Venilale is perched in the mountains of Timor Leste’s eastern regions. The nearest major town to Venilale is Baucau, the second-biggest city in Timor-Leste. The drive from the capital, Dili, to Baucau (125 kilometres) takes about three hours along a spectacular coast road, and from Baucau it is a further 28 kilometres (about an hour’s drive) south to Venilale. Buses run regularly from Baucau to Venilale.
In the Portuguese era Venilale was a popular mountain retreat from the heat of the coast. The country is steep and surrounded by spectacular mountains. The skyline to the east is dominated by Mt Matebian or ‘Mountain of the Dead’, 2300 metres, where the souls of the ancestors are believed to reside. To the west of Venilale is Mundo Perdido or ‘Lost World’, at 1800 metres. This remote and rugged terrain provided shelter for the Australian Sparrow Force during World War II, and during the 1980s and 1990s for Fretilin guerrillas fighting the Indonesian occupation.