If your New Year’s resolution was to visit every country in the world, then that list is about to get a little bit longer. After residents of Bougainville, a group of islands in the South Pacific, voted on December 11, 2019, to separate from Papua New Guinea, the islands appear positioned to become the newest country in the world.
Bougainville is composed of volcanic islands and atolls in the Solomon Sea, located about 870 miles north of Australia. The 3,600-square-mile area is home to around 25,000 people, most of whom live on the islands of Bougainville and Buka. The town of Buka is the capital, with restaurants, bars, shops, and small guesthouses, though the island doesn’t have many sites geared toward tourists. Bougainville Island, however, has an abundance of natural beauty, including forests, lagoons, waterfalls, caves, beaches, and mountains. Visitors can hike to Mount Balbi and Namotoa Crater Lake or go birdwatching and diving in the southern Arawa region.
To access Bougainville, you’ll have to take a boat from the Solomon Islands to Uka Island, or take a plane from Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea. You won’t really need to worry about a visa, either, as there is currently a visa on arrival system in place.
Although the independence process has been set in motion, it’s not likely to be settled for some time. Before fully gaining its independence, Bougainville will need to negotiate and agree to terms with Papua New Guinea.