If you’re looking for a secluded, untouched holiday destination, then East Timor is the perfect place. It’s likely that you will be starting your travels through East Timor in the capital city of Dili. Dili is a relaxing seaside city and is a great place to spend a few of nights exploring. So, here are the top things to do in Dili!
Cristo Rei Statue
It’s hard to miss this huge statue perched on top of Cape Fatucama. The walk up to Cristo Rei offers spectacular views of pristine beaches and the rolling hills surrounding Dili. This is also a popular exercise spot for the locals, who’ll greet you with a cheery ‘Bondia!’ and grins from ear to ear!
This is a must-see for an insight into East Timor’s turbulent history and an understanding of the culture today. This museum isn’t packed with artefacts or photographs, but the written displays are very informative, and with such a small entry price ($1USD), it shouldn’t be missed.
Santa Cruz Cemetery
This cemetery was the site of a terrible massacre and is now a memorial site for the victims. I highly recommend that you do some research before visiting and watch some of the footage from the massacre on Youtube. It’s absolutely devastating and horrific, but an important part of East Timor’s history to understand.
This confronting exhibition is set in a Portugese-era prison used by the Indonesians to imprison Timorese resistance fighters. It’s incredibly moving and is one of the most important things to do in Dili to gain an insight into East Timor’s past.
The Tais Market is the perfect place to pick up some colourful souvenirs to take home. Tais are traditional woven cloths and make lovely gifts. Generally the prices asked are very reasonable so there’s no need to barter – a small amount goes a long way to helping out the local people so if you do feel the need to barter, try and be generous.
Swim & Snorkel
Dili has some amazing beaches that make the perfect place to spend an afternoon (or two!). The warm, clear water is great for snorkelling and swimming.
The Alola Foundation
The Alola Foundation is a wonderful organisation that helps women in East Timor through advocating for women’s rights, creating employment and promoting health. The Alola Shop is a great place to purchase high quality souvenirs and see the local women at work. This is a great place to visit to give back to the community.
While not technically ‘in’ Dili, this island paradise is located only 36km off Dili and is definitely worth a visit. Take the local ferry from Dili for just $4USD to get there. The diving and snorkelling opportunities are world-renowned, and there are even dolphins and whales to be seen!
East Timor’s biggest export is coffee, and you can purchase freshly ground beans from stalls all around Dili. To sample the coffee head to Letefoho Specialty Coffee Roaster, located in the Hotel Royal Beach building.
Enjoy the Sunset
The perfect way to end a day of sightseeing in Dili is to head to the beach to watch the sunset. There are plenty of bars and restaurants to enjoy a beer and fresh seafood from. If you’re lucky like I was, you might get to enjoy a performance from local Timorese singing traditional songs and playing guitar.