East Timor

Posted on: 26 March 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

Lonely Planet has released the first ever guidebook to East Timor, the world’s youngest nation.

Lonely Planet’s co-founder, Tony Wheeler, took the challenge of discovering East Timor in this ground-breaking first edition. Finally this tiny sliver of South East Asia – long in the headlines – is being acknowledged for the right reasons. As Tony Wheeler says of his research there, "everywhere there was a feeling that this was a country that had seen tough times but was determined to move on."

East Timor gained full independence in 2002 after a period of UN rule. It may not be on the tourist map yet but independent travellers have started visiting this emerging destination positioned between Indonesia and Australia. With stunning environs, rich Portuguese influence and a compelling recent history, East Timor appeals to the truly adventurous and generous spirited traveller, East Timor is in a formative period – while it’s still recovering from the Indonesian insurgency around the 1999 vote for independence, its people are regaining their identity and living conditions are slowly improving.

Tourism is vital way East Timor can connect with the world. But visitors to this post crisis zone must be armed with patience and an open heart. Everything is in transition here – transport, amenities and the people themselves./font>

Dili, the capital of East Timor, is described in the guide as a 'pleasant, lazy city centred on a sweeping harbour” with the “feel of a tropical Portuguese outpost.' Baucau, the second largest town in the country and a popular haunt for Dili’s expat community, is described as a 'colourful place' (pg 72) and a good base for exploring further south. Nearby Pantai Wataboo beach at Osolata boasts “breathtakingly beautiful white-sand” (p 75).

The Itineraries section is extremely helpful. With a week, travellers can see a lot but with two to three weeks you can discover almost every corner of the country. Take a tailored trip exploring 'The Portuguese Era' or 'The Road to Independence.'

In Lonely Planet’s view the more people know about the subtleties of East Timorese culture, language and history, the better.

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