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Variety, vibrancy, volcanoes − these words aptly describe Vanuatu. This necklace of lush islands in the South Pacific is a potpourri of cultures offering travellers a captivating and divergent choice of experiences, from fine dining to adventure tourism.
The people of Vanuatu are always smiling. Said to be the happiest souls in the world. Making easy and immediate connections with the nation’s people is an everyday occurrence and travellers are welcomed with open-arms.
Vanuatu is sure to be one of leaders of any island nation when it comes to cuisine - it’s steaks of the Santo beef variety are renowned. Vanuatu’s rich volcanic soil and year-round rain have helped give the country’s beef a worldwide reputation for quality. Likewise, the coffee grown on the island of Tanna has gained distinction around the globe. Where better to sample these culinary delights than in a French restaurant in the cosmopolitan capital, Port Vila. Or join in one of the Melanesian feasts organised by the major resorts.
While relaxation and fine dining are a prerequisite of most island holidays, there are a myriad of reasons for leaving your sun lounger and working up a fresh appetite. Vanuatu boasts some of the best diving sites in the world, with opportunities to explore both pristine coral reefs and wartime wrecks, making this destination a magnet for both scuba divers and snorkelers alike. And if you want to keep your feet dry but still hanker for excitement, Vanuatu has some of the world’s most active and exciting volcanoes, many of them easily accessible to visitors.
A visit to Mt Yasur has to be on the top of your to do list when visiting Vanuatu. It is the most iconic landmark on the island of Tanna, after all there aren’t many places in the world where you can stand on the rim of a live volcano and witness up close and personal the fiery display of shooting lava bombs and volcanic ash clouds. The Tanna Volcano Safari will take you through the Middle Bush area, past wild horses on the White Grass plains, coffee plantations and highland villages before reaching the foot of Mt Yasur. A further 15 minute walk will place you at the craters edge. You’ll arrive at the volcano while it is still light so you can experience the sun setting, then after sunset enjoy the show at night as the molten lava lights up the sky. Feel the earth rumble beneath your feet and be impressed by the power of nature, this is one experience you won’t soon forget.
Vanuatu and the outer islands in particular offer incredible diving and the Santo region is a favourite for divers the world over. Widely varied and catering to all levels of skill and interest, the dive sites around Santo have it all.
Experience the thrill of a shore dive of the SS President Coolidge which now rests between 20 and 60 metres and offers the world’s largest accessible wreck dive to anyone from novice to experts. Allan Power have been guiding divers in and around this majestic wreck for over 35 years and they are well known as being the caretakers of the Coolidge. There are over 20 different dives, ranging from 18 metres to 60 metres. You’ll see all sorts of WWII artefacts including tanks, jeeps and old guns. Another must dive is Million Dollar Point, which is also a shore dive.
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Vanuatu’s capital, Port Vila is the site of the main airport and harbour so most visitors spend time here. There’s no better introduction to the delights of Vanuatu. Enjoy sampling the cuisine – with a range of cafés and restaurants to pick from, you’ll be spoilt for choice. The country’s colonial past is reflected in the large number of French cafés but there’s also plenty of delicious local food on the menu, including seafood and world renowned Santo beef. Shopping at the markets is a fun experience and you’ll discover the friendliness of the locals. Getting around the town is cheap and easy. Just hop on one of the mini-buses with a red ‘B’ on the number plate. They are used extensively by the locals, and besides being convenient, add immensely to your holiday experience. (Image: ©Vanuatu Tourism/David Kirkland)
Santo was the inspiration behind James Michener’s “Tales of the South Pacific”, giving the region an aura it’s never lost. Champagne Beach, with its silver sand and sapphire sea, fulfils every tourist’s expectation of an island paradise. Santo is a legendary destination in every way, boasting Vanuatu’s highest mountains and vast expanses of rainforest. Santo is also a dream destination for diving enthusiasts, the main attraction being the wreck of the luxury liner SS President Coolidge, which sank just off Santo in 1942 after striking a mine. Still almost intact, the liner is considered one of the best and most accessible wreck dives in the world. A bonus for divers is that close by is the aptly named Million Dollar Point, where the American forces dumped all their surplus equipment at the end of the war.
The glow emanating from Mt Yasur attracted Captain Cook to Tanna in 1774 and the classic volcano has proved a magnet for visitors to the island ever since. The pyrotechnic display at night is awe-inspiring and during the day there’s the opportunity to take a 4WD journey virtually to the rim of the world’s most accessible active volcano to view the spectacular ongoing eruptions. Apart from being one of the productive islands in Vanuatu, Tanna is also one of the most traditional as custom and culture remain extremely important. Many villages have shunned modern life, preferring to live as their ancestors have for centuries, giving visitors a unique opportunity to view an ancient culture and its many colourful ceremonies. (Image: ©Vanuatu Tourism/David Kirkland)
Vanuatu is bursting with beautiful beaches, but one in particular is consistently voted amongst the world’s best Champagne Beach on Santo. She has pristine white sand, crystal clear waters, and is perfect for a picnic day out.
Indulge in a soothing and revitalising massage at Lotus Day Spa, which offers many wonderful treatments. (Image: ©Vanuatu Tourism)
Visit the local market in downtown Port Vila and sample the local fruits or buy a few handcrafts to take home as souvenirs. (Image: ©Vanuatu Tourism)
Venture into the highlands of Tanna and visit the ancient village of a warrior tribe who have resisted much of today’s civilised world, and live as their ancestors once did. You’ll learn about their customs and black magic rituals.
Escape to stunning Pele Island for the day and enjoy some excellent snorkelling, swimming, a village tour and a sumptuous BBQ lunch.
These beautiful natural formations are the result of millions of years of bubbling fresh water sprints cutting through the soft limestone rock. With the lush green rainforests as a backdrop the ‘holes’ look impossibly blue and are magical swimming spots. (Image: ©Vanuatu Tourism/David Kirkland)
It’s the only one in the world, created and run by Vanuatu Post. Send a postcard home from three metres down in the waters off Hideaway Island. If you can snorkel, you can do it – but help is on hand if you need it.
Vanuatu's most popular tour! At Mele Cascades you will be guided through the lush and tropical rain forest. Take a dip in the clear natural rock pools for a refreshing swim.
Espiritu Santo was a huge military base during WWII. It’s worthwhile taking a local tour that takes in some of the relics including Quonset huts, three bomber strip and Million Dollar Point.
Republic of Vanuatu
Current time in Vanuatu
New Zealand is 3 hours ahead of Vanuatu
Vanuatu Vatu (VUV)
Current is 220V, 50HZ. Plug is a 3 point rectangle-pin adaptor
English, French and Bislama
ANZ Bank in Port Vila and Luganville, Santo. ATMs are located around the country.
Hospitals are located in Port Vila and Luganville, Santo.
If you’re travelling on a NZ Passport, a Visa is not required but needs to be valid for 6 months from the date of entry. If you intend on staying longer than 30 days a visa will be required.
3 hours and 15 minutes from Auckland to Port Vila, 4 hours and 3 minutes from Wellington to Port Vila and 4 hours and 20 minutes from Christchurch to Port Vila
Air New Zealand, Air Vanuatu and Fiji Airways
Are you planning your next trip to Vanuatu? Want to learn more about this destination? Or looking for ideas and inspiration for your next holiday? Here is where you can find our featured articles on Vanuatu.
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