Kupang on Timor

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During World War II, the city of Kupang , formerly known as Koepang,  on the island of Timor,  was the hub for refueling and landing for long-haul flights from Europe to Australia. The historical El Tari airstrip that was first landed by an American pilot, Lamij Johnson, in 1928 holds many stories,  more than being a mere transit lounge and fuel depot for the few fliersback then. Today, when visitors step on to the moderinising city, one can still find traces of Dutch occupation as well as a Portuguese inherited aura. For since long before Indonesia’s Independence, Timor’s western part had been colonized by the Dutch while the island’s eastern part by the Portuguese. This division orginated from the time when these two powers fought for hegemony in the lucrative spice trade

Today, Kupang is the capital city of the province of East Nusatenggara , perched in the southwestern part of Timor Island. As one of the three largest islands in East Nusatenggara, (comprising Sumba, Flores and Timor), Timor island is now shared by two independent countries. The island’s eastern part  being  the newly independent East Timor – or Timor Leste, while the island’s western part is Indonesian territory.  Its favorable position in the south-eastern most part of Indonesia, has made the city of Kupang  into the first port of entry  in Indonesian waters  from Australia,  if not yet as a tourst destination in its own right.

The Nusatenggara is a string of islands to the east of Bali, while Timor is its easternmost island in that string. Topographically, Timor differs from the rest of the East Nusatenggara islands. For the line of volcanoes that runs from Sumatra, Java, and on to other Nusatenggara islands, skips Timor and continues north to Maluku or the Moluccas. The cause of this is that unlike other Nusatenggara islands, Timor is in fact geologically related to Australia, and therefore has no volcanoes.While Its geographical location and long history and tradition make it culturally Indonesian.

Being closest than any Indonesian cities to the marinas of Australian yachts in Darwin, the lighthouse at the seaport of Kupang stands as the first milepost for participating yachtsmen in the annual Sail Indonesia event . Each year, hundreds of yachts cross the open seas from Darwin, Australia sailing to Kupang, and from here to visit many known as well as remote Indonesian islands, to finally dock in Singapore. The annual Sail Indonesia has brought the name of Koepang to the fore, recalling its fame in the early twentieth century.


“Indonesians laugh a lot”, said Prooke of Marlborough, UK. It’s the land of laughs and smiles.


People in Timor are friendly. They love to laugh as do most Indonesians on the whole. Traditionally, people in Kupang and West Timor were distinguished by their social positions.  The nobility here used to be called Amaf, the rulers Atupas, the commons Too, and slaves Ata. Today, ata no longer exist. Each of the social class had its own role to play in society. Yet, these classes share a mutual sentiment when it comes to tradition. The root of its heritage is so deep, making it difficult to trace. These deep rooted traditions even persisted through centuries of teachings of newer religions that were brought by traders or colonial rulers.

Look at the motives and patterns of their woven cloths called tenun ikat, and one can sense its age old heritage. Tenun ikat is the local craftsmanship in producing beautifully and sometimes mysteriously formed patterns on traditionally woven fabrics. Not only are the people proud of these cloths, but all Indonesians share the pride that these cloths are one of Indonesia’s most precious tangible national heritage.


To Eat, To Buy, To Stay, To Do

Accommodation faclities here are much simpler than those in Lombok, Bali or Java, but the hospitality can equal if not better. For travelers who need to recharge themselves, one of the following accommodations offers a welcome rest:

Maya Hotel  Jl Sumatera 31,Solor,Kelapa Lima KUPANG  

Phone: +62 380 820302 

  Susi Hotel  Jl Sumatra 37,Solor,Kelapa Lima KUPANG  

Phone: +62 380 822172

Jolly Hotel  Jl Letjen R Suprapto 22,Oebobo,Oebobo KUPANG  

Phone: +62 380 821362 

  Setia Hotel  Jl Kosasih 13,Bonipoi,Kelapa Lima KUPANG  

Phone: +62 380 831289 

  Surya Hotel  Jl Tim-Tim,Oeba,Kelapa Lima KUPANG  

Phone: +62 380 822014 

  Astiti Hotel  Jl Jend Sudirman 166,Kuanino,Oebobo KUPANG  

Phone: +62 380 821810 

  Dewata Hotel  Jl Tompello 17,Merdeka,Kelapa Lima KUPANG  

Phone: +62 380 821409 

  Laguna Hotel  Jl Gn Kelimutu 7-A,Merdeka,Kelapa Lima KUPANG  

Phone: +62 380 833559 

  Marina Hotel  Jl Jend A Yani 79,Merdeka,Kelapa Lima KUPANG  

Phone: +62 380 822566

Safari Hotel  Jl Dr Moh Hatta 36,Fontein,Oebobo KUPANG  

Phone: +62 380 821595

Sylvia Hotel  Jl Jend Soeharto 51-53,Naikoten I,Oebobo KUPANG  

Phone: +62 380 825191 


Anggrek Hotel  Jl Gn Fatuleu 2,Merdeka,Kelapa Lima KUPANG  

Phone: +62 380 833707 

  Cendana Hotel  Jl El Tari 23,Oebobo,Oebobo KUPANG  

Phone: +62 380 821541 

  Ina Boy Hotel  Jl HOS Cokroaminoto 1,Bonipoi,Kelapa Lima KUPANG  

Phone: +62 380 826228 


Kristal Hotel  Jl Timor Raya 59,Oeba,Kelapa Lima KUPANG  

Phone: +62 380 820300 

  Maliana Hotel  Jl Sumatera 35,Solor,Kelapa Lima KUPANG  

Phone: +62 380 821879 

  Nirwana Hotel  Jl Merpati 13,Bonipoi,Kelapa Lima KUPANG  

Phone: +62 380 821617 

  Rachmat Hotel  Jl Gn Lakaan 9,Solor,Kelapa Lima KUPANG  

Phone: +62 380 822161


Charvita Hotel  Jl WJ Lalamentik 30,Oebobo,Oebobo KUPANG  

Phone: +62 380 822676 

  Flabamor Hotel  Jl Jend Sudirman 21,Kuanino,Oebobo KUPANG  

Phone: +62 380 832560

  I Nyoman Hotel  Jl Lontar 36,Oepura,Oebobo KUPANG  

Phone: +62 380 827340 

  Salungan Hotel  Jl Nuri 14-A,Bonipoi,Kelapa Lima KUPANG  

Phone: +62 380 831531 

  Nusantara Hotel  Jl Tim-Tim 12,Oeba,Kelapa Lima KUPANG  

Phone: +62 380 832434 

  Singosari Hotel  Jl Hati Murni 4,Oebobo,Oebobo KUPANG  

Phone: +62 380 832120 

  Dewi Indah Hotel  Jl Anggur 3,Naikoten I,Oebobo KUPANG  

Phone: +62 380 831003 

Palm Beach Hotel  Jl Tim-Tim 5,Oeba,Kelapa Lima KUPANG  

Phone: +62 380 822942 

  Tii Langga Hotel  Jl Yohanes,Kelapa Lima,Kelapa Lima KUPANG  

Phone: +62 380 881724 

  Cahaya Bapa Hotel  Jl ER Herewila 20,Naikoten I,Oebobo KUPANG  

Phone: +62 380 821094

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Getting There and Around

Get Around

Kupang has a type of local transport bearing a unique naming, called “Diskotik Berjalan”, or mobile discotheque. It is in fact another type of public minibus, elsewhere in Indonesia known as bemo, the moniker from becak motor. The minibus is heavily decorated to attract passersby and potential passengers. Not only is it visually ‘loud’, but it is also audibly deafening in a safe and entertaining way.

Do not be alarmed when you find another type of local transport in smaller cities especially in rural area like those on Savu, as bemo turns out to be a truck with two long benches in it where you can sit with no roofs whatsoever. Adventure comes with travel.

Get There

Kupang is accessible by plane or ferries. Its historical airport, El Tari was formerly known as Penfui airstrip, having first served an American pilot, Lamij Johnson, in 1928. Penfui literally means ‘bush of cornfields’, since the airstrip’s surroundings were heavily covered with cornfields.

El Tari connects western Timor Island with other large cities in Indonesia, which include:


Domestic flights:


Surabaya, East Java

Denpasar, Bali

Makassar, South Sulawesi

Maumere, East Nusatenggara

Waingapu, East Nusatenggara

Labuan Bajo, West Nusatenggara

Ende,East Nusatenggara


International flights:

Dili, East Timor

Darwin, Australia


 Airlines serving the city of Kupang are:


The Airport: Angkasa Pura I, El Tari Airport

Phone: +62 380 881 668 or 883 031, 882 032, 881 121, 881 395

Fax: +62 380 881 263

Email: pap1eltari@ntt.citramedia.net


Source: Sekapur Sirih Bandar Udara El Tari, Kupang NTT, 2009.

An International seaport is found only in Kupang, called the Tenau Seaport. There are several ferries from PELNI (a national commercial shipping company). They are the KM Bukit Siguntang, KM Kelimutu, KM Sirimau, and KM Awu. Please refer to the website of PT PELNI for detailed schedules.