Lakes in Indonesia to visit
When we talk of Indonesia’s watery attractions, our mind tends to automatically go to the country’s popular beaches. While that’s more than fair, given our reputation as a tropical paradise, there are more hidden beauties to discover inland in Indonesia’s oft-overlooked lakes.
With calming waters surrounded by lush greenery, these lakes in Indonesia are the perfect getaway when you’re in need of a balm to soothe your soul.
1. Lake Toba – gigantic crater lake with an island-within-an-island
View of Lake Toba from Sibea-bea hill in Samosir
Image credit: @anugerahabdi_
A mainstay of every Geography lesson in schools across the nation, North Sumatra’s Lake Toba is no doubt familiar to most Indonesians. This crater lake is considered one of Indonesia’s most famous natural landmarks and its idyllic location and pleasantly chilly air make it a nice change of pace for those used to hectic city life.
Rows of Rumah Bolon in Huta Siallagan village in Samosir, home of a Batak tribe that used to engage in cannibalistic rituals. Emphasis on ‘used to’.
Image credit: @familytheexplorer
Aside from its 1,130 sq km size, roughly 1.5 times that of Jakarta, Lake Toba is also notable for the existence of Samosir, the largest island-within-an-island in the world. Home to the indigenous Batak tribe, here you can still spot plenty of Batak traditional houses, known as Rumah Bolon, scattered around Samosir even to this day.
The rolling green hills of Holbung Hill are picture-perfect, and where you can take in the beauty of Lake Toba
Image credit: @satryaazmi
If you’ve got time to spare, we’d also highly recommend hitting up as many vantage points around Lake Toba as you possibly can. We hate playing favorites, but the scenic Holbung Hill on the western shores of the lake and the Sipinsur Geosite with its tall pine trees to the south have to be near the top of your list.
At Taman Simalem Resort, you can take in the beauty of Lake Toba straight from your own hotel room
Image credit: @novita_poo
Despite its idyllic location, you need not worry as there’re plenty of luxurious accommodations to be found around Lake Toba. Most, such as Inna Parapat, sit on the eastern edge of the lake in Parapat but if you’re the type to spare no expense and don’t mind the longer drive, we recommend the lavish Taman Simalem Resort to the north.
Sipinsur is also the best place to view the smaller Sibandang Island on the southern end of Lake Toba
Image credit: @septiianputri
How to get there: To get to Lake Toba, the easiest route would be to fly in via the Kualanamu International Airport and drive the rest of the way to Parapat. From there, you can either hitch a ferry directly to Samosir or continue your road trip around Lake Toba by car.
Address: (Ajibata Ferry Port in Parapat) Jl. D.I. Panjaitan, Tiga Raja, Ajibata, Kabupaten Toba Samosir, Sumatera Utara 21174
Opening hours: 24 hours, Daily
Admission fee: Free, but entrance fees to the various vantage points around Lake Toba vary
2. Kelimutu Crater Lakes – naturally occurring tri-colored lakes
While the lakes can only be enjoyed from a distance, Kelimutu is still quite an experience
Image credit: @yosua_andreas_werediti
If seeing the blue flames of Ijen, one of our favorite things to do in Banyuwangi, hasn’t wowed you enough, you might fancy a visit to Mount Kelimutu. Located in Flores, East Nusa Tenggara, this mountain is home to an equally mesmerizing natural attraction, a trio of color-shifting summit crater lakes collectively dubbed as the Three Colored Lakes in Indonesia.
These long-tailed monkeys are a common sight around Kelimutu
Image credit: @arhyefind98
The colors are attributed to the change in oxidation levels and the mineral content of the lake, resulting in an ever-shifting watery landscape. The colors most often seen are blue, green, and red, but as they randomly change, sometimes even throughout the day, you’ll never know which ones you’ll get to witness until you’re there.
The hiking route in Kelimutu winds through scenic forest footpaths
Image credit: @dyann_cha
Inexperienced hikers need not worry too as the trail is fairly easy to navigate, needing only 30 minutes from the entrance of Kelimutu National Park to the viewing deck. As thick fog typically forms around the afternoon, it’s best to start your hike early in the morning so you can catch the sunrise at the summit.
