Timor-Leste immediately gets under your skin. The tiny, mighty nation overcame Portuguese occupation and brutal Indonesian invasions to claim its independence in 2002. And while the people here are true survivors – sometimes hearing their stories first-hand felt like being stabbed in the soul – their sunny hearts are just as beautiful as their land and seascapes. So, forget that “war torn” rep. Today Timor-Leste is not just peaceful, there’s real optimism in the air: young innovators are creating social enterprises that lead their people forward, and the tourism sector is gently awakening. Yes, things are still rustic, but they won’t be for long – so get there asap! These images were taken during an assignment for Intrepid Travel and Qantas Magazine, around Atauro Island, Dili, Maubisse, Rabilau and Ramelau.