Mount Wilhelm National Park: What to See and Do, Activity Guide

The Mount Wilhelm National Park in Papua New Guinea is a destination that offers a wonderful experience for nature and adventure lovers, allowing knowledge of the local culture of the region and indigenous tribes. With great biodiversity and breathtaking landscapes, the protected area of Wilhelm provides unforgettable moments and lasting memories.

History of Mount Wilhelm National Park

Mount Wilhelm, also known in German as Wilhelmsberg, is the highest peak in Papua New Guinea, reaching an altitude of 4,509 meters (14,793 feet). This mountain is part of the Bismarck Range and its summit is the convergence point of three provinces: Chimbu, Jiwaka, and Madang, where the Jimi Valley National Park is also located. In the Kuman language, the peak is known as Enduwa Kombuglu or Kombugl’o Dimbin.

Mount Wilhelm National Park

Located on the island of New Guinea, Mount Wilhelm lies in a territory that spans both Papua New Guinea and the Indonesian provinces of Papua. Although Puncak Jaya, at 4,884 meters (16,024 feet), and other peaks in Indonesian Papua are higher, Wilhelm stands out as the highest mountain in Oceania when considering Australia and New Zealand as a whole. For this reason, it is often included in the Seven Summits of Oceania.

Discovery of Mount Wilhelm

Mount Wilhelm received its name in 1888 thanks to Hugo Zöller, a German newspaper correspondent who explored the Finisterre Range, southeast of Madang. During his expedition, Zöller decided to name the Bismarck Range in honor of German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, and named the four highest peaks of the range after Bismarck and his children: Ottoberg, Herbertberg, Marienberg, and Wilhelmberg.

Initially, Zöller thought that Ottoberg was the highest peak in the range, but it was later discovered that it only reached 3,540 meters (11,600 feet), while the distant Wilhelmberg was significantly higher.

The first recorded ascent took place in August 1938, when Leigh Vial, a government patrol officer, along with two New Guinean natives, known as "Mangi mastas" and called "Namba Wan Bare Kuakawa" (Kugl’kane) and "Gend" ("Mondia Nigle"), managed to reach the summit. During his ascent, Vial noted that despite the mountain’s proximity to the equator, there was snow at the summit.

World War II Bomber Crash

In the early hours of May 22, 1944, an American F-7A (a converted version of the B-24 Liberator) known as "Under Exposed" crashed into Mount Wilhelm. The plane had departed from Nadzab Air Base near Lae, on a reconnaissance mission over Padaidori Island, in Dutch New Guinea. At approximately 04:00, the plane collided with the mountain at an altitude of about 4,000 meters (13,000 feet) above the twin lakes.

The impact resulted in the death of the entire crew and most of the plane’s remains fell into the higher lake. Although all the bodies were recovered, it is still possible to see some remains of the plane at the crash site.

Climbing Mount Wilhelm

Mount Wilhelm has been the scene of several tragedies during climbing attempts. In December 1971, an Australian army sergeant, Christopher Donnan, lost his life after falling down a steep slope. At the place where he was last seen, there is a memorial plaque in his honor.

In August 1995, an Israeli backpacker died after twisting his ankle and falling behind while his group continued. Unfortunately, he strayed from the trail and fell into a ravine in the darkness before dawn. His body was found approximately a week later.

On July 30, 2005, Bob Martin, a 58-year-old marketing manager from Air Niugini, suffered a heart attack and died near the summit.

In 2001, a high school student from Muaina participating in a school expedition to Mount Wilhelm died at the base of Lake Piunde. It was later discovered that he was asthmatic.

In 2007, a man from Tari in the Southern Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea died a few meters south of Christopher Donnan’s plaque. According to local sources, the man was unaware of the warnings and was dressed only in sportswear, a T-shirt, and Dunlop sneakers. He was found covered with debris and fragments of fallen rocks, forming a talus at the base of the southern end of the section where Donnan’s plaque is located.

Climbing Mount Wilhelm

Mount Wilhelm, known for being the most accessible mountain to climb in Papua New Guinea, offers adventurers two main routes to its summit. The most frequented route starts in the village of Keglsugl, located at the end of the road coming from Kundiawa, in the Simbu Province. The other, more arduous route begins in the village of Ambullua, in the Western Highlands Province.

The route from Keglsugl takes climbers through montane tropical forest, followed by a glacial valley with alpine grasslands, to the twin lakes of Piunde and Aunde. At Piunde, there are two shelters: a former monitoring station of the Australian National University and an A-frame cabin. Although this route is not technically difficult, some sections can become hazardous in case of rain. The climb usually begins at night and can take between nine and 24 hours in total, including the ascent and descent. Reaching the summit at dawn increases the chances of encountering clear weather, offering impressive views.

