Ha’amonga ‘a Maui Trilithon

Top choice in Tongatapu

The South Pacific’s equivalent of Stonehenge, the Ha’amonga ‘a Maui (Maui’s Burden) trilithon near Niutoua, is one of ancient Polynesia’s most intriguing monuments. Archaeologists and oral history credit its construction to Tu’itatui, the 11th Tu’i Tonga. Others say it was built by ancient Chinese explorers. Either way, the structure consists of three large coralline stones, each weighing about 40 tonnes, arranged into a trilithic gate. Mortised joints ensure the top stone won't fall off, as per Stonehenge!

A walking track winds northward past several langi (tombs; known as the Langi Heketa), including ‘Esi Makafakinanga, supposedly Tu’itatui’s backrest. Such chiefly backrests were common in Polynesia: apparently Tu’itatui used this one as a shield against attack from behind while he oversaw the trilithon's construction.