Country Guide - Papua New Guinea
Papua New Guinea is a raw land, remarkably untamed and as variegated as swamp and jagged limestone; mud and moss forest; suffocating heat and Highland chill; plumed, pearl-shelled villagers and prosaic hill people; tiny tree kangaroos and enormous Queen Alexandra Birdwing butterflies.
The Independent State of Papua New Guinea
- English (official)
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When to Go
You'll probably want to avoid rainy seasons (although a good tropical downpour is a sight to be seen) but they vary across the country. In most places the wet season is December to March, the dry season from May to October. During April and November the weather can't make up its mind which way to go and tends to be unpleasantly still and sticky. The most notable variations on this pattern are Lae and Alotau where May to October is the wet (and we mean wet) season. The months from June to September are cooler, drier and better to visit PNG.
There are no real high and low seasons in PNG. At Christmas, Easter and other major holidays, hotels and transport can fill up, and booking ahead is advised if you're in a town during one of the cultural shows. It's worth scheduling your trip around a festival or event, such as one of the unforgettable cultural shows that are held between July and October. If you plan on trekking, diving or looking for that elusive bird, you'll need to research the best times to go.
PNG has one of the most variable climates on earth but the climate is typically monsoonal: hot, humid and wet. While April and November are truly anyone's guess, the defined wet (December to March) and dry (May to October) seasons are also subject to regional variation (especially in the islands). Rainfall, for example, varies tremendously. Temperatures on the coast are reasonably stable all year, usually hovering between 25 and 30°C (77-86°F) but humidity and winds are changeable. Temperatures drop at higher altitudes, and it can be very chilly in the Highlands.
Places of Interest
Varirata National Park
Varirata National Park, Papua New Guinea's first such park, has a variety of interesting and clearly marked walking trails, plus some excellent lookouts with views back to the country's capital and the south coast. Some of the trails can be quite jungle-like, which is surprising considering the park's proximity to Port Moresby.
Climbing to the 4509m (14,790ft) summit of Mt Wilhelm has long been a highlight for many visitors to the country's Highlands. It's hard work, but on a clear day you can see both the north and south coasts of the mainland. If you don't plan on tackling the summit, the region around the base offers fantastic walking and dramatic landscapes.
The Lake Kutubu area has one of just five national parks in PNG. South of Mendi, Lake Kutubu has some of the Highlands' most beautiful scenery. According to legend, the lake was formed when a fig tree was cut down by a woman looking for water. The story goes that whatever the tree touched turned to water - hence the lake.
General Safety - No Go Zone
Papua New Guinea is troubled by a high level of serious crime, particularly in the urban centres of Port Moresby, Lae and Mt Hagen. Travellers should use common sense to avoid any trouble - don't travel at night and respect any local advice regarding safety. All travel to the Highlands region, except on essential business, should be reconsidered because of high levels of crime and inter-tribal violence. This includes the Southern Highlands, Enga, Western Highlands, Chimbu and Eastern Highlands provinces. Travellers should stay away from the no-go zone around the former Panguna mine in Bougainville.
Check travel advisories and news services before travelling. See Safe Travel for updated government warnings.
Visas can be obtained on arrival at Jackson's International Airport for a maximum stay of 60 days in any 12 months. It is recommended however, that you obtain a visa prior to arrival.