauties.
The best time to visit is in July or August (during Indonesia’s dry season). Travel experts recommend waking up as early as 3:30 a.m. to catch the sunrise at Mount Kelimutu. After you soak up the imagery of three colorful crater lakes swirling with sunshine, you can hike around the volcano before riding back the way you came.