Eastern Highlands Province
With a history of gold mines and coffee plantations, Eastern Highlands Province has had more exposure to European influence than any of the other Highlands provinces. It has a history full of colourful characters - miners, missionaries, patrol officers, plantation owners. Traditional dress is seldom worn these days, although the Highlanders still live in villages of neat clusters of low walled round huts built amongst the rolling kunai-grass covered hills.
Bordered by Madang to the north and the Gulf to the south, Simbu is the heart of the Highlands and home to the country’s highest mountain, Mount Wilhelm (4509m). For many visitors, the climb to the summit is a highlight of their stay, affording panoramic views over the Highlands. Kundiawa, the provincial capital, sits beside a spectacular airstrip built on a sloping ridge beneath the towering mountains. The terrain is extremely rugged, with many of the valleys inaccessible.
Western Highlands Province
From the lowland rainforest, to alpine grasslands, to the shrouded misty peaks, Western Highlands Province is a land of colour and vibrancy. The capital city, Mt Hagen, is a bustling commercial centre where wealth from coffee and tea plantations has brought rapid change to traditional life style. Old and new ways live curiously together, not always harmoniously. Mt Hagen has a reputation as the wild frontier of the Highlands.
Enga Province, sharing a border with Western Highlands Province, features rugged mountains, high valleys and fast flowing rivers. The Engan people are a hardy race living mostly by subsistence farming. Tribal warfare is still a common way to settle inter-tribal disputes and ceremonial life encompasses the giving, receiving and displaying of wealth.
Southern Highlands Province
Named ‘The Papuan Wonderland’ by explorers who discovered these hidden mountain valleys in 1935, the Southern Highlands contains lush, high valleys sandwiched between towering limestone peaks. The region’s most remote area, it remains relatively undeveloped. Traditional cultures thrive here, particularly in the Tari Basin, where the Huli and Duna Wigmen are famous for their elaborately decorated wigs and body art.
The second city of the nation with a population of 1.4 million people, its largest city is Lae. With its tropical humid climate, normally between 24 and 32 degrees Celsius, it is envied by many around the country.
Human habitation is estimated to have begun around 45,000 years ago in this region. Today a population of 3 million comprises Papuans, Melanesians and Austronesians with the official language being Indonesian.
This is the least densely inhabited region with a population of 750,000 (14% of PNG), and distinct through its history portrayed by its Austronesian languages and archaeological findings of Lapita pottery culture.