Ash is as common as rain in Rabaul, a lava-encrusted, seaside town on Papua New Guinea's second-largest island. In 1994, Mt. Tavurvur, an ancient, active volcano to the southeast, erupted and blanketed much of the picturesque town and harbor in ash. Today, the some 20,000 people who call the Rabaul region home carry umbrellas to fend off the spitting, grumbling volcano.
In September 2013, Rabaul's tiny airport opened its tarmac—with little to no fanfare—to direct flights from Cairns, Australia. Now, for the first time ever, adventure travelers can bypass the world's third worst city, Port Moresby, and head straight to Rabaul's black sand beaches and eerily barren streets.
It's a flight that's poised to change the way adventure travelers look at visiting PNG. The lush island country—home to some 700 Papuan and Melanesian tribes, each with their own indigenous language and customs—has long turned away pantophobic travelers who want to avoid spending a night in its notoriously gritty, raskol-ruled capital, Port Moresby.
Go now. Rabaul is one of the world's last authentic escapes from modernity: Admiral Yamamoto's map-lined Japanese bunker is guarded by tow-headed local boys, an excavated bomber plane sits on a family's long-held land, and hikers can summit Mt. Tavurvur and peer into its smoking crater.