East Timor is a country in Southeast Asia. It’s not a common destination for tourists, which is a plus for those who choose to travel here. Despite its lack of visitors, the country is focusing on eco-tourism due to its natural assets. Divers will be thrilled by its under-the-sea beauty as well. East Timor also has an interesting history with Portuguese fortresses, churches and other monuments located throughout the country.
The 5,400-square-mileEast Timor is made up of theeastern half of the island of Timor, the nearby islands of Atauro and Jaco, and Oecusse, an exclave on the northwestern side of the island, within Indonesian West Timor. It has 13 districts, including Dili and Baucau.
You can enjoy bird-watching, diving, trekking and pre-historic archeological sites at the Nino Konis National Park in the eastern part of the country. Atauro Island and Jaco Island in Tutuala draws divers, snorkelers and ecotourists. Be sure to watch the local divers and fishermen in their traditionally made goggles and spear guns. Both Nino Konis and Atauro Island are home to eco-lodges.
If its true adventure you seek, East Timor offers world-class trekking. Mount Ramelau, Ainaro, Mt. Matebian (Baucau) and Mt. Kablaki (in same district) are all excellent choices. Trekkers can discover 260 species of birds, 32 of which are endemic and eight of which are exclusive to the island of Timor and found nowhere else in the world. Divers will delight in the country’s coral reefs. Dili offers close dives that reward with spottings of octopus and schools of Barracudas.
It history is your thing, there’s a range of interesting sites to see focusing on the resistance. Check out Xanana Gusmao, the hiding place of the current Prime Minister of East Timor; Balibo, where five journalists were killed by Indonesian soldiers; Santa Cruz, known for a massacre in 1991; and the Japanese caves in Baucau.
Weaved textiles are must buys, especially the high-end Tais, East Timorese traditional hand-weaved textile. You’ll have a choice of 13 distinct designs from their respective districts. Dili has many Tais markets. Also pick up coffee beans as a great gift for friends.
Rice and spices are the main staples of meals in East Timor, though international and Western cuisine can also be found. Fried fish is popular, as are curries. High-voltage-caffeine coffee is a must for lovers of the beverage.
The Presidente Nicolau Lobato International Airport in Dili is the main international airport, with flights from Australia, Singapore and Bali. Flights are not scheduled every day, so do some advance planning.
Once in the country, you won’t find regular domestic air service. There are buses that run to most of the main cities, such as Dili, Baucau, Maliana, Los Palos and Suai. The Oekusi (Oecussi) Enclave, Ataúru (Ataúro) Island and Dili are well connected by ferry and a boat ride will take you to Jaku (Jaco) Island.
The best time to visit East Timor is after the wet season, from late April to July. The country has a hot and humid tropical climate with year-round average temperatures of 85° F. The temps are cooler in the higher altitude areas. During the wet season from December to April, flooding and landslides can occur.