Due to the distance and the apparent terrible road conditions, we decided to travel from Labuan Bajo in Flores to Kelimutu by air, using Wings Airline (remember the 10kg weight limit), with a flight time to Ende of only 50 minutes. Ende is the closest airport to Kelimutu, with a distance of about 70km.
Upon arrival at the little airport of Ende, we immediately heard other travellers talking about how to get to Moni, the closest village to Kelimutu. Whilst waiting for the bags to arrive, a plan was arranged to share cars to travel to Moni and what prices were acceptable. Waiting outside the arrivals lounge was a group of drivers, all keenly waiting for the new arrivals. In the end, we hired a driver to take 6 of us to Moni for 400,000 Rp. The car wasn't really big enough for 6 adults, plus the driver and all the luggage but we somehow managed to sqeeze in. Be careful not to take the first offer, we heard prices as higher as 700,000Rp for the drive to Moni.
The drive to Moni from Ende should take about 2.5 hrs. Half way on route though we were stopped for a good hour due to the clearance of a recent landslide. We watched as diggers moved huge boulders over the mountain side, allowing the road to be passable again to traffic.
When we arrived in Moni it was dark and we hadn't previously booked accomodation. There's no worries there though, Moni has a wide selection of accomodation, probably all pretty basic but you'll never go without. We stayed in the Antoneri Lodge, which was simple but clean and the room had hot water. We paid 200,000Rp for one night, which included breakfast. Our host was very welcoming and if needed could help with the arranging of plans for the visit to Kelimutu. There are some Warungs that line the main street in Moni, all serving Indonesian food.
It is popular to visit Kelimutu for the sunrise, with a 4am start, but we decided to wait till later in morning, getting up at about 7am. There are several options for visiting Kelimutu, an organised tour that can be arranged at the Tourist Office (this may include addition excursions to the local area), hiring a driver and car, or hiring a bike and driving yourself. There are plenty of options and lots of people to help arrange the transport, just make sure you're happy with the price. We and two others decided to hire a driver and car to take us to the top of Kelimutu. This cost us 200,00Rp for a one-way trip. The drive up follows a very windy and scenic road and they'll drop you in the parking area. Half way up, the driver will stop at the entrance office, where foreigners pay a 150,000Rp entrance fee. Within the parking area there'll be a few stalls selling noodles, biscuits and drinks.
From here you walk up a few flights of stairs and then follow a gravel path that takes you to the summit and the three beautiful lakes at Kelimutu. There are two view points, with the second and highest offering the best views over all three lakes and the surrounding country. When we visited, two of the lakes were a turquoise green/blue and the third lake was a black/chocolate brown, depending on the sunlight shining on it. We arrived at the summit at about 8am and there was no trouble at this time from incoming cloud or the presence of crowds. However, by the time we were leaving at about 9.30am, the cloud was starting to obstruct the view. Personally, we didn't feel the need to see the sunrise but we felt getting there early in the morning was definitely worth it.
We had decided to walk the return journey, which takes about 2.5hrs, depending on speed, and is an easy enough path to follow. From the car park you follow the road back down, past the entrance office, until you reach a little village where there is a turning into fields (our driver pointed it out to us on the way up and cuts a good half off the distance taken by the cars).
From here you walk on paths through small villages, ending at a lovely waterfall juston the outskirts of Moni. There is a simple map that shows the route in the parking area. The walk is very enjoyable, passing through interesting villages and you can enjoy a refreshing swim at the end. After the waterfall, it's only a 10 minute walk back into Moni. If you are fit and enjoy a good walk, you could definitely follow the walk up as well down, saving you the need to arrange transport to the top of Kelimutu.
We decided to return to Ende the same day and took a public angkot this time, for 40,000Rp per person. The journey took the same amount of time as the journey in the private car, but no air con and slightly diffcult sitting positions due to our luggage.