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Essential Papua New Guinea

VISIT THE MUST-SEE SPOTS

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If this is your first Papua New Guinea travel experience, there are some iconic sights and destinations located throughout the country that are simply a must-see for first-time travel to Papua New Guinea, which include Port Moresby, Mt. Hagen, Tari, the Sepik River, and Madang. If this is your second trip to Papua New Guinea or you prefer to get off the beaten path, explore our Extended Papua New Guinea page.

Port Moresby

The capital of Papua New Guinea, Port Moresby, sprawls along the dusty hills of New Guinea's southern coast overlooking the Coral Sea. Serving as the hub for all international and domestic air travel to Papua New Guinea, Port Moresby will be your first contact with this island nation.

Connecting directly to your next destination is probably the preferred arrangement, but if you need to overnight in Port Moresby, comfortable lodging and some interesting tours can be arranged including the national museum and the PNG arts warehouse.

Mt. Hagen

Located in the wide expanse of the Wahgi Valley, Mt. Hagen is the provincial capital for the Western Highlands. Convenient air service from all corners of Papua New Guinea make it the gateway to the Highlands. Mt. Hagen was the first Highlands settlement to have contact with Westerners in the 1930s and has since grown into an important coffee and tea producing area.

The Mt. Hagen produce market is one of the biggest in Papua New Guinea. It is a crowded, colorful meeting place which attracts people from all over the province. It is not unusual to see locals in traditional dress. Excursions to the traditional Chimbu Players and the Asaro Mudmen villages during your tour of Papua New Guinea can be arranged from Mt. Hagen. These wildly exotic tribes are but two of hundreds of distinct tribes that inhabit PNG, each with their own distinct language, unintelligible to tribes that may lie a mere valley away. This is what makes Papua New Guinea so unusual in the world: nowhere else is ther such a density of unique, small tribal bands living so closely to each other.

You may choose to visit Mt. Hagen during the annual August Highlands Cultural Show, also known as the Mt. Hagen Sing-Sing. Sing-sings are where different and often antagonistic tribes come together to sing and dance in their distinct, elaborate traditional costumes, and compete for prestige against other tribes. Participants take exceptional pride in representing their tribe's unique garb and rituals. A sing-sing is an unparalled pageant, a psychedelic smorgasbord of ritualized ancient theater paraded to vocal accompaniment. The chanting of each tribe is alternately haunting, happy or warlike, and ranges from dizzying whoops to subtle, wind-like murmurs. Far from being a staged event for tourists, sing-sing competitions have a long tradition, and jealous losers have in the past been known to wage actual war on the winning tribe. Accommodations fill up quickly, so if you wish to attend the show, please book your Papua New Guinea travel about one year in advance.

Tari

The area around Tari is made up of lush, high valleys wedged between towering limestone peaks. The dramatic Tari Basin is home to the Huli Wigmen, with their fabulously colorful face painting and ornate human hair "wigs." Witness the traditional Huli way of life, including manhood cults of young warriors which culminate in the making of the famous triangular-shaped human hair wig, face painting and other male body adornment.

There are also opportunities to visit local shamanistic practitioners during your Papua New Guinea tour. The surrounding countryside boasts thundering waterfalls and lush mountain scenery. Tari's forests are a haven for many species of the magnificent bird of paradise and multiple species of orchids, as well as myriad other birds, mammals and marsupials.

The Sepik River

The Sepik River region is quite possibly the most fascinating area of Papua New Guinea. A tangle of massive river channels, lakes and mountains, the Sepik is also home to some of Papua New Guinea's most significant cultural and artistic achievements. The Sepik River is often compared to the Congo or the Amazon, but in terms of contacting exotic human settlements it even more amazing.

Artistic development amongst the river-side cultures has flourished. Carvings, family and village totems, and ornate haus tambaran (spirit houses) are famous in this region. When touring Papua New Guinea and its Sepik River region, opportunities abound to view and collect some of the world's finest primitive art. We offer cruises to the middle, and lower reaches of the Sepik River on the luxurious Sepik Spirit.  If time is limited or cruises aren't available, an option to explore the region is to stay at the eco-style Karawri Resort. This property is located on the banks of the Karawari River, a major tributary of the Sepik in the middle Sepik Region and offers access to authentic villages and mystical spirit houses.

Madang

A fertile, volcanic coastline province backed by some of the most rugged mountains in Papua New Guinea, Madang has often been described as the "prettiest town in the Pacific." Madang has it all for those people looking for the quintessential South Pacific getaway both above and below the water. Here you'll find hiking, birdwatching, beachcombing, snorkeling and sea kayaking.