Papua New Guinea

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Papua New Guinea comprises the eastern part of the world's largest and highest tropical island, New Guinea, together with many smaller offshore islands. It has a long and un-policed land border with the Papua region of Indonesia to the west.

Population: 6,431,902 people
Area: 462,840 km2
Highest point: 4,509 m
Coastline: 5,152 km
Life expectancy: 66.66 years
GDP per capita: $2,800
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About Papua New Guinea

History

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.

In more modern times, Papua New Guinea (known popularly as 'PNG'), the eastern half of the island of New Guinea (which is the second largest island in the world), was divided between Germany ('German New Guinea') and Great Britain ('British Papua') in 1884. The Dutch had West Papua, now the Indonesian territory of Papua. The southeast part of the island, also known as Papua, was owned by the UK but administered by Australia, and thus a colony of a colony, until Australian independence in 1901, when it became an Australian colony. In 1914, the Australians did their part in the Allied war effort and took control of German New Guinea, and continued to administer it as a Trust Territory under the League of Nations and (later) the United Nations. However, it was not just disinterested colonialism. Gold had been discovered in several places and was rapidly exploited. Remnants of vast gold dredges can still be seen in the Bulolo and Wau area.

During World War II, New Guinea was the site of fierce fighting on land (at Buin and on the Kokoda Track) and sea (at the Battle of the Coral Sea). It was the first place in the war where the Japanese advance was checked and then reversed. After the war, both New Guinea and Papua were administered from the government center of Port Moresby on the south coast, in Papua. In 1975, the country, now united as 'Papua New Guinea', achieved independence from Australia. Today Papua New Guinea continues to be the foremost country in Melanesia. The country struggles to fulfil the dreams of independence as economic stagnation, corruption, law and order problems, and a nine-year secessionist revolt on the island of Bougainville all conspire to make the country somewhat less than a tropical paradise.

The attempts by Bougainville to break away at the time of Independence led to a decision to offer the regions of the country a certain amount of political autonomy. Decentralization led to the establishment of nineteen provincial governments and the process of dividing up the country into unviable administrative units seems to be continuing, with a decision in 2009 to split both Southern Highlands and Western Highlands provinces into three new provinces.

In 2009, Papua New Guinea received 125,000 visitors, but only around 20% of these declared themselves as tourists. The country offers the traveller a true paradox. With little tourist infrastructure outside the main tourist areas, getting around can be tough. But Papua New Guineans themselves are wonderfully welcoming people who will go to great lengths to accommodate strangers. Tourism is well developed and growing in a handful of locations. Beyond these, the country is 120% adventure travel and not for the inexperienced or faint of heart.

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'. Of course, telling a Papua New Guinean that you consider them a stone age savage is incredibly rude. While you can, if you try hard enough, find old men who remember the first time they or anyone in their society saw metal, you'll also have trouble finding anyone who has not seen Titanic. Indeed, what makes Papua New Guinea so interesting today is not the fact that it is some sort of living museum, but its incredible dynamism. In the hundred-year shift from stone to steel to silicon, Papua New Guineans have turned the shortest learning curve in human history into one of the most colourful, and often idiosyncratic, experiments in modernity ever produced by human beings. Featuring ritual garb made of human hair and rolled up Instant Noodle wrappers, rap in Pidgin English, or tribal warriors named 'Rambo' for their valour in combat, Papua New Guinea's collision with global culture has been intense and fascinating. So don't worry about the fate of 'traditional culture': in the bar room brawl between Papua New Guinea and the global culture industry the biggest worry is keeping Papua New Guinea from pummelling global culture to a pulp.

Climate

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.

Activities

Scuba Diving

Go scuba diving, using one of more than a dozen local scuba diving operators. The national Scuba Diving industry body [3] is a good starting point. Papua New Guinea has some of the very best tropical reef diving anywhere in the word.

Birdwatching

This a birdwatching Mecca with over 700 species of birds including many birds of paradise[4]. Definitely bring a pair of decent binoculars and ask in the villages for a volunteer to help you find the birds. An amazing experience!

Surfing

Information through the Surfing Association.

Trekking

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.

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 colourfulness of New Guinea’s festivals is both pleasing to watch for tourists and helps the locals financially.

Fishing

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.

Flightseeing

Flightseeing is a word that should have been coined here. If you can afford it, just flying around some of the remote airstrips is an adventure in itself. There are strips that seem impossibly short, strips that seem to end with a mountain, strips where if you don't take off in time you will plunge into a ravine, and airstrips surrounded on three sides by water. From Port Moresby you don't have to fly far to get the experience. There are flights to villages on the Kokoda trail and others in the Owen Stanley mountain range in Central Province and you can fly a scheduled circuit or "milk run" in one morning, although you will have to be at the airport by 05:00. Check with Airlines PNG for schedules. Fane, Ononge and Tapini strips are particularly scary. Remember your life assurance.

Food

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, in there is usually a blend between this type of food and a more Westernised menu.

Drinks

There are brands of local beer. The local brew, SP (short for South Pacific) Lager, is owned by Heineken. Excessive alcohol consumption, primarily of beer, is a major social problem. 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.

Shopping

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.

Don't buy bird feathers.

Currency

The kina (ISO 4217 code: PGK) is the currency of Papua New Guinea and divided into 100 toea.

In September 2013, €1 = PGK3.05

Polymer banknotes in denominations of 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 kina circulate.

This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Papua New Guinea on Wikivoyage.

Cities in Papua New Guinea

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Port Moresby is the capital of Papua New Guinea.

Interesting places:

  • Hubert Murray Stadium
  • Parliament House
  • Lloyd Robson Oval
  • Port Moresby Golf Club
  • University of Papua New Guinea
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Madang is a town in Madang Province on the north coast of Papua New Guinea. In 2005 it had a population of almost 30,000. The town is said to be one of the prettiest towns in the South Pacific. It is a pleasant and laid back town and likely the best place to begin your PNG visit. PMVs can get you to the ... (read more)

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Goroka is a city in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea.

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Alotau is a city in Milne Bay province in Papua New Guinea.

panoramio Photos are copyrighted by their owners

Points of Interest in Papua New Guinea

South 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 Highlands

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 Eastern Highlands 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. 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.

The Northern Coast

  • Madang is good for scuba diving of all levels,and the coral reefs are home to a variety of rare species of colourful 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.
  • 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 it's tributaries to visit the impressive Haus Tambaran's[2].

The Islands

  • New Britain. This island offers excellent swimming and snorkelling. 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.
  • Bougainville. 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.
  • Trobriand Islands. The so-called Islands of Love are well known for their unique culture.

Hubert Murray Stadium - Port Moresby

Mount Wilhelm - Mount Hagen

Parliament House - Port Moresby

Lloyd Robson Oval - Port Moresby

Port Moresby Golf Club - Port Moresby

University of Papua New Guinea - Port Moresby

panoramio Photos are copyrighted by their owners
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