The Islands of Wallis and Futuna: what to do, what to see…

The last overseas territories to join the French republic, the Islands of Wallis and Futuna await between New Caledonia and French Polynesia in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. This amazing destination isn’t on most people’s radar, so you can be one of the first you know to explore these volcanic paradise Islands.

Not to miss sights in Wallis and Futuna

• The Talietumu and Tonga Toto sites

To learn more about the history of Wallis and Futuna, head to the Talietumu site, located just 9 kilometers (5.6 miles) from the capital Mata Utu. You can visit a beautiful fortress of the 15th century, built at the time of the Tongan domination. Tonga Toto is also worth visiting, home to the remains of another fortress of the same period overlooking the sea.

• Mount Lulu Fakahega

This hill of 145 meters (476 feet) is the highest point of Wallis, dotted with lakes and craters. A small chapel is lies at the top of Mount Lulu Fakahega and on a clear day you can enjoy beautiful panoramas rolling down to the sea.

• Mount Puke

Surrounded on the west by the Kafua and Kolofutafuta mountains, Mount Puke is the highest peak on the island of Futuna, with an altitude of 522 meters (1712 feet). Mount Puke is considered the refuge of the goddess Finelasi, the protector of the island of Futuna.

• The coastal road of Wallis

This circuit of about 35 kilometers (21.7 miles) wanders to the crater lake Lalolalo, surrounded by impressive cliffs, as well as Vailala, a fishing village on the northern tip of the island.

• Alofi Island

Swimming enthusiasts can go by boat to Alofi Island, 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) south of Futuna, departing from Sigave. The place is idyllic—the island is uninhabited and the beach is simply beautiful.

• The Futuna Coastal Route

There's no beach along the coastal road of Futuna—it hangs along a vertiginous rocky coastline for 33 kilometers (20 miles), but once at Pyramid, the panorama merits the journey. On the way, stop at the village of Vaisei which has preserved its fale fono (traditional huts), where residents gather for the kava ceremony.

• Saint Joseph's Church

Mala'efo'ou is a village in Wallis and Futuna, capital of Mu'a District, on Wallis Island. Its population is only 175—but the place is famous for its church, dating from 1859, that marked the beginnings of Christian evangelization in the island.

• The sanctuary of St. Peter Chanel in Poi

Killed by King Niuliki, the missionary Pierre Chanel was canonized in 1954 and named patron saint of Oceania. A sanctuary is built in his honor in Futuna (that the island's population is now entirely Catholic).

• Mata Utu Cathedral

Mata Utu is a village in Wallis with a Roman Catholic cathedral built face to the sea. It is the headquarters of the Diocese of Wallis and Futuna.

Things to do in Wallis and Futuna

• Dive in the saltwater of Lalolalo crater lake

Northeast of Futuna, the island of Uvea stretches over 77.6 km² (30 miles²) reaches its highest point with Mount Lulu (151 meters or 495 feet above sea level). Five crater lakes, resulting from the collapse of ancient volcano's mouths, are located in the southwest of the island. The largest is Lalolalo Lake (400 meters or 1312 feet in diameter, and 80 meters or 262 feet deep).

• Work on your biceps canoeing to Nukuteatea Island

The best way to tour the small islets facing the main islands here is in a traditional sailed canoe. Passengers can be put to use and handle the paddle if the sea is calm!

• Gather in serene Loka Cave

Alofi is reachable only by boat, where you can find an island paradise facing Futuna. You have to walk between an hour and a half and two hours to reach the Loka cave—be sure to bring water and food for this excursion.

• Drink a kava with the locals at dusk

Derived from the root of a local shrub, kava is a drink that is used to toast at a political or religious ceremony. Ten minutes after absorption, the heart rate and breathing slow down, the ideas seem clear, and a sense of well being settles upon you. For a few hours, the drinkers are serene and contemplative (note that kava is banned in metropolitan France).

• Vibrate to the rhythm of soamako

During the traditional soamako, families gather to exchange songs and dances, including Niutao, Kailoa, Saomako and the kava dance, whose synchronized gestures signify great cultural importance. These dances mimic the tribal conflicts of yesteryear, to the sound of drums and lali, a Wallisian instrument of percussion. It's an experience unlike any other.

• Take part in a katoaga ceremony

During customary ceremonies, the population proceeds to the local chieftaincy. In Wallis, these katoagas are deeply rooted in the local culture. They take place on a religious holiday, at a family event or during secular festivals such as July 14th.

• Magic diving and relaxation on the deserted beaches of Nukuhione and Nukuhifala

Nukuhione and Nukuhifala are two islets of the lagoon in Wallis and Futuna where it is possible to dive. You will see very few large predators, but the coral reefs are beautiful and are worth the trip in themselves! Not to mention the pretty beaches, ideal to lounge and do nothing at all.

• Take a good look while sailing in the lagoon

Of course, you can rent a sailboat to tour Wallis and Futuna and visit the neighboring islets. The best way is to rent a Va'a for six people, a kind of canoe with a pendulum to keep balance. The rest paddle and the helmsman directs the navigation.

• Observe the thousands of colors of the Wallis lagoon in microlight

For an exceptional discovery of the archipelago, one can opt for a small tour in ultra light aircraft over the lagoon. Tour at low tide to experience all the shades of blue offered by nature!

• Play petanque (lipulu) with the children of Futuna

This activity is incredibly popular in Wallis and Futuna, manifested by the hundreds of petanque players throughout the archipelago. There are playing grounds everywhere, by the lagoon or inland. Locals always welcome a challenge—however, it is better not to bet, since they're almost guaranteed to beat you!

Getting to Wallis and Futuna