The crown jewel of the South Pacific

The 15 islands that make up the Cook Islands – more fondly known as the Cooks – are each their own version of tropical heaven. First inhabited by Polynesians who arrived via Tahiti in the late ninth century, the islands were then named after Captain Cook who sighted the archipelago in 1770. After occupation by the British followed by New Zealand, Cook Islanders voted for independence in 1965.

Covering an expanse of ocean the size of Western Europe, the islands are today a combination of traditional meets modern. Rarotonga, the largest, is a mix of rocky mountain peaks, wild jungle and vast stretches of white sand making it the perfect base for first timers. Aitutaki – the second most-visited island – sits by one of the world’s largest coral lagoons and is perfect for snorkelling and diving. For those seeking the road less travelled, Atiu’s limestone caves, coffee plantations and bush-beer will take you on a journey into the heart of Polynesian culture.