The beautiful nation of Vanuatu stretches across 1,300km of the South Pacific Ocean. Over 80 individual islands make it up and each fall in a north-to-south line below the Solomon Islands. Vanuatu lies to the east of Australia, northeast of New Caledonia and west of Fiji. There are 3 main tourist destinations within the Vanuatu island chain—the islands of Efate, Espiritu Santo (commonly just “Santo”) and Tanna. While there’s less of a tourism-focus on the other islands, Pentecost, Ambrym and Malekula do contain plenty of tropical wonders waiting to be discovered during Vanuatu travel and tours!
Vanuatu holidays appeal to tourists because of the country’s unique mix of unspoilt natural beauty and resort-style accommodation. There are plenty of jungle trails, villages and coastlines to explore, plus cruise ships often stop just out to sea to explore the reefs that lie below the surface of surrounding clear blue waters. Vanuatu can be easily reached from Australia. Direct flights from the east coast take under 5 hours (2 hours 45 minutes from Brisbane and 4 hours 50 from Sydney), while those from Melbourne take just over 7 hours. Flights land just outside the capital on the island of Efate. This international gateway point is also the site of domestic transfers, taking visitors on to Santo and Tanna if they choose to fly.
- Capital: Port Vila
- International Airport: Bauerfield International Airport
- Language: English, French and Bislama
- Currency: Vanuatu Vatu
- Population: Approximately 218, 000
History and Culture
Vanuatu has a long and rich history. Melanesian groups have inhabited the islands since at least 2000BC and, despite around 4000 years of sporadic migration from Polynesians and Europeans, it has been able to hold onto many of its traditional customs and rituals. Vanuatu’s culture does vary slightly between the northern, central and southern islands. In the north, status can be purchased and wealth is defined by how much one can give away. In the central and southern islands, status is defined more by position—the title of chief is passed down the family line or awarded based on merit respectively.
European influences didn’t arrive in Vanuatu until 1605. Portuguese explorer, Pedro Fernandez de Quiros was the first to reach the islands, but it was Captain James Cook who spurred on settlement in the region. During his late 18th Century exploration he named the islands New Hebrides and European, Samoan, New Caledonian and French missionaries filtered in between the 1830s and the 1860s. Settlers came after this to establish coffee, cocoa, banana and coconut plantations. The infamous ‘blackbirding’ labour trade that occurred during this time significantly reduced the native Vanuatuan population.
In 1887, Vanuatu was administered by the French-British naval commission. It was divided into Anglo-French Condominium in 1906 and Melanesians were denied citizenship and power. World War II saw the arrival of American troops to the islands and, while this meant that over 100,000 US defence personnel moved in to occupy Santo, nationalism began to rise. The first political party was established in the 1970s and the independent Republic of Vanuatu followed in 1980. The Vanuatuan flag represents much of this colourful history and also acts as a strong symbol of the pride that is evident amongst the county’s citizens. You can read more about the flag and its meaning here!
What to do in Vanuatu
Vanuatu is, first and foremost, a beautifully untouched South Pacific nation. Decorated by the volcanic mountain ranges that are so common in the region, there are plenty of natural wonders to see and experience during your Vanuatu holiday! Fly into Efate and assess the lay of the land. The rugged coastline, vibrant tourist spots, mountainous tropical jungles, waterfalls, blue holes, villages, magnificent natural harbour and stunning marine hotspots make it a definite must-see whether you’re staying on this island’s My Vanuatu resorts or not! Stay in the capital, Port Vila, to be surrounded by bars, restaurants and unique Vanuatu shops. Tours can be easily arranged to explore the islands natural wonders, like the Mele Cascades, less than half an hour away!
Take a 50-minute flight north to the island of Santo—Vanuatu’s largest island. Known for its phenomenal diving and snorkelling, turquoise freshwater blue holes, famous white beaches and caves, Santo is the perfect place to enjoy natural beauty and simplicity! Learn about the island’s role in WWII as you explore the SS President Coolidge wreck or the Million Dollar Point, fish for marlin, wahoo or Spanish mackerel then head inland to explore Loru Park. This 220 hectare landscape offers nature walks and bat caves, plus one of the last stretches of lowland forest!
Tanna offers similar natural wonders, though with a touch more fire added in! Not only can you snorkel, swim and dive in underwater caves, hike up to untouched waterfalls and observe traditional village life, but you can also fly and walk up to the rim of the Mount Yasur volcano! Yasur is still active and stretches 361 metres high and is surrounded by huge black sand dunes created by its ash rain. At night-time onlookers are treated to an impressive natural fireworks display—a true once-in-a-life-time experience! If lava doesn’t excite, Tanna’s coffee plantations, unique ceremonies and rituals and horse riding adventures might! Drink kava, feast and dance—a 35-minute flight will get you there to soak up the best of Vanuatu life!
Sound good? Read more about our top Vanuatu experiences here!
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