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As you might expect from a jungle-covered volcanic archipelago, Vanuatu has some of the best tropical trekking in the world. And it’s not all stunning mountain vistas either. Where else can you hike to the rim of an active volcano, sleep in kastom villages, sip kava with Ni-Vanuatu chiefs, or cool off beneath aquamarine limestone waterfalls? More developed islands like Santo and Efate are great for short, half-day hikes, or you can head further afield, to Malekula or Ambrym, and tackle sweaty, multi-day jungle treks. Wherever you walk, you’ll be greeted with megawatt smiles and some truly epic scenery. 


Dog’s Head Trek, Malekula

Malekula is shaped like a sitting dog, and the northern part of the island, the ‘Dog’s Head’ is crisscrossed with some of the best hiking trails in Vanuatu. The usual route is known as the Dog’s Head Trek. It’s a 2-day hike from Malekula’s east coast, all the way over the rugged hinterland mountains, to the charming western village of Tenmaru. Along the way you’ll meet the Small Nambas and Big Nambas (two of the island’s major tribes), get a crash course in Malekula’s history of cannibalism, and swim in cascading river pools, hidden deep in the forest. 


Malekula Cultural Uri 1 1


Millennium Cave, Santo

Millennium Cave is probably Santo’s most famous natural attraction. It’s also the biggest cave in Vanuatu. The trek to reach the cave isn’t the longest walk in the world (it takes around 90 minutes from Vunaspef village) but the route is challenging. You’ll be scrambling up slopes, fording streams and climbing giant river boulders. All that hard work is worth it though as Millennium Cave is truly stunning. You’ll explore the cave in the dark (using nothing but a torch), learn about local food and kastom, then cool off in the rock pools outside the cave. It’s one amazing (and exhausting) Santo day tour. 


19 Espiritu Santo - Millenium Cave


Manbush Trail, Malekula

If you want to go all out and explore Malekula from edge to edge, sign up for the 4-day . It’s one of the island’s iconic hiking trails, taking you on a journey to a part of the world rarely seen by most people. You start from the small village of Unua on the east coast, then head inland, up into the dense jungle, crossing rivers, snacking on island bush foods and summiting Mount Laimbele, a whopping 850 metres above sea level. Along the way you’ll meet several of Malekula’s hill tribes, like the elusive Lembongbong, and stay in thatched bungalows. The Manbush Trail is a challenge well worth making the effort to complete, and at the end of the trek, there’s still time to cool off in the clear waters of the Matanoi River.


Benbow Crater Hike, Ambrym

The mystic island of Ambrym has always been one of the more mysterious in Vanuatu’s archipelago. It’s known as the Black Island, thanks to its volcanic soil and history of dark magic. But it’s also home to two of Vanuatu’s more active volcanoes, Mount Marum and Mount Benbow, and there are dozens of hiking options through the surrounding jungle. Fitter travellers can try the 1-day hike to Benbow’s crater rim (a 10 hour round trip), or you can sign up for 2, 3 or 4-day treks that allow you to explore the whole volcano field. If you’re planning a trekking holiday on Ambrym, travelling between August and January is generally best.


Ambrym island - Hiking to Mount Marum - Credit pics. Vanuatu Ecotours 1


Losinwei Cascades Walk, Malekula

Not all Vanuatu’s treks require a fully stocked backpack and several days up your sleeve. Malekula’s Losinwei Cascades Walk is the perfect example. It’s a half day hike into the misty foothills of central Malekula. Guides will lead you through the forest, surrounded by tiny orchids and flowering irises, to the picturesque Losinwei Waterfall. You can swim beneath the falls, climb the rock face to find hidden limestone pools, and just generally laze the day away before trekking back down to Losinwei Beach. 


Mount Tabwemasana, Santo

When you think ‘mountaineering’, you don’t usually think Vanuatu. But the archipelago is home to one of the highest peaks in the Pacific, the mighty Mount Tabwemasana, which rises from the surrounding cloud forest and supplies most of the fresh water on Santo. Not many people actually summit Mount Tabwemasana (around 6 per year), but it can be done. Just make sure you arrive in the dry season (May to October), when the river crossings are possible. Be warned, it’s a tough journey that takes around 10 hours hard trekking to basecamp at Kerepua village, then another 4 hours to the summit. You can organise guided tours through local Santo operator, Wrecks To Rainforest


Mount Garet Hike, Gaua

Rising from the sea in the north of Vanuatu’s archipelago, Gaua is the country’s unofficial adventure capital. Mount Garet is the island’s highest peak, an active somma volcano (it last erupted in 2011) surrounded by a horseshoe caldera, the beautiful Lake Letas. Travellers can embark on a 3-day hike to climb and explore Mount Garet. You’ll climb to 711 metres above sea level, see bubbling lava and volcanic mud pools and swim beneath the stunning Santa Maria waterfall (but not directly beneath…it is 120-metres high). At night, sit around the campfire on the shores of Lake Letas and swap stories with your local guides. 


Gaua Island - Mount Garet - Credit pics. Hoas Blong Volcano - Thomas Boyer1


Trek Tanna, Tanna

The island of Tanna is lucky to have one of the most active volcanoes in the world, the smoking Mount Yasur. Exploring Mount Yasur is easy, you can charter a 4WD to within about 150 metres of the crater rim (from there it’s just a 10-minute walk). But for more of a challenge, travellers can embark on a proper journey, which starts on Tanna’s moon-like ash plain, and winds up past the dry Siri Lake and through the island’s famous John Frum village. The full hike takes around 4 hours. Just be aware, there are no guard rails or viewing platforms on Mount Yasur, and it is an active volcano. If you want to trek the sulfuric slopes, it’s best to find an experienced local guide


VTO0049 Trek-Tanna