Papua New Guinea (PNG) in Oceania is a delightful experience for travelers who are looking for a lot of adventure in a rustic setting. This place has vast dense jungles competing with the Amazon, beaches that look right out of photo-shop, rich wild life, lofty mountain peaks at over 13,000 feet and a whole lot of local potpourri to immerse in! All in all, it would not be wrong to call Papua New Guinea a complete package of a destination. And to add to it, most of this country is unexplored and untouched. Tourists are few and the place is simply expansive. There is one more BIGGIE that goes in its favor…this country is really close to Indonesia and Australia, so combining it with a bigger and an awesome itinerary is so so easy. Here are our top picks with help of our travel expert Cecily from PNG Tourism Promotion Authority, on places to explore and activities to do in Papua New Guinea that will give you a true local flavor and views into this absolutely mystifying place!
The Local Communities
Across over 462,000 square kilometers (287,000 sq miles)of area, Papua New Guinea is home to about 7 Million people who speak 852 languages! Oh wait….12 languages are dead which means no one presently uses them. And 80% of Papua New Guinea people live in social tribal communities infusing that rustic vibe into this country. World’s most rural country has its people as an important destination because it is something you will never get to do or see anywhere. And let us add that even those who have been to interiors of Africa are bound to enjoy and find the experience here quite refreshing and impressive.
Over the years, Papua New Guinea Tribes from remote parts have also become friendly and very welcoming of outsiders since tourists bring in a host of small money-making business opportunities for them. Observing these people in their local habitats can transport you to a world where the primitive way is the way of life, with dependence on agriculture and a society untouched by technology. Customary dances and Sing Sing in colorful vibrant costumes are an amazing sight and a great way of witnessing the local culture. Some of the notable fests that go on through the year to witness the local traditions are the Mount Hagen show, Kenu & Kundu festival, Bilum Festival, Frangipani Festival, Morobe show, Mask festival, Crocodile Festival and Goroka show.
Best Places/ Villages to get up and close to locals:
You can stay at almost anywhere in Papua New Guinea and the same can be arranged by your tour guide. If there is any specific part you want to cover, same can be discussed with your tour guide
How to Reach
The only way to reach most places is by small plane as there are very few roads.
Where to Stay
There are hotels in some of the more popular tourist areas with guest lodges and homestays available elsewhere and of course camping for the more adventurous. Use our Hotel booking engine for the best hotel deals
Capital City Port Moresby
Let us first begin by getting wet on the wildest land in the world!
Located in Port Moresby, a great place to visit for water activities is Loloata Island. It is only a short boat ride from the entre of Port Moresby and a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. You can swim, dive,snorkel and enjoy on one of the best beaches of papua New Guinea here.
Since the Capital is home to International Airport you have to touch the city and when you do that, make it a point to visit the Nature Park which has over 11000 species of orchids and other native animals for visitors to see. The crafts market is another popular spot where you can pick various traditional items crafted in stone, wood and shells. Crafts market is more like a fest or a carnival where you get to see local dances and performances too!
How To Reach
From the UK - Flights with Air Niugini from Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Sydney, Cairns and several other locations or a new route from Philippine Airlines. Use our Flight planner for the best rates .
Where to Stay
You can also checkout other hotel options at Port Morseby.
Varirata National Park…..Hike, Camp, Barbeque and Picnics!
Spread over a thousand hectares on a plateau at 800 meters (approx 2400 ft) above sea level, Varirata is teeming with rich wildlife, exotic birds and other animals who move around fearlessly here. This is also one of the most beautiful attractions in Papua New Guinea. In fact if you do not want to take on the PNG Kokoda trail yet want to indulge that hiker inside, you may negotiate comparatively easy trails that exist within the precincts of the National park, about six in number. There are many camping opportunities available here along with scenic picnic spots and barbeque shelters complete with pretty streams and small lakes. You will have to carry your own supplies since there are no shops inside the national Park and even amenities like toilets are limited and derelict. Certain viewpoints at the end of the trails and edge of the park also offer charming vistas of Port Moresby. We may again add that it is advisable to camp overnight here only when you are part of a large group.
Where to Stay:
Varirata Lodge or camping in tents but book with a guide or operator.
How to reach:
Starting point for National Park is Port Moresby. Your hotel or guide can arrange for the transportation here.
The Crystal Rapids are about 40 kilometers(25 miles) from Capital City Port Moresby and are particularly recommended for families as it makes for a great picnic and swimming spot for visitors. A word of warning though - these rapids are quite fast and if you are not careful the jets can wash you downstream and not without hurting! The area around crystal rapids is really verdant and serene. There are many barbeque shelters here with wood fire system that can be used by visitors for making their own hearty meal. You can shop for food items at the market in Segori which not only offers super fresh local produce but is also very cheap. On the way to rapids, you may also savor the stunning view of twin waterfalls near the Hydro scheme. The sight of these voluminous waterfalls in Papua New Guinea with water stumbling down from hundreds of meters amidst the luxuriant lush makes for a spectacular sight!
How to Reach
Again starting point for Crystal rapids is Port Moresby. Your hotel or guide can arrange for the transportation from the Capital City to this place.
Kokoda Trail……It’s NOT a Cakewalk!