If you’ve got time to explore, Moni’s rustic landscape hides some beauties of its own
Image credit: @ichadacosta____
Accommodation can mostly be found around Moni, a small village at the base of Mount Kelimutu, with the Kelimutu Crater Lakes Ecolodge being the most upscale. From there, you can either hitch a ride via motorcycle taxis, here known as ojek, or take the scenic walking route that winds through the surrounding rice fields to the national park entrance.
How to get there: To get to Mount Kelimutu, the easiest route would be to fly to Ende Airport and head to Moni by car. Flights to Ende are rather limited though and visitors typically fly in from Labuan Bajo and make Kelimutu as their next stop after Komodo Island.
Address: Kelimutu, Pemo, Ende, Kabupaten Ende, Nusa Tenggara Timur
Opening hours: 5AM-5PM, Daily
Admission fee: Rp. 150,000 (~USD10.67) for foreigners, Rp. 5,000 (~USD0.34) for locals
3. Lake Segara Anak – the hidden paradise of Mount Rinjani
Fishing at Segara Anak is so popular that sometimes, hikers bring their own fishing gear from home
Image credit: @nengputriy083
If you’ve ever wondered how it would feel to fish at 2,000 meters above sea level, satisfy your curiosity with a visit to Mount Rinjani in Lombok. At the summit lies Lake Segara Anak, a scenic crater lake where plenty of Rinjani climbers rest their weary bones by camping and fishing by the lake’s edge.
The smaller Mount Barujari volcano is visible from the shore of Segara Anak
Image credit: @yosevapratiwi
Unlike the crater lakes in Indonesia, Ijen and Kelimutu, the water of Segara Anak has a neutral pH of around 7 and there’s no fear of melting if you were to dip your toes in. In fact, we’d actually recommend you to do so as despite the altitude, the water is unusually warm when compared to the ambient temperature.
When the fog clears up, the Plawangan Sembalun crater rim has a great view of Segara Anak
Image credit: @samsitorus
This is partly because of Mount Barujari, a small, active volcano sitting at the other end of the lake. For hikers worn out after reaching the summit, a bath in the natural hot spring that was borne out of Barujari’s volcanic activity is a must.
The Plawangan Sembalun camping ground is the final stop before hikers make a final push to the summit or descend to Segara Anak
Image credit: @agnesiawalandouw
The catch is that reaching the crater lake isn’t exactly for the faint of heart, even if you opt for the less strenuous Sembalun trekking route. While the ascent to the crater rim is manageable, the descent to the crater lake itself is steep and it’s recommended to camp and take in the view at the Plawangan Sembalun crater rim before heading down.
How to get there: As Lombok is a fairly popular tourist area, you can simply fly in to Lombok International Airport and drive the rest of the way to Sembalun basecamp. Accommodation is also aplenty, with the luxurious Rinjani Lodge offering a moment’s reprieve to prepare you for the challenge of conquering Rinjani.
If you’ve got time to spare, consider exploring the rest of Lombok, especially the up-and-coming coastal resort town of Mandalika to the south.
Address: (Sembalun trekking route starting point): Sembalun Lawang, Sembalun, Lombok Timur, Nusa Tenggara Barat 83656
Opening hours: 7AM-3PM, Daily
Admission fee: Rp. 150,000/day (~USD10.67) on weekdays and Rp. 250,000/day (~USD17.21) on weekends for foreigners, Rp. 5,000/day (~USD0.34) on weekdays and Rp. 7,500/day (~USD0.52) on weekends for locals
4. Lake Maninjau – paragliding over a picturesque lake
The view of Lake Maninjau from Puncak Lawang never fails to take our breath away
Image credit: @dinda.amalya
Bali isn’t the only place in Indonesia where you can paraglide over a body of water as Lake Maninjau in West Sumatra offers a pretty compelling alternative. Sitting inside an ancient caldera, Maninjau is a flyer’s haven as plenty of paragliders frequently take flight from the Puncak Lawang vantage point to the east of the lake.
