Atauro is a small island situated 25 kilometres north of Dili, about 25 kilometres long and 9 kilometres wide. The island has between 9,000 and 10,000 inhabitants, living in small villages, of which Vila (Vila Maumeta) in the south-east is the largest. The village of Beloi, halfway along the east coast, is where the ferry from Dili docks.
Atauro was used as a prison island by the Portuguese. It was dry and remote; there are still the remains of an underground prison in the village of Vila de Maumeta. Here inmates virtually starved, sometimes just given maize as not much could be grown on the island. During the Indonesian occupation, between 1980 and 1987, as many as 3,000 Fretilin fighters were kept prisoners on the island.
Atauro is becoming popular as a destination for eco-tourism, and it has several low-key diving resorts around Beloi, offering diving expeditions to its pristine coral reefs. Mount Manucoco, at 999 metres above sea level, is the highest point on the island. There are various hiking trails in addition to the only road, a 12-kilometre gravel road along the east coast between Vila and Pala.