Go there for: Adrenalin-fuelled adventures with jaw-droppingly beautiful scenery.
Tell me more: Kayak across fiords, clamber across glaciers, or simply throw yourself off, out of, or into anything you can think of. It may be packed full of sheep, and even shaped like a lamb chop, but outdoor-obsessed New Zealand is a place everyone should see.
Anything else? New Zealand was the first country to allow women to vote.


Go there for: Your own hut on a perfect white beach.
Tell me more: Comprising more than 300 islands, getting off the beaten track is not tricky in Fiji. That said, most visitors are on a brief stop-off and so don’t manage it. Head inland for some mountainous trekking or jump on the Yasawa Flyer for some island-hopping.
Anything else? Get used to sharing a cup of highly-intoxicating kava basically every time you take a seat.


Go there for: A vast archipelago you could spend a lifetime exploring.
Tell me more: The world’s most populous Muslim country, made up of more than 13,000 islands, has everything from the beautiful beaches and hard-drinking nightlife of Bali to the volcanic landscapes of Java, to the orang-utans, tigers and rhinos of Sumatra.
Anything else? Internal conflicts and a terrorist threat have led the British Foreign Office to advise against travel to certain parts of Indonesia. Visit www.fco.gov.uk for the latest.


Go there for: Polynesian culture on tiny remote atolls.
Tell me more: Minuscule in comparison to, well, almost anywhere, the Cook Islands are home to mysterious gods and legends and are sprinkled liberally across the South Pacific Ocean. Craggy mountains on Rarotonga and the turquoise lagoon on Aitutaki add depth to the idyllic beaches.
Anything else? There are just 14,000 inhabitants, descended from cannibals who would eat their enemies as the ultimate form of revenge.


Go there for: Massive feasts by towering jets of water.
Tell me more: A more culturally-rich but conservative kingdom than many of the beach-dominated islands, Tonga still boasts plenty of natural beauty. Top of the list must be the Mapu’a ‘a Vaca blowholes. Watching the water shoot 30 metres into the air from hundreds of blowholes over a 5km stretch is one of the highlights of the South Pacific.
Anything else? They like their food. It’s estimated 60 per cent of Tongans are clinically obese, with the king being named the world’s heaviest monarch in the Guinness Book of Records.


Go there for: To explore one of the planet’s last great wilderness areas.
Tell me more: This troubled tropical island has an amazing variety of wildlife – it’s home to 10 per cent of the total species on the planet. You can snorkel around the wrecks of Japanese ships from World War 2, and hike into the Highlands to meet remote tribes, some of whom are still quite keen on the taste of human flesh.
Anything else? While the capital Port Moresby has had problems with violence in the past, more and more traveller-safe resorts and hostels are opening up.


Go there for: To see the world’s newest nation.
Tell me more: This former Portuguese colony was invaded by Indonesia in 1975 and only gained its independence in 2002, thanks to Australian intervention. Despite continuing political instability, a growing number of tourists are going to East Timor for its great beaches and friendly people.
Anything else? Qantas has regular flights from Darwin to the capital, Dili.


Go there for: The Paris of the Pacific.
Tell me more: While New Caledonia is a popular destination for middle aged couples on cruise ships, it has plenty to offer the independent traveller including unspoilt beaches, a thriving nightlife, and French cuisine. Between 1864 and 1922 France sent thousands of convicts and free settlers here, and over the years they have mixed with the local indigenous Kanak people to create a unique Pacific culture.
Anything else? The capital, Nouméa, is the fastest-growing city in the Pacific.


Go there for: Reefs, beaches and volcanoes.
Tell me more: Vanuatu’s legendary beaches seem to get better from island to island, while diving and snorkelling on coral reefs, in clear waters and around shipwrecks could be described as wondrous. When you’re bored of sealife there’s also pristine forests, extravagant bird life and conical hills blowing their tops all over the place.
Anything else? Vanuatu has three official languages, French, English and Bislama.


Go there for: Beautiful islands and outstanding diving.
Tell me more: The Solomons Islands – nearly one thousand in all and covering 28,400 sqkm – boast extraordinary natural habitats and a well-deserved reputation as one of the world’s best destinations for scuba diving, snorkelling, fishing and, more recently, surfing.
Anything else? Political tensions are high and travellers should remain cautious.


Go there for: Two cultures in one – traditional Polynesia meets the American Dream.
Tell me more: Independent Samoa (formerly Western Samoa) and American Samoa can seem like worlds apart, which is why most travellers head for the far less spoilt independent state. Explore the jungle, dive for prawns under hidden waterfalls and discover where author Robert Louis Stevenson lived his final days.
Anything else? The frantic flapping away of insects may have led to ‘the Aussie wave’ in Australia, but in Samoa it spawned a whole dance – the Sasa, or ‘slap dance’.


Go there for: The slow pace of life.
Tell me more: Nineteenth century French artist Paul Gauguin popularised this tropical paradise with his paintings of half-naked Tahitian women lying on beaches. But Tahiti is just one of a number of islands that make up French Polynesia. The resorts of Bora Bora are popular with rich folk, but the Marquesas are still waiting to be explored.
Anything else? You can take a direct flight from Australia or New Zealand to the capital, Papeete.


Go there for: A hassle-free and fascinating fusion of cultures.
Tell me more: Surprisingly wealthy, Malaysia is one of the most pleasant countries to visit in South-east Asia. Culturally, the nation is a mix of Malay, Chinese, Indian and indigenous ways of life. The country also lays claim to some of the most spectacular beaches, mountains and national parks in Asia.
Anything else? The cities, such as Kuala Lumpur, are surprisingly Westernised, with big gleaming towers paying homage to modernity.


Go there for: It’s very cheap and the people love tourists.
Tell me more: The Philippines has something of an image problem; namely for chaos and corruption. But most travellers who make the journey to the 7000-plus tropical islands are happily surprised by both their beauty and the friendliness of the locals. Plus transport is cheap, the food is good and English is widely spoken.
Anything else? The Philippines have been both a Spanish and US colony.

December 3rd, 2007