What Is the Capital of Tonga?

Tonga's Parliament Building in Nuku'alofa.
Tonga's Parliament Building in Nuku'alofa.

The Kingdom of Tonga is a sovereign nation in Polynesia and is composed of an archipelago of 169 islands. The country's islands covers a total area of 750 square km in the south Pacific Ocean. Tonga's population of 107,122 people live in the archipelago’s 36 inhabited islands. Tongatapu is the most populous island in the archipelago, and accounts for about 70% of the country’s population.

Tonga never succumbed to colonial rule, but was a British protected state between 1900 and 1970. The nation is currently a constitutional monarchy with an elected government.

What Is the Capital of Tonga and Where Is it Located?

Nukuʻalofa is the seat of government of Tonga and is located on the northern coast of the archipelago’s largest island of Tongatapu. The city had an estimated population of 24,571 people in 2012. The city is relatively flat and low lying, with an average elevation of 10 ft above sea level. Nukuʻalofa experiences a tropical marine climate.

History of the Capital City of Tonga

Although Captain James Cook did not mention Nukuʻalofa in his records, it is believed he landed at the bay in Nukuʻalofa on June 10, 1777. Cook's maps suggest he stayed in the Siesia area, which is now the modern city of Nukuʻalofa. The first written account mentioning Nuku’alofa is found in a book about Tonga written in 1810 by Englishman and Christian missionary George Vason. The area was mentioned in other publications in following years. Christianity was spread among the indigenous inhabitants of Tonga since 1827. Under royal patronage by the King of Nuku’alofa, the settlement soon became Tonga’s center of Christianity. Gradually Nuku’alofa expanded from a small village and fort into a town, and then a city. In 1875, when Tonga’s constitution was formalized, Nuku’alofa was chosen as the country’s capital. The rapidly expanding metropolis was soon divided into three major districts for administrative purposes: Kolomotu'a, Kolofo’ou, and Ma'ufanga.

Current Role of the Capital of Tonga

As the capital of Tonga, the nation's parliament meets in Nukuʻalofa. Government ministries and departments are also based in the city, as well as the Royal Palace. The central business district of Nukuʻalofa is the hub of commercial activities, and the economic center of Tonga. Several airlines have headquarters in the city, and the tourism industry is well developed. The harbor at Nukuʻalofa is one of the busiest in Tonga, and the existence of the deep-water harbor was a primary reason why Nukuʻalofa was selected as the nation's capital. Fuaʻamotu International Airport, which is located about 35 km from the city, is Tonga's most significant airport.


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