5 Reasons to Visit East Timor Now

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Dubbed as “newest nation”, the mountainous East Timor gained its independence as recently as May 2002. A Southeast Asian nation is occupying half of the Timor Island, East Timor is separated from Australia by the Timor Sea to the South and surrounded by the greater Banda Sea to the North. A tropical Island, East Timor’s dry season extends from June to October making the months May to July the best time to visit the island.

Brimming with off-beat adventures and hidden gems, East Timor is believed to be best visited now because it provides what other Southeast nations don’t: a chance for every traveler to become an explorer oneself:

 

Uncommercialized Travel

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According to Sarah Reid, a writer for the Lonely Planet, East Timor is old school, uncommercialized travel at its best. It is a new country to be discovered in Southeast Asia. With just the basic infrastructure in place, it gives an opportunity for travelers to go back to the basics and discover the unknown: sacred villages, carnivals, rich cultural heritage, colonial pasts, pre-historical archeological sites, and more – the list is endless.

There are organized tours such as a full-day tour of Dili, the capital of East Timor, day tours to Maubara and Liquica, and half-day Dili cultural tour to explore the capital city.

It’s a tiny country with stunning nature and exciting culture that has influenced by Portuguese and Indonesian traditions. Although country gained independence from Indonesia in 2002, the country is still in development phase, and people are impoverished there. If you’re a type of traveler who enjoys visiting off-the-beaten places, then East Timor is definitely a place you must go. Tourism isn’t developed yet, so you can enjoy you’re the uncontagious island vibe and spend time with happy locals.

 

Best Diving Spots

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The tropical marine water of Timor-Leste, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and Solomon Islands are roughly in the shape of a triangle and is called the Coral Triangle. It is home to approximately 500 species of corals and the sites in East Timor are undisputedly one of the best for diving. The untouched reef and marine life is any diver’s dream come true. Atauro Island is considered one of the top diving spots in East Timor with abundant sea life such as reef sharks, frogfish, turtles, whales, and more. Many Dili based diving companies offer international standard diving courses ranging from recreational to technical for the interested. If you’re in scuba diving, then you should definitely check fantastic diving sites around East Timor. Another great news is that the country isn’t filled with tourists, so you can expect to have diving tours only for yourself.

 

East Timor as a Biking Destination

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An activity that is gaining popularity over the years among tourists in East Timor is biking. Reasons being: East Timor has challenging terrain with spectacular views; the chance to explore a young country with history on a bike; unspoiled beaches with less or no crowd; appropriate climate; and supporting locals. One of the most challenging bike races in the world, Tour de Timor, is quickly gaining popularity. The steep climbs and the temperatures don’t seem to deter bikers as the numbers only have been seen to gain momentum over the past few years.  Some of the popular regions in East Timor for biking happen to be Dili, Ainaro, Liquica, and Ermera District with dedicated cycling routes. Travelers who love to stay active during their trips should definitely rent a bicycle in Dili and start with the exploration of this beautiful city.

 

Pristine Beaches and Sacred Sites

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Closer to the capital there are a plenty of white-sand beaches that remains pristine and unspoiled. Areia Branca and Dollar beach are some of the famous beaches. There are some east and west of Dili which usually does not see much crowd. For a swim, the south coast is best avoided owing to the presence of giant saltwater crocodiles. To spend some night time at the beach, opt for one of the night tours that include dinner on the beach.

The first National Park of East Timor called Nino Santana National Park comprises of forested mountain ranges (known for its many species of orchids), Lake Ira Lalaro and Jaco Island. A trip to this park will also make accessible the many sacred sites, limestone caves, and ancient rock arts. The reef system that is adjoining the Park is part of the world-renowned Coral Triangle. Divers here can spot high diversity of coral species and marine wildlife.

 

Timorese Coffee

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Timorese coffee is not only famous locally, but it is gaining popularity internationally as well. It is the largest exported commodity of East Timor. There are two types of coffee tastes noted: sweet with a musty pungency and the other smooth, deliciously cocoa-toned. The Timorese coffee is nicknamed as the feel-good, taste-good coffee. Grown organically, this exotic coffee is cheaper compared to different coffees in other countries and tasting Timorese coffee has become one of the must-experience while in East Timor.