The route from Ambullua, on the other hand, is a much more challenging four-day hike, suitable for those seeking a more demanding and extended experience.

Geography and Climate

Mount Wilhelm National Park is located in the Bismarck Range, in the heart of Papua New Guinea. With a height of 4,509 meters, the mountain of the same name is the highest peak in the country and an important landmark in the region.

The park’s climate ranges from tropical in the lowlands to alpine at the highest peaks. Temperatures can be quite cool at high altitudes, especially at night, while in the lower areas, the climate is warm and humid for most of the year.

Flora and Fauna

Wildlife of Mount Wilhelm

The biodiversity of Mount Wilhelm National Park is remarkable, with a wide variety of plants and animals inhabiting its different ecosystems. From dense tropical forests to alpine meadows, each zone of the park hosts distinctive flora and fauna.

The park is home to numerous endemic and endangered species. Among the most notable animals are birds of paradise, marsupials, and various species of frogs and reptiles unique to the region. The flora includes rare orchids and medicinal plants used by local communities.

What to See and Do in Mount Wilhelm National Park

In addition to Mount Wilhelm, the park features beautiful alpine lakes, crystal-clear rivers, and waterfalls. Points of interest include Piunde Lake and Aunde Lake, located at the base of the mountain.

The protected area has vibrant tropical forests, various trekking trails, and well-marked paths where one can explore the local fauna and flora, including rare species, birds of paradise, mammals, reptiles, and insects in their natural habitat.

Moreover, this national park offers routes of different levels, varying in difficulty: from easy walks to challenging climbs, there are options for all experience levels. The mountain ascent is an adventure that attracts climbers from around the world.

Well-equipped camping areas can also be found in the protected area and nearby Wilhelm regions, enhancing the experience over several days.

Mount Wilhelm

Mount Wilhelm, Papua New Guinea

Mount Wilhelm is undoubtedly the main attraction of the park. Climbing to its summit is a rewarding challenge that offers spectacular panoramic views of the Bismarck Range and, on clear days, the Bismarck Sea can be seen.

Piunde Lake

Piunde Lake is one of the twin lakes situated in the heights of Mount Wilhelm. This serene alpine lake offers stunning views and is a common resting point for climbers seeking to reach the mountain’s summit. On its shores are two cabins, a former monitoring station of the Australian National University and an A-frame cabin, which provide shelter and basic accommodation for adventurers.

Panoramic view of Piunde Lake and Aunde Lake in Papua New Guinea

Aunde Lake

Aunde Lake is the other twin lake located near Piunde Lake on Mount Wilhelm. This glacial lake is set in a stunning environment of alpine grasslands and offers a tranquil and mighty landscape. Climbers often pass by its shores during their ascent, enjoying the natural beauty and serenity that this body of water provides.

Tari Region

Accommodation at Ambua Lodge, Papua New Guinea

The Tari region is famous for its rich cultural and ecological diversity. Visitors can explore activities such as face painting in Tigibi village, visiting women’s houses in Horonapa, watching the spirit dance and sun dance in Wapia, and meeting the famous Huli Wigmen in Boriba Akau village. Additionally, Tari is globally renowned for birdwatching, offering the opportunity to spot the famous bird of paradise and other exotic species, as well as taking nature walks. The night can be spent at the Ambua Lodge, enjoying a comfortable and authentic stay.

Mt Hagen

Traditional dance in Mt Hagen

Mt Hagen is the third-largest city in Papua New Guinea and serves as a gateway to the Highlands region, including Goroka. It is a vibrant center of commerce and culture. Visitors can check into the Highland hotel to enjoy an afternoon exploring the city and its surroundings.


Hagen, often known as Mt Hagen, is a major center in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea. The city is known for its bustling and colorful market, where locals sell fresh produce, crafts, and other goods. Hagen is also the starting point for exploring the stunning mountains and valleys of the region.


Goroka is a picturesque town in the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea, famous for its annual cultural festival, the Goroka Show, which features traditional dances, music, and rituals from various tribes. The town offers a relaxed atmosphere and is an excellent place to experience local culture and hospitality.

Omo Masalai

Omo Masalai is known for its fascinating stories and legends of spirits and mythical beings. Visitors can learn about the local traditions and beliefs surrounding these tales, providing a unique insight into the culture and spirituality of Papua New Guinea.

