• Menu
  • Menu
Tuvalu, Bild: Romaine W / shutterstock

The tiny island nation of Tuvalu is an oasis of peace in the Pacific Ocean


With an area of just under 26 km², the Pacific island state of Tuvalu is the fourth smallest country in the world. The name means “group of eight” in the Tuvaluan language, but in fact there are nine different atolls and islands.

Difficult to reach and far from all neighbors, but still worth the trip

With an area of just under 26 km², the Pacific island state of Tuvalu is the fourth smallest country in the world. The name means “group of eight” in the Tuvaluan language, but in fact there are nine different atolls and islands. However, the southernmost island of Niulakita was uninhabited until the 20th century. Tuvalu currently has almost 12,000 inhabitants, about half of whom live on the atoll of Funafuti and in the municipality of Funafuti from nine villages. The rest of the population is spread over the islands and atolls of Nanumanga, Nanumea, Niulakita, Niutao, Nui, Nukufetau, Nukulaelae and Vaitupu, each with between 300 and 500 inhabitants. It is not without reason that Tuvalu is often referred to as the most isolated and remote independent country in the South Pacific. Every year, only about 1,000 to 2,000 holidaymakers visit Tuvalu, primarily with scheduled flights departing from Suva on the Fiji Islands only twice a week.

On the atolls and islands, the inhabitants speak different languages

It is believed that the ancestors of the inhabitants came mainly from Samoa and Tokelau as well as Tonga and Uvea (Wallis Island). These settlers were all Polynesians except for Nui, where many people are descendants of Micronesians from Kiribati. There are three different language areas in Tuvalu. The first area includes the islands of Nanumea, Niutao and Nanumaga. The second is the island of Nui, where the inhabitants speak a language derived from I-Kiribati. The third language group includes the islands of Vaitupu, Nukufetau, Funafuti and Nukulaelae, where both Tuvaluan and English are spoken today. The first European explorer of the islands of Tuvalu was the Spanish explorer Alvaro de Mendana, who sighted today’s island of Nui during a voyage with the ship “Capitana” through the eastern Solomon Islands in January 1568 and gave it the name “Isla de Jesús”.

There is only one small hotel in all of Tuvalu for foreign visitors

From the 19th century onwards, more and more Europeans came to Tuvalu because of whaling, the slave trade and Christianisation, and many of the inhabitants died of the diseases introduced as a result. In 1892, Tuvalu became the British protectorate of Gilbert and Ellice Islands, and in 1915 it became the crown colony of the same name. During the Second World War, Tuvalu became the scene of fighting between the Japanese and the Americans, but after the end of the war, the British colony remained. Niulakita was incorporated in the 1950s, and in the 1970s the Tuvaluans voted in a referendum with over 90 percent for complete state independence, which was finally achieved on October 1, 1978. Tuvalu has been a member of the United Nations since 2000, and in the same year the state caused a stir with the lucrative leasing of its Internet domain “tv” for 50 million US dollars. As early as 1993, the only hotel on Tuvalu to date, the “Vaiaku Lagi” was opened in the main village of the same name on the island of Fongafale.

Underwater enthusiasts will get their money’s worth diving here

The few guests come to Tuvalu mainly because of the world’s unique diving areas, since 1999 the 33 km² marine reserve “Funafuti Conservation Area” around the tiny islands of Fuagea, Fualopa, Fuafatu, Tefala as well as Tepuka Savilivili and Vasafua in the southwest of the Funafuti atoll has been one of the most famous diving areas. Other natural monuments worth seeing on Tuvalu are the caves and mangrove forests on the Nanumea Atoll, which is also culturally quite independent and self-confident, the more than 700 km² coral reefs around all atolls and islands as well as the remains of rainforest and, of course, the many fantastic tropical beaches under palm trees with clean, blue to turquoise shimmering water. Tuvalu is not a destination for spectacular discoveries: there are no hills or mountains, rivers or gorges, and no architectural heritage. And yet it is a charming Pacific destination, where you can relax in the shade of a palm tree on one of the pretty beaches.

Tuvalu’s spatial isolation has contributed to the preservation of ancient traditions

The traditional local culture is still very much alive, which the people of Tuvalu like to show, for example, with their traditional dances at festivals and special occasions. The massive deployment of U.S. troops during World War II left the island nation with a number of wartime remnants, including runways, bunkers, and plane wrecks on the main island of Fongafale and near the village of Nanumea. Also on the tiny island of Motulalo in Nukufetau there is a runway and some plane wrecks. If you are interested in stamps, the Philatelic Office on Funafuti is a must. The Tuvalu Women’s Handicraft Centre at the airport is a good place to see and buy local handicrafts. However, if you have time, try taking a boat to one of the outer islands and admire the locals’ skills in making ornaments, fans, mats, baskets or wood carvings.

In spring and summer, the islanders like to compete in ball games

The national match in Tuvalu is called “te ano” (the ball). Two teams line up opposite each other and hit a ball. The goal is to keep the ball in the air for as long as possible, similar to volleyball. The only stadium “Tuvalu Sports Ground” with 1,500 seats in Vaiaku (Fongafale, Funafuti) often hosts football and rugby matches. Since 2008, the “Tuvalu Games” have also been held there every year from April to June in the sports of badminton, football, weightlifting, canoeing, athletics as well as rugby, tennis and volleyball. The regional cuisine has a lot of fresh fish, poultry and pork as well as coconuts and papaya prepared in various ways as ingredients, you eat with your hands and sit on the floor. One of the most important staple foods is “Pulaka”, a highly starchy tuber. The climate on Tuvalu is tropical all year round with average temperatures between 27 and 30 degrees Celsius, the best time to travel is from March to November, when it hardly rains