The Shangri La of Baliem Valley

Baliem Valley - Papua

Baliem Valley

The Baliem Valley was once dubbed Shangri La and it is easy to see why. The Valley is incredibly lush and fertile and is surrounded on all sides by towering peaks of 2,500 to 3,000 metres.

The Baliem Valley, also spelled Balim Valley and sometimes known as the Grand Valley, of the highlands of Western New Guinea. The main town in the valley is Wamena. The valley is about 80 km in length by 20 km in width and lies at an altitude of about 1,600-1,700 m. There are three mains tribes inhabiting the Baliem Valley: The Dani in the base, the Lani to the west and the Yali in the south-east. Each tribe has a distinct culture. One sure and interesting way to distinguish between the tribes is from the Koteka, or penis gourd, sported by the male members.

Looking at the early history, as far as the outside world was concerned, the discovery of the Baliem Valley and the unexpected presence of its large agricultural population was made by Richard Archbold’s third zoological expedition to New Guinea in 1938. On 21 June an aerial reconnaissance flight southwards from Hollandia, which is now Jayapura, found what the expedition called the ‘Grand Valley’. Since then the valley has gradually been opened up to a limited amount of tourism.

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