If you adventurers and explorers have not set a foot on this one, then your trip is sort of incomplete. Kokoda figures on top of all travel lists for Papua New Guinea to date and there are strong reasons for it. Now this trek is one hell of a challenging one and takes you through one of the remote jungles in the world. It is not your routine Jungle trail, The Kokoda Trail comes up as the site of a very famous and bloody battle of WWII which witnessed the failure of Japanese forces to take-over Papua New Guinea and Australia, thanks to the help of the local Papua New Guineans nicknamed the ‘fuzzy wuzzy angels’. This 96 kilometers( 60 miles) long trail has three starting points and you can take your own pick from- Port Moresby- farthest , Closest point -Kokoda or Mid point- Village Efogi.
Read our blog on essential trekking tips to make your treks truly safe and unforgettable
The full trek can take any time upward of nine days depending on your endurance. It is advised that trekkers prepare physically for months before taking on the ultimate challenge since the climate here is really hot and humid and rains can lash at you anytime. In fact it is the duty of all tour operators to assess your physical fitness before starting the trek.
This trek takes you through various villages on the way and gives you valuable glimpses into their primitive and simple lifestyle. You need a trekking permit from Kokoda Trail Authority to enter the trail and the authority strongly recommends hiring a guide or tour operator owing to safety concerns. You also need to make sure that your tour operator and guide are licensed.
How to Reach
You will need to book a short flight to the starting point of your trek.Book your flights from our flight planner for best rates.
Where to Stay
This would be organised through your guide / operator. There are many guesthouses to stay in on the trail. It is also recommended that you carry your tents along. However, stay in tents is advised only if you are in a big group and have tour guides with you.
Read: Our post on 10 Important Things You Did Not Know About Buying A Tent
Water Adventures Along The Tropical Fjords
There is a reason PNG is called a complete holiday package and one of them is the opportunity to indulge in various water adventures. Diving, surfing, fishing, kayaking, snorkeling, stand- up Paddling, cruising and more….just about everything is on offer here. Diving is particularly recommended around Tufi and the Fjords because it is teeming with beautiful marine life. Waters in and around PNG are a traveler’s delight.
While we are talking about water adventures in PNG, we would not be doing our bit if we do not mention several unique underwater destinations here which are the sites of WWII aircraft wrecks. You can dive down to the wrecks of the planes settled on the seabed in Milne bay, Kavieng, Rabaul & The Duke of York Islands. Scroll down for more on water destinations.
Famous Water Adventure destinations:
Milne Bay, Kimbe Bay, Tufi, Rabaul & Duke of York Islands, New Ireland New Britain and Loloata
How to Reach:
The dive sites are usually quite remote and can be reached by small aircraft
Where to Stay
Most dive sites have resorts located close by, alternatively you could take a live aboard trip on the MV Febrina or MV Chertan
The Island of Rabaul is home to PNG’s most active volcano and this island is part of the Bismarck arc too. Those who do not know, the Bismarck Arc is an archipelago (group of Islands) which mostly includes volcanic islands. Rabaul is part of the East Britain province of PNG and the most known eruption in the recent history of this island was in 1994 that consumed the entire Rabaul City. It has since recovered and welcomes tourists to come and visit.
Our discussion of Rabaul would not be complete without the mention of fire Baining dancers who belong to this region and are the original inhabitants of PNG. Fire dance is a way of celebration amongst these tribes from Baining village. New births, harvest, remembering the dead and for initiating young men into adulthood are some of the occasions that call for this spectacular dance. Unique masks, traditional costumes and bonfire add to the mysticism of this ritual.
How to Reach:
Short flight from Port Moresby will get you here.
Where to Stay:
Kokopo Beach Resort is our pick.
A Trip Along The Sepik River
The Sepik is the longest river in PNG and a very important part of the culture here. PNG Sightseeing cannot be complete without taking this ride. As you ferry along the river, sights of various communities and villages settled along the river bank roll by like a movie in motion. The entire lifestyle of the villagers revolves around the river. The Sepik has a heavy density of crocodiles and they are also sacred to the communities on the river banks. There are elaborate ceremonies of initiation in the “Spirit houses” of the villages where young boys are pronounced men just like the movies. In fact one of the famous initiation ceremonies came from a community called Kaningara who scar the skin of young men to resemble a crocodile! Villages along the Sepik are also famous for their artistic creations that produce beautiful works of carved wood that have spiritual importance as well.
Many tour operators run cruises on the Sepik River. You can have a quick day trip or cruise along this part of the world for days together. Luxury trips are also organized so it is up to your budget and pocket to choose your mode of exploration on Sepik.
Popular Tour Operators in Papua New Guinea:
Sepik Spirit cruise boat run by Trans Niugini Tours is highly recommended.
From the UK you can get a free visa on arrival, which is usually the shortest queue at arrivals in the airport anyway.
Moving Around PNG
Always travel with a guide as all land is owned by a tribe and you don’t want to make the mistake of trespassing without permission. Most travel within the country is done by small aircraft as there isn’t much of a road infrastructure throughout the country. It is worth trying to see as much as you can while you’re here, visit the highlands, the beaches and islands as well as the famous Sepik River and if you’re feeling fit give the Kokoda Trail a go! The locals are all very friendly… just smile!
Read: Our recent post on 10 helpful tips you need to know before your next beach vacation to get the maximum out of your visit to the beaches of Papua New Guinea
So these were our top picks in the lesser known but hugely popular Papua New Guinea. These beautiful islands still retain their mystic and fiercely preserve the culture that now defines them. If you are planning a trip here then you can get in touch with:
PNG Tourism Promotion Authority
Contact: 020 7260 2293