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Explore Papua New Guinea

Explore Papua New Guinea an island nation in Oceania, with its many cities to visit.

  • Port Moresby — the capital city with its interesting Zoological gardens, the Parliament building, the museum, and general Melanesian atmosphere.
  • Alotau — laid-back capital of Milne Bay province and gateway to some fascinating but remote islands.
  • Goroka — an attractive highland town with pleasant climate and the annual Goroka Show. Centre of the country’s coffee industry.
  • Lae — the country’s second city, main commercial centre and gateway to the Highlands.
  • Hagen — the ‘wild-west’ frontier town in the Highlands, which will introduce you to the cool, crisp Highlands weather and Highlands culture.
  • Madang — a beautiful city with breathtaking flights of bats in the evening (it is illegal to hurt them), and even more breathtaking diving.
  • Rabaul — the city at the foot of an active volcano which was evacuated and severely damaged by a major eruption in 1994.
  • Vanimo — the border town if you want to make you way to or from the province of Papua in neighboring Indonesia. Popular surfing destination.
  • Wewak — the gateway to the Sepik river, where you can experience Sepik culture, the river itself, and the elaborate carvings typical of the region.

Other destinations

  • Kokoda Track — an ancient trail across the Owen Stanley Range which became especially famous for its part in WWII.
  • Louisiade Archipelago — beautiful island group well off-the-beaten-path; world-class diving and yachting heaven.
  • Trobriand Islands — referred to by the anthropologist, Malinowski, as the “Islands of Love”.
  • Papua New Guinea’s fjords — fascinating scenery, great diving, and tapa cloth made from mulberry bark, in the Tufi area.

There is evidence of human settlement as long ago as 35,000 years in what is now Papua New Guinea. This comes from an archaeological site at Matenkupkum, just south of Namatanai in New Ireland province. Other archaeological digs at several locations in New Ireland have discovered tools and food residue dating back 20,000 years.

For people who can make it out here, the experience is unforgettable. The incredible natural beauty is simply indescribable. Its unique flora and fauna includes enormous radiations of marsupials and birds, including the Raggiana bird-of-paradise (the national symbol) and several species of tree kangaroos. Untouched coral reefs compete with spectacular World War II wrecks for the attention of divers, and the hiking is out of this world.

With rugged terrain, inter-tribal mistrust, and diverse languages, intermarriage between the peoples has, until recently, been very limited. Physical and facial appearance varies significantly throughout the country; from those who look almost Polynesian in some coastal areas, through the short, stocky Highlanders, to the tall and statuesque people of the area around Rabaul in New Britain and the dark-skinned inhabitants of Bougainville, who could almost come from Africa.

The central highlands of Papua New Guinea were not mapped until the 1930s and not effectively brought under government control until the late 1960s. As a result, the people are as interesting as the geography, flora, and fauna. Papua New Guinea is a place that often markets itself as ‘the Last Unknown’ or a place where you can still find ‘Stone Age People’.

Papua New Guinea is just to the south of the equator and has a tropical climate. In the highlands, though, temperatures are distinctly cool. The (very) wet season runs from about December to March. The best months for trekking are June to September.

The country is situated on the Pacific Ring of Fire, at the point of collision of several tectonic plates. There are a number of active volcanoes, and eruptions are frequent. Earthquakes are relatively common, sometimes accompanied by tsunamis.

The country’s geography is diverse and, in places, extremely rugged. A spine of mountains, the New Guinea Highlands, runs the length of the island of New Guinea, forming a populous highlands region mostly covered with tropical rainforest. Dense rainforests can be found in the lowland and coastal areas as well as very large wetland areas surrounding the Sepik and Fly rivers. This terrain has made it difficult for the country to develop transport infrastructure. In some areas, airplanes are the only mode of transport. The highest peak is Mount Wilhelm at 4,509m (14,793 ft). Papua New Guinea is surrounded by coral reefs which are under close watch to preserve them.

Most foreign nationals who wish to enter Papua New Guinea are required to obtain a visa.

