Introducing Timor Leste
Nothing is easy about East Timor (Timor-Leste in the locally preferred Portuguese) and that’s both its blessing and its curse. Independence hasn’t been simple; years spent under Portuguese and Indonesian thumbs have been burdened by tragedy, and recent history shows why you can’t just declare yourself a new country (as happened in 2002) and expect things to be hunky-dory. Travellers will experience some of the challenges the Timorese contend with on a daily basis, and that may be the best reason to visit. The tourism infrastructure is barely developed, yet there’s just enough for the adventurous to experience this beautiful place without undue travail. The diving is magnificent, the countryside superb and the people genuinely welcoming. Once you've had your fill of the capital, head east of Dili and discover the country's best beaches, or head out to Atauro Island for some great snorkeling. And just as the locals have found ways to get by, you will too – which only makes your journey more rewarding.
Sure the roads are crap and getting from one place to another can take forever, but the flip side is that you’ll rarely be following in others’ footsteps. You can get into the unique cultural rhythm that combines European and Asian beats. There’s a nod and a wave from everyone you meet. Soon you’ll realise that what’s easiest about East Timor is its charm.
Best places to stay in East Timor
Timor-Leste (East Timor) travel guide
Smiling, friendly people will welcome you to their country and all it has to offer. Timor-Leste richly rewards those who venture to its mountainous interior for trekking, hot springs, dense jungles and raging rivers. Getting there is a major...
Timor-Leste: every day an adventure
Ask the long-term expats working in Timor-Leste (East Timor) what they do on the weekends and you'll be amazed by the answer. It usually involves packing the basic necessities and heading out on what are usually exciting once-in-a-lifetime experiences, yet they do it every weekend...
Dili is a city undergoing a rapid transformation, and while some changes seem at odds with common sense (oversized embassies lining prime beachfront land, for instance), most changes capture the essence of reconstruction in Timor-Leste. Burnt-out buildings still form a small part of the scenery, as do century-old banyan trees on the foreshore.
East Timor Adventure
Discover the untouched beauty of East Timor
East Timor: travel books to read before you go
This excerpt from Lonely Planet’s East Timor guide provides a selection of travel literature to get you in the mood for your trip...
Top 10 countries that didn't exist 20 years ago
Turbo boost your passport by venturing to these recently minted destinations, as highlighted in Lonely Planet's Best in Travel 2011. It's also a good chance to increase your collection of miniature national flags...
Dive Timor Lorosae
This dive centre offers shore dives (US$45) and day-trip diving around Atauro Island, including two dives from US$165 per person. It also has a training pool and runs the full range of PADI courses.
After busy Dili, Atauro Island seems positively deserted. Its sandy beaches are gateways to broad fringing reefs and there’s great snorkelling off the pier at Beloi and in front of Tua Kóin. Walking trails lead through savannah and remnants of tropical forest.