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World Travel Guide > Guides > Oceania > Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea travel guide

About Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea is a fascinating country where travellers can explore remote villages, as well as enjoying spectacular diving, stunning wildlife, scenic surfing and myriad cultures. The tribal diversity of a country with over 800 languages and 600 islands cannot easily be summarised, although in Papua New Guinea it is the tribal life that is most fascinating to the visitor.

Beyond the dizzying array of ethnic groups to get to know, there are many unique attractions, excursions and activities on offer, from discovering wrecks of World War II aircraft that lie in the jungle, to peeking inside the sacred wooden haustambarans (spirit houses) of towns and villages in the country.

One of the largest draws for those visiting Papua New Guinea is the country's extensive wildlife and unique ecosystem. From the mountainous highlands to the Evian-blue waters, travellers can expect to discover weird and wonderful creatures, from tree-climbing kangaroos to spectacular birds of paradise; there are almost 700 bird species on the islands. Be sure to visit the National Botanic Gardens in Port Moresby, which is probably the capital's greenest, most beautiful sport. Most of the country remains undeveloped, with the largest island of Bouganville avoiding from resort hotels and commercialisation – ideal for the independent traveller.

Above all, though, it's the inhabitants that make Papua New Guinea truly unique. Many of the hundreds of languages spoken here are kept alive by a just a few dozen people. Each ethnic group has its own proud artistic traditions, with deft handicrafts, entrancing dance performances and bracing music. If you happen to visit during a festival – to be fair, there are many of them occurring throughout the year – prepare to be spellbound by tribal concerts and elaborate headdresses. Spend a bit of time here, and you'll feel as if you've gained access to a bygone era, although it would be wrong to describe the inhabitants as stuck in the past. Anyone welcomed into their embrace will say that they are thriving.

Key facts

Area:

462,840 sq km (178,704 sq miles).

Population:

7,776,115 (UN estimate 2016).

Population density:

14.4 per sq km.

Capital:

Port Moresby.

Government:

Constitutional monarchy.

Head of state:

Queen Elizabeth II since 1952, represented locally by Governor-General Sir Bob Dadae since February 2017.

Head of government:

Prime Minister James Marape since 2019.

Travel Advice

COVID-19 Exceptional Travel Advisory Notice

As countries respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, including travel and border restrictions, the FCO advises against all but essential international travel. Any country or area may restrict travel without notice.

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