The New 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, with their peaks often covered with ice. The part that belongs to Papua New Guinea is known as the Bismarck Range with the highest peak Mt Wilhelm (Enduwa Kombuglu, 4509 m). Its sharp summit is towering over the vast alpine tundra, jungles, valleys, lakes and coffee plantations.
WHAT TO SEE AND DO IN THE HIGHLANDS OF 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)
2.THE SOUTHERN HIGHLANDS
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.
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.
4.THE WESTERN HIGHLANDS
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)
5 HIGHLIGHTS IN THE PAPUA NEW GUINEA HIGHLANDS (BRIEF SUMMARY)
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
There are two Australian airlines that fly into Port Moresby 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.
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