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in this beautiful, culturally-rich country.

Places

Dili

Always a pleasant, laid back little capital, Dili has sprung to life over the last three years. Although most of the city was destroyed during the militia attacks of 1999, many of the homes and businesses have been rebuilt.

Dili still sports a few Portuguese accents like the villa-lined beach roads, the former colonial garrison built in 1627 and the church built on the waterfront. But new shops, restaurants and bars are opening all the time, bringing a new energy and style to this once sleepy city.

The waterfront remains a centre of activity from dawn until late at night. A park separates the beach from the road, with banyan trees and benches offering an excellent place to cool down in the shade with a coconut to drink! Fishermen unload all kinds of fish, squid and lobsters on the beach, making this one of the best places to find the freshest seafood in Dili. In the afternoon, join the boys in their daily games of football - an excellent way to meet the local people. Peddlers sell cold drinks, snacks and satay all day and into the evening. The nearby island of Atauro can be reached by chartered boat or the new ferry service.

Strongly Roman Catholic, Dili features many churches. A massive statue of Christ on the nearby headland at Cape Fatucama is reminiscent of Rio de Janeiro. From the various stops on the way up to Jesus there are magnificent views of Dili and also the coast stretching to the west. There are good beaches a few kilometres outside of Dili in both directions with snorkeling and diving possible within 15 minutes drive from the main government buildings. The most popular beach area is the sheltered cove of Areia Branca, also known as Pasir Putih (or white sands in English) just before you get to Jesus.

The Santa Cruz Cemetery near Taibesi is also worth visiting. It was here in 1991 that the world was first alerted on a wide scale to the suffering and injustice that the Timorese were experiencing under Indonesian rule.

The Xanana Reading Room and Library is an essential stop for visitors to Dili in search of information and advice about East Timor, their video and film library is excellent.

Additional detailed information can be found at Wikitravel.

Image of Government building by Travlr; other images by Kok Leng Yeo

 

Atauro Island

Its lush mountain interior hemmed by uninterrupted beach and coral reef, the alluring island getaway of Atauro is visible from Dili but seems a world away. The island has a very relaxed atmosphere and an unspoilt environment.

You're free to do a lot or a little, with excellent walking trails and snorkelling opportunities (off the pier at Beloi and in front of Tua Koin), and seemingly endless beaches to prop on and watch passing outriggers.

Atauro's isolation made it a natural prison, and it's been used by both the Portuguese and Indonesian governments as a place of exile.

Currently there is an eco-tourism site being developed so it is possible to stay overnight, although accommodation is basic. Visitors to Ata'uro frequently report being accompanied during the journey by schools of dolphins and whales!

Image by Travlr

 

Baucau

Timor Leste's second largest town is a spectacular three hour drive from Dili along the coast via Manatuto. With a cool climate and outstanding beaches, nearby Baucau is an essential stop on any trip eastwards. The country's first Hospitality training facility, the Pousada de Baucau, has recently opened. Boasting excellent accommodation, high service standards and an emphasis on quality food, this spectacularily "pink palace" is well worth a visit.

The atmospheric Old Town streets of Baucau zigzag downhill dominated by the ruins of the impressive mercado municipal (municipal market), built during the Portuguese era. The town market operates in the block next to the mercado municipal, with pyramid-shaped piles of potatoes, neat bunches of greens and mounds of maize forming a colourful patchwork on the pavement. Just below town, turn off the main road and follow the lush ravine 5km down to the beach at Osolata. Called Pantai Wataboo, it's a series of white sand coves fringed by palms and hemmed by turquoise water.

From Baucau you can also cut across the island and head for Viqueque. This region was once an important source of sandalwood and teak and the remaining forests are lush and dense due to the high amounts of rainfall that the area receives. Journeys can be difficult during the wet season so be sure to take travel advice before you set out.

Image by Kok Leng Yeo

 

Maubisse

Maubisse and Aileu are old hill towns that are an easy day trip from the heat of Dili. This region is the main coffee growing area of East Timor. Between the periods of June and September it's possible to witness the coffee harvest and its processes. At Maubisse the former government rest house, now known as the Pousada, has been converted into a hotel. With 360 degree views, spectacular mountain scenery and cool weather, this is an absolute must for any visitor to East Timor.

You can also use Maubisse as a base for walking up Mount Ramelau. To do this, drive to Hatobuilico, which is at the base of the mountain. The drive takes about 45 minutes. The walk up the forested slopes, takes around 3 hours to reach the summit which offers fantastic views that stretch from Ata'uro in the north, all the way to the South coast. The forest on the plateau just before the summit offers protection against the worst of the elements if you are camping overnight. With its petrified trees and early morning mist the magical feeling of being at the top of Timor Leste is simply fantastic. Be sure to pack wet weather gear and to take water if you are climbing Mount Ramelau.

Image by Kok Leng Yeo

 

Los Palos

This region in the East is totally unspoilt. With fantastic beaches, pristine coral reefs and the National Park of Jaco Island, this area calls out for those who love the sea. In addition, the rugged landscape will delight visitors. The rural communities here are already experienced in helping visitors.

For those interested in the cultural past of Timor Leste, Los Palos has a whole host of interesting features. Cave paintings have been found near Lautem. There are also stone sarcophagi and many animist shrines to be found in the area. The area is also a haven for many of the island's 25 protected species of birds including eagles, ospreys and the barn owl.

Image by Nomad Tales

 

Source: adapted from Discover Dili.

 

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Contributors

  • Timorcorp
  • ogilvy
  • Tourism East Timor
  • discover dili
  • travelotica
  • photographers
  • Lonely Planet