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:
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.
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
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
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
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 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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