Vanuatu has to be one of the coolest places I’ve ever been. I only went for 10 days, and try to go somewhere new whenever I can get away, but I will definitely be back. Here’s 10 reasons I think you should go too!
1. Different Cultures
Vanuatu has done an amazing job of holding onto its extremely old and rich cultures – and there are many! It varies a lot from island to island, with every type of unique culture from various cults to black magic. There are so many interesting rituals and traditions, which are easy to see and learn about as a visitor.
For example, you can check out ‘kustom’ villages, where people still live just as their ancestors did. And if you do a little island hopping, it allows you to visit drastically different cultures in one trip. (It’s just a little expensive and/or time consuming.)
Bislama, the national language, is a mash up of phonetically spelled English words, some French, and some older Vanuatu terms when it comes to food, flora and fauna etc. It’s difficult to understand just by listening, but pretty easy to read!
Mt. Yasur, on the southern island of Tanna, is famous for being the most accessible active volcano in the world. It’s a quick 4WD drive and 10 minute walk to the crater, where you can stand on the brim and watch the lava spew, boil, and steam.
While Mt. Yasur is the most famous, it’s certainly not the only volcano in the country. The islands of Ambae and Ambrym are other areas where you can do some wild active volcano exploring.
3. There are 83 Islands to Explore
Okay, so it’s more like 10, as many of the 83 are uninhabited or inaccessible to tourists, but between Efate, Santo, Tanna, Ambrym, Pentecost, Ambae, Banks and Torres (and others if you really like to get off the beaten path), you’ve got tons of options to explore!
Hundreds of species of vibrant fish, easily accessible shipwrecks, an underwater post office (from which mail is actually delivered!), and stunning clear blue waters, this is any snorkeller or diver’s dream. There’s even a sunken military plane – I don’t care much about war stuff, but that’s pretty rad.
5. Friendly People
Everyone. Is. Lovely. The ni-Vanuatu people are super welcoming and happy to show off their beautiful country. I found everyone to be helpful, full of smiles, and keen to chat.
6. Market Food
So Vanuatu was not exactly the budget backpacker destination that I was hoping for… like almost nothing about it was budget friendly… but the market food was a life saver, and so delicious! 200vt as below = $1.75 USD
7. Almost No Other Tourists
Unless you’re arriving in Vanuatu by cruise ship, you’ll be completely solo on pristine beaches, have no problem finding accom, and won’t be surrounded by tacky trinket shops and tourism offices. An absolute dream.
It’s also a little harder to meet people if you’re backpacking but definitely not impossible.
8. It’s Safe
You don’t have to worry about safety here. Before I arrived I heard that bargaining wasn’t a thing, but I didn’t find that to be true. You should still expect to barter for taxi prices (especially from the airport) or any keepsakes you buy in the markets, but that’s about it.
I am embarrassed to admit that I got scammed by a taxi driver on my first day because I believed what I read about bargaining… keep your wits about you, but pick pockets are not an issue, and hostels are very safe. I slept on the beach in a tent in Port Olry and didn’t worry for a second about my things.
I also walked alone often, got in the back of stranger’s cars, and never felt uncomfortable.
9. One of the most Beautiful, Untouched Places in the World
The world is becoming increasingly accessible for tourism, and popular destinations like Iceland, Thailand, and parts of Spain are being ruined by over tourism. Vanuatu is one of the beautiful rural corners of the world that is still relatively untouched.
Cruise ships stop in about once a week and resorts are being built which is already causing some change. I also found the price for entry to the lagoons has gone up. So unfortunately, it’s safe to say this hidden gem won’t stay hidden forever.
I suggest you enjoy it while you can!
10. N’gol, Land Diving
A once in a lifetime experience. The ritual inspired AJ Hackett to bring Western bungee jumping to life in New Zealand, and is a perfect example of how the human body can handle some crazy shiz.
The N’gol only takes place on Saturdays during the yam harvest from April to June, so you’ll have to get your timing right if you want to see this unique ritual!