The island Kingdom of Tonga is famous for its tropical forests, coral atolls and sandy beaches.
Things to do in Tonga
Since ancient times, the local islands have been inhabited by Polynesians. Warlike tribes conquered neighboring territories and imposed tribute on the inhabitants of Oceania. The sacred chiefs had full power until the beginning of the 19th century. After European missionaries penetrated here, and the last leader died without leaving an heir.
The archipelago has a total area of 748 km² and consists of 172 islands, many of which are uninhabited. The tourism business is only developing, so comfortable beaches are not everywhere. Good infrastructure on Tongatapu, where about 75% of the subjects of the kingdom live. And in the capital, Nuku’alofa, there are modern hotels, shops and entertainment.
Tonga attracts people who want to take a break from the noise of big cities and enjoy untouched nature. Small coral islands are ideal for leisurely walks, sunbathing and swimming. Tourists come to scuba dive, study the flora and fauna of the Pacific Ocean, and take pictures of magnificent seascapes.
Vavau is the center of sailing. From May to October, yachts from different parts of the world moor here to participate in regattas over long and short distances. Ordinary yachting is also popular: people rent a ship, choose a direction and go on a sea voyage. Moving along the route, they are engaged in diving, fishing, water skiing.
Tongan traditional dances are an impressive sight. The meetuupaki dance, performed by men, and the women’s seated otuhaka dance are of particular sophistication. The Tongan Lakalaka has been declared a Masterpiece of Intangible Heritage by UNESCO. This dance is danced on holidays in every village, and all the inhabitants participate in the performance.
Tongan cuisine, based on local products, attracts with its variety and original taste. It is based on bananas, yams, coconuts, sea fish, shellfish, tender pork tenderloin. When relaxing on the islands, it is worth trying corned beef baked with coconut milk and onions in taro leaves, banana soup, tropical fruit desserts and a heady kava drink from the roots of a Polynesian plant.
The ancient capital of the archipelago is located a few kilometers from Nuku’alofa. It was she who was visited by the English navigator James Cook, traveling through Polynesia — this is evidenced by a commemorative plaque on the ocean shore.
Today it is an archaeological site. Within the city there are 28 royal stone graves made of huge limestone blocks. They resemble the bases of the Egyptian pyramids, as they are made of slabs of various sizes with steps carved around the entire perimeter.
Neiafu is the central harbor of the Vavau archipelago and the second largest city in Tonga. There is a beautiful botanical garden here, founded 40 years ago. It presents different types of plants, many of which are on the verge of extinction. Tourists inspect ferns, banana palms, lanthanum, evergreen shrubs, flower beds with orchids.
Paths are laid in the park, benches are installed, a good restaurant is open. Guests can visit the attraction with a guide or on their own by renting a bicycle in the park for convenience.
In Nuku’alofa on Tongatapu, one of the central attractions of the capital is located — the Royal Tombs. This is the place where all members of the ruling family rest. A wide path passes through the cemetery, making it possible to have a good look at the mausoleums, white stone monuments, sculptures of mythical animals. A visit to the Royal Tombs is included in a two-hour walking tour of the city.
In the western part of Tongatapu, it is easy to find the sandy beach of Aatafu, framed by reefs. The wide lagoon is great for snorkeling and the reef edge is perfect for surfing. In the evenings, huge humpback whales come from the depths of the Pacific Ocean and begin to splash in the rays of the setting sun.
The beach is considered the best on the island. In the shade of coconut trees, how many eateries work. Vacationers can rent sun loungers, a boat and scuba gear.
An important attraction of Nuku’alofe is the Talamahu market in the city center. Covered malls are filled with exotic fruits and vegetables. Piles of bananas, mangoes, coconuts are stacked in baskets or directly on trays.
In addition to products, original souvenirs are sold here. As a memory of the trip, people are happy to buy earthenware jugs, handmade woven rugs, wooden figurines, coral jewelry, beautiful shells.
Haamonga a Maui
In the north of Tongatapu rises a large stone arch. The megalithic structure was built from three coral slabs. Each stone is 6 meters long and weighs up to 20 tons. The blocks are polished by unknown craftsmen and carefully fitted to each other.
The exact purpose and time of creation of the Tonga Gate is unknown. Scientists suggest that the arch was erected in the 13th century and symbolizes the unity of the ruling family. Some believe that the stones were used to determine the time of the summer and winter solstice (notches on the horizontal plate correspond to the positions of the sun).
The capital is home to the Royal Palace, the wooden residence of the head of state, built in 1867. This is a two-story colonial-style house, decorated with a quadrangular tower with an original dome. Inside the audience room, throne room, monarch’s office. In the left wing are the private apartments of the royal family, in the right wing there is an archive and a meeting room.
The Royal Palace is surrounded by a high metal fence. Trees have been planted in the yard and flower beds have been laid out. In front of the entrance to the palace is a lawn on which stands a bronze sculpture of the first king.
Free Wesleyan Church
The Wesleyan Church was founded by London missionaries about two hundred years ago. This is the largest temple in the kingdom. Hundreds of believers visit it daily. The Free Wesleyan Church is engaged in the education of the population — it manages 30% of the schools in Tonga.
The temple was repeatedly rebuilt and changed its appearance. Now it is a modern building, lined with white plaster. On the side rises an elegant chapel, on top of which there is a balcony with thin columns. A huge cross is engraved on the central wall.
The coral archipelago of Ha’apai attracts travelers with clean, secluded beaches lined with picturesque bungalows. It is located in the central part of Tonga and includes 51 islands. The capital of Haapai is the village of Pangai on Lifuk. There is a big market, shops, a bank, a catholic church, cafes.
Tourists go to swim, watch humpback whales in the coastal zone, explore dormant volcanoes. From anywhere in the archipelago, you can get here by yacht. And on Lifuk, an airport is open that receives flights from the capital of the kingdom.
Pangaimotu in Tongapapu is a beautiful atoll washed by the waters of the Pacific Ocean. Its area is about 9 km², and the territory is inhabited. According to the census, 835 people live here. Locals are engaged in pearl mining, fishing, vanilla cultivation and serving foreigners.
Pangaimotu is a famous tourist attraction. There are all conditions for scuba diving, underwater fishing and sailing, as well as for watching dolphins, turtles, whales, coral fish.
In Tongatapu, 5 minutes from the beach, there is a network of limestone caves covered with stalagmites and stalactites. The largest of them — Anahulu — has a length of 400 meters. Not far from the entrance, a natural pool has formed with clean clear water suitable for swimming and diving. The cave is lit by generators, but to get a better view of its natural beauty, it is better to take a waterproof lantern.
Eua National Park
Eua stands out among other islands with its mountainous terrain and lush vegetation. The height of the picturesque hills reaches 383 meters. The rainforest is part of the Eua National Park and is protected.
Coconuts, palm trees, tree ferns, guava, different varieties of orchids grow here. The fauna is represented by flying foxes with a wingspan of about one meter, colorful parrots, herons, ducks. The coastal zone is home to countless colorful fish and shellfish. The beaches are covered with coral and volcanic sand.
To the north of Vavau lie the volcanic islands of Niuas, which include Niuafoou, Niuatoputapu and Tafahi. Over the previous 100 years, there have been several strong volcanic eruptions. The last one happened in 1946 on Niuafoou, because of which the local population was evacuated for 10 years.
The islands are rounded. Lakes with clear water formed in the craters of dormant volcanoes, and the hills themselves were covered with dense forest. The beaches are strewn with white sand and lined with coconut palms.