Tahiti and Her Islands are known for their laid-back vibes. Expect romantic sunsets and giant curls of turquoise breaking over reefs. Remote and pristine, the islands give you a glimpse of paradise on Earth.
The first Europeans to arrive on the islands were 16th-century Spanish and Portuguese explorers. After them, the British and French took control in the 18th century. Tahiti, the largest island in French Polynesia is characterised by its spectacular tropical scenery, banana groves, plantations and flowers. The isle is dominated by Mount Orohena at 2,236m (7,337ft) and Mount Aorai at 2,068m (6,786ft).
You'll find plenty of colonial history on Tahiti, which became a French protectorate in 1842, and was by 1880 a full colony. The other islands were annexed by the turn of the century. This status quo remained until 1957, when Polynesia was made an Overseas Territory. A revised constitution, introduced in 1977, ceded greater autonomy to the islands.
For the next 20 years, Tahiti and Her Islands' politics were dominated by the French nuclear testing programme. By the time the programme ended in 1996, 150 separate explosions had been detonated, and Tahiti had become the focus of opposition throughout the South Pacific, with plenty of protesting and riots. Although the protesters failed to stop the tests, their campaign had an important political effect by linking the anti-nuclear movement and the burgeoning pro-independence movement, which had up until then been largely unrepresented in any political forum, despite the support of a large proportion of the population.
In recent years, changes have been afoot: Tahiti and Her Islands gained Overseas Country status in 2004, and pro-independence leader Oscar Temaru was elected in 2005. It only remains to be seen whether these changes result in imminent and full independence.
Beyond the political questions, Tahiti and Her Islands offer an idyllic getaway for holidaymakers keen on sun, sand and tranquillity. And let's be honest, who isn't keen on those things?