On Tahiti’s stunning south coast lies the quaint village of Papeari, a quiet town that is, according to some, the oldest village on the island. Most come for two reasons: to admire the sleepy waves gently lap the shore of the beach, or to explore the Gauguin Museum, dedicated to the life and works of French post-impressionist Paul Gauguin.
Few people have done as much to show Tahiti’s charms to the world as Gauguin has. Born in France, he spent the last 12 years of his life in Tahiti and the Marquesas Islands. His celebrated paintings, generally of beautiful Tahitian women, employed the bold use of bright colour, enticing people in with a vivid array of shades and tones. However the Gauguin museum does not display many of his works; rather, it is a dedication to Gauguin himself, exploring his life during the time he spent on Tahiti. Twenty-five small works are on display in the first gallery of the museum, but the rest are filled with documents, photographs and sketches of and by Gauguin – these are organised chronologically starting with his early life in France, which paints a clear picture of his love for travel, and finish in a great little bookshop and giftstore, where his publications and prints of his work can be purchased.
The Museum is adjacent to the stunning Harrison W Smith Jardin Botanique, started in 1919. They once belonged to an American expatriate but, upon his death, were gifted to the government of Tahiti. They are now open for the public to enjoy, and offer a plethora of tropical plants for viewing. There’s great walking tracks through the gardens, and a beautiful lagoon that offers ideal picnic spots – a great place for lunch after a morning at the Gauguin Museum. Papeari is best reached by car, about an hours drive from Papeete.