Puncak Lawang is often filled with paragliding enthusiasts preparing to take flight
Image credit: @iqbalftrhh
Experience in paragliding isn’t necessary either as there’s a tandem paragliding service available as long as you’ve got the courage. If not, having a picnic while admiring the view of the lake from 800 meters above is enough of a reward in itself.
If you prefer to get closer to the lake, Linggai Park at the northern edge of the lake is a pretty great spot
Image credit: @efio_rita
Luckily, Maninjau also has plenty to offer further down the lake, starting with the iconic Kelok 44, Indonesian for ‘44 turns’. As the name implies, Kelok 44 is a series of 44 sharp turns and hairpins that makes up the toughest stage of the annual cycling competition Tour de Singkarak and promises a driving experience like no other.
No matter you’re going downhill or uphill, Kelok 44 is quite a challenge to navigate
Image credit: @irza_394
Down by the lake, a must-visit landmark is the Buya Hamka Birthplace Museum, birthplace of the late Indonesian and Islamic philosopher, Buya Hamka. Another place of interest is the Bayur Central Mosque to the north, known for its unique architecture that was heavily inspired by Thailand’s pagodas.
If you’ve got time to spare, the picturesque Bayur Central Mosque is always worth a visit
Image credit: @mutiaraolva_
While there are several hotels to be found in the area, we recommend staying in Bukittinggi further uphill instead. This city is where the iconic Jam Gadang clocktower resides and being a fairly popular tourist town, there are plenty of luxurious hotels in the area.
How to get there: To get to Maninjau, the shortest route is to fly in to Minangkabau International Airport in Padang and drive up north the rest of the way. On the way, you could also visit Maninjau’s big brother, the less scenic Lake Singkarak.
Address: Jl. Raya Maninjau, Lubuk Basung, Maninjau, Tanjung Raya, Kabupaten Agam, Sumatera Barat 26471
Opening hours: 24 hours, Daily
Admission fee: Free, but entrance fees to the various vantage landmarks around Maninjau vary
5. Gunung Tujuh Lake – lake above the clouds surrounded by seven mountains
It’s possibly the hardest to reach and the water’s freezing cold, but the scenery in Gunung Tujuh Lake is worth all the effort
Image credit: @bcdsgvrl_
Standing in the shadow of the more famous Mount Kerinci, the tallest mountain in all of Sumatra, Gunung Tujuh Lake nevertheless offers an equally rewarding experience. Named after the seven mountains that surround the crater lake, this hidden gem of Jambi sits 2,000 meters above sea level – so high that you feel you could almost touch the sky.
If you’d like to head out into the lake, you can rent a boat from the fishermen on shore
Image credit: @fakhriwazdi15
Aside from renting sampan, or traditional wooden boats, from local fishermen and exploring the lake, there’s scarcely anything else to do. We don’t really mind though as the quiet pleasures of the relatively untouched lake is the main appeal.
Thankfully, reaching Gunung Tujuh Lake is much easier than conquering the summit of Kerinci, with a flatter trekking route that should take no more than four hours. This leaves you more time to enjoy the cold, pristine water of the lake itself and we recommend camping for a night just to see how sunrise would look like from that altitude.
After your hike of Gunung Tujuh, consider dropping by the tea plantation of Kayu Aro
Image credit: @bulansalsabil_
Accommodation is available near the tea plantations of Kayu Aro further downhill but if you prefer somewhere closer, we recommend staying in Kerinci View Homestay, a favorite resting spot among hikers.
How to get there: The nearest airport to Gunung Tujuh is actually the Minangkabau International Airport to the north. From there, it’s a roughly 7-hour drive through narrow, winding roads but you’d have to make arrangements beforehand as it’s not a common travel route.
