French overseas territory New Caledonia is fairly isolated, separated by 620 miles of open water from its nearest mainland neighbor. Because of its isolation, it is both extremely diverse and home to a wide range of native species. New Caledonia is like a little piece of southern France in the pacific; everyone's a Francophone, but forty percent of the population is indigenous islanders. Cosmopolitan capital Noumea wouldn't look out of place in Europe, with its quaint bistros, expensive shops, and the requisite Chinatown. This urban center is a sharp contrast to the surrounding regions' more open landscape, which runs the gamut from rugged mountaintops to pine tree-lined white sand beaches.
- Take a Dip in the World's Largest Lagoon New Caledonia is home to the world's largest lagoon; it's approximately 9,267 square miles and is surrounded by the world's second longest coral reef.
- Poke Around a Prison The immaculate Isle of Pines was once a penal colony and there remains a crumbling, late-19th-century stone prison.
- Enjoy Cross-Cultural Hospitality. They speak French, yes, and you'll be served baguette and croissants, but there's no snoot here; the New Caledonians are warm and friendly.
- Eat Bougna. This traditional dish is a mix of meat with yams or sweet potato; it's wrapped in a banana leaf and cooked under hot rocks.
- Discover Strange Flora and Fauna. Nearly eighty percent of the island's vegetation is endemic, alongside nearly 3,500 native animal, bird, and bug species.