French Polynesia consists of 118 islands, located in the South Pacific Ocean, that are grouped into five archipelagoes: the Windward Islands, the Leeward Islands, the Marquesas Islands, the Austral Islands, and the Tuamotu-Gambier. The Windward Islands and the Leeward Islands are commonly grouped together and referred to as the Society Islands. Together, the five archipelagoes of French Polynesia cover some 4,000,000 square kilometers of ocean floor, but collectively make up only 4,000 square kilometers of land above sea level. Hence, the islands are small, quite far apart from one another, and have their own unique culture and ethnicity. Among the more celebrated of the French Polynesian Islands include Tahiti (where you’ll find Papeete), the Bora Bora, Moorea, Mangareva, and the Marquesas. Rangiroa, Avatoru, Maharepa, Ahe, Huahine, Maiao, Maupiti, Raiatea, Mehetia, Tetiaroa, Tubuai, and Tupai are some of the other important French Polynesian islands.
The history of the French Polynesia dates back to 200 BC, when it is believed the Marquesas Islands were first settled. By 9th century AD, Polynesians are believed to have reached the Society Islands and begun forming large chieftainships in and around the various islands. The first Europeans to arrive in the French Polynesia were Portuguese explorers, discovering Marquesas in 1595. Over the next 200 years, the remaining parts of the French Polynesia were discovered by Dutch and British explorers. But it was France who took control of the islands in the 18th century when the Polynesian chiefs ceded their sovereignty. The islands, however, were given greater constitutional autonomy in the mid-20th century, gaining French overseas territory status. And recently, in 2004, they gained overseas country status.
The French Polynesia is one of the world’s top honeymoon destinations, and it isn’t surprising. These islands are perhaps the most beautiful in the world. The scenery of turquoise lagoons, colorful coral reefs, gorgeous white-sand beaches, and exotic banana groves, flowers, and plantations amidst lush valleys and volcanic peaks defines the very meaning of “tropical paradise”. The islands are perfect for swimming, diving, snorkeling, surfing, and tanning. And at the very end of the day, you can stroll along the beaches and enjoy the world’s most romantic sunsets.