East Timor: a secret paradise that you need to visit on your gap year

East Timor or Timor-Leste has had a turbulent past, having been controlled by other countries such as Portugal and the Netherlands since the 1500s onwards.

But in 2002 it all started to change, as the island was granted independence from its neighbour, Indonesia, becoming the youngest country in the continent. Today, the island is well on the way to becoming a perfect holiday destination, so it would be a good idea to check out before it becomes overrun with tourists and becomes expensive. Here are some reasons to go,


Because of its colonial past, the food of East Timor is an amalgamation of European and cuisine styles that are typical of the South East Asia area. 

A good example of the different types on offer is Feijoada and Caril De Galinha; the former is a Portuguese stew involving chorizo, cannellini beans and pork and the latter is lightly spiced curry that is more in tune with Goan cooking and consists Murraya koenigii (a type of curry leaf), fresh ginger, tomatoes, coconut milk and chicken.

There is also a strong emphasis on vegetarian meals, but of course, dishes involving meat are also plentiful. To try some of Timor’s intriguing cuisine, head to Tibar Ximangano in the capital, Dili, which is a beach-based restaurant with stunning views.


Cristo Rei of Dili

Perhaps the most famous attraction in East Timor is its ‘Christ the King’ statue and is over 88 feet high and features Jesus facing out onto the sea, standing on top the world. Having been given to the people of Timor by its Indonesian occupiers in 1996, it now has a different, calming presence and is an essential monument to visit if you get the chance. It involves a 500-step walk, but the scenery involving a panoramic view of the beach is totally worth it.

The Cristo Rei. Image courtesy of Fineartamerica.com

Dili Waterfront

The waterfront is a great insight into the world of the Timorese. Be it the fisherman setting sail and returning from a hard day’s work, or the carefree feel of youngsters splashing about in the sea, there is a great energy in the area. It is even adjacent to the Palácio do Governo, which really feels like you’re in the heart of the country. For a top evening, The Castaway Bar faces out onto the water and offers simple, but delicious pub food, as well as a different selection of beer and spirits.

A fisherman holding up his latest catches 

Atauro Island

To the north of the capital, you will find Atauro Island, an idyllic little isle that is even more laid back than its big brother nearby. To get there, you just need to jump in a fisherman’s boat or ferry and upon arrival will be greeted by luscious trees and plant life, as well as beautiful white sand and clear waters.

It also involves a great range of wildlife and is an important area for birds where it is possible to see Timor green pigeons, bar-necked cuckoo-doves and tricoloured parrotfinches. The name Atauro also means ‘goat’ in Indonesian due to the large amount of the animal that roam the island so if you’re a fan of the horned beast you will be in heaven.

A beach hut in a heavily palm treed area of the island

Have you ever been to East Timor? Let us know you’re recommendations in the comments below.

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *