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Wonders of Tonga

'Eua National Park, Tonga
‘Eua National Park / angrysunbird (Duncan), , CC BY-SA 2.0

WorldBlue  Highlights

The Kingdom of Tonga consists of 176 islands, land area is 748 km². In spite of the small size, the country has an amazing number of interesting landmarks. The most amazing wonders of Tonga are:

  • Archaeological heritage. Tonga and Samoa are two likely sites where the Polynesian culture has been born – here are located the oldest settlements where the ornate Lapita ceramics are found. In Tonga are located several surprising megalithic structures.
  • Scenery and wildlife in ‘Eua and several volcanic islands (Tofua, Kao, Niuafo’ou).

Map with the described wonders

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WorldViolet Top 24 wonders of Tonga

Geological wonders

Home Reef


Ephemeral volcanic island. After eruptions, it rises above the sea and then is washed away. The last time such an event took place was in 2006, when the island became 0.5 by 1.5 km large, with hot crater lakes on it. There are several more such ephemeral islands in Tonga.

Swallows Cave


Spectacular cave in steep sea coast. The cave is partly flooded and thus represents a spectacular dive site. Hundreds of swallows live in the cave. Cliff drawings by Tongans.

Mapu a Vaea


Group of spectacular, up to 18 m high blowholes at the sea. Here the wave action has created travertine terraces and pools with numerous blowholes. Fascinating and unusual landscape.

Mapu a Vaea, Tonga
Mapu a Vaea / Boris T. Johnson, . CC BY-SA 2.0
Liangahuo a Maui


Spectacular natural arch at the sea.



Impressive natural bridge at the sea.

Matalanga ‘a Maui


Very impressive sinkhole.

Makalea Cave


A narrow, approximately 40 m deep sinkhole (or vertical cave?) with vertical walls and eerie echo effect.

Fonualei fumarole field


Active island volcano with an active field of fumaroles in the center. Frequent eruptions.

‘Ana ‘Ahu (Smoking Cave)


Some 80 m deep, vertical cave (or sinkhole?) with smooth walls. A small stream falls into it and constant mist rises up from the hole.

“Cathedral Cave”


Magnificent marine cave, rich with life.

Biological wonders

‘Eua National Park


Important pristine tropical forest (499 ha) with beautiful scenery and many endemic species of plants and animals. Especially impressive are the dramatic cliffs on the eastern coast of the island. ‘Eua is the only place where a conifer Podocarpus pallidus is met. Not more than 1,000 trees are left.

Giant ‘Ovavas of ‘Eua


Several giant banyan trees (‘ovava) in the primeval tropical forest.

Nuku’alofa rain tree


Giant rain tree (Albizia saman) – an introduced tree from Latin America.

Archaeological wonders

Ha’amonga ‘a Maui (Trilithon)


Amazing megalith – a trilithon of three limestone slabs, located in the second capital of Tonga (established around the 10th century AD). Each stone weighs some 20 tons and is some 6 m high. Built at the beginning of the 13th century, possibly as a royal gateway. Nearby is a large upright stone slab – Maka Fa’akinanga – a legendary throne of the king.

Ha'amonga 'a Maui. 'Esi Maka Fa'akinanga seen in the background, to the left
Ha’amonga ‘a Maui. ‘Esi Maka Fa’akinanga seen in the background, to the left / Sarah Kelemen, Flickr. CC BY 2.0
Langi in Afa


The oldest megalithic burial mounds in Tonga, built by the mighty king Tu’itatui in the 12th century AD. Remnants of two langi are seen – Langi Heketā and Langi Mo’ungalafa.

Langi in Lapahi


Burial mounds in the first capital of Tonga – Lapahi (Mu’a). Here are buried the kings of the Tu’i Tonga dynasty. Lapahi was the capital of Tonga in the 12th – 16th centuries and after this, for several centuries – a spiritual center of Tonga. The town contains some 28 royal burial mounds – elevated platforms (pyramids), laid with enormous, rectangular coral slabs. These coral slabs fit together very well. One of the best-preserved langi is Paepae-o-Tele’a.

Langi Tau'atonga in Lapahi, Tonga
Langi Tau’atonga in Lapahi / Tau’olunga, . CC BY-SA 3.0
Houmale’eia petroglyphs


A group of more than 50 petroglyphs – stylised depictions of humans and animals, footprints. Analysis shows that these signs could be carved around 1400 – 1600 AD.



A site of ancient settlement from the Lapita period (850 BC). Here have been found nearly 50,000 shards of ceramics including many shards of decorated Lapita ceramics. Site is rich with remnants of extinct reptiles (the up to 1.2 m large iguana Brachxylophus gibbonsi), megapode (Megapodus alimentum), many extinct doves, and other extinct species.

Telekivava’u petroglyphs


Group of petroglyphs at the beach.

Nukuleka Lapita sites


Possibly the first settlement of the Lapita people in Tonga (900 BC). Some scientists love to declare that Polynesian culture is born here – a thesis contested by some researchers of prehistoric sites in Samoa.

Architecture and legendary wonders



The largest pigeon snaring mound, built in the 15th century. The volume of this unusual structure is 8 876 m³, it is covered with enormous stone blocks that are fitted well together. Pigeon snaring mounds are unique structures, characteristic of Tonga.

Mariners Cave


A site of legends – reportedly here was hidden a beloved of one young nobleman who was afraid of the king.

A boat approaches Mariners Cave, Tonga
A boat approaches Mariners Cave / Stefan Heinrich, . CC BY-SA 3.0
Neiafu St. Joseph’s Cathedral


A beautiful and ornate, white church, established by Marists – zealous catholic missionaries in the middle of the 19th century.

Royal Palace in Tonga


An ornate wooden building, constructed in 1867.

Royal Palace in Tonga, 1900
Royal Palace in Tonga, 1900 / Author unknown, . Public domain

WorldYellow Recommended books

Tonga (Other Places Travel Guide)

Tonga has eluded outsiders for much of its history. From the imperial powers of Europe to modern-day travelers, Tonga has often been overlooked amongst the South Pacific island nations. But for those who do venture to this archipelago nation, a timeless Polynesian experience awaits; one that is all its own.
The writers of this guidebook each lived, worked and played throughout Tonga as Peace Corps Volunteers. They lived with local families, learned village life, and experienced this fascinating country as few outsiders have before.

Making Sense of Tonga

This guide to the Kingdom of Tonga’s rich Polynesian culture is a user-friendly description of what makes Tongan society so unique. Wonder why a Tongan won’t have eye-to-eye contact? Wonder why the Tongan keeps flicking his eyebrows? Wonder what that woven mat is around the Tongan’s waist? These and many more fascinating elements of what makes up day-to-day Tongan life are described with a touch of humor for easy digestibility.

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