East Timor or Timor-Leste is one of the world's unsung tourism destinations that is becoming a hot spot for global travellers and those looking to explore the history of this nation.
Traveling to Dili, the capital, and beyond will help you to experience a country with a difficult history, yet some of the friendliest and most interesting people on the planet.
Located a short flight from Darwin Australia or from Indonesia, you can get around easily thanks to advances in public transport, and stay in some affordable hotels. They use the US dollar so things may seem more expensive than they should be for any Australian travellers.
Below we've outlined our top picks for things to do in East Timor.
5. Cultural activities in Dili
East Timor suffered war for almost 30 years until the inhabitants declared independence from Indonesia on May 20, 2002.
You will find a collection of photographs, videos, and captions that tell the story of the country (in Portuguese, Tetun, and English) in the Timorese Resistance Archive and Museum, near the Government Palace in Dili.
In June, the Peace Marathon takes place: a race where athletes from all over the world compete to promote values such as peace and security through sport.
4. The charm of the past
If you want to buy artisan products in the capital, the Tais Market is for you: an agglomeration of small tin shacks where you can observe women, (some dressed in traditional clothes) who weave by hand, making scarves and handbags.
Other shops sell T-shirts with the flag of Timor, wooden sculptures and jewels resembling the ones that warriors wore in the past.
For those who love history, consider visiting Maubara and Baguia, where you will find some ancient Portuguese forts.
3. Cristo Rei of Dili
This is a large statue of Christ who observes the city with open arms, similar to the one in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Few people know that in reality, the Portuguese colonists built a second one, in East Timor, with a similar appearance but smaller in size.
Moving on the waterfront to the tip of the Fatucama Peninsula, you will find yourself in front of a 27-meter-high metal statue that observes us from above, built on a globe. You can climb the peak and observe the statue up close through a long climb.
The city view is certainly worth it. You can reach Christ the Redeemer on foot from the city by walking along the sea, or by taxi with 3 or 4 dollars.
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2. The Village of Lospalos
The village of Lospalos is the largest town of this part of East Timor, but it is still a semi-rural village, where traditional shops and green hills are the main attraction.
Lospalos has a little more than four or five roads that cross the city, but it is worth a visit because it is one of the few Timorese villages that can be reached independently.
This gives us a way to understand the process of reconstruction after the declaration of independence. You need eight hours by bus from Dili to reach Lospalos and four from Baucau.
Today there are two guesthouses, one for $10 and one for $15, and they have no sign or name, so you need to ask around. The locals will not fail to help.
1. East Timor Beaches
Baucau is the second-largest city in East Timor. The attractions are few and beyond the central market, there is very little to know. However, the sea and the beach are worth the trip, preferably in the dry season.
Going down to the beach, you will see a long strip of sand where you will find people only on the weekend. The national symbol of East Timor is the crocodile, and this is no accident.
Locals say that two crocodiles live on this beach, but nobody has seen them for some time. The locals don't seem to worry too much, but recent news suggests you be careful.
Near the capital Dili, there is the beach of Metinaro. The best beaches are in the east, six hours' drive away, opposite Jaco Island.
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How To Get To East Timor?
There's direct flights to Dili from Darwin. This is the only direct flight from Australia and is offered by Air North and Qantas. Flights are expensive, often costing $600 for a round trip.
Flight time from Darwin is around 90 minutes and the flight operates daily.
Another option is to fly direct from Bali to Dili on Citilink airlines, or Sriwijaya Air. Both are fairly expensive offerings to get there costing around $800 - $900.
More adventurous travellers can use a land border to enter from the Indonesian side. The main land crossing is at Mota'ain which is 115km west of Dili. You will need a tourist visa in advance if you choose this option.