Fifteen years after independence, Timor-Leste retains a different flavour to Indonesia as it has not yet been discovered by international tourism, offering unparalleled opportunities for the adventurous and curious traveller. You can begin your exploration by learning about the country’s chaotic history in the capital, Dili, visiting museums and finding evidence of the international influence in architecture. Appreciate the colonial Portuguese heritage buildings in the cities, the colourful churches and houses along the roads, and pass by longhouses and sacred sites symbolic of the strong tribal culture.
Abundant biodiversity can be felt and seen both on land and at sea, but watch out for the crocodiles that populate the south coast. Majestic mountains characterise the landscape, and a myriad of winding trails make Timor-Leste a great destination for advanced bikers and hikers. Drive along coffee crops and enjoy a coffee at a typical pousada. The panoramic road on the way to Mount Ramelau is a beautiful drive, while you could also visit the historic hill town of Maubisse, where the Portuguese presence can still be seen. The scenery continues along the coast, where white-sanded beaches are the gateway to remarkable diving sites.
Head to Atauro for whale-watching, where you may also cross some pods of dolphins. Here you can also dive with hammer sharks and discover colourful critters amongst the untouched reefs. Areia Branca is the beach to go to if you fancy a drink or a nice meal, but it may be crowded over the weekends. For an exclusive yet rustic experience, head to Jaco Island, where you will be entertained by the beautiful reef and enjoy the laid-back island lifestyle.
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