A Guide to Cultural Travel: Understanding Vanuatu and Experiencing Local Customs

Over 80 islands make up the country of Vanuatu, and each has its own distinct culture and traditions. The islands, which are in the South Pacific, are well-liked among tourists seeking out authentic cultures and breathtaking natural settings. We’ll go over five important facets of Vanuatu culture in this guide, along with tips on how to engage with them while there.


Two local people in VanuatuUnderstanding Vanuatu Culture

The culture of Vanuatu is an amazing fusion of traditional practices and contemporary influences. The significance given to community and family in Vanuatu culture is a significant feature. In traditional villages, large families coexist in a collection of thatched houses under the leadership of a chief. By visiting a nearby village, tourists can get a glimpse of this community way of life and participate in traditional dances, observe how food is produced, and discover local traditions.

Spirituality is a significant component in Vanuatu culture. A traditional “nakamal,” or gathering area where kava is consumed in a ceremonial setting, may be seen in many villages. Kava is a traditional beverage prepared from the kava plant’s roots that has sedative properties. Visitors can sample kava in a nakamal, where they will be welcomed by the locals and informed about the customs associated with the beverage.

Traditional festivals and ceremonies provide an additional opportunity for tourists to learn about Vanuatuan culture. The Naghol or “Land Diving” event, which takes place on the southern island of Pentecost, is one of the most visually spectacular rituals. Men jump from towering wooden pole towers during this event while wearing ankle vine ties. The jump is a test of bravery and physical prowess and is thought to guarantee a plentiful yam harvest. This breathtaking event is visible to visitors from April to June.

Experiencing Local Customs

Many fascinating traditions that are specific to the islands can be found in Vanuatu. The “Tam Tam” or drumming ritual is one of the most well-known traditions. This is a customary dance and song celebration that takes place to honor momentous occasions like weddings or funerals. Large hardwood drums called “tam tams,” which are frequently exquisitely carved with elaborate carvings, are used for the drumming. The Tam Tam ceremony is performed in a lot of the villages all around Vanuatu.

Men on the island of Malakula wear “Nambas” or penis sheaths, which is another unique Vanuature culture or tradition. The Nambas are a traditional kind of clothing that cover the penis and are manufactured from a variety of materials, including bark, bamboo, or pandanus leaves. Visitors might see the Nambas being worn at customary festivities on Malakula.

Sampling Local Cuisine

The cuisine of Vanuatu is a delightful combination of regional specialties and global flavors. One of the most well-known foods is called “Lap Lap,” which is made from grated yam or cassava, combined with coconut milk, wrapped in banana leaves, and cooked over hot stones. “Kokoda,” a raw fish salad marinated in coconut milk and lime juice, is another well-known delicacy. In Vanuatu, there are numerous markets and eateries where tourists can experience these and other regional specialties.

The indigenous cooking and food preservation techniques used in Vanuatu are also available for tourists to learn about. One such technique is “umu,” a conventional means of preparing meals on hot stones. Visitors can observe the umu method of food preparation and discover the customs associated with food in the village of Yakel on the island of Tanna.

Volcano in VanuatuExploring the Natural Beauty

From immaculate beaches to verdant jungles, Vanuatu is home to some of the most breathtaking natural beauty in the entire globe. Hiking through the jungle, swimming in the clean waters, and taking in the stunning views from atop active volcanoes are just a few of the ways visitors may discover the natural treasures of the islands.

The Yasur volcano on the island of Tanna is among Vanuatu’s most visited sights. Hikers can climb to the volcano’s summit to see the amazing sight of molten lava erupting from the crater. Adventure seekers should definitely try this out because it is genuinely unforgettable.

Additionally, Vanuatu is home to some of the most stunning coral reefs in the world, making it a well-liked location for snorkeling and scuba diving. Tropical fish, sea turtles, and even reef sharks can all be found in plenty in the seas around the islands. Visitors can rent snorkeling or scuba diving gear or take guided tours to explore the coral reefs.

Learning about the History of Vanuatu

Vanuatu’s history is complex and rich, with contributions from Melanesian tribes, European explorers, and even the Pacific theater of World War II. By visiting historical landmarks and museums spread out around the islands, visitors can learn more about Vanuatu’s past.

One such location is the WWII remnants on Espiritu Santo, an island that served as a significant military outpost during the conflict. Visitors can explore the wreckage of vintage aircraft, tanks, and other military relics while learning about Vanuatu’s contribution to the Pacific theater of operations.

The National Museum of Vanuatu, located in the nation’s capital of Port Vila, is another significant historical location. The museum displays the islands’ rich cultural legacy through traditional objects, original works of art, and old photos.


Travelers can encounter traditional cultures, breathtaking natural beauty, and a rich history in Vanuatu, a place that is really unique. Visitors can develop a greater understanding of the islands and their way of life by investigating the five essential facets of Vanuatu culture covered in this manual. Vanuatu offers something for everyone, whether you’re interested in sampling the local food, watching traditional festivities, or climbing an active volcano.

Our Top FAQ's

Yes, Vanuatu is generally considered a safe place to visit. The crime rate is low, and locals are friendly and welcoming to tourists. However, visitors should still take common-sense precautions like avoiding unlit areas at night and not leaving valuables unattended.

The best time to visit Vanuatu is during the dry season, which runs from May to October. During this time, the weather is mild and dry, making it ideal for outdoor activities like hiking, snorkeling, and diving. However, keep in mind that this is also peak tourist season, so prices may be higher and popular attractions may be crowded.

No, it is not necessary to speak Bislama or French to travel to Vanuatu. Many locals speak English, and most tourist services cater to English-speaking visitors. However, learning a few basic phrases in Bislama or French can go a long way in showing respect for local culture and building connections with locals.

Yes, tourists are often welcome to participate in traditional ceremonies in Vanuatu, as long as they are respectful and follow local customs. However, it is important to remember that these ceremonies hold deep cultural significance for locals, so it is essential to approach them with humility and an open mind. Tourists should also seek guidance from local guides or hosts to ensure that they are behaving appropriately.

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