Baucau: Rough Roads And Untouched Landscapes In East Timor’s Untouched Second City

Baucau: Rough Roads And Untouched Landscapes In East Timor


I was in Dili, East Timor’s capital, and wondering what else there was to see in the country. Most travellers I’d met in the city hadn’t made it out of Dili at all, simply spending a few days there before leaving the country completely.

There simply wasn’t much information on what to do outside of Dili, or how to even get out of Dili. It was not going to be an easy task, travelling around East Timor. No one knew when the buses went, if they went, what the road conditions might be like, how the weather could have affected things… It was looking to be a real challenge.

But just a mere 125 kilometres away on the map to the east of Dili was Baucau. I found out that Baucau was, in fact, the second largest city in the entire country – although with only 16,000 or so inhabitants it’s hardly huge – and I decided to motorcycle along the simple looking coastal road to Baucau, to see what, if anything, was outside of Dili.

The road to Baucau though became an adventure in itself. East Timor’s infrastructure is severely limited but I wasn’t expecting there to be no road, on the single supposed highway, for tens of kilometres at a stretch. But for kilometre after kilometre on the way to Baucau, there were just rocks, gravel and dust. It was a long, long ride to Baucau.

What I found in Baucau though, was a charming East Timorese city, a place that has retained the colour and character of the old Portuguese colonial buildings in its shop fronts, houses and even hotels, and a city that is perched on cliffs overlooking a beautiful seafront, with sandy beaches ahead and dramatic mountain peaks inland.

And the best discovery in Baucau? A public swimming pool fed by natural water springs. Trust me, in tropical East Timor, a swimming pool is worth motorcycling over the roughest roads in Southeast Asia to find.

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SEE – Photos & Videos

WSE Travel - Baucau Rough Roads And Untouched Landscapes In East Timor - Baucau Church

Baucau Church

WSE Travel - Baucau Rough Roads And Untouched Landscapes In East Timor -Baucau Fishermen

Baucau Fishermen

WSE Travel - Baucau Rough Roads And Untouched Landscapes In East Timor -Baucau Kids

Baucau Kids

WSE Travel - Baucau Rough Roads And Untouched Landscapes In East Timor -Baucau Scenery

Baucau Scenery

WSE Travel - Baucau Rough Roads And Untouched Landscapes In East Timor -Baucau Swimming Pool

Baucau Swimming Pool

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GO – Getting There

The only way to reach Baucau is by travelling overland from Dili, East Timor’s capital city. In terms of kilometres, Baucau and Dili are really not far apart, being just 125 kilometres away from each other. In reality, though, it’s not so simple a journey, more of an adventure.

The road from Dili to Baucau is rough, uneven and in many places simply non-existent. It’s a spectacular journey, following the cliffs of the coast and then heading through rolling, green hills. If you can ride a motorcycle and have the nerves to ride on rough, potholed and rocky roads, then the best way to travel is to self-drive. If you have the money, then you can rent a four by four and travel in comfort.

If you need to take public transport, then battered busses depart early in the morning from Dili’s Becora Bus Station in the eastern suburbs.

Whatever mode of transport you choose to take, those 125 kilometres could take you up to eight hours of travelling depending on the road conditions, the weather and the traffic. It could even take longer.

WSE Travel - Baucau Rough Roads And Untouched Landscapes In East Timor - Map

Baucau Rough Roads And Untouched Landscapes In East Timor – Map

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Do – Activities & Attractions

Baucau is famous in East Timor for its Piscina, a large, open-air swimming pool that’s fed by natural spring waters and is quite unlike any other attraction in the country. On weekdays the place is empty, except for the odd tourist, but on weekends all the locals of Baucau seem to descend upon the Piscina to cool off and relax.

Down the road from Baucau’s city centre, along a rough, windy road is the spectacular coastline. The beaches here are beautifully pristine, and the snorkelling offshore can be wonderful. Just ask around first to ensure there have been no recent crocodile sightings.

Away from the coast, and within striking distance of Baucau there are several mountain peaks which can be climbed, the most famous being Mount Matebian. In the hills near the pleasant village of Venilale, can be found the remains of tunnels built by the Japanese during World War II.

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Stay – Accommodation

Baucau is a small city and the tourist scene is even smaller, meaning hotel options are limited. Prices are generally higher for what you get accommodation in comparison to other Southeast Asian countries, as infrastructure is poor and competition is limited.

