“Walking round the room singing stormy weather at 57 Mount Pleasant Street” – Neil Finn.
Nauru is a real enigma for your travelling mindset. It’s a country that was once known as Pleasant Island, and indeed as a child growing up in Northern Ireland, I knew it as such, as it had that moniker in my first Atlas as a six year old dreaming of travelling the world. It is still referred to as Pleasant Island now and then, but most of the world know it as Nauru, sometimes spelt Naoero.
Before arriving in Nauru, you hear all sorts of fake stories about how it is the most remote island in the world, allegedly it’s the most isolated country in the world, apparently it’s difficult to get to, the visa is a nightmare, supposedly it’s the least visited country in the world, they say there are only 2 flights per week etcetera. Well the good news is that all of that is bulldog excrement as I listed in my Myth Destroying Nauru article! You also hear that it doesn’t have a capital city – well it does!! Yaren is it!
I’d love to meet the person who invented all those fake facts. I told it how it is on this post on busting the myths about Nauru. That aside, we had a whopping 8 calendar days here on 3 stopovers, spending 5 nights sleeping on the island (at the Menen Hotel) and 6 days touring it as part of the Young Pioneer Tours “Least Visited Countries Tour”.
We toured all 19 villages on the island country of Nauru, including the capital city, Yaren. Yaren has more actual sights for the backpacker than the other villages and we managed to backpack them all. It is also said that Nauru doesn’t have a capital, and that Yaren is the “unofficial capital”. But it is my opinion that every country should have a capital and a booklet I got in the Nauru Museum cites Yaren as the capital, as does a signpost in the city itself. All countries should have a capital. In Brunei Darussalam it is Bandar Seri Begawan. In Gibraltar it is Gibraltar Town. In Austenasia it is Wrythe. In Faroe Islands it is Torshavn. In Northern Ireland it is Belfast. Here’s the highdown on what to do in Yaren, which while not the official capital city of Nauru, certainly feels like it and needs to claim it.
Getting to Yaren
Yaren houses the country’s airport, so most people will arrive here by flight. As well as this, we walked here from our hotel, Hotel Menen on the country’s east coast. It’s a 4 kilometre walk on a flat road, should take around an hour.
Once in Yaren, you can backpack through all these sights in a matter of hours. They are all along the strip next to the runway. If you are coming from the east side, be sure to take the turn off to the left once you see the runway of the airport. The reason is, after this, you cannot cross the runway by foot and would have to backtrack on yourself, as the runway spans the length of the capital city Yaren and into the next village, Boe and even beyond that into Aiwo. Here are the top backpacking sights in Yaren, Nauru’s unofficial capital.
1.Southern Most Tip of Nauru
At Yaren, you can be at the southernmost tip of the entire country, as you stand by the rocks or the roadside to the south east edge of the runway. It’s actually been slightly built on reclaimed land. Get your selfies took and glorify yourself for at least half a second.
2.Wall of Flags
Round the bend on route to the capital city’s main street is a Wall of Flags from most of the countries in the Pacific Ocean region.
I posed here with my Northern Ireland flag by the Nauru flag. The flags included New Zealand, Cook Islands, Niue and Papua New Guinea.
3.Nauru Government Buildings
The government buildings have the Nauru flag painted on pillars at the entrance and a flag hoisted high. This is one of the most important buildings in the country.
4.Nauru Parliament House
We were lucky enough to be let inside the impressive parliament house in Nauru, along the main strip. There is a model of Nauru island, a painting of the current president, Baron Waqa and wooden boards listing all previous presidents and high ranked governmental positions in the country since its formation and independence in 1968.
What was interesting for me is that one of the previous presidents had 5 different spells as head of the country, Bernard Dowiyogo. Another previous president, Hammer Deroburt, the country’s first ever president in 1968 also enjoyed 4 spells in control. Certainly, wacaday to the core but let’s hope the country finds some stability now under Baron Waqa, who took charge in 2013.
In front of the government buildings is a garden with a war memorial dedicated to those who fought and died in World War 1 and World War 2. Four Nauruans were exterminated by the Japanese in 1943 and have their own plaque on this monument which sits in front of the government buildings.
Nauru is quite a religious Christian country. On Sundays, alcohol is prohibited and there are over 10 churches on this small island. Yaren church is not the main one or the prettiest one on the island, but it has weekly services and serves the capital.
7.Yaren Primary School
Yaren has schools for children of all ages from 4 – 16. The primary school was open on our visit and the kids were in the garden playing AFL.
8.Yaren Court House
Further in behind the main buildings sits the main Court House.
9.Yaren Secondary School
The Secondary School in Yaren has two floors and two larger buildings than the Primary School.
10.Yaren Fire Station
Yaren Fire Station was the only fire station we saw on the whole island, and of course is well located opposite the airport in case of any emergencies. In fact, it’s only about 100 metres from the runway.
11.Yaren Peeler Station (Yaren Police Station)
Just up from the Fire Station is Yaren Peeler Station where the main headquarters of the country’s police are based.
12.Yaren Welcome Sign “Capital”
There are actually a few signs and murals with Yaren written on it, and I checked out all of them. However, there is a sign that says “capital” on it, the sole proof that Yarenians class their city as the capital of Nauru.
The museum has only been opened in the last few years and is still developing. But it’s a new and cosy little building on the main street through Yaren and definitely worth a trip – one of the best sights on the whole island, and the island’s only museum. You can learn about the war history, the Japanese occupation and the independence, which was in 1968.
We spent about half an hour in here – it’s very insightful and is still being built. They are welcoming new exhibits from Nauruan history.
In hindsight, the Nauru Museum was a must-see for me and without doubt one of the most important sights to backpack in the country.
14.Abwan’s Gift Shop
If you are looking for souvenirs on Nauru, there are really only three places in the country to buy them in – and this isn’t one of them!! You either go to the Post office in Aiwo (stamps and postcards) or to the lovely souvenir section of the Capelle & Partner Supermarket in Ronave / Ewa beach in northern Nauru. Abwan’s Gift Shop only has St. Kilda AFL stickers, some snacks, drinks and nik naks!
We never had any food in Yaren city centre (only at the airport) but there are a few small family homes that have been turned into “restaurants”. The most obvious of these is Ma-Vari Restaurant, which sells iced coffee, iced tea, food and yoghurt. There is a poor selection of food in the capital, and you are better to eat in the village of Aiwo (at the Od N Aiwo Hotel), the northern village of Ronave or on the east coast at either the Bay Restaurant or the Hotel Menen Restaurant.
16.Nauru International Airport
Of course the main sight is really Nauru International Airport, as for most tourists we will backpack in and out of the country via this airport. I ended up visiting 7 Nauru International Airport 5 times on this trip! The airport has an ATM also!
I am sure that this list will change by the time you all get to Nauru, as things open and close all the time but most of them should still be there and Yaren is definitely worth a trip, and one of the most peculiar capital cities I have backpacked through. I put it up there with Wrythe, Dili, Porto Novo and Gibraltar Town as an obscure capital which seemed essential and exciting on this ongoing journey. Here are a few more photos of Yaren.
I was here in Nauru as part of a least visited countries tour with Young Pioneer Tours, which operates such a tour twice-yearly.
Here are some of the videos I took whilst backpacking in Yaren, Nauru: