Timor Leste or East Timor is not your usual backpacking destination whenever you’re in the tropical islands of Southeast Asia. It’s located northwest of Australia in the Lesser Sunda Islands at the eastern end of the Indonesian archipelago. It occupies the eastern half of the island of Timor while the rest is occupied by Indonesia. Let’s skip the rich history portion of this country for the meantime and let’s take a look at its present state as an underrated tourist destination. You’ll be surprised on how this place is a paradise when it comes to white sand beaches, hidden diving spots, and stunning scenery so check out the attractions you need to see in East Timor.
1. Cristo Rei Statue
If Rio de Janeiro has its Christ the Redeemer, East Timor has it own Christ statue known as Cristo Rei. The statue is situated atop the hill overlooking Dili Bay. It’s the best place for views but probably after doing a bit of a tough climbing to reach it. Don’t worry. The effort will be all worth it especially when you finally see the turquoise bays and the surrounding mountains.
Tip: Go here before sunset.
2. Akrema Beach
Located at Atauro Island which is 30km from Dili, Akrema Beach is one of the island’s great sandy beaches surrounded by a vast blue sea great for swimming and snorkeling. Besides spending your time in the beach, you can also go around the island to do some hiking or diving.
3. Mount Ramelau
East Timor’s highest peak, and a significant religious and cultural site, Mount Ramelau is situated right at the center of the country surrounded by a mountainous terrain. Mount Ramelau gives every visitor a chance to experience a pilgrimage that takes them to the peak where they can see the statue of the Virgin Mary (for the devotees), the surreal coastline, or the spectacular star-filled sky at night. The hike to Mount Ramelau’s peak starts from the mountain village of Hatobuilico.
4. Santa Cruz Cemetery
It’s rare to make a cemetery as a deserving must-see list entry, but you’ll understand how it is important to understand history once you visit the Santa Cruz Cemetery. This is the site where the massacre that shaped the country’s history for independence started when Indonesian soldiers fired on a peaceful procession killing at least 280 civilians on November 12, 1991.
5. Arte Moris
After some taste of nature and history, take a look at East Timor’s fine art scene by visiting Arte Moris. The old building may look empty from the outside but once you enter, you’ll see the lively local art scene evident through the establishment’s featured works from paintings to sculptures. Moreover, Arte Moris is a chosen location for other forms of art such as music and theater.
6. The Archives & Museum of East Timorese Resistance
Most of the people around the world aren’t familiar with the country of East Timor’s and its rich history. For those who want to know something about the people and dig deeper to the past events that happened, going to the Archives & Museum of East Timorese Resistance won’t leave you with nothing. Formerly a Portuguese Court of Justice, the museum displays exhibitions related to the local history and culture, particularly about the resistance.
7. Jaco Island
Jaco Island is the place where you’d want to spend slow days chilling in an unspoiled island surrounded by turquoise waters. The island which is the home of hundreds of different fish species is a perfect snorkeling site. To go here, you only need to take a 5-minute boat ride from the coast line near Tutuala.
8. Tais Market
East Timor is worth remembering and if you want to go beyond the history lessons and culture introductions, there’s Tais Market to provide you locally-made products. But of course, don’t forget to check out the main star here: the tais. Tais are traditionally hand-woven cloths created by the women of East Timor. Each has elaborate designs from symbolic patterns to colors. These woven cloths are mostly used for traditional ceremonies as a costume or as units of exchange. You can find the small Tais Market in Dili.
9. Dare Memorial Café
Dare Memorial Café is a memorial to the Australian and East Timorese who fought together against the Japanese occupation of East Timor during World War II. Just a 10-minute drive away from Dili, the café lets you learn about what happened during the war and even features a short documentary about the memorial. However, don’t forget that this is still a café so don’t miss checking out their menu and that hot cup of local coffee.
10. The Dinosaur in the President’s Palace
The President’s Palace is where you’ll see East Timor’s president – of course. But what’s more interesting about this site is the giant dinosaur seen at the entrance hall of the palace. The dinosaur displayed is from a Tarbosaurus Battar specimen that was found in Mongolia. The former president Ramos Horta requested its assembly to the team of Monash University and later, it became a welcoming (or surprising) sight for those who are visiting the palace.
When On Earth Magazine is for people who love travel. We provide informative travel guides, tips, ideas and advice regarding places to see, things to do, what to taste, and much more for world travelers seeking their next dream vacation destination.