Home to the world’s most accessible active volcano, Tanna is an island of wild horses, coffee, and black sand beaches. Another star attraction is the beautiful Blue Cave – a grotto cut deep into the sea cliffs that can only be reached by swimming along a short underwater tunnel.
The largest island in Vanuatu, Espiritu Santo (or just Santo, as the locals call it) caters for as much or as little as you want to do. Whether you’re a foodie, an adventure seeker, or simply wanting a picture-perfect beach to laze on, Santo ticks all the boxes. It is also known for its electric blue swimming holes, amazing snorkelling locations, excellent food and food markets and action-packed adventure activities.
Efate is home to Vanuatu’s capital city, Port Vila. While most international flights land here, there are plenty of local delights to enjoy, too – such as traditional villages, snorkelling in the deep-anchorage Havannah Harbour and spectacular waterfalls at the Mele Cascades.
For an island escape that’s perfect for all ages, you can’t go past Lelepa Island. A 10-minute boat ride north-west of Port Vila, this 160-acre island of unspoilt rainforest is owned and operated by local islanders. With no electricity or cars, Lelepa offers a relaxed way of life with warm, calm waters for swimming, snorkelling and kayaking.
The Banks are Vanuatu’s northernmost islands. Vanua Lava is the largest island of the Banks, and there’s plenty for the traveller to experience here – including tropical rainforests, waterfalls and bird watching. Sola at the northern tip also has a great surf break onto the reef.
The island of Ambrym is one of the more mysterious in Vanuatu’s archipelago. It’s known as the Black Island, thanks to its rich volcanic soil and history of dark magic. It’s also home to two active volcanoes, Mount Marum and Mount Benbow. As well as hiking, Ambrym is where you can see the Rom or ‘Masked’ sacred dance, which is believed to influence harvests.
Rising from the sea in the north of Vanuatu’s archipelago, Gaua is the country’s unofficial adventure capital. Mount Garet is the island’s highest peak, an active somma volcano surrounded by a horseshoe caldera – the beautiful Lake Letas. Travellers can embark on a three-day hike to explore Mount Garet. You’ll climb to 711 metres above sea level, see bubbling lava and volcanic mud pools, and swim beneath the stunning Santa Maria waterfall.
The mountainous, tropical island of Pentecost is home to small villages and strong traditions. A fantastic destination for the adventurous traveller, or those content with simple accommodation, Pentecost is the home of Nangol – the predecessor to bungee jumping. Every Saturday from April to June visitors can witness the local men of Pentecost Island leaping from a wooden tower with just a vine tied around their ankles.
Vanuatu’s second largest island, Malekula is shaped like a sitting dog – and the northern part of the island, the ‘Dog’s Head’, is crisscrossed with some of the best hiking trails in the country. The two-day Dog’s Head Trek follows Malekula’s east coast, over the rugged hinterland mountains, to the village of Tenmaru. Along the way you’ll meet the Small Nambas and Big Nambas (two of the island’s tribes), hear about Malekula’s history of cannibalism, and swim in hidden river pools.
HOW TO GET THERE
Air Vanuatu, the national carrier of Vanuatu, has added four new Airbuses to its fleet. Air Vanuatu’s first ever order with Airbus makes it the launch customer of the A220 in the Pacific region. Air Vanuatu’s Chief Executive Officer, Derek Nice, said, “We are proud to be the launch airline in the South Pacific of the best-in-class Airbus A220. These aircraft will be deployed to operate on our current domestic and international routes, including our newly announced non-stop Melbourne-Vanuatu service, and will bolster plans to expand our network in the South Pacific.”
Air Vanuatu operates seven international routes, with six flights a week from Auckland.