East Timor is another one of those Pacific islands that people rarely get to hear about, but for travelers visiting this island nation, it is hardly a bad thing. East Timor shares an island with Indonesian West Timor, and it also comprises the islands of Atauro, Jaco and Oecusse. As a fairly new country, East Timor has had its fair share of unrest and domination by bigger and more powerful nations, but now things have finally calmed down, and a slow trickle of adventurous travelers has started to make its way to this ‘undiscovered’ corner of the planet. Don’t expect a well developed tourist infrastructure with tons of resorts and amenities, but if you are in search of pure nature beauty, an interesting culture, and really welcoming people, a traveler’s guide to East Timor might just convince you to visit.
Things to see
If you are a history buff, there is more than enough for you to see in East Timor. The heritage of the Portuguese and Indonesian occupation is plain to see, from churches and fortresses to monuments. The sites of massacres, killings or simply the former hiding places of various political factions are also quite interesting. Xanana Gusmao’s Reading Room is a fascinating museum, Santa Cruz Cemetery is a bit dreary but worth a visit, while artsy travelers will definitely enjoy a visit to Arte Moris, a former museum where artists and art students display their work in a gallery and sculpture garden. Other than these sights, taking a trip to the rural areas of Timor and just looking around villages is an interesting and rewarding experience, even if you will most definitely be treated like a tourist. Dili, the capital, has lovely colonial style buildings, and a waterfront that is perfect for an evening walk.
Things to do
Thanks to its tall mountains covered in lush forests, East Timor has a maze of amazing hiking trails, although most of the time you are on your own and will have to take care not to get lost, as signs on trails are rare (alternately, you might be able to find some locals who know their way around to accompany you). Nino Konis National Park has one of the riches lowland rainforest ecosystems on the planet, and a few very rare species of animals, so if you have the patience, birdwatching and wildlife watching can be really rewarding. If you like coffee, then you really have to visit the coffee estates in the mountain area, because some of the best organic coffee in the world. But not all the activities in East Timor are to be done on land – the islands are famous for their snorkeling and diving spots as well.
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