Timor-Leste, or East Timor, a Southeast Asian nation occupying half the island of Timor, is ringed by coral reefs teeming with marine life. East Timor is an exciting destination renowned for its rich culture and beautiful beaches that have yet to be tarnished by tourists. East Timor gained independence as a country in 2002, making it one of the youngest countries in the world today. While the region is relatively stable, you should still exercise caution and be alert while you’re on the road.

1. Dili


Dili is East Timor’slargest city where you’ll find new restaurants, textile shops, produce markets, and seafood stands amongst thatch-roofed homes. On the beaches of Dili, you can enjoy freshly cooked seafood, drink a coconut, and watch whales swim along the coastline during migration season. Scuba diving in Dili is known to be great all year and is home to a variety of corals, blue moray eels, trevally, scorpion fish reef sharks, and more.

2. Atauro Island

Atauro Island

Thirty kilometers from the beaches of Dili is Atauro Island, accessible only via boat ride. Here, you’ll find world-class diving, walking paths, and are likely to catch a glimpse of the resident pod of dolphins. Atauro means“goat” in the local language, so expect to see many there too.During both Portuguese and Indonesian occupation, Atauro Island acted as the local jail.Today, its untouched beaches are perfect for snorkeling and diving while inland you can find trails that venture through the cleared rainforest to lively villages famous for selling wooden sculpture and crafts.

3. Suai


Suai is the south coast of East Timor’s main village, where the livelihood of most residents revolves around fishing. In Suai, you can watch traditional dancing, walk over the town’s smooth sandstone beaches, and explore the River Tafara. If you’re interested in the darker side of East Timor’s history, you should visit the town’s main attraction, Our Lady of Fatima Church, where you can find a memorial devoted to the infamous church massacre that took the lives of 200 people.

4. Lake Ira Lalaro

Lake Ira Lalaro

The largest lake in East Timor, Lake Ira Lalaro is perfect for mountain biking around and exploring for a day trip. However, keep all of your activities land-based and avoid swimming at the lake is also home to the country’s largest crocodile population. Make sure to bring enough food and water, as shops around the area are sparse.

5. Mt. Matebian

Mt. Matebian

Mt. Matebian is one of East Timor’s most sacred sites, with thousands of pilgrims making their way to the base every All Souls Day. Mt.Matebian is topped by a statue of Jesus Christ. If you’re interested in hiking to the top, take note that you’ll likely need more than twelve hours to hike to the summit and back. The mountain often goes by two nicknames. Often, its called the Mountain of Souls because locals believe that this mountain is where the souls of their ancestors reside. Alternatively, it’s called Mountain of theDead because of military activity that took place during WW II, when Japanese forces created a series of caves and tunnels – and killed many people in the process. 

6. Jaco Island

Jaco Island

Completely removed from any semblance of a crowd or tourism, Jaco Island is an offbeat oasis of white sand and an active marine life of reef sharks, sea turtles, dolphins, and Technicolor fish. If you want to visit Jaco Island, hire a local fisherman to shuttle you from the mainland and back for the day (they might even catch you your dinner and prepare it for you for a small fee).Since Jaco Island is sacred, it is largely uninhabited. There is only a small guesthouse and camping area for those who want to spend the night.Bring all food and supplies.

7. Mt. Ramelau

Mt. Ramelau

Hikers must visit Mt. Ramelau, where you can stay at the base in the town of Hatubuilico. The hike from bottom to top takes around six hours, with most hikers leaving before sunrise.After three hours of hiking, you’ll be greeted by a statue of the Virgin Mary, another one of the country’s famous religious icons.Near the summit of Mt. Ramelau is a church frequented by locals who wish to deepen their faith.

8. Com


If you’re wanting a more resort-style stay in East Timor, come to Com, a small beach town on the eastern end of the country. The main road traces the coastline offering a variety of guesthouses and restaurants. Grab a glass of white wine and enjoy sitting on the beach and enjoying the sunshine. Though swimming is off the table due to crocodiles, you can go shopping, fishing, explore the colonial-era Portuguese buildings, and hike. For upscale accommodations, stay at Com Beach Resort, who also offer space for camping.

9. Marobo


Hidden and rarely visited, Marobo is perfect for a day trip from the town of Maliana. Take a dip in the Marobo Hot Springs, a natural spring on mountain foothills.To get to the hot springs, you’ll pass through Timoresehomesteads until you arrive at the ruins of a resort. Though the resort is gone, a large pool, mud bath, and mineral bath are kept in full working condition, creating an eerie atmosphere.

10. Nino Konis National Park

Nino Konis National Park

Home to over 250 species of birds, wildlife, trekking trails, and more, this lowland rainforest is perfect for adventure seekers obsessed with nature.Keep an eye out for the Yellow-crested Cockatoo, a beautiful and intelligent bird that is critically endangered.Uniquely, the national park also incorporates a large portion of the Coral Triangle, a rich marine area for diving and snorkeling.


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