Drifting like flotsam in the Pacific Ocean, the little-known nation of Vanuatu has much to offer intrepid travellers and is all the more appealing for its obscurity.
Made up of approximately 83 islands, the geologically active archipelago is a natural playground of colourful coral reefs, bubbling volcanoes and lush rainforests. Visitors can drive up to the crater of Yasur, cited as the most accessible active volcano in the world, sea kayak around the island's sandy shores, explore underwater WWII relics, or hike and bike through coconut plantations and steamy jungles.
Those less disposed to physical exertion can always while away lazy days on Vanuatu’s bountiful beaches, which really are the picture of a tropical island idyll. Or why not charter a boat and hop from one island to the next? Wherever you go expect a good feast: the food here is absolutely exquisite, a testament not only to talented local chefs but also to the profusion of fresh ingredients that grow on this fertile archipelago.
Warm and welcoming, with a rich and sometimes mysterious traditional culture, the ni-Vanuatu people greet visitors as friends and are keen to share stories about their country, which was declared the happiest nation on the planet in 2006. The Happy Planet Index hasn’t bestowed this title on Vanuatu since, but it’s still pretty jovial by all accounts.
Tourism in Vanuatu is largely centred on the islands of Tanna, Espiritu Santo and Efaté, with most international visitors arriving on the latter. From here it is easy to travel by boat or plane to the rest of the country, which caters for travellers of all stripes. Sure, it’s skewed to the well-heeled, but amongst the high-end beach resorts are a smattering of wallet-friendly options. Proof that paradise needn’t break the bank.