Papeete: Top five sights
© LOC

1. Papeete market

The Papeete market conjures up memories of a more languid era in Tahiti, a time when the islanders first opened up to the rest of the world, sharing their pride in their customs and their welcoming hospitality, which was matched only by their joyful disposition. Day in, day out, from 6 am to 6 pm, the lively market is a constant hive of activity. This marvellously atmospheric trading venue, rich in colour and excitement, remains the historical, cultural and social hub of Papeete.

2. The cannons of Bougainville Park

French explorer Louis-Antoine de Bougainville landed in Tahiti in April 1768, less than a year after reaching Wallis and Futuna. He named the island ‘New Cythera’ and wrote about it in his travel log, thereby making Tahiti much more widely known in Europe. The cannon on the left (facing the sea) was originally part of the Zélée (‘Zealous’), a French warship whose artillery guns were placed on high ground to defend Papeete from German attacks in 1914. The second cannon was taken from the Seeadler (‘Sea eagle’), a German raider that sank three American ships in the Pacific in 1917. The Seeadler ran aground on Mopelia atoll later that same year, after being taken by surprise by a huge wave.

3. Royal pond in the heart of Papeete

The Assembly of French Polynesia’s immense park, created in 1858 and located right in the centre of the town, is a haven of green space, fresh air and tranquillity. Within the gardens, a hundred or so workers constructed a bathing pool known as the ‘Queen’s pond’, in which Tahitian monarch Pomare IV loved to swim in the company of other women in her entourage.

4. The Fautaua Valley: history within nature

A well-preserved site of natural beauty situated a few minutes outside Papeete, the Fautaua Valley is a cherished area of relaxation. Its relatively conserved state, magnificent panoramas, waterfalls and pools, historical interest (Loti’s Pool, the ‘marae’ spiritual meeting place, Fachoda Fort), educational value (flora, water usage) and appeal to visitors make the valley a must-see attraction, just a stone’s throw from the town. The Fautaua Falls are ranked 28th in the world in terms of height.

5. Bishop’s Gardens

The Bishop’s Gardens are a natural treasure whose history stretches back over 150 years. In 1855, Bishop Tepano Jaussen purchased the 750 hectares (1,850 acres) of land for the Catholic mission, turning it into a veritable orchard which, by the end of the 1870s, boasted up to 8,000 coconut trees, as well as numerous fields of sugar cane, eucalyptus trees, uru trees and other fruit trees, and with these resources he was able to meet the needs of the local community. Bishop Jaussen’s successors, Bishops Maze and Coppenrath, continued his good work by planting numerous tree species.