Cristo Rei

Cristo Rei By Kok Leng, Maurice Yeo from Singapore, Singapore (Christ Statue, Capa Fatucama, Dili, East Timor) (CC-BY-2.0), via Wikimedia Commons
Here are our top five tourist attractions for Dili, the capital of East Timor.

1. Cristo Rei de Dili

Located at the eastern end of Dili is the 27 meter tall statue of Jesus, Cristo Rei de Dili (Christ the King of Dili). It was modeled on Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer. The statue was opened by President Soeharto in 1996 and was given to the East Timorese people as a present to mark the 20th anniversary of the country’s integration with Indonesia. Now expats and locals flock to the statue in the early morning and evening for exercise. You too can pound (or walk) up the steps to get to the top of the statue. The view of the ocean and Dili’s harbour from the top is spectacular and you shouldn’t miss it.Getting there: Head East on the coastal road, just keep driving until you get to it, you can’t miss it! See it on a map.

2. Dare Memorial Cafe

Okay, so not technically in Dili, but the Dare Memorial cafe does give you beautiful sweeping views of Dili, and that’s one of the reasons why it’s been included in this list. The site is a memorial to the Australian and East Timorese’s who fought together against the Japanese occupation of East Timor during World War II. At the cafe you can watch a short and interesting documentary about the memorial and enjoy a serve of their yummy toasties with a piping hot cup of East Timorese coffee. Don’t forget your mosquito spray, there are some big ones flying around up there.Getting there: The Dare Memorial Cafe is just a ten minute drive from Dili, see this map. Alternatively a lot of people choose to hike up there. It’s only open on the weekends from 8:30 am to 6:00 pm. Visit their website for more info.

Santa Cruz By Kok Leng, Maurice Yeo from Singapore, Singapore (CC-BY-2.0), via Wikimedia Commons

3. Santa Cruz Cemetery

Visit the Santa Cruz cemetery where a massacre took place on November 12, 1991 and more than 200 people were killed by Indonesian troops. The massacre was caught on camera by international journalists and screening of this footage finally brought much needed international attention and awareness to the atrocities being suffered by the East Timorese people in their pursuit of independence from Indonesia.

Getting there:
Every taxi driver in Dili knows where Santa Cruz cemetery is, but if you want to see it on a map, check out this one.Video: Anatomy of a Massacre, ABC1

4.  Chega! Exhibition

Chega-  translated from Portuguese means ‘no more, stop, enough’.Stop off at the old Dili prison to see the deeply touching Chega! exhibition. The exhibition uses multimedia to bring to life the 2,800 Chega! report covering the human rights violations that took place in Timor during 1974-1999. The report was the result of work by the Timor-Leste truth commission (CAVR). Make sure you get a guide to take you around the prison building and cells, some of the stories of abuse that took place in the very places you will be standing will break your heart.Getting there: The old Balide prison (Comarca) is on the road: Estrada de Balide. Here is a map. For more details about the exhibition, the Chega! report and CAVR, visit their website.

5. Dinosaurs in the President’s Palace

The Chinese built Presidential Palace is a sight in itself, but it’s what’s inside that interests us. And no, I’m not talking about the newly elected President, Taur Matan Ruak; I’m talking about the giant dinosaur in the entrance hall. A Tarbosaurus Battar specimen (a relative of T-Rex) found in Mongolia was assembled by a team from the Monash University on the request of the the former President, Ramos Horta. The specimen is used for educational field trips and I also guess to greet all the foreign dignitaries. Come on, a dinosaur in Timor? You’ve got to check it out!Getting there: The President’s Palace is located on one of the main roads in Dili, near the Australian Embassy and Tiger Fuel. You can see it on this map.Video: East Timor Dinosaurs, Monash University

That’s our list of the top five tourist attractions in Dili. What are your favourite tourist spots in the capital? If you are looking for other places to go to in Dili, we also recommend Arte Moris, The Archives & Museum of East-Timorese Resistance, The Xanana Gusmao Reading Room and The Pope Statue. When you’re done with being a tourist, why don’t you reward yourself with a glass of wine in one of Dili’s top restaurants and bars.