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Things To Do In Bario

Bario Things To Do

If you are planning to travel to one of the best natural places in Sarawak, I would highly recommend visiting the Bario Highlands in Sarawak.

Well known for their highland rice, salt and pineapples, Bario is hands down one of the most interesting places to visit in Malaysia due to the remoteness of this village.

Bario is located in the Kelabit Highlands, in the north of Sarawak, and is home to the Kelabit people who have been living here for centuries. The absolute beauty about this highland town is that it is located 14 hours by road and only 45 minutes by flight from Miri City.

What you won't find here is shopping malls, hotels, restaurants or any other modern-day city or town facility. This place is one of the most original villages in Sarawak and Malaysia.

To get to Bario, the best possible way is to take a flight from Miri city and there are only three flights a day here. The type of aircraft used is a turboprop 19 seat Twin Otter plane, operated by MAS Wings.

The journey here is another adventure as the plane flies up to around 8500 meters, so you have a beautiful view of the rainforest, hills and mountains along the way. So, what are the things to do in this unspoiled place? Read on.

Things To Do In Bario

One of the scenic landscapes in Bario

Below is a list of things to do in Bario, catered to just about anyone who plans to visit this amazing highlands. You should also check with the homestay operator about the activities that you want to do as they can arrange for it.

Most of the things can be done on your own, but some of them require a local guide, especially trekking or hiking around the highlands.

Please note that most of these activities are paid separately when you are there as the main packages cover the food and accommodations. Unless you pre-arrange the Bario package with the activities.

Bario Trekking
Trekking in Bario takes you through an amazing experience
1. Trekking in Bario

The best thing one can do is trekking in Bario as there are so many beautiful treks available here. There are simple and basic treks to advance treks depending on the level you require.

The beauty about trekking in Bario is that the weather is so cooling, you most likely won't break a sweat while trekking.

Some treks are short and simple but the rewards at the end of the trek are pretty nice. Below is a list of popular trekking places in Bario;
  • Korea Hill Trek - Easy (10-15 minutes)
  • Prayer Mountain Trek - Medium to Hard (45-60 minutes)
  • Pineapple Farm Trek - Easy (10-15 minutes)
  • Penan Village Trek - Easy (20-30 minutes)
  • Bario Salt Factory Trek - Easy (15-20 minutes)
  • Pa Ukat Village Trek - Easy (15-30 minutes)
  • Pa Lungan Village Trek - Medium to Hard (4-5 hours)
  • Pulong Tau National Park Trek - Medium to Hard (3-5 Hours)
  • Bario to Bakelalan Trek - Hard (1-2 days)
2. Visit a Kelabit Longhouse in Bario

There are a few traditional longhouses found in the Bario areas and some of them are still in the original form which is quite rare.

Since 2016, some of the traditional Kelabit longhouses have started charging a small fee, around RM 3.00 to RM 5.00 per person to visit the longhouse. One of the most popular longhouses is no other than Bario Asal Long House.

Longhouse in Bario
Inside Bario Asal Longhouse, the first longhouse here
3. Bario Salt Factory

Actually, this is more of a local homegrown centre where local families take turns to process and produce the famous Bario Salt. You need to trek in for about 10 to 15 minutes before you arrive at a shed where the salt is processed and made.

A guide is required to bring you here and you can see how the Bario Salt is made and you can also purchase it directly from those making it there.

If it rains, the trek can be quite muddy, so take note on this. Also, if you are headed to Bakelalan, don't forget to visit their own salt factory.

Bario Cycling Mountain Biking
Cycling in Bario, one of the many things to do here
4. Cycling in Bario

Personally, I enjoy doing this the best. Most homestays in Bario offer mountain bike rentals, therefore you can use them to explore this highland village. The roads are very safe here and there is little to no traffic.

Cycling can be done individually or in families and there is no available map, so it is pure exploration. See highland paddy fields, traditional Kelabit longhouses, churches and many other natural landscapes while you cycle around Bario.

5. Bird Watching in Bario

One of the lesser-known bird watching places in Malaysia is no other than Bario. But for those who plan to do some bird watching in Bario, you are in luck as there are quite a several montane birds to be spotted all over this place.

A simple walk around Bario would easily net you 10 to 20 birds and when you go for bird watching treks, you will see much more.

Even the famous Dulit Frogmouth was once spotted just out of Bario. There is a couple of bird watching guides in Bario and one of them is Scott Apoi from Nigmat Ayu Homestay.

Personally, I have visited Bario five times in the last three years and I can say that I have spotted over 50 species of birds around here.

Bario Birding
Bird Watching in Bario is highly popular among the birders
6. Experiencing the Kelabit Culture in Bario

Nothing beats learning and understanding the Kelabit culture in Bario and one of the best times to do this is during the Pesta Nukenan or Bario Food Festival, held usually in August every year.

However, the locals can arrange a traditional Kelabit dinner complete with a traditional Kelabit cultural dance at one of the longhouses.

7. Walking around Bario 

One of the best things you can do is take a walk around Bario, which is relatively easy and there is little or no traffic around here. The best time to do this is also in the mornings, where you see the locals going about their daily chores.

In the evenings, it is equally beautiful as children would be seen playing and locals heading home for dinner. The beauty of walking around Bario is that everything is natural and the picturesque landscapes are incredibly beautiful.

