Introduction

Vanuatu is a Pacific island adventure far beyond any notions of cruise-ship ports and flashy resorts. Deserted beaches, ancient culture, remote and rugged islands and world-class diving are just a small part of the magnetism of this scattered 80-plus island archipelago.

Where else can you hike up a crater to stare down into a magma-filled active volcano then ashboard back down, snorkel in a blue hole and drink kava with the local village chief – all in the same day? The resorts and restaurants of Port Vila have little in common with traditional kastom (custom) village life in the outer islands, but it's contrasts like these that make Vanuatu a surprise and a challenge.

Vanuatu was slammed by Cyclone Pam in 2015, but the ni-Van people, resilient and laid-back as ever, take life in smiling strides.

It takes a little time, effort and a healthy sense of adventure to truly explore Vanuatu's islands, but it's worth every bit of it.

Highlights

  • Mt Yasur Talking to the gods and hearing their thunderous replies punctuated with brilliant volcanic fireworks on Tanna.
  • Port Vila Enjoying the beaches, islands, diving, cultural sites and fine restaurants.
  • Luganville Swimming through an underwater world of luxury liners, coral gardens and encrusted caves.
  • Mt Marum Camping near the smoking mountain while surrounded by the jungle, cane forests, lava beds and ash plains.
  • Malekula Trekking through wild jungle to remote village and cannibal sites.
  • Oyster Island Relaxing ‘resort style’.
  • Champagne Beach Taking a day trip to splash around in blue holes on Santo's east coast.
  • Tanna Tasting kava with locals at an ancient kastom village.
  • Epi Swimming with turtles and looking for dugongs.
  • Pentecost Observing the danger, excitement and cultural cred of the extraordinary naghol (land diving).

When to Go

May–Jul Warm and dry; high season. Pentecost’s land diving is in full swing.

Aug–Oct Avoid Australian school holidays and enjoy mostly dry sunny days.

Nov–Mar Wet (cyclone) season, so accommodation is plentiful but transport may be delayed.