North Maluku’s historically and politically most significant islands are the pyramid-like volcanic cones of Ternate and Tidore. Once the world's only source of cloves, the spice trade made these ancient Islamic island sultanates the most powerful territories in medieval Maluku.
Today, Tidore slumbers in obscurity but Ternate is still the main hub of North Maluku (Maluku Utara, or 'Malut'), although Sofifi on neighbouring Halmahera was named the province’s official capital in 2007 and many government offices have relocated there. Few islands in North Maluku have any real history of tourism, so visits beyond Ternate will often prove to be something of an adventure. Vast Halmahera in particular offers white-sand beaches, tasty diving and a little-known national park, but much of its potential remains untapped.
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