Things to see
Carnival de Timor is the annual festival held in Dili in middle of April (sometimes in May, depending on rain season). Initiated by the Ministry of Tourism [www] in 2010, Carnival de Timor is all about fun, music and multiculturalism. Both modern and traditional costumes, East Timorese and foreign minorities, even embassies also participate in this annual festival. The parade start in a landmark and end in Palacio do Governo, greeted by bands and award for best dressed group. The crowd continued to dance into the night with live music and other carnival attractions.
Tourists in East Timor are a rare breed. Simply traveling from village to village, you're likely to hear choruses of "malay" (the East Timorese word for foreigner) and folks will want to engage you in conversation. One could spend several days just enjoying the feeling of being a very welcome stranger.
East Timor is located at the end of the Indonesian archipelago, north of Darwin, Australia and at the base of the Coral Triangle, which hosts the highest diversity of coral and reef fish species on earth.
East Timor offers a rich cultural heritage spun from tens of thousands of years of human habitation, the Portuguese and Indonesian colonial periods, and from the depths of a society which has cultural traditions as the fabric of that bonds society together.
East Timor is well positioned for community-based ecotourism, which has been written into the nation’s tourism strategic plan. The Nino Konis National Park (situated in the eastern part of the country) is a well protected area and considered as some of the last surviving zones of tropical lowland rainforest in the world with rich coastal environment. The national park accommodates bird-watching, diving, trekking and pre-historic archeological sites.
Atauro Island and Jaco Island in Tutuala attract divers, snorkelers and green tourism enthusiasts. Both destinations provide eco-lodge facilities with some support from local NGOs in the region. A must-see attraction is the local divers and fishermen in Atauro, who fish using only traditionally made goggles and spear guns. Atauro is also well known for its distinctive wooden sculptures and is an excellent place to buy variety handicrafts.
For more adventurous tourists, East Timor offers what is simply world class trekking, which can be experienced near places such as Mount Tatamailau (± 3000 above sea level), Ainaro, Mt. Matebian (Baucau) and Mt. Kablaki (in Same district), to name a few.
While trekking East Timor, you can keep busy by looking for some of the 260 species of birds on offer (the entire continent of Australia has some 650 resident species), 32 of which are endemic and 8 of which are exclusive to the island of Timor and found nowhere else in the world.
For example, the Timor Bush Warbler was recognised as a distinct species as recently as 2001 and it is likely that the elusive montane species can be found in the hills of East Timor. The Bush Warbler is one of the many endemic birds that will be the focus for intrepid birdwatchers coming to TL.
Portuguese fortresses, churches and other monuments are scattered throughout the nation. For history enthusiasts, East Timor's resistance tourism which worth exploring are the Xanana Gusmao’s (current Prime Minister of East Timor) hiding place, Balibo (known for the killing of 5 journalists by the Indonesian soldiers), Santa Cruz (known for a massacre in 1991), Japanese caves in Baucau and many more.
Coffee had been the main export commodity for East Timor since the colonial period. To visit East Timor is to taste its coffee grown in several regions such as Ermera, Maubisse, Manufahi and Liquisa. Travel to the coffee plantations takes you through winding mountainous roads, until over 1,000m above sea level altitude, cool climate (as low as 15C), and greeted by smiling farmers who are more than willing to welcome you to their homes. Other alternative is to contact one of the organizations dealing with coffee for a field visit to their cooperative farmer member's coffee plantation. They are: CCT/NCBA, ELSAA Cafe, Timor Global, Timor Corp, Peace Winds [www], PARC-IC [www] and Alter Trade Timor.
Timor's coffee is now well known across the world and amongst organic coffee drinkers. It is now even sold in Starbucks Seattle as 'Arabia Timor' brand. Several organizations are promoting East Timorese coffee as Fair Trade Coffee in U.S., Japan and South Korea. One Japanese coffee expert praised about Timor's coffee as, 'one of the remaining original species in the world today.' (Horiguchi-san, 2005).
East Timor also produces various types of weaved textiles and products for export and unique souvenir. High end and expensive tais (East Timorese traditional hand-weaved textile) are made from nature-produced colors, while more economical textiles use chemical dye. 13 districts in the nation produce distinct design and colors to another. Tais markets are available in Dili; however, for antique collections, one must visit the districts.