It’s hard to find perfection in this world, as often the most beautiful places are spoilt by tourism. Tanna island, however, located between Australia and Fiji, has everything that you could wish for without having to deal with the downsides. It has breathtaking scenery, palm trees, exotic fruit, pristine waterfalls, flowers, hills, local tribes, white sandy beaches and if you think that wasn’t enough, it also has an amazing active volcano which you can visit. Fellow traveler Petteri Kyrklund has visited this beautiful island and writes about his experiences, gives tips, and shares his travel details and photos in this guest post.
- Book your flights to Port Vila via Skyscanner
Why should I visit Tanna island?
Tanna island is as close to unspoiled paradise as it gets. It doesn’t have any shops selling tourist crap, happy-hour bars with umbrella cocktails, or ignorant tourists with selfie sticks. As a matter of fact, It doesn’t even really have paved roads. Having said that, what isn’t there at the moment might still develop in the future, even in Tanna. There are plans to build a cruise ship harbor close to the volcano. If that happens, there is definitely a risk of a retiree invasion, flocks of hawkers, cheesy souvenir t-shirt stalls etcetera. So if you want to experience this authentic paradise with its amazing, friendly locals, then now is the time to visit.
Tanna island is as close to unspoiled paradise as it gets.
How to get to Tanna island from Australia and Fiji
If you happen to be in Australia, you can find very reasonably priced flights to the capital of Vanuatu called Port Vila. Virgin Airlines, for example, flies there from Brisbane. Another good option is flying from Fiji.
The road onwards from Port Vila can get a bit more difficult and/or expensive. There aren’t too many ferries to choose from and the ones that do exist are very slow. So in order to get to other islands, you will most likely have to take a plane. There are multiple internal flights between the islands, but those are relatively expensive for such short flights.
Getting a visa will not be a problem as most nationalities can stay up to 30 or 90 days for free.
What is the best time to visit Tanna?
I visited Vanuatu in February and the weather was really lovely and sunny. The weather is pretty much impeccable all year, with temperatures hovering between the mid to high 20s Celsius (77° – 86° Fahrenheit). There is a rainy season and a dry season, but like anywhere in the Asia Pacific it doesn’t mean it will be raining all day. My visit was officially during the rainy season, but it rained only once. You can expect the most rain in the months January till May, and the temperatures are also highest during this time.
Is staying on Tanna island expensive?
In Port Vila you can still find reasonable (but not exactly cheap) accommodation, but I wouldn’t recommend just staying on the main island as the best Vanuatu has to offer can be found on the other islands. Take the island of Tanna, for instance. To get there you have two options:
- Once a week there is a ferry, which takes about 15 hours and it still costs something like 70 euro one way.
- There are daily flights between Port Vila and Tanna, but those aren’t cheap. Expect to pay about 200 euro for a return ticket (flight is about 40 minutes).
Tanna itself is not a cheap place to travel around. Accommodation easily costs something between 50 to 80 euro per night, but if you’re not too picky you can find something for around 30 euro as well. Public transportation is very limited/non-existent so you will more likely end up booking your transportation and tours from the accommodation you are staying at.
The airport transfers alone can easily be more than 30 euro. For a comprehensive full-day tour expect to pay at least 100 euro per person (if you book for 1 person it might even get to 200 euro). The entrance fee for the volcano by itself is 70 euro. As you see, getting to Vanuatu can be relatively cheap and easy, but it is not a budget-friendly place to get around, especially if you want to discover other islands like Tanna.
Getting to Vanuatu can be relatively cheap and easy, but it is not a budget-friendly place to get around, especially if you want to discover other islands like Tanna
My experience traveling to Vanuatu and the Island of Tanna
I arrived at Port Vila from Brisbane. I thought it was a nice enough island to hang around and the “town center” has some good restaurants and bars. However, as I mentioned earlier, to get the most out of your stay in Vanuatu I recommend visiting one or more of the other islands.
I chose the Island of Tanna because it has an active volcano and is relatively easy to get to. I could not have been happier with this choice; Tanna is my favorite island of all the islands I have visited over the years (and I have visited many). I booked my flights to and from Tanna with Air Vanuatu which were good and even quite cheap. It was a new experience for me to get weighed at check-in. No, not just my bag, but me as a person as well. I think they might have added some extra kerosene after I got off the scale 😉
Highlight: the breathtaking scenery on the islands
The scenery all around the islands is extraordinary and unbelievably photogenic. In every direction you look, there is something to capture with your camera (or just your eyes of course). There is plenty of green with many, many different kinds of flowers and trees. Several times, the local I happen to be with then stopped in random places to pick fresh fruit from the trees (coconuts, guava, and jackfruit for example).
Beside hills, flowers, and trees there are hot water springs, waterfalls, and beaches. One morning I walked the narrow path to one of those waterfalls. It was not the biggest or most breathtaking waterfall that I have seen, but there is something special about truly enjoying a waterfall in the middle of the jungle all by yourself. There literally wasn’t a single person around except for me.
Highlight: the interesting and friendly local tribes
Besides the incredible landscape, there are local tribal villages with the most amazing people I have met. Perhaps surprisingly, the majority of the indigenous people wear T-shirts and other western-style clothes but often prefer to walk barefoot. You can, however, still find a lot of locals wearing traditional outfits. You will also find many happy children waving at you.
It’s nice to see that Tanna honors and upholds its tribal traditions, values, and customs. For example, even though the island has less than 30.000 people, there are three different active languages and an abundance of different dialects. Most people there can also speak the national language of Bislama as well as English and sometimes even French.
Highlight: the imposing Mt Yasur volcano
The undisputed highlight of my trip to Tanna is visiting the Mt Yasur volcano. Wherever you go on the island, you can see it looming in the background. It’s not only a prominent sight, even its sound cannot be missed. It is an active volcano, and when I say active I mean really active: it constantly shoots lava and ashes up in the air. At nighttime, you are able to see the lava flying in the air from an even greater distance.
The very best thing about this volcano (besides its magnificent appearance) is the fact that it is very easily accessible. The most common is to go see it in the late afternoon, as you can see the volcano in daylight on the way up and experience the magic of the glowing lava as the only source of light on your way down. You cannot visit the volcano by yourself but the park authorities will happily organize a trip for you, for a fee that is.
Once you have organized a tour, you will drive up the mountain, usually with a few other tourists. From the top of the mountain, the mouth of the volcano is only a few-hundred-meter walk away. It’s hard not to be impressed when you are looking down the mouth of a super active volcano and literally standing at the edge of it. This is not as irresponsible as it sounds; the guide defines where you can stand depending on the direction of the wind and data coming from seismic meters.
The experience can be a bit intimidating, but I enjoyed it immensely. When we were up there one of the explosion was so intense that everyone panicked and started to run downwards, away from the flying rocks. This was against the safety rules given to us (you were supposed to look at the guide who would point out the safest location to stand and then walk to that location quickly, but without running). But then again, when an active volcano explodes heavily right in front of your eyes you tend to forget the exact safety rules and start screaming and running. I think there wasn’t any actual danger, but what a great experience!