Baucau is the second-largest city in East Timor, after Dili, the capital, which lies 122 km east of Dili.
Baucau has about 16,000 inhabitants, and is the capital of Baucau, located in the eastern part of the country. In the times of Portuguese Timor, Baucau was called Vila Salazar, after the Portuguese dictator António de Oliveira Salazar.
Much of the infrastructure of the city and the surrounding area was damaged or destroyed during the riots that followed the referendum for independence in 1999. Nevertheless, in the old part of Baucau there survive a few relics from the Portuguese colonial era, such as large colonial houses, churches, and public buildings. One of these is the Pousada de Baucau, a large pink hotel whose restaurant offers a magnificent view of the ocean.
The shops, restaurants, and street market stalls (predominately fruit and vegetable sellers) conduct business, although unemployment, particularly among the young, is very high. There are a few successful experiments that have converted old war-oriented businesses into light engineering, new businesses such as East Timor Roofing that has generated employment and training opportunities and a league of small businesses are beginning in the areas of hygiene and health, food production and processing, transport, small retail, and tourism. The convent next to the Pousada de Baucau has a small retail outlet selling locally produced hand crafts. Baucau also has a hospital, a nursing school and a swimming pool owned by the Pousada de Baucau.
Six kilometers from the city lies the Cakung Airport (code IATA: NCH), a.k.a. LANUD for the local people. It has what is currently the country's longest airport runway, as Dili's Lobato International Airport can only serve small aircraft like the Boeing 737. It served as the country's principal airport before the Indonesian invasion in 1975, when it was taken over by the Indonesian military.
Baucau is the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Baucau, one of the two Bishoprics in East Timor. It was founded on November 30, 1996, when the bishopric in Dili split. Its bishop is Basilio do Nascimento.