Papua, also known as Papu Barat is one of the newest areas of Indonesia to be visited by tourists. The most recent influx of tourism to West Papua reveals why this hidden gem in Indonesia is worth a visit.
The western region of the New Guinea island is where you will find West Papua. The western most part of this island is sometimes referred to as the “bird’s head peninsula” due to the peninsula resembling a beak of the bird of paradise. Interestingly, many unique and new species of the birds of paradise were discovered on the peninsula.
Not only is West Papua a location to see many different winged wonders, the virgin rainforests that cover the island is home to a vast biosphere. Many unknown plant and animal species are still discovered and observed by non-native scientists and visitors. Be on the lookout for tree kangaroos, rare rainforest plants, majestic orchids, and more can be spotted in West Papua. Just off the island, visitors dive into the clear waters for incredible aquatic experiences. The multitude of heavenly beaches makes the decision of where to relax a hard choice. However, we present the top beaches, attractions, foods, and more to make your decisions easier.
See and Stay in the Major Cities
While many cities are located in West Papua, there are five destinations that are particularly sought out by visitors: Manokwari, Tambrauw, Triton Bay, and Sorong.
Manokwari is the capital of West Papua where many natural attractions reside. Many visitors stay in the resorts and hotels of Kota, Manokwari on the eastern side of TelukSawaisu.
West of Manokwari is Tambrauw, a city overflowing with wildlife. Nature lovers will enjoy birdwatching, spotting sea life, and taking hikes through the rainforest, in Tambrauw.
To see more wildlife, as well as the villages of the indigenous people, the city of Pegunungan Arfak is a destination of choice. The Hatam-Moley, inhabit the city and have a unique culture to share.
There is a rumor that Triton Bay has a reputation for having the best underwater ecosystem in all of West Papua. While this claim may be up for debate, there is no denying that Triton Bay is home to amazing diving.
The second largest city in West Papua is Sorong, the western most tip of the island. Its location on the coast makes Sorong a prime destination of beaches, island hopping, and diving. While visitors may not need to stay long in Sorong to see all it has to offer, it is a pleasant stop on the way to the must see island of Raja Ampat, if one has time to venture from the main island area.
Sites to See
Take in the Views from Stone Hill
If you would like to see Sorong from above, make the climb up to the peak of Stone Hill. From there, hikers are treated with an immaculate view of the sunset over Sorong, and the surrounding beaches.
Vihara Buddha Jayanti and SaptaRatna Pagoda
The most popular tourist attractions in the city of Sorong offer spectacular sunset views as well. The Buddhist temple, Vihara Buddha Jayanti and the seven-floor SaptaRatna Pagoda are located conveniently next to each other. It costs 10 000 to enter but this location provides the chance to walk around a beautiful temple and see a panorama of the city.
On the outskirts of the city of Sorong is a park full of nature and wildlife. A visit to Taman WisataAlamSorong is a great little stop for a quick walk that will most likely leave you amazed at the wildlife of West Papua.
Tapurarang Archaeological Site
Indonesia is home to a vast number of archaeological sites. The most famous archaeological site in West Papua is the Tapurarang. Remnants of prehistoric times cover the walls of the Tapurarang and the surrounding cliffs.
Figure 2 Photo of Raja Ampat Island by Johnathon Chase
Home to the best diving in West Papua, it is no surprise that this island is also home to some of the most breathtaking beaches. The Raja Ampat Island is a combination of four smaller islands, which makes diving even more appealing. Regardless of your activities on Raja Ampat, it is a must see destination in West Papua.
Tembok Berlin (Dofior) Beach
If you dream of a day at the beach full of seafood and refreshments, Dofior Beach is the place for you. Local foods line this beach and make it convenient for visitors to try West Papua cuisine and chat with the locals.
A picturesque beach destination is what visitors find at Werur Beach. White sands and sapphire water seamlessly blend into the clear Indonesian skies. Sunbathe on this beach or find shade in the trees that line Werur where the sand stops.
Teluk Triton Beach
Visitors describe Teluk Triton Beach as a “little piece of heaven” and even state that it is “better than Raja Ampat Island.” It may be the vast amount of sea life, or the rare coral reef, but there is not doubting the Teluk Triton is a beach to visit while in West Papua.
As an isolated location, Harlem Beach is a destination for those seeking a private paradise. While this beach takes some traveling to the northeast coast of Papua, it’s blissfulness is too good not to include. Whether you choose to relax on the sandy coast or take a refreshing swim, Harlem will leave you feeling refreshed and ready to explore more of West Papua.
West Papua has some of the most unique souvenirs, and the best part is their rarity. Some of the local items sold cannot be found in other locations around Indonesia. If you get a chance to visit the local villages, make sure to buy at least one of the traditional hand-made items below.
Traditional Textiles for the Fashionistas
While Indonesia has a reputation for immaculate textiles, Papua has its own take on the craft. The brightly colored textiles in West Papua are incredible, but a more traditional garb is the woven clothes that many locals wear. For women, a Noken is the clothing item of choice. A Noken is a clutch that is handmade and can serve several purposes besides looking fashionable. No matter what type of textile you buy, if you buy from locals the fabrics most commonly are died using natural plants from the island.
Pearls for the Lover of Finer Things
As you might assume, purchasing pearls as a souvenir is rather expensive. However, West Papua is famous for its rare pearls in a variety of colors including black. If you wish to have a one of the kind memento, pearls may be just the splurge for you.
The House of Ants for the Holistic or Scientist
Don’t worry, this souvenir does not come with ants included. The ants once inhabitedthe piece of wood that is sold, but all that is left is the tunnels which the ants burrowed through. The Papuan people believe the House of Ants cures all sorts of disease when the broth from the wood is consumed. If you are not interested in the medicinal characteristics of this item, then it makes for a unique keepsake with an interesting story to tell.
The food of West Papua is similar to most of Indonesia, but there are a few local foods that stand out from the rest of the islands. While the staples of West Papua include taro, sago, and yams, you can find a wide variety of interesting foods around the region. The major cities will have restaurants and a selection of foods to choose from, but do not shy away from the local cuisine. Bakso, Pangsit Solo, Papeda KuahKuning, or Es Teler are just a few of the famous meals among the locals.
Pinang (Betel Nut)
If the local foods seem too intimidating, a safer item to try is the Pinang or betel nut. This nut is common in all of Papua and Papua New Guinea for its vast number of uses. Those who eat the nut have a feeling of being caffeinated, if not also healed from various other ailments.
Be Inspired by West Papua
Those who travel to West Papua should expect to be awed by the beaches, wildlife, and vegetation. Though there are few attractions outside of the natural wonders that West Papua has to offer, there are established universities and museums to see as you travel east on the island. Keep traveling east and you will eventually cross out of Indonesia and into Papua New Guinea, a completely different country. The culture, attire, and food is much more westernized in Papua New Guinea,however there is an mysterious and attractive element to traveling around West Papua that piques inquisitive and curious minds. Be inspired by talking with local people, exploring the vast sea life, and shopping for unique souvenirs. A trip to West Papua is the opportunity to discover the great frontier of Indonesia for yourself.