The ‘capital’ of the highlands, Bario consists of about a dozen ‘villages’ – each with its own church – spread over a beautiful valley, much of it given over to growing the renowned local rice. Some of the appeal lies in the mountain climate (the valley is 1500m above sea level) and the splendid isolation (the only access is by air and torturous 4WD track), but above all it’s the hospitality of the Kelabit people that will win you over. Travellers can find themselves extending their stays in Bario by days, weeks or more. Since late 2017 Bario has had 24-hour electricity courtesy of a new solar-energy farm.
Before the Konfrontasi, Bario consisted of only one small longhouse, but in 1963 residents of longhouses near the frontier fled raids by Indonesian troops and settled here for safety, and the community has slowly expanded ever since.