Dili, the national capital, lies on the north coast of the island. It borders the districts of Manatuto to the east, Aileu to the south, Liquiça to the west and the Savu Sea to the north. Geographically Dili District is diverse. In addition to its coastal roads and beaches, the district extends south into rugged mountain terrain. It has a population of 234,026 inhabitants (Census 2010) and an area of 372 km2, who turns it the country’s smallest district.
Dili comprises Atauro Island to the north. It is about 25 km long and 9 km wide, about 105 km2 in area, and is inhabited by about 8,000 people.
Atauro is also being considered as a destination for eco-tourism, and its coral reefs are being discovered by scuba enthusiasts.
Atauro is a small, unstable island with a rugged landscape, plagued by frequent landslides, as well as a shortage of fresh water, especially during the drier months. Fresh water springs are present approximately 2 km north of Berau, with minor reservoirs around Macadade and the eastern slopes of Mount Manucoco. Wells along the coast provide poor quality water to most coastal townships. In 2004, Portugal funded a project to improve the availability of water and its distribution infrastructure, but a critical water shortage persists. The landscape of the island is a result of the erosion of uplifted, originally submarine, volcanos from the Neogene period creating narrow, dissected ridges and steep slopes. Up to an elevation of about 600 m there are also extensive areas of uplifted coralline limestone.
The climate is distinctly seasonal, with wet and dry seasons. The island has suffered from extensive clearing of its native vegetation for swidden agriculture. The upper levels of Mount Manucoco (above 700 m) still carry patches of tropical semi-evergreen mountain forest in sheltered valleys, covering about 40 km2. Lower down there are remnants of drier forest and Eucalyptus alba dominated savanna woodlands, especially on limestone outcrops, with agricultural land in the vicinity of villages. The island has a fringing reef 30–150 m in width; it generally lacks freshwater wetlands, estuaries and mangroves.
Atauro makes part of ZEESM (Zonas Especiais de Economia Social de Mercado de Timor-Leste – Special Social Economy Market zones in Timor-Leste)1.