Niue – Alofi, Niue - Atlas Obscura

Niue

Alofi, Niue

A tiny, remote island packed with wonders both natural and geeky. 

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Who wouldn’t want to live on an island with universal free wi-fi, currency featuring characters from Pokemon and Doctor Who, and a landscape covered in beautiful natural formations? Apparently, the island’s natives themselves, most of whom live 1,500 miles away in New Zealand.

The small island of Niue, measuring about 100 square miles, is unique by many counts. It’s one of the largest coral islands in the world, surrounded entirely by coral reefs except for one stretch of the west coast near the capital, Alofi. Limestone cliffs and caves line the coast and cliff-encircled chasm pools are popular destinations with tourists. Humpback whales have been known to nurse their calves off the coast of the island during the summer, though a respectful distance is encouraged while observing them. The absence of lakes and rivers keeps the water very clear and safe to drink. Another peculiar feature that’s drawn visitors is that the island’s isolation makes it easier to pick up ham radio signals.

But even stranger is the non-circulating “Niue dollar” coins, produced as bullions in New Zealand and sold to collectors worldwide. Niue introduced its first set of geeky coins, commemorating the Star Wars franchise. Since then, it has issued well over a thousand types of coins featuring pop culture icons. There are coins commemorating Disney movies, PokémonHarry Potter, DC Comics and Magic: The Gathering. These Niue dollars do not always come in the round coin shape, but also in oblongs, hearts, animal shapes, Darth Vader’s helmet and more, sometimes even multi-colored.

There are 14 villages on the island, and most people speak both Niuean and English. Niue continues to look to the future, hopeful it can bring back expats who sought opportunities elsewhere. In 2003, it became the first country to offer free wi-fi to all inhabitants, and it is currently working toward becoming the first fully organic country and transitioning to solar power.

Know Before You Go

Weekly flights by Air New Zealand from Auckland, New Zealand will take you to Niue in about 3 hours. Niue’s international Airport, Hanan (IUE), is less than 5 minutes from the main town of Alofi. An entry visa can be applied for beforehand if planning on staying more than 30 days. Passports are required, and don't plan on bringing any form of food in with you.