Fiji is known for its stunning islands and relaxing atmosphere, and the very word ‘Fiji’ generally conjures up images of relaxing in hammocks and sipping juices on the beach. But for those who like to soak up culture and historic sights on their travels, Fiji also offers plenty to see and do – so much so that it can seem overwhelming! That’s why we’ve chosen 8 of the destinations that should be on the top of your list.
Ovalau is the sixth largest island in Fiji, and is just 13 kilometers long and 10 kilometers wide. Despite the fact that this main island lies only 20 kilometres from Viti Levu, few tourists make it out here, making it feel like a special find for each of its visitors.
2. HISTORICAL PORT TOWN, LEVUKA
Formerly the Capital of Fiji, Levuka is the largest of the 24 settlements on the island of Ovalau. From the 1820s onwards, Americans and Europeans developed the town as a centre of commercial activity, building warehouses, shops, and houses around the villages of the indigenous population. The town was peacefully ceded to the British by the King of Fiji in 1874, and continued to be inhabited by indigenous people, who outnumbered the Europeans. They influenced its development, with local building traditions being used throughout the town.
Levuka is a rare display of late 19th century Pacific port settlements, and for this reason, it was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2013. Luckily for visitors, this means the town will remain as it is forever – providing a lasting example of a part of Fiji’s unique history.
Visit Levuka’s Wild West style colonial buildings, which are set amongst coconut and mango trees along the beachfront. You can also see the Royal Hotel, founded in the late 1860s, workers cottages, the shell button factory site, and the former Cakobau Parliament House site (now the European Memorial). Look out for remnants of the tram tracks leading to the wharf too!
You can visit this historical town on our Colonial Discovery Cruise.
3. VANUA LEVU
Vanua Levu, formerly known as Sandalwood Island, is the second largest island of Fiji. Despite being full of natural wonders like waterfalls, reefs, and pristine waters perfect for divers, it is also relatively unfrequented by tourists. Here are some of the historically important places to visit if you go to the island.
4. HOT SPRINGS, SAVUSAVU
There are many hot springs in Fiji, but the hot springs at Savusavu have an interesting historical background. In the past, local people used the springs, which can get up to temperatures of 90?, to boil their food. They told Europeans in the 19th century that the springs had existed for as long as they could remember. In 1898, the springs were visited by botanist H.B.Guppy, who saw geysers – geothermal activity which turned the springs into intermittent fountains. The geysers spouted at different angles and were between 12-18 metres high. Each burst lasted for 10 to 20 minutes, followed by a ‘silent’ period of similar length. This geyser activity continued for around two months, and then the springs returned to their normal regime.
If you’d like to visit Savusavu, join our Colonial Discovery Cruise.
5. NAAG MANDIR TEMPLE, LABASA
In Labasa, the largest town on Vanua Levu, lives the Sacred Cobra Rock, housed in what has been called the ‘snake temple’. It is believed that the now 3-metre-high rock has grown bigger over the years, so much so that the roof of the temple has had to be raised four times since the 1950s. The locals believe that the rock, which is shaped like a cobra, can cure the sick and the infertile. The sacred growing stone has become a worshipping station for many followers of Hinduism, who cover it with bright flower and tinsel garlands, and place offerings of fruit, fire and coconut cream at its base.
Join the 4 Cultures Discovery Cruise with Captain Cook Cruises Fiji to visit Labasa, and explore its town, markets and river.
6. VITI LEVU
Viti Levu is the largest island in Fiji, called home by 70% of the nation’s population. This of course also makes it a primary location for visitors, with plenty of sights to explore and experience. Chances are after your cruise you will fly out of Nadi International Airport, located on Viti Levu, so while you’re there, why not check out some of these sights?
7. NAIHEHE CAVES, SIGATOKA
Naihehe literally translated into English means ‘a place to get lost’. Not hard to believe, considering it is Fiji’s largest cave system.
Thanks to its natural fortress-like qualities, the cave was used as a hiding place throughout the ancient tribal times of the Islands. Secret access to the top of the cave via wild vines made it an especially secretive hiding place.
Upon arrival to the caves it is of utmost importance to seek permission of the Bete (priest), the traditional protector of the cave. Legend has it that if you skip this important step and enter the cave without permission, you will be trapped there for all eternity!
8. MOMI GUNS, MOMI BAY
As the shadow of World War II blanketed the planet, the Fiji Islands become a prime target for Japanese attacks due to their strategic location amidst the waters of the Pacific. Determined to keep the islands from falling into enemy hands, New Zealand Expeditionary Forces constructed defenses at various points throughout Viti Levu. Momi was selected as one of these points in order to protect the Navula Passage, a vulnerable break in the western reef.
After being constructed by the New Zealanders in 1941, the United States Coast Artillery provided replacement forces in 1942, who remained station there until being relocated in 1944. Today, the battery is cared for by the National Trust of Fiji Islands and represents a proud period in Fiji’s history.
9. UDRE UDRE GRAVE, RAKIRAKI
Viti Levu, one of the formerly nicknamed Cannibal Islands, was also home to the infamous cannibal Udre Udre. Holding the Guinness World Record for ‘most prolific cannibal’, Udre Udre allegedly ate over 800 of his enemies, keeping a stone from each victim. These stones decorate his gravesite today. The belief was that, had he consumed his 1000th body, he would have become immortal.
10. TAVUNI HILL FORT, SIGATOKA
This semi-restored ancient Fiji fort, and the items displayed inside, are almost perfectly preserved, providing a direct look into Fijian history.
In the eighteenth century Tongan invaders established themselves on the steep hillside where the fort now stands. They waged war on the surrounding land from their base, until finally being driven out in 1876 by troops under British command. Following the Tongans’ withdrawal, the fort was never to be inhabited again, and wasn’t even visited until reopening in 1994.
The informative guides are actual descendants of the original Tongan inhabitants, and provide tourists with a rich history of those who once inhabited the fort. Two spectacular lookout points overlooking the Sigatoka River and Viti Levu Coastline offer amazing photographic opportunities, making the trip worthwhile all on their own. There are other historical sights to explore near the fort, like ceremonial grounds and the spooky killing stone, where victims’ heads were smashed with a war club.
11. SRI SIVA SUBRAMANIYA TEMPLE, NADI
A peaceful Hindu temple and the largest Hindu temple in the southern hemisphere, the Sri Siva Subramaniya Temple is one of few places where Dravidian architecture can be seen outside of India. Despite the long history of the brightly colourful temple, it is still a work in progress. Throughout the years, famous artists such as ST Santosh have contributed to the design of the temple.
Currently, the temple plays home to many of Nadi’s festivals, such as Karthingai Puja, and attracts worshippers from all over the globe.
Visitors are welcome, but should ensure to remain respectful at all times, arrive with modest dress, and without shoes or cameras as neither is allowed inside the temple. Although people from all backgrounds and religious are invited inside the temple, non-Hindus are asked to refrain from entering the inner sanctum.
See them for yourself!
These sights are just scraping the surface of all there is to see around Fiji – if you have time, there’s plenty more history and culture to sink your teeth into. Check out our small ship cruises that stop by these historic locations. Enjoy!