8. Visiting a Penan Village in Bario

For those who are into hiking, there are actually two authentic Penan villages found around Bario. While the Penan people are not very hospitable, you can actually engage one of the local Bario guides and trek to their villages.

This is purely to visit and observe, that is all. In most cases, it would be hard to communicate as the Penan tribe here are quite reserve and shy. Again, this is purely by luck and you should consult in your guide about this.

Bario Art Gallery
Jungle Blues Dream Art Gallery in Bario
9. Visit an Art Gallery in Bario

Yes, there is an art gallery in Bario run by artist Stephen and his wife. The beauty of this art gallery in Bario is that it is located in a traditional Kelabit longhouse here.

The gallery is also shared with a unique homestay and combined, it is called the Jungle Blues Dream Gallery and Homestay. Artworks are all created and painted by Stephen and put on display around the homestay and gallery.

10. Visit the Bario Plane Wreckage of World War II

There is one plane wreckage is found in Bario where the RAF plane crashed here in 1964. The plane is in three pieces minus the wings and interior, so you will see a full-bodied structure and you can actually go inside the plane.

This plane is also a Scottish Aviation Twin Pioneer CC.1 aircraft, Registration XP294. You should be careful of the sharp metal edges when doing so.

The Bario plane wreckage is located by a local homestay called Nancy Hariss Homestay. The story of the plane crash in Bario is that the Twin Pioneer skidded while trying to land on a wet runway.

It ran into a ditch, causing the undercarriage leg to collapse. For aviation fans, this would be quite interesting, otherwise, a great photo opportunity.

Plane Crash Bario
Bario Plane Wreckage
11. Visit the War Memorial of Bario

A small war memorial was erected in Bario to commemorate the soldiers and paratroopers during the war. Names of the soldiers include Australians, British and local Kelabit people.

The Bario War Memorial is located five minutes walk from the main town area and is hard to miss. It is enclosed in a fenced area with a wooden gate and anyone can go in there.

12. Visit the mini Bario Museum

A new structure was erected in the main town area for the Bario Food Festival in 2015 and now serves as a mini-museum of Bario.

However, there are no items on display but more information on the Kelabit people and also important information about the highlands and its unique megaliths found here.

13. Catch a Bario Sunset

The best place to see a sunset in Bario is no other that Bukit Korea, a hill located behind the main town centre. In between the two-row of shops, lies a walkway near the old Bario community centre.

There is a path that leads up a small hill where you pass a mini pineapple farm and only a 10-minute easy walk up.

Once up there, you will see a wooden hut and this is the spot to catch the sunset. Timing-wise, best to go up at around 5.00 PM to catch the stunning scenery from up the hill. The sun usually sets at around 6.30 PM too.

Batu Ritung Bario
The unique Bario Megalith or Batu Ritung in Pa Lungan Village
14. Visit the Bario Megalithic Structures

One of the mysteries of Bario is the many megalithic structures found around Bario. The most famous being Batu Ritong which is found at Pa Umor village, 3-5 hours trek from Bario.

Batu Ritong stands at about 7 feet high and the two-ton slab is supported by two other vertical slabs. No one seems to know how it was erected or why it was. However, there are many folktales that the guides will share with you.

When I was in Bario in 2014, I met some university students who were in Bario to study the megalithic structures, and on asking them how many were there, it was estimated at 300, but only a handful was known.

Kelabit Food
Kelabit Food in Bario, very unique and different
15. Try the Kelabit Food

This is hands down the most unique experience where you will be guaranteed to try the Kelabit food when you stay in Bario.

One of the most organic food experience I have had during my travels, the local Bario food is all farmed, reared, caught or hunter. Vegetables are farmed or taken from the wild, fish is caught from the local ponds and game meat is hunted by the locals.

If there is one food type that anyone visiting Sarawak should try, it is the Kelabit Food. The way it is prepared is handed down from generation to generation and is cooked traditionally. If you have the opportunity, do ask for the local porridge or 'Kikid'.

For Muslim travellers, it could be a challenge for you, but there is one shop in Bario town that serves Halal food.
Map of Bario Villages
Map of Bario, showing the various villages around here
When is the Best Time to Visit Bario?

In general, the best time to visit Bario is from December to February or in August for the Pesta Nukenan Bario or Bario Food Festival.

The food festival will see the entire Bario come alive with visitors from all the surrounding villages, who participate here for this weekend event.

You can see local traditional games being played while for foodies, this is the ultimate food experience where you can taste many different types of highland cuisine. Very unique and highly recommended for any food traveller.

Nigmat Ayu Homestay
Nigmat Ayu Homestay in Bario seen from the paddy field

Bario is not your regular tourist destination, but it is a very unique cultural experience that is located high in the highlands of Sarawak Borneo. Me, as the writer, have been here five times in the last three years and my last trip in March 2017.

I never get tired of this place as once I arrive here, I am disconnected from the modern world and go back to how things were, without modernization. You can also read about my journey to the Bario Highlands in Sarawak, which I wrote in 2015.

For anyone wanting something different when you visit Sarawak or Malaysia, I would easily recommend you explore this unique highlands.

Perhaps, the list of things to do in Bario will also make it easier for your visit here and if you have any questions, please feel free to contact me anytime.

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