Another draw for tourists is the traditional markets in the mountains of East Timor. They are colorful, vibrant and shopping is an easy way to engage with the locals. The markets sell anything from shoes, bags, bracelets, quilts, clothes, and more. One can also find many food markets lining up the streets of Dili selling fresh fruits and vegetables.

Tourism in Timor is in its nascent stage. Although infrastructure is still developing to support tourism and tourist activities, it doesn’t seem to deter travelers from choosing to visit Timor. Many newly discovered places like East Timor become polluted by tourists pretty soon, so don’t wait until tourists kill the vibe of this place. The beaches, jungles, mountains, diving, coffee, and for the plenty other reasons you must consider visiting East Timor, and there is no better time than now.

 

Have you ever been to East Timor and what are your recommendations to do there? Please share your advice with us!

 

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By Divya Soundararajan



This article was written by Divya Soundararajan, savvy travel blogger at asabbatical.com , a personal travel blog of Adrian Sameli.


 

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Traveler. Dreamer. Cat lover. Wondering around the world with my backpack and my camera. Contributing to make the world a better place.

24 Comments

  1. This looks like such a lovely place, I had never heard of it until this post. It looks like such a scenic place and a little piece of heaven, great guest post! 🙂 x

  2. Looks like an amazing place to visit. In the meantime I’ll definitely be keeping a look out for their coffee as it sounds delicious, and I love trying coffee from new places.

  3. I’d heard of East Timor but didn’t know much about it. I love that it is a place of uncommercialized travel. Whilst I do love some of the countries and islands that are very commercialized in terms of travel, sometimes it is nice to go off the beaten track a little and find somewhere else a little less ‘popular’, so to speak.

    It looks like a beautiful place with plenty to do, I’d definitely consider visiting there in the future.

  4. Good lord this looks SOO beautiful! I imagine within 5 years or so it will become THE place to go, though, which may ruin some of this incredible island. Also, i always thinkof shakira because of her song Timor.

  5. It looks gorgeous but I always worry when uncommercialized places hit the headlines because you know sooner or later it will be full of tourists with, potentially, the environmental problems they tend to bring with them. Great for the economy though.

  6. Wow I’d literally never heard of this place!! I love how clean and clear it looks – clearly untouched by the masses of tourists (yet!). It looks like a little haven 🙂

  7. Joanna, thanks for sharing! I’m currently planning a trip to Southeast Asia and hadn’t considered Timor. Now I’m thinking it looks AWESOME and we might go. Thanks for the inspiration. 🙂

  8. I’ve never been to East Timor, or even heard of it – but boy do I want to go there now! The uncommercialized part is what sealed the deal for me. I love unspoilt, natural places. Tulum in Mexico looks very similar – have you been there? x

    1. I have actually just returned from Tulum and it’s far from uncommercialized. It is so touristy that you can barely throw a needle without hitting anyone unfortunately.

  9. My Dad’s a keen cyclist and often goes on riding holidays. Thus far he’s stuck to Europe but I wish he’d broaden is horizons with a destination like this!

  10. East Timor has its attractions and beauty spots. I don’t know if your well-written story shows enough ‘balance’ because the overall picture is not that idyllic.

  11. I am very grateful to the United Nations peacekeeping mission in East Timor for enabling me to serve this country and its people for a full year
    This country is very beautiful and its people are good I can not forget it and I hope to visit it again as a tourist .
    What a amazing country !!!!!!!!!

  12. How interesting. I have not considered East Timor as a tourist destination before. Partly because as a NZer, the main news of East Timor for many years was because our peacekeeping troops were stationed there. They formally left in 2012 and I remember working in the newsroom at that time and one of my colleagues was sent to cover the event. So for many of us, it still seems a bit of a ‘recent’ war zone. But I can imagine there would be some incredible untouched spots – and some brilliant scuba diving!

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