Quick Guide to Tanna Island Vanuatu

Your flight from Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu, to Tanna Island takes only 45 minutes but once there you’ve stepped back in time thousands of years to an ancient culture with a rich and complex history.

And now the adventure starts! You’ll ride in a four-wheel drive (4X4) to your accommodation over rough roads through the jungle. Ahead of you is an adventure – waterfalls, volcano trips, caving, snorkeling, hiking, and visits to tribes who still live very traditional lives….

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Map of the Island

Quick Guide to Tanna Island Vanuatu

I’ve put together this mini-guide to the island so you’re prepared for what life is like on a small remote island far from all the mod cons. You want positive experiences not negative ones so with that famous motto – ‘be prepared’ for anything – you’re all set for a very unique encounter.

What’s the Volcano up to?

Mt Yasur has been active since Captain Cook observed the ash clouds back in 1774. The volcano is one of the easiest to visit and remains at level 2 alert. There’s a permanent exclusion zone within a 600m radius of the volcanic crater. But the volcanic ash and gas can extend beyond that depending on the trade winds. Hope that sounds exciting!

For keen Volcanologists, you can read more about the current state of the volcano on the Smithsonian Volcanism Program here. The best time to see the volcano is in the dark (sunset or sunrise) when it glows, otherwise, during the day you’re more likely to see just smoke.

FYI: the rumbles are loud when you’re at the top!

See the Drama of the Volcano in this Video!

Unique Accommodation – Tree Houses, Cave Hotel, Eco-Friendly

Check out the unique accommodation in Tanna Island in this post: https://staytopia.com/tanna-island-accommodation. With tropical resorts in the north, including popular Rockwater Resort built into limestone with enchanting cave rooms! In the south at the edge of Mt Yasur, you’ll find traditional tree houses in the villages near one of the world’s most active volcanoes!

Tanna Island Accommodation Vanuatu
Click on the image to see the list

Interested in the Culture of Tanna?

Culturally you’ll get to experience authentic traditional Melanesian Island life plus the chance to overload on a range of awesome adventures across this volcanic landscape. Of course, climbing the volcano to the fiery crater is top of the list.

But if you prefer to enjoy the volcano from below then there are more peaceful activities for you, like a visit to a local tribe, the John Frum Cult, or market day. For a small island, there’s a lot to do! Read on…

Get to know the Tribes

Tanna Islanders don’t have much money so staying with one of the local families is a great way to support the community, get to know the families and their tribe, and enjoy life in the jungle. You can even stay in a treehouse in a local tribe!

What is the John Frum Cargo Cult?

Tanna Island Traditional Tribe

If you’ve studied anthropology then you’ll know about Cargo cults. This movement gained popularity during the 2nd world war when US soldiers brought supplies (cargo) to the island and conducted military drills. The islanders connected this ritualistic-type behaviour with the arrival of cargo so they created their own belief system.

Today the John Frum Cargo Cult is still strong on Tanna Island and you can visit the group on a Friday and watch them march around and raise flags in the hope that cargo will magically appear just like it did in World War II. (Wikipedia)

There is even a more modern cult on the island and that is the Cult of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh!

Watch this video about the John Frum Cargo Cult

Travel Tips

  • Hot water, electricity, and passable paved roads are all luxuries on the island so come prepared to step back in time and enjoy a slower pace of life.
  • Tanna is low-tech living with limited ATMs on the island so bring plenty of cash.
  • Many homestays have Solar panels and generators to supply power but don’t expect 24-hour power or any power at certain times.
  • The hotels have WIFI (in limited areas) and you can buy a SIM card in Lenakel Town.
  • Let your hosts know if you are vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free (or have other specific dietary requirements) before or at least as soon as you arrive.
  • Most of the bungalows and tree houses are remote and nowhere near any shops.
  • Getting Around: You can do a lot of walking on the island but you’re dependent on the local trucks to get further around the island. Or you can organize all your tours with your accommodation.
  • Further on I’ll give you a list of things to bring so you’re prepared for the trip of a lifetime!

Things to Do on Tanna Island

Hot Tip: Double check what the tour does or doesn’t include: Transportation costs, guide, entry fee. FYI: keep your volcano entry ticket if you plan to visit again – it will be cheaper the next time.

Volcano Activities

  • The no. 1 activity is climbing the volcano and walking to the rim of fire – but why not try it at night too when you get to see live fireworks!
  • Snowboard down the volcano – called ashboarding
  • Visit the ash plane

Cultural Activities

  • Visit the traditional village of Yakel who live an ancient lifestyle. They reject outside influences and wear traditional woven fibre skirts.
  • Drink Kava with the local chief
  • Visit coffee plantations
  • Near the entrance of the volcano is a Cannibal Tour where the locals show you what’s it like to be the first foreigner to arrive in Tanna and learn about the ancient customs.
  • Watch cultural tribal dancing
  • Lenakel Market Day
  • Nekowiar (Toka) festival – hundreds of men and women in traditional grass skirts and vividly painted faces, 3 days of incredible dancing and ceremonies.
  • Visit the John Frum Cargo Cult – highly recommended

Adventurous Activities

  • Trek through the lush jungle
  • Swim and snorkel at the beaches and coral reefs of Port Resolution and Sulphur Bay (also hot springs).
  • See dolphins, whales,  turtles and other marine life.
  • Swim at tropical waterfalls and rivers. 4WD trip to Louniel Waterfall.
  • Swim and snorkel in underwater caves

Check out the incredible Blue Underwater Cave here:


  • If you would like to go on a tour of Tanna Island and have everything organised for you then Viator run a 4-day Tanna Island tour. You get to stay at the White Grass Ocean Resort and activities include 4WD to Louniel Waterfall, a Volcano excursion, and lots more. You can read more here.

See More Exciting Viator Tours (prices in US$)

What to Bring to Tanna Island Vanuatu

  • Limited ATMs on the island so take plenty of cash which you can get in Port Vila before you fly to Tanna Island.
  • You’re in the tropical jungle, so there are plenty of bugs so take mosquito repellent and a first-aid kit
  • Take a mosquito net if you’re concerned about bites
  • Take a flashlight/torch
  • Good walking shoes and reef shoes
  • Rain jacket and an umbrella
  • Take a warm jacket if trekking to the volcano at night
  • Your accommodation will provide meals but take snacks and drinks
  • The locals are very poor so you can take t-shirts for kids, balls, medicine, and school books if you would like to donate to the local tribe.


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