Brief History of Timor-Leste

I was here multiple times about 20 years ago, as part of a United Nations peacekeeping force and humanitarian mission. We arrived via LCACs from the sea.

I’ve never visited as a traveler, but probably next year.

East Timor, also known as Timor-Leste, is a small island nation located in Southeast Asia. Its history is complex and has been shaped by various colonial powers and struggles for independence.

The island of Timor has been inhabited for thousands of years, with evidence of human settlement dating back at least 42,000 years. The island was influenced by various indigenous cultures and was divided into several small kingdoms and chiefdoms.

In the 16th century, European powers began to show interest in Timor. The Portuguese were the first to establish a presence, arriving in the early 16th century and gradually gaining control over the eastern part of the island. The Dutch arrived in the 17th century and took control of the western part.

From the 17th to the 20th century, the eastern part of Timor remained under Portuguese rule. The Portuguese established a colonial administration and introduced Catholicism to the island. The western part of Timor, controlled by the Dutch, became part of the Dutch East Indies (present-day Indonesia).

During World War II, the Japanese invaded Timor in 1942 and occupied the island until 1945. The occupation was marked by resistance movements from the Timorese population against Japanese rule.

After World War II, the Timorese began demanding independence from Portuguese rule. In 1974, the Portuguese government underwent a revolution, and the new regime expressed support for self-determination for Portuguese colonies. This led to a period of political instability in East Timor.

In 1975, East Timor declared independence from Portugal, but shortly after, it was invaded by Indonesia. The Indonesian government annexed East Timor as its 27th province, a move that was not recognized internationally. The occupation was marked by widespread human rights abuses and resistance from the Timorese people.

Despite the brutal Indonesian occupation, the Timorese resistance movement, known as the Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor (FRETILIN), continued to fight for independence. The resistance gained international attention and support.

In 1999, the Indonesian government allowed a United Nations-sponsored referendum in which the Timorese people voted for independence. However, the result triggered violence and retaliation from pro-Indonesian militias. The international community intervened, and in 2002, East Timor officially gained its independence.

Following independence, East Timor faced various challenges, including building a new government, establishing security, and addressing socioeconomic issues. The country experienced political tensions and occasional outbreaks of violence, but it has made progress in its democratic development and economic growth.

Today, East Timor is a sovereign nation and a member of the United Nations. It continues to face challenges related to poverty, unemployment, and infrastructure development, but it has made significant strides in rebuilding and stabilizing the country since gaining independence.

About Timor Leste

Country Code: +670.

Currency: USD (as of 2000).

Electricity: Type C (2-pin round), Type E (French but same as Type C), Type F (2-pin round, works with Type C and Type F), Type I (3-pin, angled flat blades, Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, China, Argentina).

Language: Portuguese and Tetum (Austronesian).

Latitude and Longitude: 8.8742° S, 125.7275° E.

Population: 1.321 million (2021).

President: Jose Ramos-Horta.


Crime: After gaining independence in 2002, East Timor faced numerous challenges, including establishing law and order, strengthening its judiciary, and building effective law enforcement institutions. The transition period resulted in some security gaps and vulnerabilities that contributed to criminal activities.

Low-Level Crime

East Timor experiences common types of low-level crime, such as theft, burglary, petty theft, and pickpocketing, particularly in urban areas. These crimes are often driven by poverty, unemployment, and limited economic opportunities. The country’s weak socio-economic conditions have contributed to the prevalence of such crimes.

Gang-Related Violence

East Timor has witnessed sporadic incidents of gang-related violence, particularly in the capital city of Dili. These conflicts are often associated with rivalries between youth groups or factions linked to political or social affiliations. Gang-related violence can include physical altercations, intimidation, and property damage.

Domestic Violence

Like in many societies, domestic violence is a significant concern in East Timor. Factors such as gender inequality, traditional cultural norms, and limited access to support services contribute to the occurrence of domestic violence. Efforts have been made to address this issue through legal reforms, awareness campaigns, and the establishment of support networks.

Human Trafficking

East Timor is considered a source and destination country for human trafficking. It is primarily associated with forced labor, sexual exploitation, and child trafficking. Factors such as poverty, lack of education, and limited law enforcement capacity contribute to the vulnerability of individuals to trafficking.

