Our Sister Cities


Punta Arenas, Chile (English: “Sandy Point”) is a commune and the capital city of Chile’s southernmost region, Magallanes and Antartica Chilena. Located on the Brunswick Peninsula north of the Strait of Magellan, Punta Arenas was originally established by the Chilean government in 1848 as a tiny penal colony to assert sovereignty over the Strait. During the remainder of the 1800s, Punta Arenas grew in size and importance due to the increasing maritime traffic and trade traveling to the west coasts of South and North America. This period of growth also resulted from the waves of immigrants attracted to the gold rush and sheep farming boom in the 1880s and early 1900s. The geopolitical importance of Punta Arenas has remained high in the 20th and 21st centuries because of its logistic importance in accessing the Antarctic Peninsula.

Vaasa, Finland (Swedish: Vasa) is a city on the west coast of Finland. It received its charter in 1606, during the reign of Charles IX of Sweden and is named after the Royal House of Vasa. Today, Vaasa has a population of 66,986 (30 September 2014), and is the regional capital of Ostrobothnia. The city is bilingual with 69.8% of the population speaking Finnish as their first language and 24.8% speaking Swedish, but the surrounding municipalities have much higher rates of Swedish-speakers than that. These circumstances make the region as well as the city an important centre for Finland-Swedish culture.

Tsetserleg, Mongolia is the capital of Arkhangai Aimag (province) in Mongolia. It lies on the northeastern slopes of the Khangai Mountains, 360 miles (600 km) southwest of Ulaanbaatar. It has a population of 16,553 (2000 census, with Erdenebulgan sum rural territories population was 18,519), 16,618 (2003 est.), 16,300 (2006 est.). Tsetserleg is geographically located in the Bulgan sum in the south of the aimag. It is not to be confused with Tsetserleg sum in the north. In 1992 Tsetserleg was designated as Erdenebulgan sum, which has area of 536 km².

Cheongju, Korea – At the heart of South Korea, Cheongju is a modern, vibrant city of around one million people and is rich in history, culture, and education. Located on the Geum River, this capital of Chungcheong Province is surrounded by mountainous countryside and beautiful scenery. The forested areas can be enjoyed while walking along the wall of the Sangdang Mountain Fortress. Cheongju has been an important center of culture and commerce since before the 9th century. Visitors can learn about the city’s history at the Cheongju National Museum and the famous Jikji Museum which contains the first metal printing press from the 14th century. Seven major universities are located in Cheongju. It is also famous for the International Craft Biennale Festival which takes place every two years in September and October.

Cheongju has been a Sister City of Bellingham since 2008. To promote friendship and cultural understanding, a pen pal program was set up between middle school students in both cities. Grade school children have come to Bellingham each summer, staying at Western Washington University and taking part in the Kids Camp summer program. Athletes from Cheongju have enthusiastically participated in the Ski to Sea race and parade. In addition, Cheongju has sent delegations from their arts community as well as business and government leaders who have met with Bellingham’s mayor, the City Council, and local business and educational leaders.  You can view photographs of Cheongju by clicking here.

Nakhodka, Russia is a port city in Primorsky Krai, Russia, located on the Trudny Peninsulajutting into the Nakhodka Bay of the Sea of Japan, about 85 kilometers (53 mi) east of Vladivostok, the administrative center of the krai. Population: 159,719 (2010 Census). The Nakhodka Bay, around which the city is organized, was discovered in 1859 by the Russian corvette Amerika, which sought shelter in the bay during a storm. In honor of this occasion, the ice-free and relatively calm bay was named Nakhodka, which in Russian means “discovery” or “lucky find”. Until the 20th century, the area around the bay remained uninhabited, with the first settlement a small fishing village founded in 1907. When the Soviet government decided to build a harbor in the area in the 1930s, a number of small settlements were founded, which were merged as a work settlement in the 1940s. On May 18, 1950, the settlement, by then with a population of about 28,000 residents, was granted town status.

Tateyama, Japan is a city located in Chiba Prefecture, Japan.The area of present-day Tateyama was part of ancient Awa Province, dominated by the Satomi clan during the Sengoku period, who ruled from Tateyama Castle. After the Edo period, most of the territory was part of the feudal domain ofTateyama Domain. After the start of the Meiji period, Tateyama Town (in Awa District), Chiba Prefecture was proclaimed on April 1, 1889. It annexed neighboring Toyosu Village on April 1, 1914, and merged with Hojo Town to form Tateyamahōjō Town on April 18, 1933. The city of Tateyama was proclaimed on November 3, 1939, with the merger of Tateyamahōjō with Nago and Funagata towns. The city was a base for the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service until the end of World War II. Tateyama expanded on May 3, 1954 by annexing six surrounding villages.

Port Stephens, Australia Council is a local government area in the Hunter Region of New South Wales, Australia. The area is just north of Newcastle and is adjacent to the Pacific Highway which runs through Raymond Terrace, the largest town and Council seat. The area is named after Port Stephens, which is the major geographical feature of the area. Most of the population is concentrated in Raymond Terrace and its satellite suburb of Heatherbrae or around or near the shores of Port Stephens in the suburbs of Anna Bay, Boat Harbour, Corlette, Fingal Bay, Fishermans Bay, Karuah, Lemon Tree Passage, Mallabula, Nelson Bay, One Mile, Oyster Cove, Salamander Bay, Shoal Bay, Soldiers Point, Swan Bay,Tanilba Bay and Taylors Beach. The port was named by Captain Cook when he passed on 11 May 1770, honouring Sir Philip Stephens, who was Secretary to the Admiralty. Stephens was a personal friend of Cook and had recommended him for command of the voyage. The first ship to enter the port was the Salamander, a ship of the Third Fleet that later gave the suburb of Salamander Bay its name, in 1791. In that same year escaped convicts, then known as ‘bolters’, discovered coal in the area.