Iran Jaya is a land of contrasts, with some of the impenetrable jungles in the world and snowcapped mountain peaks towering over glacial lakes. Irian Jaya is Indonesia's largest and easternmost province and covers the western half of the world's second largest island. It is a land of exceptional natural grandeur, with beautiful scenic beaches, immense stretches of marshlands, cool grassy meadows and powerful rivers carving gorges through dense primeval forests. The most heavily populated and cultivated parts of the island are the Paniai Lakes district and Baliem valley to the east.
The people of the island can be divided into more than 250 sub-groups, including the Marind anim, Yah'ray, Asmat, Mandobo, Dani and Afyat. Those in the central highlands still, maintain their customs and traditions, virtually untouched by outside influences. The different tribes have lived, for the most part, in isolation from even one another, resulting in an incredibly diverse mixture of cultures.
The coastal regions of Irian Jaya, however were visited as early as the 7th century by traders from Sriwijaya. European traders looking for spices began arriving in the early 16th century, and have left historical footprints in the area with names such as Bougainville, Cape d'Urville and the Torres Straits. It was the Dutch who made the most lasting impact on the island, when 1828 they formally made Irian a Dutch Territory, which it remained until 1962.
The Provincial capital of Jayapura is situated on hills which overlook the sea, and accessible by boat and plane. It was here that General Mac Arthur assembled his fleet for the invasion of the Philippines during the world war. Regular flights to other major parts of the archipelago are available with Garuda and Merpati Nusantara Airlines.