Rock art near Tutuala

The Lospalos region is home to some spectacular landscapes, and to TImor Leste’s only National Park. The National Park includes some ancient rock at a site called Ili kere-kere. We went to see it during the week, enroute to the tropical beach paradise at Tutuala.

To get to the rock art, you first need to speak to the local village officials in Tutuala village and arrange for a guide to travel with you. You pay for this person’s services, but you are also paying for the privilege of being able to see and experience these ancient artworks. Then you drive to the start of the walking track. The track begins innocently enough, and is paved and has railings. But then you reach the edge of the cliff and start to head downwards at an extremely sharp gradient. The artworks are contained on the face of a wave-shaped rock, and you can walk along its base until you reach a point where you are looking out over the eastern tip of East Timor, or up, to look at the paintings.

(This one is actually a natural rock formation, but I think it looks like a voluptuous, seated woman).

I disgraced myself with this one by asking why a picture of a TV antenna has been included among the rock art. Maleve (one of the TImorese people with us) groaned and stared at me incredulously. “It’s a head-dress!” he said emphatically. So there.


3 comments so far

  1. janine on

    great read very informative
    happy new year

  2. sheila on


    Lovely post about the images. We are considering a trip to see rock art but have yet to learn enough about how to get around in east Timor. We are told there are many sites near Tutuala. Can you encourage ( guide, places to stay or camp?, etc.) us in anyway? We will be in Darwin in July so it will be a big leap all the way from California.


    • musicwork on

      It’s not easy to get around ET. The easiest and most flexible (but also most expensive) is to hire a car. If you want to save money, get to Lospalos, then hire a car from the Roberto Carlos Hotel. Otherwise, seriously consider making car hire (with driver) a significant part of your ET budget. It will mean you get to see much more.

      You have to take a local guide with you to see the rock art and you will pay them. They will let you know how much – I think it is usually $10-15 per site, but this might vary according to the size of the group. My group was quite big, and we paid $15.

      In my experience, the guide is simply there to show you the way, as opposed to answer any questions. Mine was a fairly sulky, taciturn young man who seemed to get roped into the job and didn’t really want to be there. He set off at his own pace and didn’t seem to know anything about the rock art (or at least, wasn’t prepared to say anything about it!) So it may seem like a very different ‘guide’ experience to what you experience elsewhere! However, taking a guide with you is respectful. The land around Tutala is sacred – ‘lulik’ – and is within the custodianship of the local people. You can organise the guide in Tutuala village. I had timorese people with me who negotiated this on my behalf, but it did seem as though we just stopped in the main street and asked someone, “Can we get a guide to take us to the rock art?”. There is no tourist office, no shop or other kind of central place to go to to organise it.

      You can stay in Tutuala village in the Pousada there. It is very simple, but the views are lovely. The road to the beach is quite long and challenging in a car – it is too far to walk. Down near the beach (which would be my preference) you can stay overnight in the eco-lodge (in fact I think there might be two eco-lodges… I’d check them both out and also confirm what food they have available as it must be hard to get supplies all the way down to Walu Beach) – turn left when you get to the T-intersection with the sea right in front of you. (You turn right to go to Walu Beach and to get the fishing boat over to Jaco).

      I never stayed overnight down there, it is a straightforward day-trip from Lospalos. Still, if you had the chance to stay overnight, it would mean you could visit more than one rock art site and also travel to the lake. That would also be a very beautiful thing to do.

      The State Secretariat for Culture produced a nice brochure about the rock art sites at Ili Kere-kere and others. Have a look at their website and see if it is downloadable. Or, when you get to Dili, you could try going to their office and asking for a copy. It depends on how intrepid you are feeling!

      If you have the time, you may find it useful and interesting to spend a week in Dili and go to the Language classes at Dili Institute of Technology for a week. A little bit of Tetun goes a long, long way in Timor (unless you speak Indnonesian, in which case you’ll be fine). the classes aren’t really targeted towards short-term visitors but it isn’t a difficult language to get started in, and if you plan to go to more remote sites, you will find it very useful. Classes got from 830-1230 so you still have time to sightsee in Dili. Still, if you only have a few days in Timor to explore, this is not an option.

      Good luck, and have a great trip!

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