The French artist Paul Gauguin was drawn to them; the musical South Pacific was inspired by them; and countless backpackers are beguiled by them. All in all, a closer vision of heaven on earth than the 115 volcanic islands of French Polynesia is hard to imagine.
The largest and most visited of the group of islands is undoubtedly Tahiti. It is home to the largest city, Papeete, whose bustling market and laidback vibe makes it an attractive gateway from which to access the other islands. The islands of Moorea (home to the jaw-droppingly beautiful Opunohu Valley) and Bora Bora are filled with rainforests, hidden waterfalls, tropical flowers and traditional villages. Their coasts are also lined with some of the best beaches known to man. In many ways, it’s out in its dazzling blue waters that French Polynesia’s real attraction lies.
Rangiroa (in the Tuamoto Islands) arguably offers the best diving and snorkelling, while the north shores of Huahine, Tahiti and Raiatea have some awesome surfing. French Polynesia isn’t Europe: travellers don’t come here for the churches, castles or museums. They come for the ultimate tropical paradise experience of crystal clear waters, soft white sands and hour after hour of doing next to nothing.