Western Highlands Province

Western Highlands Province (WHP) covers 8,500 square kilometers of mountains and broad, densely populated valleys. Mt Wilhelm (4,509 meters), on the border of Simbu Province, and Mt Giluwe (4,367 meters), on the border of Southern Highlands Province, are PNG’s two highest mountains. The population rose from 265,700 in 1980 to 291,100 in 1991. Twelve languages are spoken. The Constitution, adopted in 1978, provides for a House of Assembly of 25 elected, and two appointed, members. There are five districts and the headquarters is at Mt Hagen. WHP is PNG’s largest producer of coffee and tea. Vegetables are supplied by plane, or along the Highlands Highway, to markets in the coastal towns.

There is evidence of human occupation 20,000 BP, and agriculture 9,000 BP, at Kuk Swamp near the town of Mt Hagen. Jim Taylor and Daniel and Michael Leahy led the first Administration patrol into the area in 1933. Catholic and Lutheran missionaries followed shortly after but there was no extensive white contact until after World War II when Australians established coffee plantations and the colonial Administration consolidated its control. PNGans became actively involved in smallholder coffee production in the 1960s.

Things to see

Mt. Hagen: Set in the large Wahgi Valley, with its neat villages, gardens, coffee plantations and groves of casuarinas, this busy town has a wild-west feel about it. All main banks and airlines have offices here. The market, located at the corner of Wahgi Parade and Kum Road, is the place to see colourfully attired locals, particularly on Saturdays, as well as fresh produce, pigs, feathers, and maybe cassowaries. The men traditionally grow a long beard and the women wear an array of brilliant scarves and carry brightly coloured string bags, or bilums. These are used to carry everything from babies to firewood.

Mt. Hagen Show: Held the third weekend in August, this amazing show is the place to see the fantastic traditional costumes and headdresses decorated with bird of paradise plumes and the cuscus fur that Wahgi people wear.

Art & Craft: Traditional weapons, bilums and Highlands hats, decorated with cuscus fur, are available from the larger hotels and around the town. The Cultural Centre has a reconstructed village hut and a museum with artefacts.

Archeological Sites: The Kuk Valley is a site where land was first cultivated for gardening. Check with the Cultural Centre or hotels for permission to visit.

Things to do

Walking/trekking: Hikes can be taken from the city to the towering peaks of Mt. Hagen (3791m), Mt. Ongo, Mt. Kubor, Mt. Kini Kaino Ku, and Mt. Giluwe (4368m).

FYI: PNG’s 4 Regions & 22 Provinces

Region Province Provincial
Highlands Eastern Highlands Province Goroka
Western Highlands Province Mt. Hagen
Southern Highlands Province Mendi
Hela Province Tari
Enga Province Wabag
Jiwaka Province Banz
Chimbu Province Kundiawa
Southern National Capital District Port Moresby
Central Province Port Moresby
Gulf Province Kerema
Western Province Daru
Oro (Northern) Province Popondetta
Milne Bay Province Alotau
Momase Morobe Province Lae
Madang Province Madang
East Sepik Province Wewak
Sandaun (West Sepik) Province Vanimo
New Guinea Islands Manus Province Lorengau
New Ireland Province Kavieng
East New Britain Province Kokopo
West New Britain Province Kimbe
Autonomous Region of Bougainville Buka

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