Dili – All visitors to Timor Leste will pass through Dili at some point during their visit. A very small capital compared to other Asian cities, Dili is definitely worth a few days of your time.
The city sits right on the ocean, framed by a backdrop of hills. At the easternmost point of the city is Christo Rei – the world’s third largest statue of Jesus. The city also has some beautiful beaches, including Arreia Branca – and buzzy nightlife to explore. For anyone interested in culture there are a number of things to visit, including the Resistance museum, and markets where traditionally woven Tais are on sale.
Further afield Timor Leste is building up a variety of community-based ecotourism projects that benefit the local community.
The Nino Konis National Park (in eastern Timor Leste) is considered as some of the last surviving zones of tropical lowland rainforest in the world that also has a rich coastal environment. The national park offers bird-watching, diving, trekking and prehistoric archeological sites.
Ataúro Island and Jaco Island attract divers, snorkelers and green tourism enthusiasts. Both destinations provide eco-lodge facilities with some support from local NGOs. A must-see attraction is the local fishermen in Ataúro, who fish using only traditionally made goggles and spear guns. Ataúro is also well known for its distinctive wooden sculptures and unique dolls and is an excellent place to buy handicrafts.
Relics of the Portuguese occupation, including fortresses, churches and other monuments are scattered throughout the country. For history enthusiasts, Timor Leste’s resistance museum is well worth exploring; as is are the Xanana Gusmão’s hiding place, Balibo (known for the killing of 5 journalists by Indonesian soldiers), Santa Cruz Cemetery (known for a massacre in 1991), and the the Japanese caves in Baucau.
Coffee has been the main export commodity for Timor Leste since the colonial period. Timor’s fair trade coffee is now famous worldwide, especially amongst organic coffee drinkers – and is even sold in Starbucks Seattle as the ‘Arabia Timor’ brand. The coffee plantations are worth visiting, as they are based high up in the hills and have some beautiful scenery.
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