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Einfach traumhaft: Osttimor, Bild: Atosan / shutterstock

East Timor: From Portuguese colony to exotic diving and hiking paradise

East Timor is indisputably an exotic destination. In Western Europe, many people certainly do not yet know exactly where the young republic, which was once a Portuguese colony, is located. Officially, the state is called the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste and is located in Southeast Asia. East Timor, which has only been independent since 2002, is still positioned on an island that shares a land border with Indonesia . Australia, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea are also located all around. Tourists will find enchanting sandy beaches and magnificent diving areas here. The island landscape is truly paradisiacal and is also ideal for a hiking holiday due to the fabulously beautiful mountain landscape. Add to this the laid-back lifestyle of the approximately 1.3 million locals, tropical climate and coffee, which is considered one of the best in the world.

The best time to visit East Timor

East Timor has a tropical monsoon climate. This means that there are not four seasons here, as in Europe, but two: the rainy and the dry season. The rainy season usually runs from late November to April. Then there are often floods. Therefore, the months of May to October are better suited for an East Timor vacation, because then there is the dry season. With up to 35 degrees, it can get hot, but it is dry and the island can be traveled and explored to your heart’s content.

Fantastic beaches and diving areas

Beach in East Timor
View of a beach in Dili, Image: gaborbasch / shutterstock

If you’ve always wanted to stay in a bungalow right on the beach, the small town of Com is the right place for you. Here, tourists only have to walk a few meters to experience unforgettable sunrises over the sea from the pristine white sandy beach. In the evening, you can sit comfortably with a glass of wine in one of the many beach bars and watch the sun go down again. It is better not to swim here, as there are many crocodiles around Com. Instead, a walk through the town centre is tempting, where you can see enchanting buildings built in the Portuguese colonial style. Not far away is the small island of Jaco Island. You cross over with narrow traditional fishing boats and are almost among yourself there, because Jaco Island is almost uninhabited. If you want, you can spend the night at a campsite.

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However, the journey is also worthwhile for a day trip, because here you can observe sea turtles, reef sharks and dolphins. Diving enthusiasts should definitely head for Atauro Island. This island can also only be reached by boat and is located about 30 kilometers north of the capital Dili. Atauro Island has a number of natural beaches that are great for snorkeling and diving. If you are looking for even more activity, you can also climb the almost 1,000-meter-high Mano Côco here. The Mano Côco is the highest mountain on the island of Atauro and is centrally located. Several hiking trails lead to its summit. Another gorgeous beach is One-Dollar Beach, which is located a little east of Dili. In front of the beach are colorful coral reefs, which also attract many divers. If you don’t dive, you can relax in front of the turquoise sea with the best infrastructure.

Visit to the capital Dili

Rice field in Malana, East Timor
Rice field in Malana, East Timor, Image: ike_70 / shutterstock

The capital Dili, with a population of just under 250,000, is indisputably the cultural and economic centre of the country. The architecture of the city is based on magnificent buildings, such as those found in the Portuguese capital Lisbon . Here the colonial heritage of East Timor is very visible. Worth seeing are the Government Palace, the building of the Associação Comercial Chinesa, the Mercado Municipal and the Palácio de Lahane, 1.5 kilometers away from the center. The governor of East Timor, who was sent by Portugal , once resided here.

In Dili, you should definitely visit the archive and museum of the Timorese resistance. The museum’s permanent exhibition deals with the colonial legacy and the time of the Indonesian occupation of the country. The focus is also on the era of decolonization. A little outside Dilis is the 27-metre-high Christ statue Cristo Rei. From there you have a fabulous view over Dili and the sea in front of the city. If you are interested in hand-woven textiles, visit the Tais Market. The textiles traded there are among the country’s most important export goods.

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Hiking and experiencing the nature of East Timor

Nino Konis Santana National Park is the first national park in East Timor. It is located at the easternmost tip of the country and has exciting flora and fauna. The national park is home to 25 different species of birds and 16 species of bats. You can also meet wild boars, monkeys and exotic marsupials here. The national park is also located on the coast. Dolphins, sharks, whales and dugongs cavort here. There are also 1,500 different plant species to discover. The national park is well developed with hiking trails and can be hiked through with a guide or on your own. Those who are drawn up very high climb the 2,963-meter-high Mount Ramelau. It is the highest mountain in East Timor.

In addition, the Ramelau Mountains are a mountain range with several other peaks, all of which exceed 2,000 meters. You can climb Mount Ramelau in just under three hours from the mountain village of Hatu-Builico. The terrain is steep but not dangerous. On the way, you pass a place of worship before a statue of Mary awaits hikers at the summit. The ascent in the early morning hours is particularly recommended. Because experiencing sunrise at the summit is an unforgettable experience. The view from here extends to the island of Atauro.