Featuring soaring mountains and lush fertile valleys, the Highlands of Papua New Guinea offer a spectacular array of sights, culture and experiences for tourists looking to discover the unique heartland of this near-pristine nation.
If you’re looking to ascend to the new and exciting heights of tourism that the Highlands region has to offer, here’s what you need to know…
Described as a “Papuan Wonderland”, the Highlands region spans a chain of mountain ranges on New Guinea Island. It runs from east to the border with Indonesia and incorporates extinct volcanoes, lush fertile valleys, lakes and rivers, making it a stunning destination for those seeking the spectacular natural assets PNG has to offer.
Only recently discovered by Europeans, the Highlands retain a largely tribal lifestyle with over 700 Papua New Guinea cultures identified in the region. This is the home of the Huli Wigmen, the site of the annual Goroka Show, and a place where towering mountains soar to above 4000m. It’s remote, relatively untouched and a wonderland for those looking to witness the beauty and culture of traditional PNG. The Southern Highlands
Home to the Huli Wigmen, the Southern Highlands are a pristine region affected little by modern life. The region features a tribal lifestyle where men and women still wear traditional dress.
Top destinations: Mt Giluwe, Lake Kutubu, Wasi Falls and Mendi.
Renowned as PNG’s highest province and the most rugged, much of this region sits above 2000m. It is unique within PNG due to the presence of only one linguistic group – the Enga Speakers. This is a place of true adventure, where the rugged backdrop lends itself to spectacular features like fast-flowing rivers, waterfalls, and mountain passes. Attractions: The Enga Show, birds of paradise, walking and trekking, gardens.
Top destinations: Lake Surunki, Lake Rau, Laiagum Salt Ponds, Laiagum Botanic Gardens, Yuo Waterfall, Porgera Gold Mine.
The Western Highlands is renowned for its colour and vibrancy as well as being home to PNG’s second largest city – Mt Hagen. The old and new come together in this province as a result of the riches derived from tea and coffee plantations, and the region features rainforests, grasslands and towering misty peaks.
Attractions: Mt Hagen Markets, Mt Hagen Show (August), arts and crafts, coffee plantations, archaeological sites, walking and hiking, birdwatching.
Top destinations: Mt Hagen, Mount Ongo, Mount Kubor, Mount Kini Kaino Ku, Mt Giluwe, Baiyer River Wildlife Sanctuary, The Kuk Valley.
Simbu is fast establishing itself as a tourism destination, largely due to the variety of sights and outdoor activities on offer. The region is home to rugged terrain, rivers, and the highest mountain in PNG – Mt Wilhelm. The administrative centre of the Province is the small coffee-growing town of Kundiawa.
Attractions: Caving, hiking, climbing.
Top destinations: Kundiawa, Mt Wilhelm, Nambaiyufa amphitheatre rock paintings, and the Keu Caves.
The Eastern Highlands
The Eastern Highlands province has had more influence by Europeans than any other area of the highlands region. That’s largely due to its renown for coffee, tea and mining. Here, the Goroka Show is held every September drawing tens of thousands of people together to showcase the tribal culture of PNG. Attractions: Goroka Show, Asaro Mudmen, coffee plantations, cave paintings, arts and crafts, flora and fauna, birdwatching, trekking.
Top Destinations: Goroka, Goroka Provincial Park, Famito, Lufa, Okapa.
Highlands culture Human settlement in the PNG Highlands dates back around 50,000 years, but the region was only first visited by Europeans less than a century ago. As a result, tribal culture is still a part of everyday life. Agriculture remains a mainstay along with tea and coffee plantations, and mining.
Climate Due to the topography, the climate of the Highlands varies, ranging from hot and humid rainforests to cooler mountain peaks. In some areas, such as Mt Wilhelm, the altitude sees snow on the highest parts.
Getting there The Highlands region is accessed by the Highland Highway, which connects the major towns of this mountainous area. Although accessible by road, air remains one of the most convenient options for getting from place to place. Air Nuigini and PNG Air service destinations throughout the highlands.
Gudmundur (Gummi) Fridriksson, is the CEO of Paga Hill Development Company (PNG) Ltd, overseeing the development of Paga Hill Estate, a world-class, master planned estate located in the heart of Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. Gudmundur first arrived in Papua New Guinea over 20 years ago and is passionate about sharing PNG’s natural beauty and diverse cultures with the world. Find out more about Gummi Fridriksson on his website: http://www.gudmundurfridriksson.com/and about the Paga Hill Estate development at http://www.pagahillestate.com/