No phone signal, no GPS, just a hand-drawn map and me. Hike across Atauro Island to reach Adara village on the other side, was an adventure to remember.
Visiting Atauro Island while in Timor Leste is one of the most popular destinations due to a great diving condition and convenient transportation. Atauro Island – the biggest island of Timor is just 25 km north from Dili – the capital. Most of the people come there for a diving experience as this area has one of the richest coral reefs in the world, some say that the richest. Atauro Island is different on both sides. While visitors mostly stay in Beloi, I think it’s worth to see the other side of the island as well.
Getting ready for the hike across Atauro
You cannot imagine how surprised I was when I arrived to Beloi and saw how little the village is. I loved the little market there, where women sell dry fish and seaweeds. Loved watching their traditional clothes, mouth red from betel nuts and the simplicity of life they live. You can easily walk to your accommodation when you arrive. Weird vehicle taxis will be offering you a ride, but I think it’s a waste of money.
I didn’t have idea where to stay. I started to walk around with one just-met Dutch guy, looking for some place to lodge. We found some room with very poor conditions for $15 per person. Prices in Timor Leste are incredibly high if you think what kind of conditions they offer and how cheap is their neighbour Indonesia.
We went to Barry’s place as it’s the most popular resort on the island and can provide you with all the necessary information. I had lunch there for $6 (eat as much as you can) but couldn’t afford staying there for $45 per night. It’s a lovely place though, and I like their eco-friendly attitude.
Finally, I decided to hike across Atauro by myself and reach another part of the island, where only one accommodation exists – Mario’s place. This place is the most secluded on the island, available by walking, until certain point by taxi and after paying incredible price – by boat. As a low-budget traveler I did all the way walking which was quite an adventure as my GPS wasn’t working, I had no signal and had just copy of a hand-drawn map on how to get to the other side of the island. You can get this “map” at Barry’s place.
The hike to Adara Village is not very demanding but if it’s hot you must have something to cover your head from the sun as the first part of the way has very few trees. Take comfortable shoes and not too much luggage with you. It takes 3 hours and won’t be much convenient to hike with lots of stuff. You can ask Barry to store your bags; he is a very helfpul guy. Start hiking at max 4 pm if you want to reach Adara village before it gets dark. However, I recommend having a torch just in case you get lost. The only shops on the island are in Beloi so get some water or snacks before you leave.
How to hike across Atauro Island to Adara village?
Hike to Adara starts just after Barry’s place where road turns to the left. Walking up alone was quite scary. I was not sure who I meet on the way and if a scorpion won’t sting my ass whenever I sit. And I have to admit I was stopping to sit very often as the weather was crazy hot and hiking up exhausting. Traveling in Timor Leste with usual uncertainty of being which accompanied me during the whole trekking as well. How is it going to be? If nobody will kill me or rape on the way? If I won’t get lost?
First part is hard as you have to climb up to the top of the island. It’s possible to do half way (skip 1,5 hours of hiking) by taxi, which will cost you $50. The taxi can take you to the point where the road finishes and the little path starts. The part which is left is much easier as you just go down to the coast.
Hiking up is all the time following the same road. However, there were few confusing paths which I guess were just shortcuts of the road curves. Just in case I decided to stick to the main road. Finally, I arrived to the point where the main road was dividing. The road to Adara village goes right. It’s very important place to don’t make a mistake as there is not even a single house around to ask someone.
The most difficult part is over when you start going down the road until tiny bridge made out of stone. On the paper map I had, there were some banana trees drown but I haven’t seen any! It made me confused, but anyway I decided to take the very narrow path left just before the bridge.
The path was going down the hill next to a nice rock formation and little caves. After around 15 min I reached the village, the first and only village on the way to the other side of Atauro Island. It was the first place I saw some human beings on my way. The village had several houses, and little blue church which will show you the direction to turn left again. Little path going through the pigs yard will be exactly across the blue church. Then you will have to follow the path and cross 3 fences for animals. You may have a chance to meet some of them.
There will be one quite steep wall to go through until you go totally down to the coast. I was so happy to reach the fishermen house as I knew that I cannot get lost anymore. The last part is just to follow the beach to the left from the fishermen house until you reach Adara village.
Relaxing in Adara village
Adara village has just a few little houses, and it’s totally quiet and remote. No phone signal, no internet just cut out from reality. There are 3 bungalows at Mario’s place and one common space for eating or enjoying the sunset with a cup of tea. I had such a relaxing time there. Swimming, walking around, watching kids playing and women going to fish with a harpoon or to collect wood. I walked farther to the next village and the way had very nice rock formations. There is almost nobody. Staying in Adara village will provide you with stunning sunsets, which I enjoyed watching from Mario’s place veranda.
Lady which takes care of the place speaks a bit of english and is super nice. She and her sister took a very good care of me, providing me with meals 3 times per day and unlimited coffee and tea. The place is very simple and eco-friendly. Common toilet plus bathroom which is just a container with the rain water. They charge $30 per night with all meals included in this price. However, it’s better to call before coming to confirm the price and available spots. They also collect money to support local community. They have snorkeling masks which you can rent for $5.
