2011's tourism hotspots: What to do in Papua New Guinea

Last year, the Pacific Asia Tourism Association (PATA) predicted 2011 would be a a big year for tourism in Papua New Guinea, prompting many to reconsider travel to the often-overlooked Pacific island nation.

Predicted last year to be the fastest growing in the Pacific region, the country enjoyed a healthy 2010 which saw visitor numbers to the archipelago jump by 19 percent.

This year, that growth looks set to continue, with Papua New Guinea's tourism agency expanding its footprint at the recent ITB Berlin travel show to attract more attention and glittering reviews of local cruise itineraries which depart Australia, traditionally one of the country's largest markets.

Here, a look at some of the top attractions of a country which Lonely Planet describes as a step into the "great unknown."

Fish - Papua New Guinea is one of the world's best fishing spots and is host to species such as the Papua New Guinea Black Bass, river tiger and Barramundi.

Wear a mask - the National Mask Festival is staged every year to promote the mask cultures of Papua New Guinea, which are important cultural symbols.

Surf - Papua New Guinea offers year-round surf spots and is well known regionally as an excellent destination, although some resorts can get busy during peak season.

Island-hop - Even if you're not doing anything active, Papua New Guinea's Islands Region offers a glimpse of distinct cultures at every destination, despite being one of the country's least populated areas.

Explore - Papua New Guinea is one of the world's least explored places and among the least touched by mass tourism, with stunning wildlife, pristine mountain ranges and dense jungles all on offer for those prepared to step off the beaten track.

Be surprised - Port Moresby, the country's capital, is a place of contradiction - filled with vibrant cultural attractions such as museums, libraries and gardens, it is also the seat of government and major economic center. Ramshackle houses sit next to gleaming towers and a colonial past is juxtaposed with indigenous roots.

Be careful - Papua New Guinea is a growing destination but travelers should exercise caution; law and order remains poor in many parts of the country, with serious crime particularly high in the capital and regular outbreaks of tribal fighting in some provinces.

http://www.pngtourism.org.pg

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