The beautiful Micronesia © Matt Keiffer
Micronesia is a rather arbitrary name given to an enormous slice of earth. Greek for 'small' and 'islands', Micronesia is neither small nor a cohesive group culturally. Micronesia is in fact comprised of about eight different countries; the Federated States of Micronesia (commonly referred to as just Micronesia), to which this guide refers, is one of these countries and is itself comprised of over 600 islands. The country is further divided into four states that are home to a number of unique cultures.
While Micronesia received independence in 1986 it has retained deep ties with the US and still largely relies on the US for defence and monetary aid, with citizens of Micronesia still active members of the US military.
Micronesia can be a fascinating place to visit as the country's prior isolation has ensured the preservation of the many unique cultures of the islands. Many of the islanders still live much as they have for centuries, with local customs refreshingly untouched by modernisation and the global melting pot. Cultural practices vary drastically between the islands and travellers should be sensitive to this.
The diverse cultures are not the only unique aspect of the country which has a dramatic volcanic history that has spawned some unusual geographical features including wonderful reefs and numerous lagoons. The turbulent origins of the landscape also mean that the islands come in vastly different shapes and sizes.
Chuuk is a popular state to visit for scuba divers. A Japanese fleet was sunk off its shores in WWII making it among the best shipwreck diving sites in the world. Yap Island has unique hill scenery in contrast to the volcanic formations and coral atolls that created the rest of the FSM. Pohnpei is the most populated of the states while Kosrae is the most sparsely inhabited. Both are welcoming to tourists and promise a very different holiday experience.
Although the islands stretch for 1,800 miles (2,900km) Micronesia is largely off the tourist map. As a result, tourism infrastructure isn't yet highly developed and many of the islands are difficult to reach and hard to explore. For willing adventurers this also means there are hundreds of secluded blue water beaches and lush landscapes to discover. Micronesia is a thrilling off-the-beaten-track holiday destination, still largely unspoiled culturally and naturally.