Mount Hagen was unknown to the West until 1933 when the Leahy brothers, Mick and Dan, flew over the heavily populated and fertile area and then organized a foot patrol to explore further. Even thirty years ago Mt. Hagen was a fascinating and largely peaceful place to visit, with PNG Highlanders still walking around in traditional costumes. These days it remains just as fascinating but the traditional costumes are largely reserved for special occasions and Mt. Hagen is a very dangerous place as guns have often replaced the traditional bows and arrows. The town's main hotel, the Highlander, which formerly looked out over parkland and the town's coffee market, is now surrounded by a corrugated iron fence. A visit to Mt. Hagen is now only for the bravest.
Mount Hagen is the third-largest city in Papua New Guinea. It is the capital of the Western Highlands Province and is at an elevation of 5,500 ft (1,700 m). Together with Goroka in the Eastern Highlands it makes up the commercial hub of the Highlands, which make their money from mining, coffee and other agricultural crops that grow at altitude, such as sweet potatoes and potatoes.
Airlines PNG flies internationally to Mount Hagen from Cairns in Queensland, Australia, mainly to service the mining industry. It also connects Mt. Hagen with Lae, Madang, Wewak, Port Moresby and several smaller towns.
Mt Hagen is connected by road with the coast at Lae and Madang. The Highlands Highway from Lae can be dangerous at times and thefts from slow vehicles on the steep climbs are not unknown. If you hit someone, or a pig, do not stop if you can avoid it. Drive away from the scene and then enquire about the nearest police station.
- Mt. Hagen's market. On busy days this can be a fascinating experience, both to see the produce on display and to look at the people. However, traditional dress, common just 20 years ago, has all but disappeared. You will need to attend the Mt. Hagen show for that.
- Mt Hagen show is held in August. Many different Highland tribes are represented, each wearing their distinctive headdresses of feathers and flowers and body paint.
- Crafts, including Sepik carvings, traditional necklaces, and various ornaments can be found at some of the larger hotels, including Hotel Poroman, and Highlander Hotel. Buy from the gift shops, or local sellers who set up stalls within the hotel courtyards. Just ask at the hotel entrances. Crafts can also be found from sellers outside Best Buy Supermarket in town. Be sure to shop around before you buy, as prices can be extremely variable.
- Banz Kofi Kave, Airport Road (a few hundred metres south of the terminal). A genuine western cafe showcasing Banz Kofi and also serving breakfasts, sandwiches and scones (with jam and cream!)
- Fispool Guest House (Red Corner, Newtown -Opposite WR Carpenters Flats), ☏ . 10 minutes walk from town centre. This guesthouse is popular with PNG nationals. Suitable for backpackers, not for the fussy. Very cheap at K30 for a double room.
- Highlander Hotel, Hagen Drive Wahghi Parade, ☏ . The city's major hotel, where visiting politicians, government officials, etc. stay. Nice gardens and adequate rooms. Food can be a bit dodgy.
- Kagamuga Lodge (to the east of the town near the airport), ☏ , fax: , email@example.com.
- Goroka In the Eastern Highlands province is a quieter, slightly less threatening town on the Highlands Highway towards Lae and Madang.
- Baiyer River Wildlife Sanctuary is north of Mount Hagen. It covers an area of 740 ha, and has 185 bird species and 8 mammals.