The first European contact to local tribes has occurred relatively recently. In 1933 Mick Leahy, Brother Dan Leahy, and a government officer Jim Taylor conducted an aerial survey of the highlands and found out the large and tensely populated Wahgi Valley. Some time later they visited the area with a well supplied patrol and became the first white people to get acquainted with the local tribes.
Today, as a commercial center of Western Highlands, Mount Hagen has the largest market in the area. It is the center of all trading life and brings together farmers and traders from all over the province. On Saturdays, the Mount Hagen market is a colorful spectacle of different fruit, vegetables, animals, birds, men in bright shirts and attractive women in festive attire.
In cultural terms, Mount Hagen is quite remarkable too. At the Western Highlands Cultural Center you may see traditional handicrafts and exhibits of national artifacts.
Sing-sing is a traditional show, held for ceremonial reasons. Sing-sing is a meeting of clans and tribes in the traditional costumes for ceremonial dancing and singing. Sing-sing is not performed for audiences, but August is the month for an annual ceremonial show, staged for public. The show highlights hundreds of local tribes, each wearing their traditional costumes or body paint. For a foreign visitor, the show is a rare opportunity to see and distinguish a diverse social structure of Papua New Guinea.
Recently declared the third city in Papua New Guinea (the population consists of three hundred and thirty five thousand five hudndred and ninety two citizens and five hundred and eighty six emigrants), Mount Hagen provides efficient tourist services and offers accommodation, ranging from the most modern amenities to standard type hotels and several rustic lodges and guesthouses.
The town also has of the busiest airports in Papua New Guinea, which receives daily Air Niugini flights from Port Moresby and two flights a week direct from Cairns, Australia. From other regional centers, only third class flights are available. The town is also connected via the Highlands Highway to the cities of Lae and Madang. Regular flights and comfortable accommodation make Mount Hagen one of the best tourist destinations in Papua New Guinea.
In addition, Mount Hagen is the best starting point to explore the natural landscape of Western Highlands that ranges from the lowland rainforest to alpine grasslands and high peaks, shrouded in clouds. Spectacular walking and trekking tours are organized to the Waghi Valley, a mixture of lush vegetation, pristine forest and manicured gardens. For experienced trekkers, the ascend to the summit of Mt Wilhelm (4,509 meters high) is an exceptional chance to feel freedom of height and catch the most panoramic views of low-lying surroundings dazzling with colors and shapes.