Introducing New Caledonia
There's no better place to experience the Pacific with a taste of France than New Caledonia, where Melanesian tradition blends with French sophistication. This mix of the chic yet casual, très French but ultimately Pacific comes together with peerless élan in Noumea, the cosmopolitan capital. Dining out and shopping run the gamut from gourmet restaurants to humble roulottes, from Chinatown's colourful shops to the expensively elegant, air-conditioned boutiques on rue de Sébastopol. When you leave the capital, the urban scenery gives way to a wealth of changing landscapes - the rolling plains of la brousse (the bush), lush river valleys, steep mountains coursed by tumbling waterfalls, cool rainforests and wild coastlines.
Grande Terre is the main island with rugged mountains, waterfalls and the world's largest coral lagoon. To the Southeast, lies romantic Île des Pins with its slender pines, white-sand beaches and emerald lagoon. To the east, life proceeds at a leisurely pace in the relaxed Loyalty Islands: Maré, steeped in Kanak culture, Lifou and Ouvea.
New Caledonia is surrounded by the world's largest enclosed lagoon, where marine treasures of all shapes and sizes lie waiting to be discovered - canyons and caves, exquisite coral, the smallest of tropical fish, turtles, sea snakes and sharks. Dolphin and whale spotting are other delights in store, or simply the luxury of total relaxation on the soft, warm sand of a deserted isle.