Baucau is the second largest city in Timor Leste, situated on the north coast, 130 km from the capital Dili.
It’s usually the second place people visit on their trip to East Timor unless we’re talking about short-term, visa-run hoppers from Bali, who stay in Dili for two days and head back.
Well, they’re missing out on a wonderful country, that gets even more enchanting as you venture into the countryside.
This bustling town is your gateway to rural Timor Leste, so here are 10 awesome things to do in Baucau!
How to get to Baucau
Getting to Baucau used to be an arduous journey.
The road from Dili was horrible, but recently, brand new asphalt has been laid down, making it a pleasant 2.5 h drive from the capital.
There are multiple public buses per day from Dili’s Becora Bus Station that cost 5$.
My full guide for traveling to Timor Leste will probably be a helpful resource too.
1. Drink Coffee in front of Pousada De Baucau
Located right in the middle of the Old Town of Baucau (Kota Tua), this pinkish-orange building was once where the Portuguese colonial administrators and big shots stayed.
Today it’s a lavish hotel (as much as luxury goes in Baucau of course) and the most recognizable building in town.
Rooms start at 75$ per night and it’s the only place in town with wifi.
If your budget doesn’t allow you to splurge on a Portuguese-Empire-inspired stay in the Pousada, then buy a Timorese coffee from the coffee shop in front (1-3$) and relax on the stairs. Chances are some locals will also be there and you can strike up a conversation about the latest news in East Timor.
2. Splash into Piscina de Baucau (Baucau Swimming Pool)
Located just 3 minutes on foot from the Pousada is the swimming pool. I cannot confirm, but I have a strong feeling that it’s the only swimming pool outside of Dili.
It costs only 1$ to enter and offers beautiful surroundings – palm trees, coconuts, and lush vegetation.
Do note that they only fill it up on the weekends.
3. Refresh in the Waiusuu Natural Springs
If you want a more Mowgli-style bathing experience, then head to the Waiusuu Springs, about 10 minutes walking from the Pousada.
The spring has formed a pool of crystal-clear water and there are usually kids playing inside or around it. Makes for a great afternoon retreat from the heat.
4. Collect Corals at Uatabo Beach
Not live ones of course! I’m talking about the millions of washed-up pieces of corals on the beach. They come in countless shapes and sizes and make for a nice small souvenir to take back home. No, it’s not illegal, but don’t go overboard.
You can get to Uatabo Beach by following the road down from Baucau. It’s 5.2 km from the Pousada. The road I’m talking about is not on Google Maps but is marked on Maps.me.
There’s also a microlet that goes between Uatabo Beach and Baucau every couple of hours. It costs 0.25$ and you can catch it from the roundabout in front of the Pousada.
Uatabo Beach is usually empty, although when I went there, two new hotels were being built.
5. Discover Portuguese Ruins
All along the road from Baucau to Uatabo Beach, you will see remnants of the Portuguese era in varying degrees of dilapidation. Don’t miss the Portuguese Fort just 700 m down the road from Baucau, it’s marked on Maps.me.
6. Visit St. Anthony Cathedral
In the heart of the Old Town of Baucau is its Cathedral – Catedral de Santo Antonio de Baucau, or in English – St. Anthony Cathedral
Timor Leste is a Christian country with 96% of the population adhering to Catholicism. Given its small size, you might think it’s a single diocese, but it isn’t. There are three dioceses in East Timor – Maliana, Dili, and Baucau.
St. Anthony Cathedral is the headquarters of the Diocese of Baucau.
It follows the Portuguese style of religious architecture with two white and blue tiles on both sides of the entrance displaying St. Anthony on the right and the Virgin Mary on the left.
Next to the Cathedral is the Camara Eclesiástica Baucau – the actual offices of the priests and whatnot of the diocese.
7. Buy fruit and fish at the local market
Across from the Pousada, on the other side of the road is the local market in the Old Town of Baucau. Here you can mostly find fresh fruit and vegetables and fish. It’s a great place to people-watch if that’s your thing.
Alternatively, every morning there’s an even bigger market near the bus station in the New Town (Kota Baru). People from all smaller villages and hamlets around Baucau flock to do their daily shopping or sell their produce. The streets are dusty, but the spirit is alive.
8. Shop at the Old Market
When I visited in April 2023 this monumental building and a landmark for Baucau was being renovated both outside and inside. Works are expected to end in a few months, so you may be luckier than I was.
Supposedly, it will operate as a bigger market for food, clothes, souvenirs, tais, and everything in between when it reopens for both locals and tourists alike.
9. Play sports with the local students at the school
One of my best moments in all of Timor Leste was at the school in Baucau. In the afternoons dozens of teenagers and young adults gather at the playing fields to socialize and compete in different sports.
What you have to remember about Timor Leste is that half of the population is under the age of 20. Kids are practically a majority in this country and you will feel their presence everywhere.
There are four playing fields for football, basketball, and volleyball and one of them is always reserved just for girls. Yes, that’s right, women in Timor Leste practice sports just as much as men!
You can join them for a game, but the level is high – they aren’t messing around!
You can find the school 50 meters up the road from the Pousada.
10. Search for traditional houses
The distance between the Old Town and the New Town in Baucau is around 3km. The New Town is situated on a cliff above, so it’s a bit of a struggle to go up.
There’s a frequent microlet #1 that goes up and down every 15 or so minutes and costs 0.25$.
If you decide to walk though, you may be rewarded with some bizarre sights – abandoned cars, monkeys in cages, pigs in mud, intriguing graffiti, and of course – traditional houses.
Look for roofs made of dried sticks. This is the style in this part of Timor Leste.