Keglsugl and 4×4 Departure to Goroka

Keglsugl is a popular starting point for climbers heading to Mount Wilhelm. From here, visitors can take a 4×4 vehicle and embark on an exciting journey to Goroka, traversing impressive and diverse landscapes as they venture into the Eastern Highlands.

Asaro Mudman Village

The village of Asaro Mudman is famous for its masked warriors covered in mud. Visitors can witness and participate in cultural demonstrations that include dances and stories about the history and myths of the Mudmen, offering an authentic and immersive experience in the region’s traditions.

Chimbu Village

Chimbu village, located in Simbu Province, is known for its unique customs and traditions. The villagers are famous for their skill in terrace farming and their colorful cultural festivals, which offer visitors a fascinating insight into life in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea.

Goroka Town

The town of Goroka, the capital of the Eastern Highlands Province, is a cultural and economic hub. Besides its famous festival, Goroka has vibrant local markets, craft shops, and a welcoming community that allows visitors to experience authentic Highland life.

JK McCarthy Museum

The JK McCarthy Museum in Goroka is a must-visit for history and culture enthusiasts. The museum houses an extensive collection of artifacts, photographs, and exhibits that document the history, cultures, and traditions of the various tribes of Papua New Guinea.

Kamaliki Village

Kamaliki Village is a traditional community where visitors can learn about the life and customs of the Highlands of Papua New Guinea. The village offers demonstrations of crafts, music, and traditional dances, providing a rich cultural experience.


Madang is a coastal city known for its natural beauty, with stunning marine landscapes, coral reefs, and rich marine life. The city is a popular destination for diving and snorkeling, offering a combination of local culture and outdoor activities.

Cruise from Madang

A cruise from Madang offers visitors the opportunity to explore the region’s crystal-clear waters and coral reefs. These cruises typically include stops at remote islands, where travelers can enjoy pristine beaches, snorkeling, and marine life observation.

Gogol River

The Gogol River, which flows near Madang, is an ideal spot for outdoor activities such as fishing, kayaking, and bird watching. Its calm waters and surrounding landscapes offer a relaxing and picturesque experience.


Wewak is a coastal town in East Sepik Province, known for its beautiful beaches and historical significance during World War II. The town is a starting point for exploring nearby villages and the cultural landscapes of the Sepik region.

Port Moresby

Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea, is a vibrant city that combines modernity and tradition. Visitors can explore historical sites, local markets, and enjoy Papua hospitality. The city is the main transport hub and gateway to the country.


Kegsugl is a small village in Simbu Province, known for being the starting point for climbers of Mount Wilhelm. The village offers basic accommodation and services for adventurers preparing to ascend the highest mountain in Papua New Guinea.

Kuman Tribe

The Kuman tribe is an indigenous community in Papua New Guinea, primarily located in Simbu Province. The Kuman are known for their rich cultural heritage, which includes oral traditions, dances, music, and elaborate ceremonies. They speak the Kuman language, and their society is organized into clans with a hierarchical social structure.

The Kuman tribe’s economy is based on subsistence farming, primarily cultivating sweet potatoes, taro, and other native crops. They are also known for their skills in constructing agricultural terraces in the mountains, allowing them to make the most of their rugged terrain.

Culturally, the Kuman celebrate various festivals and rituals that mark significant life events, such as births, marriages, and deaths. These celebrations often include traditional dances and the use of ornate costumes that reflect the tribe’s identity and history. The Kuman tribe also participates in the famous Goroka cultural festival, where they showcase their heritage and customs alongside other tribes from Papua New Guinea.

Tribes, Craftsmanship, and Traditions

The local communities around the park, such as the Kuman tribe, have a rich cultural heritage. Visitors can learn about their traditions, language, and way of life, enriching the travel experience.

Local craftsmanship, including weaving, carvings, and jewelry, reflects the vibrant culture of these communities. Local markets are an ideal place to purchase souvenirs and support local artisans.

It is also possible to participate in traditional ceremonies, festivals, and demonstrations of dance and music, offering an authentic insight into life in Papua New Guinea.

Stories and Legends of Mount Wilhelm

Mount Wilhelm is shrouded in stories and legends that have been passed down through generations by local communities. These narratives offer a fascinating perspective on the connection between the people and the mountain. Various myths and legends enrich the local culture, including tales of the mountain’s guardian spirits and significant historical events. Exploring these stories adds a cultural and spiritual dimension to the journey.

The Legend of the Guardian Spirits

One of the most popular legends among the local communities around Mount Wilhelm is that of the guardian spirits. It is said that these spirits protect the mountain and its surroundings, ensuring that only those with pure intentions can reach the summit. According to the myth, these guardians manifest in the forms of animals or natural phenomena, guiding or diverting climbers as they see fit.

