Marshall Islands: what to know?

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The Marshall Islands, located in Micronesia in the Pacific Ocean, are made up of over a thousand coral islands with a total landmass of 70 square miles. The islands were first settled by Micronesians from Asia and were later visited by Europeans and claimed by Spain and Germany. The islands were controlled by Japan during World War I and later became a Trust Territory of the United States, which used some of the islands for nuclear weapons testing. The Marshall Islands gained independence in 1986 and continue to be a popular tourist destination with flights available from Guam, Hawaii, Australia, and Kiribati.

The Marshall Islands are a small nation in Micronesia in the Pacific Ocean. The islands encompass a total landmass of 70 square miles (181 square km), making them roughly the size of Washington, DC. They are located near the Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru and Kiribati.

The Marshall Islands were first settled by Micronesians from Asia millennia ago. Little remains from this early era, however, although the culture that developed during this period was rich and diverse.

Europeans first came into contact with the islands when the Spanish landed there in the early 16th century. Although Europeans continued to sporadically visit the islands for supplies, such visits were few and far between for the next two centuries. In the late 18th century a British captain, John Marshall, landed on the islands, which would eventually be named after him.

Spain claimed the islands in the late 19th century, leading to conflict with Germany, which also claimed them. Spain eventually paid Germany for their concession and established posts on the islands to harvest the coconuts. During World War I the Japanese took control of the Marshall Islands and held them until the United States seized the islands from the Japanese in 1990 as part of their battle for the Pacific.

After the war, the United States administered the Marshall Islands as a Trust Territory and for the next decade used a handful of the islands’ many atolls as a testing ground for nuclear weapons. In 1979 the Marshall Islands created a Constitution and received self-government, with the United States continuing to freely administer and care for the islands. In 1986, the Marshall Islands were declared fully independent from the United States, with a Compact of Free Association setting out terms for the continued use by the United States of some islands for military installations, in exchange for financial assistance.

The Marshall Islands are many, with over a thousand coral islands making up the nation. This is a pristine beauty unseen in many places on Earth, and a person can easily fold back and bask in paradise here. Marshallese people continue to live traditionally on many of the outlying islands, and even on the more accessible islands the pace of life is fairly relaxed. Majuro Atoll is the center of the country and is by far the most modernized of all the islands, with the majority of accommodation and restaurants to be found in the Marshall Islands. But even here you can find quiet beaches like those of Laura, on the west side of the atoll. Arno Atoll is where most tourists who want to get off the main road will first go, as its more than 100 islands are the only ones you can take a public boat to take you to, but many of the atolls more remote are worth a visit by private boat.

Flights arrive in Majuro with relative frequency from Guam and Hawaii on Continental’s Air Micronesia (Air Mike). Flights are also available from Australia and neighboring Kiribati. Unlike parts of Polynesia, ships don’t connect the islands to neighboring island nations, although it’s always possible to hitch a ride on a private yacht.

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