Updated on 24th September 2018: Added the new "This East Timor" travel video to the article.
As I traveled around Timor Leste, going from cities to cities, beaches to beaches, I realized one thing was missing from my trip, the mountains. With my trip almost coming to an end, I decided to hop on another bus adventure. riding the open-roof truck up the mountains and into the beautiful and quiet mountain region of Timor Leste.
Maubisse is a cool and quiet town not too far from Dili. With its cooler weather, surrounded by mountains and friendly people, it makes for a great destination among local travelers that are seeking a place to cool down from the heat of Dili, relax and enjoy the quiet time in nature. If you are looking for a hidden gem in Timor Leste, this is the place to be.
The best things to do in Maubisse is to do nothing and just be with nature surrounded by friendly locals, so here is a guide on how not to do anything in Maubisse.
Things to Do Map
How to Get Here
It is not easy to find information on how to get to Maubisse with a public transport so here is how I got there.
I took a taxi from my hostel in Dili and asked him to drop me off at the Taibessi bus stop, which is located at a roundabout in the sourthern part of Dili for 3 USD. The location of the bus stop is shown below:
Stand at the roundabout until you see an open roof truck with people sitting at the back pass by. Flag it down and ask the driver if he is dropping off people at "Maubisse" if he nods then hop on the truck and wait until the truck is full and then you are off to Maubisse. The trip should take you no more than 4 hours and will only cost you 3 USD.
I highly recommend traveling on an overcast day or if you do not have a choice, put on some sunblocks since these trucks have no roof and you will be under the sun for 3 hours straight. Thankfully, the weather becomes much cooler on the way into the mountain region and made the trip quite enjoyable, plus the sceneries along the way are just stunning.
The other option is to rent a motorbike or car from Dili which may cost you from 35 USD to 145 USD per day excluding insurance and gas.
If you are interested, I would recomend asking Rentlo, one of the few rental companies in Dili where they actually do reply to your email.
When to Go
The weather is comfortably cooler in Maubisse than in Dili even in the dry season so June - September is a great time to visit the town. Please bring a jacket and long trousers even in the summer because it can get chilly at night with the temperature going down to 16 degrees Celcius.
Where to Stay
Mid Range Hotel - Green School - 35 USD/Night (Double room)
Green School is a place where they educate the local community on how to grow plants around this area and they do offer a restaurant and 2 bungalows in traditional mountain huts that comes equipped with western furniture and facilities inside. It is run by the same people as the Pousada de Maubisse, a more high-end guesthouse on top of a hill nearby so you can go there and ask for information as well.
This place was so quiet and peaceful that staying here in itself was a tourist attraction. You are surrounded by plants that were grown by the locals, and your bungalow comes with a balcony on a cliffside overlooking the mountain range, a perfect place to read books and enjoy the sunset. I highly recommend you stay here.
It is not easy to book anything in this town as the internet is still a scarcity but before you arrive, head over to Leublora Green Village Facebook page and write Bella, one of the team member listed on that page and book a room through her. She is the manager at the Pousada de Maubisse and she should be able to organize everything for you.
Top Range Hotel - Pousada de Maubisse - 45 - 75 USD/Night (Double room)
If you are looking for a top range experience, you can't go wrong with the colonial style guesthouse, the Pousada de Maubisse. The room is new, clean, spacious place and extremely well-located. You will get a 360 view of the mountain range from the guest house. It is fully booked on the weekends though so be sure to text Bella, and ask her to book one for you.
How to Get Around
Everything is mostly in walking distance so it should not be too diffucult to get around Maubisse.
If you are planning to go to Hakmatek waterfall and to Hato Builico to attempt the highest peak of Timor Leste, the Ramelau peak, you will need a 4WD to get there as the road is horrible and a friend of mine tried going up with regular car and he gave up immediately.
This place is leaning a little towards the expensive side of things where I can see myself spending around 40 - 60 USD per day per person. Still quite affordable though.
Keep in mind that this is just a suggested daily budget based on my style of traveling, which is leaning more toward the budget side of things. If you want to stick to this budget, expect to sleep in dorms, eat out only a few times, and be comfortable using the cheapest and most convenient way of transportation, which often times involves walking.
No internet access anywhere here so I would recommend getting a SIM card from Telkomsel either at the airport in Dili or Dili's city center before your trip. You can learn more about the available price plans here: Timor Leste Prepaid SIM card.
If you are looking for a travel insurance to go along with your trip to Timor Leste, I would recommend WorldNomads.com, which is what I use to look for a travel insurance that fits my kind of adventure. They have a simple and flexible search system that allowed me to find the right insurance for the right amount of time at an affordable price in seconds. If you need a travel insurance, give WorldNomads.com a try.
Things to Do in Maubisse
Visit the Pousada de Maubisse
The Pousada de Maubisse is another building built by the Portuguese back in the colonial time and it is now being turned into a guesthouse. Even if you don't plan to stay here, a visit to the guesthouse is a must as it is located on top of the highest hill in Maubisse and you will be able to get a good look of the town and the mountains that surrounded it.
I would recommend you coming in the morning to watch the sunrise if the weather permits. It is one of the best sunrises you can experience in the country.
The location of this place is so perfect that you will be able to get a 360 view of the surrounding, seeing all kinds of things you wouldn't see from the ground.
You can also choose to stay here if you have 45 - 75 USD per night to spare.
Walk around the Maubisse Market in the Morning
This is where you will meet the friendly people of Maubisse where they will smile at you, talk a bit with you and sometimes take a photo with you. It is also a place to buy anything cheap here from coffee sachets to instant noodles if you are trying to save some money.
The market is best experienced in the morning where hundreds of people descended from their villages nearby to come together and trade. You won't be able to see anything more authentic than this. This is the real mountain life of Timor Leste.
Eat cheaply at Sara Restaurant
There is not a lot of restaurant in Maubisse but thankfully when you arrive, the truck should drop you off here at Sara Restaurant, and here you can get a nice Bakso or Nasi Goreng for around 2.5 USD.
Or Eat at Amizade Restaurant with a View
Another nice restaurant which is located a little further up north is the Amizade restaurant located on the side of a cliff with a stunning view of the mountain range around it. They serve local food as well so if you are looking for a place to eat something and sit for a while, this is the perfect place to be. You can get here either by Microlet heading north of walk along the road for 45 minutes.
Appreciate the effort of the Green School's plantation
The Green School is surrounded by coffee farms and local vegetation that they educated the local community to grow themselves. The place is built on a side of a mountain and their terrace garden filled with flowers and strawberries made quite a sight to behold.
Getting here is a little tricky as the roads are not mapped on Google Maps yet but if you follow the trail I made in the map below, you should be able to get there no problem. From the market, simply head south-west, up to a ramp and stick to the left and the first intersection and walk into the forest until you will a sign "Eskola Verde" which means "Green School". If you have problems finding the place, you can ask any locals around there and they will lead you to it. It's only 3 minutes walk from the Maubisse market.
Do Nothing inside your Green School Bungalow
If you are staying at the Green School, you are already at one of the best places in town, and you will have access to a private balcony overlooking the Green School vegetation and the mountains behind it. Spend some time doing nothing here. Just enjoy a good book, listen to relaxing music and unwind while watching the sunset behind the mountain range. You will appreciate this quiet time you give to yourself.
Visit the Hakmatek Waterfall
If you want to do something more than being in Maubisse, you can get a microlet heading south around 2 - 3 km from the Maubisse market and get off at the Hakmatek waterfall. There is also an accommodation nearby where you can use as a base before hiking the Ramelau peak instead of staying at Hato Builico.
Get Yourself to Hato Builico and Hike the Ramelau Peak
Photo by Kate Dixon
If you have more time, and have your own 4WD vehicle, I would recommend you to drive up to Hato Builico and stay overnight at the village and start going for the Ramelau Peak summit at 2 AM for the sunrise. You will need to be quite fit to tackle the peak in the early hours as it will be dark and very steep but I heard on a clear day you can see all the high peaks of Timor Leste and the Indonesian part of Timor. Some even claim they were able to see Darwin, Australia from the peak. I didn't do it myself as I ran out of time, but if you have to time and you love hiking, the Ramelau Peak is a must.
There you have it, a guide to Maubisse. I know, there is not much going on here but Maubisse is the perfect place for you to do nothing. It is a place for you to relax, embed yourself into the local community, observe and enjoy the authentic Timor Leste experience. If you are looking for a place to end your backpacking trip, this is the place to be.
The Solo Traveler’s Journal is a series of posts by BucketListly where we will follow our founder, Pete Rojwongsuriya around the world as he singlehandedly travel alone and experience different cultures, people, and historical locations one country at a time.
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