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Info Dili


Dili is the capital, largest city, chief port and commercial centre of East Timor.

Dili lies on the northern coast of East Timor, squeezed along the narrow plains between the central mountains which run the length of the Timor and the Ombai Strait. This charming, lazy little seaside city suddenly found itself taking the role of national capital when East Timor became an independent country in May 2002.

Dili is also capital of a district with the same name. The district includes the surrounding areas as well as Atauro Island.


POPULATION : City: 222,323 /  Metro: 234,331
FOUNDED :  1520
LANGUAGE : Tetum (official), Portuguese (official), Indonesian, English
RELIGION : Roman Catholic 98%, Muslim 1%, Protestant 1%
AREA : 48.268 km2 (18.636 sq mi)
ELEVATION : 11 m (36 ft)
COORDINATES : 8°34′S 125°34′E
SEX RATIO : Male: 
ETHNIC : Austronesian (Malayo-Polynesian), Papuan, small Chinese minority


Dili was the classic backwater during colonial times, being the main city of a remote colony in a remote part of the world. However, this heritage left Dili with a distinct Portuguese flavour and together with Macau, is probably the furthest east where you can savour genuine Portuguese food and architecture. Dili has since recovered remarkably, although one can still see many gutted buildings.


  • There are good beaches near Dili. The ones near the centre of town are popular with kids but are polluted. The most accessible beaches are at Areia Branca near Christo Rei and they also have several bars and restaurants. The best close beach is Jesus Backside beach, which can be accessed either from a walking track that starts halfway up the stairs to Christo Rei, or by car by taking the road from Metiaut over the mountains and looking for a turn-off on the left (this is the remains of the road that used to go around the point).
  • Just down and across the road from the Leader supermarket is a Church that has an English language mass on Sunday morning at 10.30am (and Tetum Masses at other times).
  • You can buy VCDs, DVDs & Audio CDs very cheaply. If you are taking a laptop its well worth having software installed.
  • Visit Ramelau - the highest mountain in East Timor. You can stay at a place just before the top, and climb up for the dawn (a couple of hours climb). It is a fairly popular thing to do so ask around or ask at the Hotel Dili – they can arrange an excellent 4WD tour. NB: It is freezing at night
  • Dive around Dili and Atauro Island. Dive Timor Lorosae, Freeflow, and Compass Charters are popular dive operators. There are a number of dive sites around Dili. Further out east, K41 and Bob's Rock are popular sites near Manatuto. Dive operators can arrange longer trips to Atauro Island or Jaco Island. Don't pass up the chance to see the last untouched reef in the world.


  • Visit Cristo Rei, the statue of Jesus that stands on a headland to the east of Dili. Rumour has it that, when the mainly Muslim Indonesians built the statue as a gift to the mainly Christian East Timorese, they designed it so that Jesus would be facing towards Jakarta. The statue is about 20 metres tall and stands on a globe of earth. The route from Dili along the beach and up the steps to the Jesus statue is popular with exercising internationals and local fishermen, and passes several niches representing the stations of the cross. The view from the statue across the bay to Dili is spectacular. From Dili, follow the main road east out of town. Taxi drivers will take you there for US$5 but you will need to pay extra to make sure they wait while you have a look.
  • Cape Fatucama. Aka Backside Beach. The beach directly behind the Jesus statue, it's a scenic, inverted c-shaped coastline with near-transparent waters much better than the one at Areia Branca. If driving, head east towards Baucau on the road that crosses the ridge near Ramos-Horta's house and look for the turnoff on the left. Otherwise, you walk up the steps towards Cristo Rei and then, halfway up, go down other steps to the beach. 
  • Resistance Museum, Rua Universidade (next to the university). 9AM-5PM except Sunday. Learn about the struggle for East Timor's independence and what the people went through in the massive 25-year-long struggle. $1.
  • Dare War Memorial (10km inland along the road that goes from Palacio de Governo into the mountains).A memorial to Sparrow Force, an Australian unit that fought the Japanese in Timor for several years, plus an exhibition on the unit and on the Timorese experience of the war. Good views over Dili and a café open on weekends. Free.


Dili was settled about 1520 by the Portuguese, who made it the capital of Portuguese Timor in 1769. It was proclaimed a city in January 1864.

During World War II, Portugal and its colonies remained neutral, but the Allies saw East Timor as a potential target for Japanese invasion, and Australian and Dutch forces briefly occupied the island in 1941. In the night of 19 February 1942, the Japanese attacked with a force of around 20,000 men, and occupied Dili before spreading out across the rest of the colony. On 26 September 1945, control of the island was officially returned to Portugal by the Japanese.

East Timor unilaterally declared independence from Portugal on 28 November 1975. However, nine days later, on 7 December, Indonesian forces invaded Dili. On 17 July 1976, Indonesia annexed East Timor, which it designated the 27th province of Indonesia, Timor Timur (Indonesian for East Timor), with Dili as its capital. A guerrilla war ensued from 1975 to 1999 between Indonesian and pro-independence forces, during which tens of thousands of East Timorese and some foreign civilians were killed. Media coverage of the 1991 Dili Massacre helped revitalise international support for the East Timorese independence movement.

In 1999, East Timor was placed under UN supervision and on 20 May 2002, Dili became the capital of the newly independent Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste. In May 2006, fighting and rioting sparked by conflict between elements of the military caused significant damage to the city and led to foreign military intervention to restore order.


Dili has a Tropical wet and dry climate.

Daily highs (°C)31.331.131.231.531.330.730.230.130.330.531.431.1
Nightly lows (°C)
Precipitation (mm)139.5138.7132.7104.374.958.420.


Dili lies on the northern coast of Timor island, the easternmost of the Lesser Sunda Islands. It is the seat of the administration of the district of Dili, which is the administrative entity of the area and includes the island of Atauro and some cities close to Dili city.


The city is divided into the subdistricts of Nain Feto, Vera Cruz, Dom Aleixo and Cristo Rei and is divided into several sucos, which are headed by an elected chefe de suco. 18 of the 26 sucos of the four subdistricts are categorised as urban.

Internet, Communication


There are a number of commercial places where you can access the internet such as the business centre at many of the hotels. Globel Net has Internet $4.00 per hour they also have skype so bring your own head sets. Some hotels now offer free Wi-Fi access to their customers, including Dili Beach Hotel & Bar and in the Smokehouse Bar at the Backpackers. If purchasing a sim card, data can be added on (approx. $10USD for 800mb). It is easy to do this at the stores in Timor Plaza as they are able to set it up for you.


There are very few landlines in East Timor, most being in Dili. It’s a very good idea to bring a mobile phone handset, make sure you have it unlocked in your home country first otherwise it can cost up to $30.00 to have it unlocked here, and then buy a new sim-card from Timor Telecom (US$3). Local calls are pretty cheap, and an SMS within East Timor costs $0.20. Calls to Australia are about 50 cents US per minute, or 40 cents off peak (between 8pm and 8am and all day Sunday).


There is no delivery of mail to street addresses. If you want to receive mail, you need to use a post office box at the central post office. Packages from Australia generally take about 2 weeks. It’s important that people write ‘via Darwin, Australia’ on the address, otherwise letters tend to go via Jakarta, Singapore or even Lisbon. Letters/packages have been known to take up to one and a half years to arrive, and occasionally disappear altogether, although this is the exception rather than the rule.


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East Timor - Travel guide