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Micronesia: Cultural and Historical Holidays

Discover Micronesia's Cultural and Historical past

Explore some of the South Pacific's most dramatic archaeological sites on beautiful Pohnpei Island, home to an ancient civilisation that once flourished and then declined, well before western contact in the Pacific.

Discover the sunken city of Nan Madol - often called 'the Venice of the Pacific', stroll around the ancient burial vaults and walls of Nan Douwas and try to imagine life as it was in the 12th century as you contemplate the burial mounds of Kosraean royalty on Lelu Island.

Micronesia boasts some of the most spectacular scenery in the South Pacific, where dense forests meet sandy shores on the edge of surrounding lagoons. Make time to cruise among the thousands of tiny islands, go scuba diving, explore endless coves, trek into lush forests and experience a culture where men flaunt their loincloths and ancient stone money is still valued and used to indicate wealth and status.

Highlights

Nan Madol Often called 'the Venice of the Pacific', the sunken city of Nan Madol, which means 'spaces between', is a collection of awe-inspiring megalithic ruins that cover 80ha of coral reef along the shore of Temwen Island and the main island of Pohnpei. Hike around the ancient stone ruins built on man-made islets linked by a network of shallow canals. Explore the massive walled compounds, temples, burial vaults, meeting houses, bathing areas, tunnels and ceremonial pools for turtles, fish and eels. Constructed from prismatic basalt columns, some up to 7.5m in length (similar to those found at the famous Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland), Nan Madol was built during the Saudeleur dynasty in the 12th and 13th centuries and served as an elaborate residential and religious compound for Pohnpei's ancient elite and their servants. Wonder at the construction of the basalt 'logs' of Nan Douwas, the main structure at Nan Madol - an easy 15-minute hike from the capital, Kolonia. The best time to explore the site is either in the early morning or late afternoon, as the midday sun is brutally hot and shade is scarce.

Lelu Island Stroll the coral-clad walkways of the ancient walled city of Insaru. Explore dwelling compounds, burial mounds and the impressive walls that stand 6m tall. The city was built by hand for Kosraean royalty from huge hexagonal basalt columns erected between the 13th and 14th centuries. Look for the large sakau-pounding stone at the entrance to Insaru, which holds the pyramidal tombs of the kings. A massive walled causeway links the island with nearby Kosrae Island.

Menke After a three-hour trek through the lush tropical rainforest to the centre of Kosrae Island, explore basalt walls, chambered living quarters and religious platforms where ancient Kosraens worshipped 'Singlaku,' the Goddess of Breadfruit.

Hiking Don't miss hiking to one of Pohnpei's magnificent waterfalls that dot the island's mountainous interior. Cool off with a swim in one of the many freshwater pools or in the wide Nanpil River - two of the most beautiful falls are at Kepirohi and Sahwartik. Explore the main island of Kosrae, with its interior of uncharted rainforests, take a day to trek to the summit of Mount Finkol and enjoy the great views from the highest point at 630m, or hike along a winding stream to the picturesque Tafunsak Gorge with its hanging ferns and orchids growing along the 20m cliff face.

Diving Discover some of the best diving in the world. Kosrae Island has more than 50 dive sites to choose from, with unspoiled coral reefs close to the shore for both walk-in and boat diving. From Pohnpei Island take a short boat trip to dive unspoiled Ant Atoll and Pakin Atoll. Further afield, dive the famous Truk Lagoon among wrecks of the Japanese fleet sunk during World War II; some of the shallower wrecks are suitable for snorkellers.

Wildlife Visit the Pwudoi Wildlife Sanctuary in Kitti on Pohnpei Island and watch local boys from the Lasialap clan 'calling' large fresh water eels into the shallows where they slither their way onto the bank. The eels are then stroked and picked up, resting limply in the hands of the boys. Known as the clan of the Great Eels, the Lasialap believe that the slippery freshwater eels that dwell in all Pohnpei's rivers are their relatives.

Best time to go

Any time is a good time: the islands average a balmy 27C year round. Expect fresh sea breezes and high humidity. Late spring and summer are the wettest months with rainfall heaviest on Pohnpei. During the summer months from June to August, the winds are light and the seas calm - great for diving.

  Shopping  

Best buys on Pohnpei Island are the elaborate scaled model canoes and traditional island handicrafts including ivory nut bracelets crafted into sharks, dolphins and other sea life. Another great buy are shampoos, soaps and lotions made from fresh coconut. On Chuuk Island check out love sticks and war clubs, and on Yap Island look out for colourful grass skirts, lava-lavas woven from hibiscus bark, woven baby cradles, betel-nut pouches and stone money.

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