An archipelago consisting of 169 islands, Tonga is one of the most populous and widely-visited Polynesian islands, initially known to Westerners as the ‘Friendly Islands’ due to the natives’ hospitality to initial visitors. This warm atmosphere continues to resonate on the islands and along with the serene natural landscapes, is a major reason for Tonga’s popularity today.
On an island a short boat journey away from Tonga’s capital Nuku’alofa, Pangaimotu is one of the archipelago’s most popular destinations, known for its serene beaches and high-quality snorkelling. It is probably best-known however for the shipwreck off its shores, which has become a notable tourist site, adding a uniqueness to the island, which stands out from the others.
Ha’amonga ‘a Maui
One of Tonga’s most recognisable sites, Ha’among’a Maui is often simplistically compared to the British landmark Stonehenge. It is a trilithon made from coral limestone, which dates back to at least the early 13th Century. According to the Ancient Tongan tradition, the trilithon was built by the eponymous god Maui due to the sheer scale of the endeavour. The site, located on the island Tongatapu, is close to the capital and a must-visit destination for those travelling through. It is a historically and culturally important staple of Tonga.
Another popular destination on Tongatapu, the Anahalu Caves are a vast network of limestone caverns on the island’s East coast in the area f Haveluliku. The caves measure up to 400 metres long and contain a number of freshwater pools, the only ones on the entire island. The pools are ideal for swimming and snorkelling, a top destination for those seeking both natural splendour and activity.
One of the best ways to soak in the culture of Tonga’s capital of Nuku’alofa is a visit to the famous Talamahu Market. Mainly a food market, Talamahu is the best place in the capital for fresh produce. In addition, the market has several stalls specialising in local crafts for a cheap price. A colourful and vibrant place, which reflects the happy atmosphere of the islands, Talamahu Market is a far cry from the serene beaches, and well worth a visit.
St. Joseph’s Cathedral
The most iconic landmark in Neiafu, Tonga’s second-largest town on the Island of Vava’u by the Port of Refuge, St. Joseph’s Cathedral is arguably the most significant physical legacy of British colonial rule in Tonga. Its unique architectural design is a sight to behold, its striking white exterior and colourful, detailed interior being notable physical features. The cathedral is the hub of the island’s Christian community and one of Tonga’s most important cultural sites.