Address: Sungai Jernih, Gunung Tujuh, Kerinci, Jambi 37163
Opening hours: 7.30AM-5PM, Daily
Admission fee: Rp. 5,000 (~USD0.34) on weekdays, Rp. 7,500 (~USD0.52) weekends
6. Ranu Kumbolo – sub-zero camping ground of Mount Semeru
With temperatures regularly dropping below 0 degrees, ice flakes are a common sight in Ranu Kumbolo
Image credit: @barier_satersesia
Plenty of hikers regularly camp in the open meadow by Ranu Kumbolo lake while making their way to the peak of Mount Semeru in East Java. To us though, the lake is worth the journey on its own as it is one of the few places in Indonesia where you can see actual snow.
The experience of reaching the shores of Ranu Kumbolo can be just as exhilarating as conquering Semeru itself
Image credit: @cinaynww
Around June until August, temperatures around the lake regularly drop below zero degrees, covering the surroundings under white ice flakes overnight. Still, the scenery is gorgeous enough even if no ice forms during your visit, especially when viewed from the top of Tanjakan Cinta, roughly ‘The Slope of Love’.
Once you’ve climbed Tanjakan Cinta, you’ll be rewarded with this gorgeous view of the lake
Image credit: @busu.bolang
Legends say that if you were to keep your loved one in mind and successfully climb the 45-degree incline without looking back at the lake, you’ll have your happily ever after. On the other hand, if you fail to resist the temptation, your love story is going to end right there and then so don’t say we didn’t warn you.
The lavender field of Oro-oro Ombo awaits you on the opposite side of Tanjakan Cinta
Image credit: @aurorarahel
After conquering Tanjakan Cinta, hikers will also be rewarded with a view of the lavender field of Oro-oro Ombo, which typically blooms around April until May. This is also where hikers get their first unobstructed view of Semeru, the highest mountain in all of Java, from up close.
To hype you up for Ranu Kumbolo, the village of Ranu Pani has a couple of smaller lakes you can enjoy
Image credit: @siindywt_
Accommodation options are rare around the village of Ranu Pani, the start of the Semeru trekking route, but there are a couple of smaller lakes here that’re worth a look. Hikers usually opt to stay further downhill in Malang instead, where there are plenty of modern hotels to pick from.
How to get there: To get to Ranu Kumbolo, your best option would be to fly to Juanda International Airport in Surabaya, take a train to Malang, and drive the rest of the way to Ranu Pani. Domestic travelers might have the option of flying directly to Abdul Rachman Saleh Airport in Malang depending on where they live.
Address: (Semeru trekking route starting point) Ranupane Satu, Ranupani, Senduro, Lumajang, Jawa Timur
Opening hours: 8AM-2PM, Daily
Admission fee: Rp. 210,000 (~USD14.45) on weekdays and Rp. 310,000 (~USD21.32) on weekends for foreigners, Rp. 17,500 (~USD1.20) on weekdays and Rp. 22,500 (~USD1.55) on weekends for locals
7. Lake Sentani – New Zealand-like lake surrounded by rolling green hills
In contrast to all the lakes in Indonesia in this list, Sentani is a tropical, shallow lake at the eastern end of Indonesia
Image credit: @mfnihsan
While the Raja Ampat Islands tend to hog all of the limelight in West Papua, we’d argue that Lake Sentani on the eastern end of the region is just as worthy of a visit. Second only to Lake Toba in size, this irregularly shaped lake boasts unique surroundings of rolling green hills that would look right at home in New Zealand.
Sometimes, locals still refer to the rolling green hills of Teletubbies Hill by its original name, Tungku Wiri Hill
Image credit: @taniaasha29
The most famous is quite possibly the Teletubbies Hill, named so due to its uncanny similarity to the setting of the rather unforgettable children’s show. It’s a rather popular sunset spot for locals and there’s a pleasant trail that goes along the top of the hills if you’re looking to relieve some stress.
As the lake sits quite literally next to the Sentani Airport, visits to the hill are often rewarded with the sight of airplanes flying in and out of the horizon.
The Khalkote Beach serves as a jump-off point if you want to explore Sentani by boat
Image credit: @stevani_ibo26
If you’re looking for something a bit more lively, head out to the other side of the airport and drop by Khalkote Beach, the main access point to the lake. The venue of the annual Sentani Lake Festival typically held around June, the beach is also where you can hitch a boat and explore the shallow waters of Sentani.
