HomeBlogs The Wamena Highlands Many have been captivated by the story of Shangri La. It is intriguing,
appealing, and almost mystifying when chatting about it among
travelers. Hidden among the rising 2,500-meter mountains in the Baliem
Valley in central Papua, the town called Wamena, was hailed as the
other Shangri La. Among advanced travelers, this is the other ultimate
Here Wamena awaits as the starting point
to a remarkable journey, prior to visiting the villages beyond the
mists. At 1,600 meters above sea level, Wamena is the highest ground in
Papua where furnished tourism facilities can still be found. Beyond
this point, one has to expect less, and get more of the unexpected.
Reality can be more compelling than even the best information on the
Imagine yourself standing on a peak surrounded by a
lush green valley, screened from the world by fuzzy peaks, while down
below in the canyon flows an ever rushing river.
Baliem valley was discovered by coincidence in an expedition
spearheaded by Richard Archbold in 1938. The town of Wamena is
surrounded by agricultural tribes, as recorded in travelers’ journals as
early as the 19th and early 20th century. The presence of a mummy,
sitting in a folding position found in a nearby village, is evidence of
the longtime agricultural practices in the Baliem valley. Here, you are
also encouraged to learn how salt is prepared by local women, despite
the fact that the sea is on the other side of this huge island.
became known through pictures of warring stone-age tribes. However, In
the Baliem valley, in the past decade tribes have made peace with one
another, and have, instead decided to hold yearly mock wars to continue
to maintain strength in defending their territories. These mock wars
are held during the annual Baliem Festival. Tourism has also somewhat
changed the local mindset and daily life, although their indigenous
knowledge and conventions are still well practiced daily.
the most famous villages are those of the Dani. There are three major
tribes living around Wamena, they are the Dani, the Yali, and the Lani.
They can be identified by the different types koteka (penis gourds)
each wears. Until this very day, they still walk around wearing only a
koteka, although when in town, they usually change into western
clothes. Despite this, you will still meet tribe members wearing koteka
to the local market. If you wish to photograph them, be prepared that
it will cost you some money. This destination is not cheap to visit,
but it’s worth all the money spent.
If you don’t have all the
time in the world, then visit the Dani’s first, as they are the most
approachable, most decorative, and are very sociable. Here you can
observe staged wars, real hot stone cooking, pork feasts, as well as
visit the sweet potato farms. It is a most memorable experience that con
not compare with merely watching a travel video, or having a perfect
snapshot on your desktop wallpaper. You will wish, though, that you had
taken more snapshots with your camera while there.