Exploring Ataúro’s Artisan Product and Food Opportunities

It’s easy to find something to do when you’re traveling to Ataúro. There are always beautiful beaches with the most biodiverse waters in the world, seeing whales and dolphins, or the sites of Ataúro’s history. There’s always fantastic hiking too. But you can’t take a hike home with you and you can’t box up a conversation. So what do you do if you want to bring something physical home after this inspiring vacation? What can you buy in Ataúro? And how do you ensure that what you are buying contributes meaningfully to Ataúro’s economy? Read this blog to find out!

Shopping on Ataúro is easy if you know where to go. There are plenty of locals who craft, sew, and build. Whether you’re looking for gorgeous baskets, intricate dolls, or colorful traditional clothing, you’ll be able to find them here! Indeed, we specialize in many types of handmade goods, so you’re sure to find something you love. 

Where Can I Buy Crafts and Handmade Goods?

Every tourist to Ataúro hears about Boneca de Ataúro. Well known across Timor-Leste and the world, the dolls produced by this women’s cooperative carry the soul and culture of Ataúro with them. Their shop is located on the main road of Vila Maumeta and is open for you to look around. We encourage every tourist who is looking for what to buy in Ataúro to stop by this shop. Full of hand-crafted dolls and purses, the women who work here are experts of their craft. This is a perfect place to bring home something for your loved ones back home. To learn more about this craft, a short documentary has been made to show off the beautiful work of these women.

In addition to Boneca de Ataúro, we have Grupu Hakusara on the island. Grupu Hakusara is a women’s pottery group that was started in 2013 in Arlo. Since the town is a bit inland, visiting this pottery group means you’ll get to explore our island on the way over there. When you get to Arlo, you’ll find all sorts of products made by these ladies–whether cooking utensils, pots, or tools. Pottery has long been a tradition of this region, so the craftsmanship is sure to be gorgeous!

If pottery isn’t what you’re looking for, maybe Grupu Ramin Harik is where you’ll find something to buy in Ataúro. The women of Anartutu have been weaving fabrics for countless generations, and their particular style and craft are completely unique to our entire country–you won’t find anything like it anywhere else in Timor Leste. If you’re looking to purchase from these amazing women, they’ll invite you to watch what they make from start to finish, a truly unique experience.

Keeping with the tradition of women-run art groups on Ataúro, Biojoia de Ataúro is art with a social focus. Run by local women with hearing impairments, you can find all sorts of jewelry produced here in the central village of Vila. All the necklaces, earrings, bracelets, etc produced by these wonderful ladies come from local products. Coconut shells, tree bark, and local plants all come together to create something that truly has the taste of Ataúro. 

For one final note about shopping, you should always ask the merchants and artisans where their products come from. As Ataúro is home to many endangered species, we want to ensure that no one exploits our home. If you’re unsure about what materials were used, head to more reputable stores, like all the ones listed before. 

Explore our Island’s Most Recognizable Market!

Let’s start simple. The best place to see what you can buy in Ataúro is at the Beloi market. Beloi is on the Eastern side of the island and is one of the more popular areas to visit for tourists. Every Thursday and Sunday, the market attracts large swaths of our locals. The market on Thursday is much smaller, but still has plenty of great food and shops. However, we suggest that you head to the Beloi market on Saturday.

On Saturdays the Beloi market is bustling. Locals come to do their week’s food shopping, grabbing fresh fish and other foods. Young kids come to get dolls and playthings or maybe something sweet as a treat. For the tourist, the Saturday market is probably the busiest you’ll ever see our island get. The shops and carts are full of items you can buy. 

Maybe a basket, like those made in Uaro-Ana, is what you’re looking for! You can fill it up with maize (corn) or coffee beans, or some handmade textiles! If not a basket, perhaps a local doll or toy for a little one back home. There are many locals who sew dolls, like the women who work on Boneca de Ataúro.

At the Beloi market, you won’t find touristy sweatshirts with our flag or cheap necklaces. Our products are all local and handmade so you can feel the love of our people. In addition to making what you buy higher quality, when you buy in Ataúro, you spend local. Your money goes back to the communities you’re spending time in and will help our island as a whole. As a developing nation, it’s important that tourism benefits our local communities and our environment. Read more about how to be a sustainable tourist on the Sustainable Traveler Pledge.

How else can I sample Atauro’s cuisine?

On Saturday, the market is the perfect way to see all the culture, people, and traditions of our island. Firstly, you can get lots of fresh food. Whether you’re looking for octopus, fish, coconuts, or fruit, you’re sure to find it here! In fact, the majority of people who live here buy all their food at the market on Saturday, so you’ll fit right in with the locals if you’re shopping then.

We don’t have grocery shops or fast food chains on Ataúro, so if you’re cooking for yourself, the Beloi market is the best place to do so. However, there are ways to find home-cooked food on our island. For travelers,  we recommend checking out our blog on doing a Homestay on Ataúro and our page on the homestays as well. By staying with a local family, you can also have two or three meals a day with them–what a great way to discover our cuisine!

In short, the Beloi Market is the principal way to buy goods and food on our island, and it is a great way to be connected to local artists, farmers, and craftspeople. However, Ataúro is diverse and industrious, so there are also easy to find things to buy on the island.

What Other Markets are held on Ataúro?

In addition to the famous Beloi Market, there are three other locations you should visit to interact with locals and . On the Eastern side of Ataúro Island is Atkeru, a gorgeous beach village full of welcoming people. They have a weekly market on Tuesday where you will find a scaled-down version of Saturday’s Beloi Market. A day later, Anurtutu has a market of its own! Located in south-central Ataúro, the Anurtutu market will expose you to an inland town, not located on the beach. From the market, there are lots of great hiking trails. Finally, on Thursdays, Makili hosts its own market, which you will find on the southeastern side of the island.

Finally, instead of another Market, there is also Sentro Ataúro Di’ak. This store is owned by a Timorese NGO (non-governmental organization) aiming to support communities through economic empowerment. This center for shopping has art from all over our island. The goal is to bring tourists’ money to communities that may otherwise not be visited by tourists. This helps ensure that money flows through all our communities and benefits all our people. So, if you’re shopping at Sentro Ataúro Di’ak, you’ll find things made all over the island. It’s the perfect place to shop if you’re looking for a diversity of products, like clothes, dolls, jewelry, clothes, etc all located in one place. This art center is located just in Beloi, so you can pop over after visiting Beloi’s Market on Saturday!

What Else Should I Know?

On your next trip to Ataúro, we highly recommend stopping by all these amazing shops, artisan collectives, and markets. Our communities benefit so much from the inflow of money from travelers and we appreciate the support of our beloved travelers!

A few of the above mentioned places are outside of the main village Beloi, and can be easier reached by local transportation If you’d like to book a tour of the island (where you’ll stop by many of these places) or to book a personal guide, reach out to us on our website or visit the Getting Around page. We encourage you to check out the rest of our page to see other activities to do on our island!

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