Papua New Guinea, its geography, regions and provinces


A guide to Papua New Guinea, its geography, regions and 22 provinces.

Port Moresby from the air. Credit: Milen Stiliyanov

Papua New Guinea (PNG) consists of the eastern half of New Guinea island, the two large islands of New Britain and New Ireland, more than 600 small islands and the autonomous region of Bougainville.

PNG has a land area of 462,840 square kilometres, slightly more than the US state of California. The country has 17,000 kilometres of coastline and an Exclusive Economic Zone of 2.4 million square kilometres.

The country shares a border with Indonesia’s Papua province to the west and with Australia in the Torres Strait and Coral Sea to the south. PNG shares a maritime border with Solomon Islands to the southeast.

The capital city, Port Moresby, is situated on a spectacular natural harbour on the south-west coast of PNG’s mainland.


The terrain of PNG is characterised by spectacularly jagged mountain ranges, deep valleys and rivers in the highlands, and coral reefs and mangrove swamps in coastal regions. Its more than 600 islands are widely spread, and range from small coral atolls to larger, mountainous and volcanic islands.

PNG’s principal rivers are the Fly, Purari, Kikori, Sepik, Ramu and Markham.

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Forest and woodlands cover about 80% of PNG’s total land area, and permanent crops about 1.4%.

As a result of its topography and position on the volatile seismic line known as the ‘Pacific Ring of Fire’, PNG has occasional natural hazards, including earthquakes and mudslides.

The highest point is Mount Wilhelm (4509 metres).

PNG in its region

PNG is the largest country and the largest economy in the Pacific Islands region.

The region is divided into three geographical groups: Micronesia in the north, Polynesia in the east, and Melanesia in the west. As well as PNG, Melanesia includes Fiji, Vanuatu, New Caledonia and the Solomon Islands.

PNG is situated at 6° latitude south and 147° longitude east.

PNG’s regions and provinces

PNG’s 22 provinces are divided into four administrative regions:

Highlands region

New Guinea Islands



The National Capital District (NCD) is an administrative district taking in Port Moresby and contained within Central Province.

Bougainville is an autonomous region. A referendum was held in Bougainville in 2019, with about 98% of voters saying they favoured independence from PNG. The vote is non-binding, which means leaders in Bougainville and PNG will have to negotiate the outcome. PNG’s national parliament will have the final say.


  1. Ylamae Nason says

    What are the capital cities of the following provinces?

    • Charity Kiap says

      Chimbu – Simbu
      Eastern Highlands – Goroka
      Enga – Wabag
      Hela – Tari
      Jiwaka – Kurumul
      Southern Highlands – Mendi
      Western Highlands – Mt. Hagen
      East New Britain – Kokopo
      Manus – Lorengau
      New Ireland – Kavieng
      West New Britain – Kimbe
      Autonomous Region of Bougainville – Arawa
      East Sepik – Wewak
      Madang – Madang
      Morobe – Lae
      Sundaun (West Sepik) – Vanimo
      Central – Port Moresby
      Gulf – Kerema
      Miline Bay – Alotau
      Oro (Northern) – Popondetta
      Western – Daru

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