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Best Time to Visit Timor-Leste

People gather on Mt Ramelau at sunrise above the clouds

Do you want to embark on an off-the-beaten-track adventure but want to know the best time to visit Timor-Leste? In this article, we discuss the different seasons and the best time to visit according to specific activities. 


Firstly, let’s look at the island’s geography and how this contributes to the weather. Timor Leste, nestled between Oceania and Southeast Asia enjoys a tropical climate and the temperatures rarely drop to below 25 degrees. With its mountainous terrain, however, more elevated locations have cooler climates and offer respite from the hot and humid summer atmosphere by the coast.

The seasons on Timor-Leste are quite different from those in the northern hemisphere. Rather than winter, spring, summer, and autumn, the climate is differentiated by rainy and dry seasons. Between December and April, the island nation sees high levels of rain which makes the vegetation lush and green but also creates flood-like conditions that make traveling very difficult. The already underdeveloped roads are often affected by landslides and the surfaces can become slippery.

From May to November, the grey clouds drift away and Timor-Leste enters its dry season. The terrain looks quite different and the lush vegetation shrinks, but being a tropical country plenty of trees and plants have adapted to the climate, keeping up its natural beauty. The dry season is the most popular time for exploring the country, not only because of the clear skies but it’s also a great time for activities like diving and hiking.

Seasonal Activities in Timor-Leste


Located on the coral triangle, the waters of the northern coast of Timor-Leste are often called the “Amazon of the Seas” due to their incredible range of coral and sea life. Diving is possible all year round as the water temperature rarely gets cold, maintaining an average of around 26-28°C. But it’s worth noting that visibility is at its best during the dry season. During the rainy season, the rivers fill with water and gush into the sea affecting the water clarity.

A number of elements contribute to the area being a top diving destination. Firstly, the country’s tourism industry is relatively new and underdeveloped meaning that dive sites and living coral are still unspoiled. This also affects the wildlife, the lack of human impact only aids in preserving the wealth of animal life in the area. Divers often spot turtles, giant squid, rays, and a wide variety of fish. There are plenty of great dive sites just 5 meters from the shore and a variety of techniques to enjoy such as wall, muck, and reef diving.

Here are some of the best dive sites and their characteristics:

  • Dili 

Most of the diving near Dili consists of shore excursions. There’s no need for a boat because you can simply wade in in your gear. Around the capital, you’ll mostly enjoy muck diving, where you patiently search the seafloor to encounter interesting critters. There are also plenty of coral gardens which attract a great range of animals.

  • East and West of Dili

To the east and west of Timor-Leste’s capital, you’ll find excellent reef diving locations and plenty of reef outcrops resembling columns, also known as bommies.

  • Atauro

This spectacular island off the northern coast of Timor-Leste offers deep blue waters with scenic reefs and an excellent selection of wall dives. Most sites are accessible by boat and divers often encounter large pelagics and mammals as they pass through on their migration routes through the Ombai Strait.


With its mountainous terrain and diversity of wildlife, Timor-Leste is a great destination for hikers. One of the most popular destinations is Mount Ramelau or Tatamailau as it’s also known. This 2,963-meter peak is also the final destination of a Christian pilgrimage, hence the statue of the Virgin Mary at the summit. On a clear day, hikers are treated to views that stretch out over the forested mountains all the way to the coast. The dry season is the best time to guarantee clear skies and dry trails. Most people hike up in the early hours of the morning before sunrise. This does mean walking the trail in the dark and cooler temperatures but a guide is always there to show the way. The trail runs through eucalyptus forests, starting as stone steps and developing into a dirt path. The starting point is in the mountain village of Hatobuilico and the path takes between 1 and 4 hours depending on the group’s fitness level. Upon arrival at the summit, it’s easy to forget the early start as you gaze out at the misty mountains bathed in the first morning light. 

There are many other great hiking spots in the country, including trails up to the caves of Balibo, near the Indonesian border. Another popular spot is the 3-hour hike at Mount Mundo Perdido which is a protected area due to rare and abundant plant, bird, and animal life.

Whale Spotting

In 2008, a study by the Timorese government found a large number of marine cetaceans migrating through deep channels off the Timor coast. This included blue whales and sperm whales following their migration path between September and December – their route runs through the Wetar Strait between Dili and Atauro Island. One scientist, Olive Andrews said, “I’ve never seen such a biomass of cetaceans in such a small geography. We encountered 2287 cetaceans from 11 species, including superpods of up to 600 individuals.”

The best time of year to whale watch is in November and December when sightings are more likely. Year-round, people can spot short-finned pilot whales, melon-headed whales, spotted, spinner, bottle-nosed, and rough-toothed dolphins. One of the reasons that this is such a great place to see whales is the deep waters. Neither Timor island nor Atauro ever belonged to land masses, they were raised to the surface by tectonic activity. This means that, in general, their reefs don’t stretch out further than 250 meters before giving way to much deeper water.

Timor-Leste is beautiful in every season, both dry and wet seasons have their beauty and charm. Here at Manny Timor Tours, we only run our group tours in the dry season to ensure easy movement and the safety of our guests. We want you to enjoy your perfectly curated itinerary and many of the activities we include in our tours are only available in the dry season. If you’re not afraid of a little monsoon rain, coming out of season is a great way to get a different perspective of the country. Get in touch to discuss the options for a private tour, and we’ll share our local expertise with you.

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