Flores, a snake-shaped island in the seas of Eastern Indonesia, is home to Kelimutu, an inactive volcano with three brightly coloured crater lakes stepped in myth and mystery.

It’s certainly off the beaten track, but with new flights by Garuda Indonesia, the city of Ende, the mysterious three-coloured Tiga Warna Lake of Kelimutu and the fascinating lifestyles of the area’s traditional people are sure to become part of a more travelled route.

Getting here is a journey via Bali’s Denpassar airport and onto a domestic flight to the port city of Ende, via a stop at Labuan Bajo, which is a drop off point to visit Komodo Island and the famous Komodo dragons.

Ende is the capital of Ende district in Nusa Tenggara Timur Province located on the southern coastal area of Flores Island and the biggest city in Flores.  I travelled from Ende on a twisting, narrow road through the hills to overnight at the first eco lodge in this remote part of Indonesia.

Kelimutu Crater Lakes Ecolodge is powered by solar energy with a small about of mains electricity and is set amidst lush gardens next to a burbling river near the village of Moni. The are seriously eco here with a system of solar panels, storage batteries and inverters and a recycle and reuse policy which sees kitchen waste composted or fed to their pigs.

This was a trip that required many early starts, I’m talking 4am, so getting out of bed early again was a little hard but experiencing the glowing sunrise on the mountain top at Kelimutu National Park made it all worthwhile. I trekked up in near darkness to the mountain summit where the three crater lakes revealed their colours as the sun crept higher.

This area is sacred to the Lio people who regard it as a home for spirits with special powers and a place where spirits come when people die. Colours in the lakes can change suddenly and unpredictably from white, turquoise and red to bottle green, black and brown.

Heading back to Ende, I stopped for a tour of the traditional village of Saga and had my first taste of the distinctive durian.  It’s a love or hate type of fruit with some liking the almost blue cheese, sweet flavour and others likening it to the smell to old socks. I enjoyed it but it’s probably not going to be top of my must try again list. Their traditional houses reflect their proud tribal traditions.

At the Ende Lio Flores Traditional Food Centre, Sister Maria Immaculata Maga of the Followers of Jesus and her school of orphan girls prepared dishes from traditional recipes and served them on authentic local tableware, with plates made from coconut shell and woven palm fronds.

Before eating, I had to don a thick sarong and a traditional shirt over my clothes, which was quite a challenge in the 33 degree heat. The waitresses also wear traditional attire and the guests sit on plaited mats in the old-fashioned way.

The dishes included local ingredients such as black and red rice, rice corn, cassava, plenty of fresh vegetables and herbs some of which were grown in the garden outside and the meal finished with basil or pandan tea and fruit.  There’s also food that you won’t find elsewhere, including fried and boiled onde-onde, and fiery sambal which I took great care to avoid, but you might like to explore it with care.

Find out more about the Flores area from Flores Tourism.