Area: Land--12,200 sq. km. (4,707 sq. mi.), includes more than 80 Islands. Comparative area--about the size of Connecticut.
Cities: Capital--Port Vila (on the island of Efate), pop. 30,000. Other towns--Luganville (on the island of Espiritu Santo, also known as Santo).
Terrain: Mostly mountains of volcanic origin, narrow coastal plains.
Climate: Tropical.

Vanuatu is a 'Y' shaped archipelago that comprises 80 islands. It is located 2,172 kilometers (1,303 mi.) northeast of Sydney and 5,750 kilometers (3,450 mi.) southwest of Honolulu. Fiji lies to the east, New Caledonia to the south, and the Solomon Islands to the northwest, all within the area of the South Pacific called Melanesia.

The two largest islands, Espiritu Santo (or Santo) and Malakula, account for nearly one-half of the total land area. They are volcanic, with sharp mountain peaks, plateaus, and lowlands. The larger islands of the remaining half also are volcanic but are overlaid with limestone formations; the smaller ones are coral and limestone. Volcanic activity is common with an ever-present danger of a major eruption, the last of which occurred in 1945. Rainfall averages about 2,360 millimeters (94 in.) per year but can be as high as 4,000 millimeters (160 in.) in the northern islands.

Vanuatu has rich lush tropical rainforests, volcanoes, sparkling blue lagoons, cascading waterfalls and beaches that range from silky white to volcanic black.

Surrounding the land is a magic sea of aqua and dark blues with a fascinating underwater world of colourful tropical fish that live amongst magnificent coral and reel formation.

The topography of the islands varies, but commonly ranges from low coastal plains to rough, mountainous and heavily forested interiors, with the highest peaks in the archipelago rising to over 1,800 metres on Espiritu Santo. There are nine active volcanoes, four of which are submarine. The nature of the country makes travelling difficult and expensive, and many communities are quite isolated. Many islands are linked by air but ground transport within the islands can be very limited. Some islands can be reached only by boat and some isolated parts are serviced by trading vessels only two to four times a year.

The flag was hoisted upon independence from France and Britain, on July 30, 1980. Black is for the soil and the people, green for vegetation, and red for local religious traditions such as the sacrifice of pigs. On the triangle are two crossed branches and a full-round pig's tusk, a holy symbol. The horizontal "Y" is for peace and Christianity.

Facts at a Glance

Climate Average temperatures 28 degrees C Winter average 23 C. Hottest months November-March. Occasional heavy rain January-April.
Clothing Casual. Nude sunbathing is taboo and swimming costumes must be covered away from the beach.
Time Zone GMT plus 11 hours, or AEST plus one hour.
Electricity 220-240 volts, AC/50 cycles - mainly 3 point plugs in hotels.
Currency Local currency is the Vatu (VT). A tax haven foreign currency is readily transacted.
Visas and Health A 30 day permit issued on arrival. Departure tax VT 2,500 per person (except children under 12), payable in local currency. No vaccination required, but anti malarial precautions recommended to visits to outer islands.
Getting There International-Air Vanuatu, Air Caledonie, Solomon Airlines. Domestic-Vanair services all major islands in the country.


The climate varies considerably from tropical in the north to subtropical in the south. The northern part is wetter and more humid than the south. There are two distinct seasons, with the hot and rainy season from November to April, also known as cyclone season, and the cool dry season from May to October. The average temperature on the island of Efate in the central part of the country where the capital, Port Vila, is situated, ranges from 27 degrees Celsius in February to 22 degrees Celsius in July. There are wide variations of rainfall from north to south. In Port Vila, the annual rainfall is 2,360 mm and the annual average for the whole country is 2,205 mm. Relative humidity averages 75 per cent.