Surprised at the thought of taking a holiday in East Timor? Sure, this young country has a turbulent past with rule under Portugal and then Indonesia, but East Timor is finally finding its own way after claiming independence in 2002.
Located northwest of Australia and comprising the eastern half of Timor Island and the smaller islands of Atauro and Jaco in the Indonesian archipelago, the lack of tourism infrastructure in East Timor might be a hindrance to some, but yields great rewards for the adventurous willing to explore the country .
Blessed with a beautiful countryside and superb diving opportunities, East Timor has an untouched feel that's harder and harder to find these days. Tourists are not common, and visitors to the country will be made to feel welcome wherever they go.
See an entire country off the beaten track
Though in no way bustling, the majority of hotels are concentrated in the capital, Dili. It's here where you'll find the island's nightlife, ATMs and other modern conveniences such as the popular Tais Market.
Outside of Dili, you'll have the opportunity to sample the local produce at markets and purchase handicrafts such as handwoven Tais cloth, where the pattern is specific to each East Timorese family. East Timor coffee, which is grown organically, is world-famous for its flavour and low acidity and is a great souvenir to take home.
If the caffeine speeds you up a little bit, your pace will be brought back down by East Timor's breathtaking natural environment. Located at the base of the Coral Triangle, divers and snorkelers can access one of the most diverse coral and reef fish species in the world from East Timor.
In the east, Nino Konis National Park is a protected area with the world's last surviving tropical lowland rainforest in a rich coastal environment that's ideal for trekking, diving and bird-watching. East Timor is home to over 250 species of birdlife, with some unique to the country.
When you visit, make sure to also head to the islands of Atauro and Jaco where locals go fishing using traditional goggles and spear guns.
Celebrate East Timor's colourful culture
East Timor has a rich cultural heritage, celebrated every April or May at Carnival de Timor in Dili with parades and traditional costumes. While it has 37 indigenous languages, the country's official languages are Tetum and Portuguese.
For historic sites, there are Portuguese fortresses, churches and other monuments to be found throughout the nation, as well as more contemporary sites of interest such as The Archives and Museum of East Timorese Resistance.
For a rewarding holiday you'll never forget, East Timor is a country with an easy charm that will definitely find its way into your heart.