Introduction

East Timor is made up of 13 provinces. Colonial architecture, Portuguese fortresses and other remains from the 100-year-long Portuguese occupation can be found all over the country. However, many towns and villages were destroyed during the Indonesian occupation and the fighting in 1999, which are slowly being rebuilt. Many houses are still built on stilts in the traditional way, using local materials such as grass, bamboo, tree trunks and palm leaves.

DILI : The capital of Portuguese East Timor, Dili is today the administrative capital of the new country. Colonial architecture abounds in Dili, along with a Portuguese castle dating from 1627. Another attraction is the State Museum of East Timor, founded in 1995, with one-tenth of its collection still surviving. The collection includes religious woodcarvings, wood figures, traditional crafts, musical instruments and paintings. Most of the city was destroyed in 1999, with any surviving buildings bearing considerable war wounds. UNTAET led restoration works by rebuilding the most important government and official buildings. There are many catholic churches in Dili and a famous, large statue of Christ on a hilltop near Cape Fatucama. Outside the city, there are numerous beautiful beaches, the most popular of which being Areia Branca (‘white sand’).

BAUCAU : The second largest city in East Timor, Baucau is still charming despite the devastation it has incurred, with Portuguese colonial architecture and caves used by the Japanese during the occupation in World War II. Due to its location, Baucau is always comfortably cool and the beaches 5km (3 miles) from the city are breathtaking. The 4-hour journey between Dili and Baucau is well worth taking, offering some of the finest coastal views.

ELSEWHERE : Oecussi province belongs to East Timor politically, yet is a part of Indonesian West Timor culturally and geographically; it was 95 per cent destroyed during the fighting and the remaining inhabitants mostly live in small hamlets and villages. Its capital, Pantemakassar, was the first Portuguese settlement and as such has special meaning for the East Timorese. A sleepy little town, it lies between the coast and the mountains. Coral reefs off the nearby coast offer the opportunity for diving and snorkelling. Mountain biking and hiking are possible in the interior or in the mountains.

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Information provided by East Timor Tourism Board.

 

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