The Guinean Highlands, also called the Central Cordillera, are spanning across the whole island of New Guinea, from the head to the tail and they are the highest mountains of Oceania. Included in the ‘Seven Summits’ list, the Puncak Jaya (4884 m) and Mt Wilhelm (4509 m), they are the highest peaks in Australasia, extremely popular with climbers.
Jayawijaya, Orange MountainsThe natural beauty is topped up with fascinating hill-tribes and dazzling festivals. From Baliem Valley trekking in West Papua to Goroka and Mt Hagen cultural shows in Papua New Guinea, the New Guinea Highlands is a top destination for those who are after a mountaineering challenge, eco-tourism and nature-based adventures.
MAOKE MOUNTAINS (WEST PAPUA/INDONESIA)
While the Meren Glacier has gained a reputation among extreme skiers and the Carstensz Pyramid is an absolute must-do for all mountaineers and climbers.
The highest point is Puncak Jaya (4884 m), majestically posing amongst her sibling-peaks: East Carstensz Peak (4808 m), Sumantri (4870 m), Ngga Pulu (4863 m). Climbing expeditions can be arranged in Timika and there are numerous routes to reach the summit of the pyramid.
ORANGE MOUNTAINS (WEST PAPUA/INDONESIA)
The Orange Mountains (Jayawijaya) is dominated by the twin-peaks of Puncak Trikora (4750 m) and Puncak Mandela (4760 m), whose ice caps have sadly melted as a result of global warming.
Their summits can be climbed from Wamena where the hikers can book the hiking expedition or other trekking tours.
BALIEM VALLEY (WEST PAPUA/INDONESIA)
Sealed of the rest of the world by mighty the mountain walls and no roads leading from anywhere around, yet Baliem Valley is a place of rapidly-growing eco-tourism. If you visit in August you might well experience one of the bucket-list items of any traveller – the Baliem Valley Festival.
Jungle trekking, eco-tours and other expeditions can be arranged in Wamena which is the starting point to Baliem Valley.
LORENTZ NATIONAL PARK (WEST PAPUA/INDONESIA)
Another remarkable area with excellent hiking conditions is the UNESCO recognised Lorentz National Park, situated between Jayawijaya and Sudirman and gently stretching towards the southern coast of West Papua.
The national park is a path less trodden and it is good to hire a local guide who can help you to explore the area via trekking and hiking. Wildlife lovers might be interested in rare fauna and flora, including the iconic Bird of Paradise, Tree Kangaroo, Singing Dingo, Pig-nose Turtle, Blue-Crowned Pigeon, Northern Cassowary and other native species.
Timika is the gateway to the Lorentz National Park where trekking and hiking can be organized and a local guide hired.
EASTERN HIGHLANDS (PAPUA NEW GUINEA)
Deep gorges and rushing rivers of the Highlands are home to GOROKA – a small town characteristic of ancient caves, dense rainforest and tropical waterfalls, with the best trekking opportunities in The Central Cordillera.
This is the starting point of the challenging four-day climb to Mount Wilhelm. Many travellers come here to witness the glorious Goroka Festival. It is the oldest carnival in the country to celebrate the spirit of Papua. (see TOP PAPUAN FESTIVALS)
SOUTHERN HIGHLANDS (PAPUA NEW GUINEA)
In the Southern Highlands there lies the TARI BASIN, providing access to the spectacular Tari Valley with animist tribes that inhabit the jungles of the highland plateau. This is one of the most authentic parts of Papua where tradition means more than anything and the local people are still living in the way like their ancestors used to hundreds of years ago.
Huli tribal villages can be visited for their spirit dance performances and skull caves, Tagari River is ideal for rafting and the entire Tari Basin region is stuffed with wildlife, hence jungle trekking, eco-tourism and wildlife watching are in the spotlight.
LAKE KUTUBU (PAPUA NEW GUINEA)
The Kutubu Lake is also well-worth of visiting for its remarkable fauna and flora, ethnic communities and beautiful landscape. It is the biggest lake in Papua and it features a distinctive ecosystem. Visitors can encounter here some of the rarest wildlife on our planet, such as the Tree Kangaroo, Cassowary and Singing Dingo. The legendary Bird of Paradise is the highlight for all nature lovers.
MT HAGEN, in the western part of the Highlands, is the third biggest city of Papua. This cultural hub offers nice markets selling colourful traditional clothing.
The annual costume festival ‘Mt Hagen Show’ is held every August where all neighbouring tribes meet and present amazing handmade outfits while dancing and singing together to remind themselves of the big day of Papuan Independence in September 1975. This event is considered as the visually most impressive but also the most expensive. (see TOP PAPUAN FESTIVALS)
It is always advisable to inquire about the safety situation in PNG, due to the presence of criminal gangs and tribal conflicts.
Malaria pills and vaccination against the Yellow Fever is strongly recommended and some countries such as Australia even request all visitors get immunized prior to the entry to PNG.
WHEN TO TRAVEL
Papua New Guinea has an unpredictable weather and heavy rains can occur at any time.
Generally, the most pleasant time of the year to visit is during the dry months which are between May and October and most festivals take place within this period, and there are the best conditions for hiking and trekking.
HOW TO GET THERE
PAPUA NEW GUINEA: There are two Australian airlines that fly into Port Moresby (Papua New Guinea) from overseas – Virgin Australia and Qantas.
Air Niugini is the national carrier of Papua New Guinea and you will need to use their services to get to Goroka or Mt Hagen.
INDONESIAN PAPUA: For West Papua/Irian Jaya check out domestic airlines Lion Air, Garuda Indonesia & Sriwijaya Air.
Fly to Jakarta/Denpasar first. Catch a domestic flight to Jayapura. Then fly to Wamena. Several daily flights from Jayapura to Wamena with Trigana Air (40 min flight).
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