The nicest hotel in Baucau is the Pousada de Baucau. This is an old colonial era, Portuguese guesthouse, and it is a grand affair to look at, with rooms starting at USD 60 per night.

Just next door to the Pousada is a cheaper, more basic option, the Tato Toti, a nice enough establishment charging USD 35 per room per night. They have a rooftop restaurant and bar.

On the beach, a few kilometres downhill from the city centre, there are a set of basic bungalows which can be rented out just walking distance from the coast. Again, these are around the USD 30 mark, but for convenience, I would recommend staying in the town over the beach.

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Eat – Restaurants

The few hotels there are in Baucau serve breakfast and can cook up local dishes for lunch and dinner, while in the centre Restaurant Amalia offers a Portuguese style menu, and gets good reviews.

Expect to pay more at these places than walking out onto the streets and finding local eateries. There are a few local places on the main street serving meals for 1 or 2 US Dollars a plate. In the late afternoon, the street vendors all seem to come out in force, serving up BBQ style chicken amongst other tasty treats on the side of the road or from the back of motorbikes.

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Time – Seasonality & Schedules

East Timor is a tropical country and experiences wet and dry seasons. The wet season – December to May – can be extreme, and even access from Dili to Baucau can be difficult when it rains heavily. The best time to visit then is the dry season – June to November – and particularly the end of the dry season when the beaches and coral are at their most aesthetic.

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Safety – Possible risks

Baucau is a very safe city to visit. The locals are friendly and intrigued to see a foreign traveller exploring. The only real danger comes from the terrible roads, which in places leading to Baucau and around Baucau can be almost non-existent.

The beaches occasionally see Saltwater Crocodiles swimming near them, or bathing on the sands, however, this is rare. Be careful and follow the local warning signs. If no one is swimming, think twice about going in.

East Timor is a relatively new country, and consequently in the past has suffered from political disturbances. Keep aware of the news and be vigilant during elections.

Please Note: Travel inherently comes with an element of risk (just like crossing the road does). You are putting yourself in elements that are unfamiliar and foreign to your usual lifestyle and with that, become more susceptible to fall victim those who try to play off those unfamiliar to their local scams. There are also potential dangers in the environments to which you may not be accustomed to.

Please take extra care in travelling, ensure that you have adequate medical insurance (accidents seem to happen when you least expect them), and have let a trusted colleague, family member or friend know your whereabouts and activities.

Where Sidewalks End travel advises you to travel at your own risk, and to be extra aware of your surroundings (without letting it spoiling your time).

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Pay – How much does it cost?

The main currency in East Timor is actually the US Dollar, although this is split into Centavos, which are local coins. 100 Centavos is equal to 1 US Dollar. In Baucau, there are no ATMs – at least none that I could see, or find – so it is essential that you bring enough cash with you from Dili, the capital, to cover your stay.

In Dili, there are ATMs in various parts of the city – particularly at Timor Plaza – dispensing US Dollars.

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Responsible Travel – Best Practices

The best way to travel responsibly in Baucau is to support the local businesses and families. Just visiting helps on this level, as there are only very limited economic opportunities for locals in the area, they will appreciate you staying in their hotels, homestays and eating at their restaurants. Make the most of your experience by learning as much as you can about this intriguing yet unknown city and the people that call it home.

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Reality Check – Be Aware

East Timor is still incredibly new to the world of tourism. Few visitors actually visit the country and those that do tend to stay in Dili, rather than branching out to other destinations such as Baucau.

This is in part due to there being very little information available for travellers who want to explore outside of Dili, very little English is spoken – if you know Bahasa Indonesian or Portuguese you may have an advantage – and infrastructure is poor. There’s no WiFi, public transport is infrequent and the road from Dili is always under construction. It’s a challenge to travel to Baucau and further afield, even with your own transport, but it really is a place untouched by tourism – one of the last remaining in Southeast Asia that can really be explored.

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JOIN US! WSE Travel Packages

This sounds like quite the adventure, right? We thought so too! Though we realize it can be pretty intimidating to get out there into the world on your own, especially when travelling to some of these off the beaten path locations. We love it when our readers give it a shot and try it for themselves! In fact, please leave us feedback if you do!! If trying something ‘this’ adventurous on your own is just a bit outside of your comfort zone, WSE Travel is here to help!

Follow this link for our ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ Tours – packages that are highly personalized and tailored at your request.

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Have you ever been to a city that had a really unique historical or cultural feature? Where was it and what made it so unique?

Please feel free to share your stories and thoughts in the comment section below!

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