The place has few old books. I was so surprised to see a book about Polish refugees during II World War. Here, in the end of the world, on the island and remote village I am seeing a book about struggle of people of my homeland? First thought was: I don’t want to destroy this relaxing time on the beach by reading such a sad story but finally I soaked it all. Emotions from the book mixed with the place I was in, were one of those little things which will stay in my memory forever.
Why you should see both sides of Atauro Island
I already told you about the fear of the crocodiles in Timor Leste. Thankfully, Atauro Island is the only place near the sea where the crocodiles were never seen. I was so happy to hear that and be able to swim freely until the lady I stayed with told me: “No crocodile, but there are sharks, but no problem”. During my peaceful stay in Adara, I was swimming a lot as the water was clean and refreshing. I did snorkeling as well which opened my eyes wider for the underwater world and my curiosity about discovering it increased. As I am a newbie with swimming and snorkeling it was all very exciting experience.
You will notice that this part of Atauro Island is much greener than the other. Beautiful trees, interesting rocks formations are so different than what you will see on the other side of the island. That’s why I highly recommend to see both sides of the island while in Atauro and relax for a bit in these unspoiled world.
The Bee is a nature lover and tea addict. Loves the idea of slow life and responsible traveling, constantly trying to improve to bee more eco-friendly. Appreciates old cultures and traditions, loves to immerse with locals, listen to ethnic music as well as taste regional food and drinks. Her favorite spots while traveling are family houses and street markets.
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Oh my gosh that hand written map reminds me of The Beach lol. You’re brave girl. Thankfully no crocodiles to worry about this time lol. This place looks so serene and beautiful.
No crocodiles but there are sharks but its okay!! Hahaha, that’s funny 😀 I’d be freaked! The way you described the village Beloi reminded me of villages in India, especially the mouth red with beetel nut part. Atauro Island sounds beautiful though, especially because it’s green and with rocky formations. I have never in my dreams planned a visit to Timor Leste so my knowledge about this place is limited. That’s why it was fun reading about it!
Thank you so much. I remember the villages in India and you are right they also use betel nut a lot. I guess that is something common all around Asia.
Wow, what an adventure! I’m not sure I would have been brave enough to do the trek. The beach and the sun set are both very beautiful! You must of gotten so many great memories from this to remember forever. Great story!
Thanks Paula, it was indeed unforgetable
I loved this location, extremely calm and pristine. The beach looks so virgin and untouched and the fact that the island people have eco friendly attitude. At the end if people decide to let their place be unaffected with plastic and other non eco friendly material, most of the places can be conserved. Your pictures are so calming.
This place starts to develop the touristic infrastucture now, when beeing eco is trendy, so I really hope they will go in this direction.
Hiking around the peaceful and beautiful Atauro Island must be a beautiful experience as it is so much close to nature and away from the city pollution. Also no phone, no GPS and cut off from social media is must while traveling and therefore I am adding this unique place to my list. Thanks for sharing the hidden secret gem with us!
Glad you liked it!
This is an amazing adventure you undertook. I can’t imagine going anywhere without google maps. How did you feel after hearing there are Sharks instead of crocodiles ?:D
I felt like nothing else is going to surprise me in this country
You are a really adventurous tourist! While Adara sounds like a lovely village with a chance to get away from it all, I can’t believe you walked 3 hours using a hand-drawn map. That’s amazing. I love the women’s attitude that the sharks were no problem- better than crocodiles, right? What an adventure!
Sometimes I can’t believe that also 😛
You were brave to start out on a course across the island with no GPS and that crudely drawn map! But of course, the pay-off was that you got photos no one else will ever get, and you had a very unique experience! Cool that you found a book to read about your homeland, too — that is not a coincidence. So glad to hear there are no crocodiles, but I would also be worried about the sharks while diving!
A beautiful destination and as remote as you can get perhaps. Like your spirit and the wanderlust. The waters look tempting but not without that risk which you have taken in your stride. Love the hand drawn map which is just so perfect and worked above all. Thanks for sharing a great destination
Glad you enjoyed reading Amar :*
Firstly, I love that hand-drawn map of the trail. I make them and I find them very handy!
I am glad you had a wonderful hike and nice that you explored the other side as well. I am intrigued by the purpose of the sea-weeds. Do you people make some delicacy out of them in that part of the world? As I have never seen the coastal people selling sea-weeds.
I was literally grinning when I read what the lady said..No crocodiles…but sharks! haha…Very brave of you, indeed! Beautiful sea views 🙂
I have never seen people eating sea-weeds in Timor, so I am not sure what they are doing with it, but saw it on all the markets I have visited.
Excellent post. Very informative. Many thanks! I’ll be visiting Atauro with my husband and our 9 year old son at the end of April…Hopefully we manage to make it safely to Mario’s on foot!
Glad you found it helpful! I am sure you will make it! When I got the paper map I freaked out to go there alone, but in the end there was nothing to be scared about. Wish you a great rest in there!