The Myth of Piunde Lake

Another traditional story tells of the formation of Piunde Lake. It is said that the lake was formed from the tears of a local princess, who cried inconsolably after losing her beloved in a battle. The princess’s tears, according to legend, accumulated in the valley, forming the lake we know today. It is believed that the spirit of the princess still inhabits the lake, protecting its waters and surroundings.

The Story of the Lost Hunter

One of the most recounted stories by the elders of the tribes is that of the lost hunter. This tale speaks of a hunter who ventured alone into the mountains and never returned. It is said that the hunter was taken by the spirits of the mountain as punishment for not respecting the sacred hunting norms. The story serves as a warning to those who wish to explore Mount Wilhelm without showing respect for the local beliefs and customs.

The Story of the Great Flood

A legend passed down through generations is that of the great flood that covered the lands around Mount Wilhelm. According to this story, a catastrophic flood was sent by the gods to purify the land of human wickedness. Only a few chosen ones managed to survive by seeking refuge in the heights of the mountain. This legend underscores its importance as a sacred and safe place for local communities.

The Tale of the Twins Piunde and Aunde

A popular story among children in nearby villages is the tale of the twins Piunde and Aunde, who gave their names to the twin lakes of Mount Wilhelm. According to the myth, the twins were the children of a great chief and were transformed into lakes by the gods to preserve their purity and goodness. The lakes, Piunde and Aunde, are considered sacred and are visited by those seeking blessings and spiritual protection.

The Fable of the Man and the Eagle

Another traditional story recounts the friendship between a man and an eagle that inhabited Mount Wilhelm. According to the fable, the eagle saved the man from an attack by venomous snakes, and in gratitude, the man promised to protect the eagle and its nest. This story symbolizes the harmonious relationship that humans should maintain with nature and its inhabitants.

Conservation and Sustainability of the Park

Mount Wilhelm National Park benefits from several conservation programs aimed at protecting its rich biodiversity. These efforts are essential to maintaining the park’s ecosystems and endangered species.

The park promotes sustainable ecotourism, ensuring that tourist activities do not harm the environment. Programs include environmental education for visitors and active participation in sustainable practices.

Local communities play a crucial role in the park’s conservation. By collaborating with environmental organizations, area residents help implement and maintain conservation initiatives.

How to Get to Mount Wilhelm National Park

Reaching Mount Wilhelm National Park requires careful planning. Most visitors arrive via flights to the city of Goroka, followed by a road trip to the park. It is located at the geographic coordinates: 05°48′S 145°02′E. Coordinating with local guides is recommended to facilitate the journey.

Best Times to Visit Wilhelm

The best time to visit the park is during the dry season, which runs from May to October. During these months, weather conditions are more favorable for outdoor activities and mountain ascents.

Accommodations Near Mount Wilhelm National Park

The park offers various accommodation options, from rustic cabins to well-equipped campsites. Additionally, basic services are available, such as tour guides, equipment rental, and supply stores. If you wish to explore nearby localities, it is also possible to stay in them for a more comprehensive view of the region.


Keglsugl is located at the foot of Mount Wilhelm, at the end of the road from Kundiawa, in Simbu Province. It is the most common starting point for mountain climbers and offers basic accommodation and essential services for adventurers.


Kundiawa, located about 60 kilometers south of Wilhelm, is the capital of Simbu Province. It offers basic urban services, local markets, and is the main transport hub to Keglsugl and other mountainous areas.


Madang, located on the northern coast of Papua New Guinea, about 200 kilometers northeast of Mount Wilhelm, is known for its natural beauty and rich marine life. It offers diving activities, cruises, and coral reef exploration.


Goroka, approximately 120 kilometers southeast of Mount Wilhelm, is famous for its annual cultural festival and vibrant local market. It is an excellent place to experience Highland culture and enjoy its cool climate.


Tari, located southwest of Mount Wilhelm, is known for its rich cultural and ecological diversity. Visitors can enjoy cultural activities, birdwatching, and nature walks, especially in the region of the Huli Wigmen.

Mt Hagen

Mt Hagen, located about 90 kilometers west of Mount Wilhelm, is the third-largest city in the country and a gateway to the Highlands. It offers lively markets, accommodations, and access to various cultural and natural activities.


Ambullua, located in Western Highlands Province, is an alternative and more challenging starting point for climbing Mount Wilhelm. This locality offers a more rustic and authentic experience of mountain life.