It is hard to imagine that such a beautiful place was once home to a prison that locked up violent criminals, but that was the case in Ataúro. In 1520, the Portuguese developed the island as a penal colony for their colonial rule. With the long swim back to the mainland and the out-of-sight, out-of-mind mentality, Ataúro’s remoteness made it an easy choice for the empire’s felons. However, even after the Portuguese were expelled, the Indonesians had a similar idea for the island’s use. In Vila, you can see the remains of the prison.
If you are a history buff with a penchant for complicated histories, be sure to visit Vila to see firsthand the prison used during the Indonesian occupation to hold Timorese rebels.