Jacksons International Airport in Port Moresby is the nation’s main international airport.

A car or motorbike hire, taxi is required

Papua New Guinea is a strange place when it comes to travel. The tropical conditions, fierce geography, and lack of government capacity means there are very few paved roads in the country.

With the exception of a brief span of road connecting it to the immediate hinterland and a road that will enable you to follow the coast southeast for a few hours, there are no major roads linking Port Moresby to anywhere else.

The big exception to this is the Highlands Highway, which begins in Lae (the country’s main port) and runs up into the highlands through Goroka to Mt. Hagen with a fork going back to the coast and Madang. Shortly outside Mt. Hagen the road branches, with southern line going through the Southern Highlands to Tari while the northern line runs through Enga province and ends in Porgera.

Traffic moves on the left. Road signs are based on the Australian standard, and distances are posted in kilometers.

Lae, Madang, Goroka, Tari, and Mount Hagen are all connected by a good highway. As a newcomer it is probably advisable to get help from locals (e.g., hotel-staff). Most towns have several starting points

Talk

With over 820 languages – 12% of the world’s total – spoken in Papua New Guinea, it was pretty difficult to get everyone talking to each other.

What to see. Best top attractions in Papua new Guinea.

  • The Kokoda Trail is a 60-mile trail, beginning in the Port Moresby area and leading up into the Owen Stanley Range. This trail was first used by gold miners in the 1890s and is most known as a historical World War II site as the Japanese tried to reach Port Moresby along it. It takes about five days to hike this track, which includes plenty of ups and downs between mountain ridges and streams.
  • The Highland region is made of long string of fertile valleys, each separated by mountains that mean the Highlands are composed of many distinct tribal regions.
  • In the Chimbu (Simbu) Province is Mount Wilhelm, Papua New Guinea’s highest mountain (14,880 feet). Climbing Wilhelm is relatively easy; but three or four days are recommended to allow for sightseeing. Do not try it by yourself. Local guides are ready to help you with a reasonable cost. There are views of both the north and south coasts of New Guinea from the peak. The Wahgi River in this area is considered one of the best whitewater rafting destinations in the world.
  • Madang is good for scuba diving of all levels, and the coral reefs are home to a variety of rare species of colorful fish. There are also underwater wrecks of Japanese fighter planes, with weapons and cargo intact. There are still-active volcanoes for trekkers to hike up not far from Madang. Madang is a thriving community renowned for its traditional artists, world class diving opportunities and richness of its surrounding forests.
  • Further west you come to Wewak. It is the gateway to the Sepik River region with a fascinating culture distinct from that of the Highlands. Take long canoe rides up the river and its tributaries to visit the impressive Haus Tambaran’s. The Crocodile Festival (Pukpuk Show) in early August in Ambunti on the Sepik River is a good and less crowded alternative to the Goroka and Hagen shows.
  • New Britain. This island offers excellent swimming and snorkeling. Trails in the area are perfect for day hikes and treks through the rainforest. There are also hot thermal springs and bubbling mud holes in this region of the island. The Baining people who inhabit the northeastern area of New Britain are famous for creating ephemeral art-forms, perhaps no better demonstrated than by their fire dance. A dramatic and beautifully made mask is constructed from bark for this ceremony and thrown away as worthless immediately afterwards.
  • Well off-the-beaten-path in the far east of the country, with great untapped tourism potential. World-class diving, dramatic treks and World War II Japanese relics are the key attractions. Bougainville has been long isolated due to the conflict which swirled around its shores. This pristine island paradise has some of the greatest biodiversity in the region, including above and in the water.
  • Trobriand Islands. The so called Islands of Love are well known for their unique culture.

What to do in Papua new Guinea.

