My trip to Palau was a beautiful and relaxing experience. Palau is an island nation located in the Pacific with about 21,500 inhabitants, 340 islands and an area of 459sqkm. The Rock Islands, a UNESCO World Heritage site, consists of 250-300 sparsely populated mushroom-shaped islands with beautiful lagoons and picture-perfect beaches and waters.

I started my Palau trip with a Cesna 182 air tour provided by Smile Air for fantastic views of the Rock Islands from above. Just this tour alone was one of the best travel experiences of my life. I continued with a road tour of the country's largest island, Babeldaob, for some more cool landscapes, colorful flowers and birds, roads in excellent condition and some interesting stops along the way: a hike to the pretty Ngardmau waterfall through lush vegetation (spotting lots of wild Nepenthes carnivorous plants along the way) and the ancient Badrulchau monoliths displayed in a beautiful little park.

The next stop was the country's new capital at Ngerulmud which features the Palau Capitol (designed after the US one) and other administrative buildings. Palau also has lots of relics remaining after some fierce WWII battles (I visited the Japanese Communication Center close to Airai Airport). Koror, the country's most populous state with more than 70% of the population is crossed by Main Street where most of shops and restaurants are to be found. Island life is laid back, but Palau enjoys a standard of living far above most of its neighbors in Oceania. Koror also has offers nice views of the ocean and surrounding islands, including Bridge Park next to the Japan-Palau Friendship Bridge and Mechang Lagoon Dock.

After viewing them from above, my next trip was a cruise to the Rock Islands (provided by Impac). The scenery is just amazing with the strong greens of the islands contrasting the various shades of blue in the water and some bright white clouds above. This trip included lots of snorkeling and bathing stops (including one at Milky Way with its surreal shade of blue) and an out-of-this-world lunch on a small deserted island.

I also spent two days at the Palau Pacific Resort which features a very nice private beach, snorkeling equipment for its beautiful reef, excellent dining opportunities and its very own nature hiking trail (you can get a day pass for the beach even if you don't stay at the resort). Snorkeling in Palau was top tier, with beautiful coral, velvety giant clams, lots of fish in all shapes, sizes and colors (including some rather large Napoleon fish), the occasional water snake and more.

Palau isn't a very well known destination, it's rather expensive and a bit difficult to reach. Still, this is one of the best places I have ever visited and I absolutely recommend it.

- Palau entry on Wikipedia
- Palau entry on Wikivoyage

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