Jaco Island
Jaco Island

Best places to visit in East Timor

East Timor is an exciting destination known for its rich culture and beautiful beaches that have yet to be tarnished by tourists. East Timor gained independence as a country in 2002, becoming one of the youngest countries in the world today, although it still maintains the Portuguese and Indonesian influence. If you are looking for a tropical adventure destination that is well off the heavily threshed tourist route, then these best places to visit in East Timor are perfect for you.

The best way to explore the country is with an experienced driver, since the signs are scarce once you leave the only major city in the country. While the region is relatively stable, you should still exercise caution and be alert while you are on the highway

Here are the best places to visit in East Timor:

1. Dili

Jesus Backside Beach, Dili, East Timor - One of the best places to visit in East Timor
Jesus Backside Beach, Dili, East Timor

Dili is the largest city in East Timor, where you can find new restaurants, textile shops, produce markets and seafood shops. At Dili Beaches, you can enjoy freshly cooked seafood, drink coconuts and watch whales swimming along the coastline during the migration season. Dili scuba diving all year round is great, and is a variety of corals, blue moray eels, trevally , scorpion fish reef sharks, and so on.

Most of Dili’s directions are related to Cristo Rei, a statue of Jesus Christ up to 27 meters overlooking the city. Cristo Rei is the world’s second largest statue of Jesus Christ. At Dili, the effort towards Cristo Rei is worth the panoramic views of the city and the sea.

2. Atauro Island

Atauro Island - One of the best places to visit in East Timor
Atauro Island

Thirty kilometers from the beaches of Dili is the island of Atauro, accessible only by a boat ride. Here you will find world class snorkeling, walking trails, and you will probably take a look at the resident sheath of the dolphins. Atauro means “goat” in the local language, so expect to see many there as well.

During the Portuguese and Indonesian occupation, the island of Atauro acted as a local jail. Nowadays, its pristine beaches are perfect for snorkeling and diving, while inland you can find trails that venture through the clear jungle to the lively villages famous for the sale of wooden sculpture and handicrafts.

For a price, you can also try your hand at traditional fishing with craft glasses and spear weapons.

3. Baucau


Baucau almost looks like it could be two separate cities. In the old quarter you will find Portuguese colonial architecture, while the new city houses new buildings with an Indonesian influence. Stop by the bright yellow government building, formerly the community market of the city.

On the south side, visit the impressive buildings of Venilale and explore the caves created by the Japanese military during World War II. Further south are the villages of Ossu and Viqueque, where you can swim in freshwater rivers, explore natural caves and watch the waterfalls.

4. Suai

Suai, East Timor
Suai, East Timor

Suai is the southern coast of the main town of East Timor, where the livelihoods of most residents revolve around fishing. In Suai, you can see the traditional dance, walk along the soft sandstone beaches of the city, and explore the Tafara River.

If you are interested in the darker side of East Timor’s history, you should visit the main attraction of the city, the Church of Our Lady of Fatima, where you can find a monument dedicated to the infamous massacre in the church that claimed the life of 200 people.

5. Lautem

Lautem, East Timor - One of the best places to visit in East Timor
Lautem, East Timor

With a flourishing bird population, beautiful beaches, and cave drawings, the Lautem region is a perfect blend of culture and nature. Almost defying gravity, the houses in this region are often placed on narrow stilts, constructed entirely with fine bamboo, wood, and dried grass.

Because the Lautem is so underdeveloped, it is likely to have a beach path or nature to itself. For the highlights of the regions, visit the beach of Tutuala, and the villages of Viqueque and Lospalos.

6. Maubisse

Suai, East Timor
Suai, East Timor

Maubisse is one of the most popular holiday spots in East Timor for international tourists and those residing in Dili alike. The only hotel in the city, Pousada de Maubisse, offers enchanting views but has not been renovated since the 1950s.

Once again, as everywhere in East Timor, expect a memorable and adventurous experience over a luxurious one. For active hikers planning Mt. Ramelau trekking, Maubisse is the best city to stay as a base.

7. Lake Ira Lalaro

Lake Ira Lalaro - One of the best places to visit in East Timor
Lake Ira Lalaro

The largest lake in East Timor, Ira Lalaro Lake is perfect for mountain biking around and exploring for a day trip. However, keep all of your activities on the ground and avoid swimming as the lake is also home to the largest crocodile population in the country.

Be sure to bring enough food and water, as the shops around the area are scarce.

8. Mt. Matebian

Mount Matebian, East Timor - One of the best places to visit in East Timor
Mount Matebian, East Timor

In East Timor, Mt. Matebian is one of the most sacred sites in East Timor, with thousands of pilgrims making their way to the base each Day of Souls. Mt. Matebian get crowned by a statue of Jesus Christ. If you are interested in hiking to the top, take note that you will probably need more than twelve hours to walk to the summit and back.

The mountain often goes by two nicknames. People often call it the mountain of souls, because the locals believe that this mountain is where the souls of their ancestors reside. Alternatively, it is called Mountain of the Dead due to military activity that took place during World War II, when Japanese forces created a series of caves and tunnels – and killed many people in the process. Because of its history, Mt. Matebian is a point of contact for the culture of East Timor..

9. Jaco Island

Jaco Island - One of the best places to visit in East Timor
Jaco Island

Completely removed from any appearance of a crowd or tourism, Jaco Island is an oasis of white sand and active marine life of reef sharks, sea turtles, dolphins and technicolor fish. If you want to visit the island of Jaco, hire a local fisherman for transport from the mainland and return for the day (you could even catch your dinner and prepare for you for a small fee).

Since the island of Jaco is sacred, it is largely uninhabited. There is only a small guest house and camping area for those who want to stay overnight. Bring all the food and supplies.

10. Same

Same, East Timor - One of the best places to visit in East Timor
Same, East Timor

This inland coastal town lies among the lush trees and offers an authentic look at the life of the small town in East Timor.

Those looking for a souvenir will be happy rummaging through the local market, renowned for their arts and tai, a type of textile.


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