If you want to step into a vanishing world of the most extraordinary and amazing Papuan tribes, Baliem Valley is the place where you wanna be.
Mock battles, tribal clothing, a pig feast and unusual traditional customs you will find among tribal people there is something you will remember whole life! It’s hard to put into words all that I have experienced during my time with Dani people.
Surrounded by high mountain ranges that reach more than 4.500 meters, the fertile Baliem Valley is home to many tribes of which the best know and most accessible today are Dani, Yali and Lani.
The Dani people are absolutely the most positive, funniest, noble and craziest people I’ve ever met in my life! Until the last decades of the 20th century the Dani tribes were some of the most isolated people of the world.
Read more about Dani tribe: Vanishing world of Papua’s Dani Tribe – Introducing Baliem Valley [PART 1]
These days most of them succumbed to the pressure from the government and missionaries, and had became ’civilized’. Only the older Dani still keep the tradition and they are disappearing fast.
Despite their interaction with the modern civilization and visitors from all over the world, Dani remain faithful to their traditional way of life and its preservation. I hope it will remain that way as long as it possible as I have never seen nothing more extraordinary and fascinating like their way of living.
When to go?
It can rain here at any time of year, but from April to December most days are fine and warm and the evenings cool. From January to March, mud and rain can make trekking hard work.
Be sure to bring warm clothing and a sleeping bag for any trekking – the elevations can be pretty high and it can get very cold at night.
What not to miss?
Mummies at Jiwika and Aimika, about 20km out of Wamena. Near Jiwika you can pay locals to preform for you traditional mock battles and a pig feast which is definitely something you don’t want to miss there. Negotiate about the price, pig feasts are very expensive (around 400 dollars) or try to find someone who will share the cost with you.
Spend at least one night at local hut in a village. That is the best way to learn about Dani culture and their way of life. And to have fun with this positive and crazy people. You will have the time of your life, trust me!
From the Wamena, you can get tours and treks into the Lani, Dani and Yali tribal land and even go to Asmat lands. The Baliem Valley trekking range from half day walks to 30 days expedition deep into the tribal lands.
How to get there?
The legendary Baliem Valley is the most popular and most accessible destination in Papua’s interior. The valley is located in the Central Highlands of Western New Guinea which is under the Indonesian governance since 1963. New Guinea, the second largest island in the world after Greenland, is located north of Australia, in the southwest Pacific. The eastern part of the island belongs to the independent state of Papua New Guinea.
The only way to get to the valley is by air. You have to fly from Jayapura (capital of Western New Guinea) to Wamena. Wamena is the capital of Baliem Valley, which also serves as a commercial hub for the locals.
Read more about Dani tribe trek: All You Need to Know About ‘Dani Tribe’ Trek in Baliem Valley
How to get around?
Mostly you can just walk around the town and cover everything. If further out to villages, it is popular to do hiking and trekking.
I recommend you to take a guide if you are planning to go on trekking. The valley is beautiful, nature is stunning, but everything is green and looks pretty much the same, there are no signs anywhere and you can easily lose if you don’t speak Indonesian language.
In some cases, you can catch the minibus if you want to go not too far out of town and are not keen to walk.
Where to stay in Baliem Valley?
There are few choices of resorts in the Valley. Only the Baliem Valley resort takes online reservation. Resorts are pretty expensive but have in mind that everything here is more costly by Indonesian standard due to having to send everything in by air from Jayapura. There are also few hotels.
I stayed in Hotel Baliem Pilamo. It’s a very good hotel for Papua conditions. You can choose between standard or more expensive room (room at New Wings). Standard room (old wings) cost little bit too much (50 dollars per night) for a room without hot water, but you have to remember where you are, right? It was impossible to book ahead by mail or internet, but there was plenty of room available. Cash machines are right in front of the hotel. Restaurant in the hotel was great. The internet is an impossibility in the whole of Wamena – best service is at about 2 – 4am.
Where to eat?
In resorts or hotel restaurants. Most restaurants serve Indonesian food (noodles, soups, rice). In Wamena you will find few markets where you can buy chocolates, ice cream, bread, chips and soft drinks and bottled water.
Do not drink tap water, it is not safe for consumption. In hotels you can find coffee. It was ok, if you can drink coffee without milk.