  • Scuba diving, using one of more than a dozen local scuba diving operators. The national Scuba Diving industry body is a good starting point. Papua New Guinea has some of the very best tropical reef diving anywhere in the word.
  • This a bird watching mecca with over 700 species of birds including many birds of paradise. Definitely bring a pair of decent binoculars and ask in the villages for a volunteer to help you find the birds. An amazing experience! Heritage Expeditions run voyages through PNG on an expedition ship also carry a Birding Expert/Lecturer onboard who acts as a guide and to unpack birding opportunities.
  • Surfing
  • Another popular attraction here is trekking through the mountains, coastal lowlands and rolling foothills of the Kokoda and other trails. The Kokoda Track attracts many hundreds of walkers a year.
  • Fishing is becoming increasingly popular. Species include Black Marlin, Blue Marlin, Sailfish, Yellow Fin, Skipjack and Dogtooth Tuna and the Giant Trevally. Mahi Mahi (Dolphin Fish), Mackerel and Wahoo. A particularly challenging fish is the black bass, which, pound for pound, is considered to be the toughest fighting fish in the world

Festivals

The most popular activities for tourists here are festivals such as the The Sing-Sing performances at the annual Goroka and Mt. Hagen shows. During these shows, there are usually more than fifty ensembles that turn up. The festivals are competitive and the winning ensemble is rewarded by being invited to give concerts at many restaurants and hotels during the following year. This beauty and colorfulness of New Guinea’s festivals is both pleasing to watch for tourists and helps the locals financially.

What to buy

There is not so much shopping in the regular sense. In the major cities there are a few malls and supermarkets. Otherwise, most of the shopping is done in small markets that are held irregularly. A great place to visit is the craft market which is held once per month in Port Moresby opposite Ela beach in the car park of the IEA TAFE College. There it is possible to buy handicrafts from every part of the country. Although it is slightly more expensive than out in the villages, the prices are very reasonable. Haggling is not really an accepted custom, one can haggle a bit but to do it excessively could annoy the locals.

What to eat

The food is largely devoid of spices. A typical way of cooking is a Mumu, an underground oven in which meat and vegetables, such as Kaukau (sweet potatoes), are cooked. In just about every meal, there is rice and another form of starch.

In the lodges that tourists stay, there is usually a blend between this type of food and a more Westernized menu.

What to drink

The legal drinking/purchasing age for alcohol is 21. However, because of the high age restriction, underage drinking has become a major problem.

There are brands of local beer. The local brew, SP (short for South Pacific) Lager, is owned by Heineken. Beers and wines are often served fairly warm due to a lack of refrigeration in certain areas. Also, while the water quality varies from place to place (and in some cases from day to day), it is generally best to stick to bottled water, even in the upper-market hotels. Alcohol is widely available everywhere on licensed alcohol-selling premises. However, alcohol may be difficult to obtain in some isolated areas, due to transportation issues.

The villages are quite safe as the locals will “adopt” you as one of their own. In many places, if you are alone, someone will want to escort you to where you want to go even if they have to go out of their way and you haven’t asked for it. Most people are extremely friendly, curious and helpful and it is easy to tell the bad guys from everyone else.

The most important thing is to stay up to date on the law and order situation in the locations you are planning to visit.

At least in Highlands region tribal warfare can happen occasionally. Especially national elections can spark hostilities among tribes. The warring groups are primarily targeting each other but an atmosphere of violence is present. Unfortunately there is a large number of illegal high-powered weapons in Highlands that can be used in tribal warfare. It is wise to stay away from war zones and places with recent history of war.

Papua New Guinea is home to many active volcanoes and several of the most popular treks involve getting close or actually climbing one or more of these. Always heed local advice and a regular check of The Smithsonian Institute’s Volcanic Activity Report would be wise.

Stay healthy

Tap water in most regions is unsafe to drink.

Respect

As in many Melanesian cultures, greeting people with a friendly handshake is very important. Be aware, however, that it is a sign of respect not to make eye contact. The sight of hotel staff calling you by name, shaking your hand and looking at the floor may seem unusual at first.

Contact

Digicel is by far the better telecom provider. A new prepaid SIM card is easy to purchase and can be used in any unlocked phone.

Get out

Unesco World Heritage List

Official tourism websites of Papua

For more information please visit the official government website: 

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