Beauty and culture... Papua New Guinea


| November 6, 2014

For those who desire adventure, natural beauty and authenticity in a holiday destination, Papua New Guinea may well provide exactly what you are looking for. A land full of distinct tribal cultures, emerald swathes of rainforest and smouldering volcanoes, this largely untouched nation provides many attractions for the intrepid traveller.

Tropical coast of Papua New Guinea. Photo credit: Thinkstock/iStock

Journeying here can be a challenging experience, though, with much of the nation possessing little or no tourist infrastructure. This is, of course, the very reason why many visitors come here – to witness a land that humans seem to have forgotten and has been claimed by Mother Nature. Read on to find out a little more about this thrilling world.

Inspiring natural wonders

Located around 100 miles north of Australia, Papua New Guinea comprises more than 600 individual islands, each more beautiful than the last. The sheer variety of landscapes is what impresses here. Jagged mountain peaks challenge the skyline at regular intervals. Meandering rivers cosset the countryside, leading to cascading waterfalls and sparkling lakes. The coastline is equally as entrancing, with the country bordered by dramatic sheer cliffs and pristine beaches.

Papua New Guinea landscape

And then there is the exquisite wildlife. Kangaroos that bounce over flat plains in neighbouring Australia take to the canopies of the forest in Papua New Guinea, taking ownership of the skyline. Extensive and extraordinary untouched coral reefs extend for miles off the shores of its charismatic coastline, providing a home for an uncountable number of individual species of fish. Seek out in particular the Raggiana bird-of-paradise, which is considered to be a national symbol for this wondrous world. For many of the animals you will find here, this will be your only opportunity to witness them in the wild, as two-thirds of the wildlife is thought to be endemic.

Raggiana bird-of-paradise

Unique cultural experiences

It's impossible to traverse Papua New Guinea without encountering a number of the indigenous tribal cultures, of which there are thought to be thousands. No two are alike and it's a joy to discover their individual festivals, nuances and methods of survival. Some 800 languages are thought to be spoken here, making communication difficult, and some tribes may value customs such as avoiding eye contact and keeping their voices low, whatever the situation. Intrepid travellers will enjoy experiences such as witnessing tribal dances and music, colourful displays in which storytellers don elaborate headdresses while chanting to drums, and the chance to sleep in a rainforest village. So-called Sing-Sing performances at the annual Goroka and Mount Hagen shows are particularly popular with visitors.

Goroka mudmen

It's also interesting to visit the places where other civilisations have tried to impact upon Papua New Guinea, and failed. The Japanese submarine base, the World War II wrecks, the long-abandoned gold mines. All of these stand as testimony to the fact that the country's individual identity will not be overshadowed.

Tourism in Papua New Guinea

As the tourism industry is still in its infancy here, Papua New Guinea possesses an authenticity that you might struggle to find anywhere else in the world. But this comes at a price. Journeying through the country is not easy, with few roads and limited infrastructure. Thanks to the mountainous landscape, you'll usually be restricted to flying between cities.

However, the majority of adventurous travellers will find the lack of infrastructure to be an advantage rather than a problem. As soon as you touch down in this unique destination, you'll want to hike up to experience the natural wonders that this country is famous for.

Read more about Papua New Guinea >

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