Drug Trafficking

East Timor is situated in the region known for drug trafficking activities, and it serves as a transit point for illegal drugs. Authorities have made efforts to combat drug trafficking, but the limited capacity of law enforcement agencies and porous borders pose significant challenges.


Corruption is a persistent issue in East Timor. It undermines public trust, hinders economic development, and contributes to social inequality. Efforts have been made to combat corruption through legal frameworks, anti-corruption agencies, and public awareness campaigns.

It’s important to note that while crime exists in East Timor, the overall crime rate in the country is relatively low compared to many other nations. The government and international organizations have been working together to strengthen law enforcement, improve the justice system, and address the root causes of crime to ensure the safety and security of its citizens.

Top Tourist Attractions

East Timor has a variety of natural, cultural, and historical attractions that draw tourists.

Atauro Island

Located off the coast of Dili, Atauro Island is known for its pristine beaches, crystal-clear waters, and vibrant marine life. It offers excellent opportunities for snorkeling, diving, and swimming, allowing visitors to explore colorful coral reefs and encounter diverse marine species.

Jaco Island

Jaco Island, also known as Pulau Jako, is a small uninhabited island situated in the easternmost part of East Timor. The island boasts untouched beaches, turquoise waters, and lush vegetation. It is a perfect destination for nature lovers, with opportunities for hiking, bird watching, and beach camping.

Cristo Rei of Dili

The Cristo Rei of Dili is a majestic statue of Christ situated on a hill overlooking the city of Dili. Standing at over 27 meters (88 feet) tall, it offers panoramic views of Dili Bay and the surrounding area. Visitors can climb to the top of the statue and enjoy breathtaking vistas.

Tais Market

Tais Market in Dili is a vibrant and bustling traditional market where visitors can explore and purchase traditional handwoven textiles, known as tais. Tais hold significant cultural and artistic value in East Timor and make for unique souvenirs.


The city of Baucau, located on the north coast of East Timor, is known for its colonial architecture and scenic landscapes. Visitors can explore historical sites such as the Portuguese-era town square, the Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral, and the old Portuguese fort. The nearby beaches, such as Areia Branca, are popular spots for relaxation and swimming.

Matebian Mountain

Matebian, the highest peak in East Timor, is situated in the rugged mountains of the eastern part of the country. It holds cultural significance for the Timorese people and offers stunning views of the surrounding landscapes. The area is also known for its traditional villages and hiking trails.

National Resistance Museum

Located in Dili, the National Resistance Museum provides insight into East Timor’s struggle for independence. It houses exhibits and artifacts related to the country’s resistance movement, showcasing the history and resilience of the Timorese people.


Lospalos is a town in the eastern part of East Timor, known for its beautiful beaches, traditional villages, and cultural heritage. Visitors can explore local markets, enjoy the coastal scenery, and experience the traditional way of life in the region.


The weather in East Timor is influenced by its tropical climate and its location in Southeast Asia.

East Timor experiences two primary seasons: the wet season and the dry season.

The wet season generally lasts from November to April. During this period, the country receives the majority of its annual rainfall. The wet season is characterized by frequent rain showers, high humidity, and occasional thunderstorms. The rainfall helps to support agriculture and maintain lush vegetation.

The dry season typically occurs from May to October. It is characterized by lower humidity, less rainfall, and cooler temperatures compared to the wet season. The dry season is generally more comfortable for outdoor activities and tourism, with clear skies and plenty of sunshine.

East Timor has a warm and humid climate throughout the year. The average temperature ranges from around 25°C to 30°C (77°F to 86°F). However, temperatures can vary depending on the elevation and coastal proximity. In higher inland areas, temperatures tend to be slightly cooler.

Being a coastal nation, East Timor’s weather is influenced by the sea. Coastal areas experience more moderate temperatures due to the cooling effect of sea breezes. The coastal regions also tend to have higher humidity levels compared to the inland areas.

East Timor is occasionally affected by tropical cyclones or typhoons, particularly during the wet season. While the country is not in the main typhoon belt of the Western Pacific, it can still experience the outer bands or remnants of these weather systems. Cyclones bring heavy rainfall, strong winds, and the potential for flooding and landslides.

East Timor’s diverse topography, which includes coastal areas, mountains, and forests, contributes to the existence of microclimates within the country. Higher altitude areas, such as the mountainous regions, tend to be cooler and receive more rainfall compared to the low-lying coastal plains.