Interesting facts about East Timor

east timor flag

East Timor or Timor-Leste is a sovereign state in Maritime Southeast Asia.

The official name of the country is the Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste.

It comprises the eastern half of the island of Timor, the small nearby islands of Atauro and Jaco and Oecusse, an exclave on the northwestern side of the island surrounded by Indonesian West Timor.

After Indonesia, East Timor’s closest neighbor is Australia, 650 kilometers (400 miles) to the south.

East Timor has two official languagesPortuguese and Tetum.

As of 1 January 2017, the population of East Timor was estimated to be 1,225,000 people.

It is the 154th largest country in the world by area with 15,410 square kilometers (5,400 square miles).

Dili is the capital, largest city, chief port and commercial center of East Timor. This charming, lazy little seaside city suddenly found itself taking the role of national capital when East Timor became an independent country in May 2002.


East Timor is a mountainous country.

Tatamailau or Tata Mailau, sometimes referred as Mount Ramelau, is the highest mountain in East Timor and also of Timor island at 2,986 meters (9,797 feet) above sea level.


East Timor has 706 kilometers (439 miles) of coastline.

Diving, whale-watching, trekking, biking, great scenery, stunning mountain driving and pristine white and gold sand beaches. East Timor is one of the world’s unsung tourism destinations.

east timor beach

The local climate is tropical and generally hot and humid, characterised by distinct rainy and dry seasons.

The Nino Konis Santana National Park is East Timor’s first and only national park. The park, established on 3 August 2007, covers 1,236 square kilometres (477 square miles). It links important bird areas such as Lore, Mount Paitchau, Lake Ira Lalaro, and Jaco Island. The park also includes 556 square kilometres (215 square miles) of the Coral Triangle.

east timor nature

Atauro island, a short boat trip from East Timor’s capital, Dili, appears to have the most biodiverse waters anywhere in the world. The island sits just 24 kilometers (14.9 miles) north of Dili, is 23 kilometers (14.3 miles) long and is home to about 8,000 people. According to a new biological survey, it sits in waters that have more species of reef fish per site than any other place on the planet.

coral reef fish

Cristo Rei of Dili is an 27-meter-high (88.6 feet) statue of Jesus located atop a globe in Dili, East Timor. The statue was designed by Mochamad Syailillah, who is better known as Bolil. The statue was officially unveiled by Suharto in 1996 as gift from the Indonesian government to the people of East Timor, which was at the time still a province. The statue is one of the main tourist attractions in East Timor.

Christ dili

The Tais Market in Dili – This daily market has tais of varying quality from across the country. Each region in East Timor possesses its own distinctive style of tais.

tais market in dili

East Timor was colonised by Portugal in the 16th century, and was known as Portuguese Timor until November 1975, when the Revolutionary Front for an Independent East Timor declared the territory’s independence.

Nine days later, it was invaded and occupied by Indonesia and was declared Indonesia’s 27th province the following year.

In 1999, following the United Nations-sponsored act of self-determination, Indonesia relinquished control of the territory.

The Democratic Republic of Timor-Leste started its independent life on 20 May 2002, becoming the newest country in the world.


Although East Timor, whose economy is largely agricultural, was one of the world’s poorest nations at independence, it has offshore oil and gas fields in the Timor Gap off East Timor’s southern coast that are under development and have begun to produce revenue.

The Cuisine of East Timor consists of regional popular foods such as pork, fish, basil, tamarind, legumes, corn, rice, root vegetables, and tropical fruit. East Timorese cuisine has influences from Southeast Asian foods and from Portuguese dishes from its colonisation by Portugal.

The national dish of East Timor is Ikan Pepes / Pepes Ikan (Ikan means ‘fish’ and pepes is the cooking technique), fish steamed with chili sauce in a banana leaf.

pepes ikan

Humans first settled in East Timor 42,000 years ago.

“Timor” derives from timur, the word for “east” in Malay, which became recorded as Timor in Portuguese, thus resulting in the tautological toponym meaning “East East”: In Portuguese Timor-Leste (Leste being the word for “east”).

The country’s motto is “Unidade, Accao, Progresso” (“Unity, Action, Progress”).

The Nobel Peace Prize 1996 was awarded jointly to two East Timorese activists named Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo and José Ramos-Horta “for their work towards a just and peaceful solution to the conflict in East Timor”

East Timor is one of only two predominantly Christian nations in Southeast Asia, the other being the Philippines.