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French Polynesia is the name given to 118 islands that are grouped into five archipelagos located between California and Australia in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean. The islands of French Polynesia are scattered over a surface that is a little larger than Europe, but he actual land area that they make up is roughly 4,000 km², which is even smaller than 1/100 of France’s surface area. The five archipelagos are Austral, Gambier, Marquesas, Society and Tuamotu. 

The history of French Polynesia started with the settlement of Polynesians who thrived on the islands for hundreds of years as loose chieftainships before the Europeans ever set eyes on the islands. A large number of marae (religious sites) are still found scattered on the islands proving their existence. At the start of the 16th century the Europeans started to arrive with Ferdinand Magellan the Portuguese explorer sighting Puka-Puka in 1521, followed by the Dutch and British explorers thereafter.  The archipelago was united under the French protectorate in 1946 and it status changed to a French overseas territory. Due to the continuous movements for independence, France changed its status to Overseas Country in 2004, allowing it more autonomy.

 The topography of French Polynesia is made up of volcanic origin and coral reefs along the islands periphery. The island of Tahiti, Bora Bora and Moorea are the most famous and stunning as well with their lush green lands and jagged peaks reaching for the skies. The beauty of the islands is a major draw for tourism in French Polynesia, offering such activities as scuba diving, snorkelling, historical tours, hiking and numerous other activities. Roughly sixty one percent of the population of French Polynesia resides on the island of Tahiti, near the capital city.

French Polynesian cuisine relies on fishing, fruits and vegetables. According to European descriptions of the area, the Marquesas Islands were distinctive in their reliance on breadfruit, a bulky, starchy fruit native to the islands. Taro root is another significant food of French Polynesia. A one point in history the men and women in French Polynesia ate separately but this practice is no longer followed.

Visa policy for French Polynesia is similar to that of France. If you need a visa to visit France, then you need a visa for the islands also. Citizens of the European Union countries can reside in French Polynesia for a maximum of three months without a visa as can Australians and citizens of a few other European countries. Argentina, Canada, Chile, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand (NZ), the USA citizens can stay for a maximum of one month. All other visitors will have to obtain a visa before visiting the islands.


Fast Facts:

Capital City:   Papeete, Tahiti

Languages:   French, Tahitian (both official)

Ethnicity/race:   Polynesian 78%, Chinese 12%, local French 6%, metropolitan French 4%

Religions:   Protestant 54%, Roman Catholic 30%, other 10%, no religion 6%

Monetary unit:   Pacific financial community franc

Land Area:   (TOTAL) 1,608 sq miles (4,167 sq km

Country Calling Code:   +689


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