Kiribati may seem a little behind the times, but because the international date line now makes a detour around its islands, every new day on Earth begins in this Pacific island nation. And a day can take a long time dawning on Kiribati, if you take into account all its islands: Kiribati's total span equals that of Western Europe. Of course, its actual landmass is considerably smaller: All of the islands, together, cover less territory than the city of London. The country also rests on both sides of the equator. Starting south of the Marshall Islands, Tarawa resides above the equator and the rest of the country stretches south and east along the southern equatorial line.

With its small islands separated by vast distances, it's easy to get off the beaten path in the Republic of Kiribati (pronounced KIR-ee-bahss). The country offers visitors a chance to see what the Pacific was like before the arrival of resorts and other amenities. Although there may be better scenery and beaches (and even diving) in other South Pacific locales, we found the I-Kiribati, as they refer to themselves, to be very friendly and their culture fascinating, especially in more remote villages.

The least complicated way to island-hop across the country is by private yacht, but it is possible to see a few of the major islands by regularly scheduled boat or plane. In either case, it's "island time" there, so it's best not to have serious time restrictions if you want to explore this country.

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