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Located north of Mount Hagen, from its mist-shrouded peaks and alpine grasslands to its lowland rainforests, the Western Highlands is a land of colour and vibrancy.

Home to the the world’s largest population of birds of paradise, the rainforest habitat is home to an abundance of wildlife of all sorts. It is traversed by a number of well-maintained trails, making it one of the most pleasant locations for hiking in the highlands. 

You may encounter several highland species: Brehm’s tiger-parrots, crested berrypecker, and crested satinbird are all seen in the garden, while brown sicklebill and ribbon-tailed astrapia are sometimes spotted. Blue, King-of-Saxony, and lesser birds of paradise require more dedication but are also possible, as many highland birds that include tit berrypecker, wattled ploughbill, blue-capped ifrita, garnet robin, and black-breasted boatbill. 

The local economy is based on coffee, which is grown both on large plantations and on small-holdings, where it is picked, dried and processed for export. Tea is another major crop grown in large plantations and processed for local consumption and export. The combination of fertile soil, high rainfall and cooler temperatures is also ideal for the cultivation of vegetables for the domestic market. 

Mount Hagen’s Saturday market is the focal point of local life and a meeting place for traders from all over the province – a kaleidoscope of fruit and vegetables, birds, animals and people in bright clothing, some wearing flowers or grass in their hair. Traditionally, men wear a long beard, while women wear brightly-coloured scarves and carry hand-made string bags, called bilums, which are used to carry everything from babies to firewood, and can be bought here. Traditionally the string is made from tree bark, though nowadays days many women use synthetic yarn bought from local stores. 

The province covers a surface area of 4,300 square kilometres and, despite having a population of only just over one quarter of a million inhabitants, is the most densely populated province in the country.

View suggested itineraries

Key info

  • Ideal for viewing: ribbon-tailed astrapia, brown sicklebill, crested satinbird, crested berrypecker, blue bird of paradise
  • Where: Western Highlands, Papua New Guinea

Wildlife trips

This wildlife location is featured in the following itineraries:

Culture & Birds of Paradise Photography

Join award-winning wildlife photographer Bret Charman in Papua New Guinea, and visit three of the country’s finest bird and wildlife locations. Take in lowland and montane rainforests, with enchanting cultural exchanges and festivals that offer compelling, colourful insights and photographic potential.

  • When to go: Jun-Jul
  • Duration inc. flights: 19 days
  • Price inc. flights: From £11,695 pp
  • Trip type: Group tour

Birding in Paradise

An ideal location for birders, Papua New Guinea’s forests are home to a remarkable 700 species that includes 38 of the world’s 43 birds of paradise. Based in excellent remote wilderness lodges, knowledgeable local guides will introduce you to the country's extraordinary wealth of culture and wildlife.

  • When to go: Jan-Dec
  • Duration inc. flights: 16 days
  • Price inc. flights: From £8,945 pp
  • Trip type: Tailor-made trip idea

Life in the Forest

Visit Papua New Guinea’s huge expanse of rainforests, staying on the Karawari River in East Sepik Province and in the Western Highlands. Based in excellent wilderness lodges and flying between locations, explore the contrasting habitats and diverse indigenous populations of this fascinating country.

  • When to go: Jan-Dec
  • Duration inc. flights: 13 days
  • Price inc. flights: From £6,895 pp
  • Trip type: Tailor-made trip idea