Accommodation is widely available in Jayapura, the province’s capital, just 20 minutes away to the east.
How to get there: Getting to the lake is pretty simple, given the proximity to the airport but do note that direct flights to Sentani are a bit limited, with most coming from Jakarta and Makassar.
Address: Asei Besar, Sentani Timur, Jayapura, Papua 99359
Opening hours: 24 hours, Daily
Admission fee: Free
8. The Twin Lakes of Dieng Plateau – color-changing sulfur lake, and a lake with crystal clear waters
Green is the color most commonly seen in Telaga Warna
Image credit: @nurmagupita08
With around 6 lakes, a quaint temple complex, and a dormant volcano to hike, there’s enough in the Dieng Plateau to keep you distracted for an entire week. Since we’re talking about lakes though, we’d like to direct your attention to Telaga Kembar, or ‘The Twin Lakes’, of Dieng.
The first of the non-identical twin lakes in Indonesia is Telaga Warna, literally ‘The Colorful Lake’ that just like Kelimutu, is known for its tendency to change color. This is due to the interaction between the sunlight and the high concentration of sulfur in the water with the greenish hue being the most commonly visible.
On the other hand, Telaga Pengilon’s pristine water often reflects the sky above
Image credit: @meg_megyy
Telaga Warna’s colorful hues heavily contrast with its sibling, Telaga Pengilon, which in local dialect means ‘The Mirror Lake’. As the name implies, Pengilon is famous for its crystal clear water and it’s the sheer difference between the two lakes in Indonesia that makes them quite a sight.
It can be a bit harrowing but Batu Ratapan Angin has an excellent view of the twin lakes in Indonesia
Image credit: @cehassss
For a proper look at the two lakes in Indonesia side-by-side, hike a little bit to reach Batu Ratapan Angin, literally ‘The Rock of the Wailing Wind’, vantage point. The unique name is due to the sound the wind makes when blowing through gaps in the rock formation, which apparently sounds not unlike a person wailing.
Semar Cave is actually more of a small shed marked by this statue of Semar, a prominent figure in Javanese mythology and wayang puppet theatre
Image credit: @dowoachmad
Superstitious locals believe the two lakes in Indonesia to possess certain mystical qualities and there are plenty of caves used for meditation spread around the area as evidence. The most famous one, Semar Cave, sits right between the two lakes and is said to be a favorite of everyone from Javanese kings of old to the second president of Indonesia, Soeharto.
If you’ve got time, Telaga Menjer to the south of the twin lakes in Indonesia is also a popular tourist spot
Image credit: @llyanr_
Accommodation around Dieng is mostly in the style of guesthouses with the Charaka Residence being one of the more recommended ones. If hotels are a must, you can opt to stay in the small town of Wonosobo further downhill where new hotels such as Front One Harvest Hotel Wonosobo are ready to welcome you with open arms.
How to get there: To get to Dieng Plateau, the most common route is to fly to Yogyakarta International Airport and head up north by car, which takes around 3 hours.
Address: Dieng, Kejajar, Wonosobo, Jawa Tengah 56354
Opening hours: 7AM-5PM, Daily
Admission fee: Rp. 150,000 (~USD10.32) on weekdays and Rp. 100,000 (~USD6.88) on weekends for foreigners, Rp. 15,000 (~USD1.03) on weekdays and Rp. 12,500 (~USD0.86) on weekends for locals
Lakes in Indonesia for a soul-soothing getaway
If you’re not keen on having another sunbathing session on Indonesia’s many, many beaches, it might be time to start scouting for more places inland.
With a much milder climate, Sentani being the only tropical exception, and serene atmosphere, these lakes in Indonesia should give you a much-needed change of pace from your hectic, everyday life.
For more of Indonesia’s natural beauties, check out these stories:
- 8 hiking trails in Indonesia suitable for beginners
- 8 waterfalls in Indonesia to visit on your hiking trip
- 8 water villas in Indonesia with Maldives and Bora-Bora vibes