Nuku'alofa

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Nuku'alofa means 'Abode of Love'. It is the capital of Tonga and it sits on a promontory between the Pacific Ocean and the Fanga'uta Lagoon on the island of Tongatapu. The town is surrounded by wetlands and agricultural land. Most of the sights in Nuku'alofa are within a compact area in the center of town, while the outskirts consists largely of shantytowns.

The most striking building in Nuku'alofa is the Royal Palace on the waterfront. The building is made of white Victorian timber that was prefabricated in New Zealand in 1867. Unfortunately it is not open to visitors. Just behind the palace, on the slopes of Mount Zion, is the 'royal estate', better known as Sia Ko Veiongo. It dates from the 14th century and has repeatedly been sacked in its long and violent history. The public park of Pangao Si'i is immediately next to the Royal Palace. It is used for kava ceremonies, feasts and sporting events. Not far from there are the Royal Tombs that contain the graves of all the Tongan sovereigns and their relatives that died since 1893. The tombs are locally known as Mala'ekula. The Tongan War Memorial in the town common, was erected to commemorate the victims from both world wars.

Many travelers to Tonga visit a church on Sundays, as everything else is closed that day. The churches in Nuku'alofa are impressive, especially the Basilica of St Anthony of Padua opposite the royal tombs. The Stations of the Cross, inside the basilica, are carved out of coconut wood and inlaid with mother of pearl. The Centenary Chapel behind Mount Zion can accommodate more than 2000 people and Saint Mary's Cathedral boasts a marvelous vaulted ceiling, as well as stained glass windows and colorful rose gardens.

The Talamahu Market is a lively place, where the best of Tonga's agricultural produce is sold. On the Talamahu Market you will find all sorts of tropical fruits and vegetables that you've probably never seen before. On Saturdays, there is an interesting flea market in Nuku'alofa. Not far from the center of town is Yellow Pier, a good snorkeling site. The reefs, further out on sea, are even better, but more difficult to reach.

Accommodation is widely available in Nuku'alofa. You can stay in the city center, at one of the resorts around Tongatapu, or on one of the offshore islands. There are also plenty of restaurants in town, catering to all budgets and tastes. In the evenings, the liveliest part of town is the waterfront with its numerous bars. Some places where traditional music and dances are performed and where you can get island buffets with local kava, include the Tongan National Center, the International Dateline Hotel and the Good Samaritan Inn.


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