photo of New Ireland Beach

New Ireland Beach in Papua New Guinea (Papua New Guinea Tourism)

What to do in Papua New Guinea

On a map it may appear to be part of Southeast Asia, but Papua New Guinea is distinctly Pacific in its ambience and culture. "PNG" is home to over 600 islands and 850 languages, not to mention 9,000 species of plants and 250 species of mammals in its mega-diverse ecosystems. As for ocean life, the confluence of three seas brings a vast biodiversity to the reefs. The lush offshore islands, some of them the size of countries, are happily devoid of tourists and sometimes any tourist infrastructure. Rainforest covers nearly three-quarters of the country and the whole nation feels like a permanent step back in time. Locals are creative, blissful, and bashful, and always friendly towards outsiders.

On New Guinea, the world's second largest island, the tribal villages in the remote highlands nestle under peaks as high as 15,000 feet, appearing as they did centuries ago. Other popular areas with travelers include Madang, which has lagoons and coconut plantations; Sepik, with river cruises and traditional villages; and Rabaul, which has active volcanoes and World War II wrecks.

Papua New Guinea is tailor-made for eco-tourists and those who love empty beaches. With a surprising lack of travelers, it's not a cheap destination, but this territory is worth every penny. Its lack of general infrastructure means that flying is the best (and sometimes only) way to get around the country. You may want to look into tour operators who can more reasonably package trips for you—having said that, there are organized boat charters, surfing safaris, and even volcano excursions.

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