All you need to know about Batanes, Laoag & Vigan
The Northern Luzon cities of Laoag and Vigan together with the remote archipelagic province of Batanes lie largely off-the-beaten-track when it comes to international tourism. These destinations are mainly accessible by land travel on winding paved roads with picturesque views, especially in the mountain regions, or in the case of Batanes, by air.
These volcanic islands and heritage cities in Northern Luzon are all the more worth exploring for their relatively under-the-radar nature. The Batanes Islands, accessible only by air from Manila and seasonally from Clark International Airport, radiate tranquil, unspoilt beauty and sustainability: think white-sand beaches overlooked by lighthouses against a backdrop of rolling hills.
Why it’s more fun in
Batanes, Laoag & Vigan
Despite its rich history, Northern Luzon has plenty of scope for fun in the great outdoors, whether it’s riding a 4×4 all-terrain vehicle (ATV) through the sand dunes, heading to one of the glorious white-sand beaches for some serious water-sports action, hiking or horse-riding. The Batanes Islands are particularly great when explored by pedal power; you can take your bike aboard local ferries for some independent, ad hoc island hopping fun.
A must for wildlife lovers is the protected Hundred Islands National Park a day-trip/overnighter distance to the south, in Alaminos City, Pangasinan. Formed of ancient coral reefs and home to an array of bird, mammal and marine life including Philippine ducks, thresher sharks, angelfish and ghost crabs, it’s also another outstanding place for activities including kayaking, cliff jumping, ziplining, wall climbing and rappelling.
Basco Batanes Rexy Quieta
Culture & Food
The region’s historic highlight, Vigan on the west coast is renowned for the preserved Spanish colonial and Asian architecture that lines its Mestizo district with its cobbled streets, rustic mansions and cathedral. But Ilocos Norte’s rich colonial and other history means that there are plenty of other sites to reward cultural explorers – among them, the Juan Luna Shrine in Badoc (now renamed by the Philippine Historical Commission the Museo ni Juan at Antonio Luna), the Ferdinand E. Marcos Presidential Center in Batac City, with a museum and cenotaph, the Malacañang of the North, a former Marcos residence and presidential museum in Paoay, and Paoay Church and Santa Maria Church, both UNESCO World Heritage listed.
The Ilocos region and Northern Luzon as a whole have strong culinary traditions that have become part of national cuisine, in the form of dishes such as ‘pinakbet’ (vegetables cooked in a clay pot with fish sauce), ‘bagnet’(deep-fried chunks of pork to be dipped in spicy or aromatic sukang iloko – sugarcane vinegar) and empanada (crispy rice flour turnover filled with eggs, Vigan longganisa, and vegetables). Vigan’s Plaza Burgos is also one of the best places to come to have a leisurely stroll and sample some of the region’s wonderful street food, accompanied by fountain-light shows.
City of Vigan Assy Gerez
Top Events & Festivals
- Kannawidan Ylocos Festival, Vigan City – January
A cultural celebration with traditional dress, marching band, folk dances and tribal rituals.
- Guling-guling Festival of Paoay, Ilocos Norte – February
A pre-Lent event introduced by Spanish monks in 16th century, with a dance parade.
- Kurarapnit Festival, Pagudpud – April–May
A celebration of a local species of bat.
- Kangayedan Festival, Pagudpud – April
A celebration of a bountiful harvest, agro-tourism trade fair, sporting events and street dancing.
- World Heritage Cities Solidarity Day Celebration and Cultural Festival, Vigan – September
Month-long festivity in solidarity with other World Heritage Cities around the world, forging cultural ties.
Damili Festival of San Nicolas, Ilocos Norte – December
A celebration of the region’s centuries-old earthenware industry.
Tropical Northern Luzon has an average yearly temperature of 26°C without much variation either side; the coolest months are November to February. The rainiest month is August, the driest is April.
Check out the weather today in Laoag City
Top 10 things to do in
Batanes, Laoag & Vigan
Credit Basco lighthouse Rexy Quieta
1. Cycle, Swim & Hike
In Batanes, hire a bike to discover Basco lighthouse, trek in the Naidi and Vayang rolling hills, hike Mount Iraya and swim in the Homoron Blue Lagoon Cave.
2. Boat ride to Itbayat’s Torongan Cave
From Batan Island take a local faluwa boat ride to Sabtang or Itbayat Island; head for Sabtang’s Nakabuang (‘White’) Beach with its famous rock arch or explore Itbayat’s Torongan Cave.
3. Explore Vigan
Wander or ride a horse-drawn cart around the cobblestoned colonial city of Vigan with its cathedral, fountain light shows and street-food stalls.
La Paz Sand Dunes Paco Guerrero
4. Laoag Cathedral
Discover Laoag Cathedral and enjoy cultural immersion in traditional crafts such as pottery (damili) making, ‘abel’ loom weaving, ‘basi’ (sugar cane) wine-making and ‘sukang Iloko’ vinegar-making.
5. Sand Dunes
Take a rollercoaster-style ride over the sand dunes of La Paz near Laoag City or for more of an adrenaline rush take a side trip and sprint to the sand dunes of Paoay.
6. Admire the architecture
Admire grand Paoay Church: a fusion of local and baroque architecture.
7. Watersports at Pagudpud
Enjoy water sports at Pagudpud’s Saud Beach, the ‘Boracay of the north’, trek to its Kabigan Falls for a cooling dip and rise the zipline across Blue Lagoon with a panoramic glide and land on the white beach, then go banana boating or jet skiing.
La Union Vernon Raineil Cenzon
8. Hike to Cape Bojeador Lighthouse
Take a tricycle ride or hike to Cape Bojeador Lighthouse, an architectural wonder with breathtaking views of the surrounding area, then proceed to Kapurpurawan rock formation for a nature-inspired hike or horseback ride.
Surf in San Juan, La Union, the surfing capital of Northern Philippines. The best season is October through to April.
10. Island hopping
Take a boat ride for an island-hopping escapade around the geological wonders of Governor Island, Quezon Island, Children’s Island and the rest of the 124 islands. The Hundred Islands National Park can be reached by a 9-hour bus ride from Vigan.
Where to stay in Batanes, Laoag & Vigan
Batanes Islands: Accommodation on Batanes Islands is inexpensive and unpretentious. Most travellers stay in lodges, hotels, inns and homestays in Basco, the provincial capital. For a more upscale, unique hotel experience, stay at the art-gallery-style Fundacion Pacita.
Central Laoag and Vigan: Both have a good range of hotels, inns and private rental apartments for different budgets, and there are also beach resorts conveniently located in the city environs.
Fundacion Pacita Jonathan Tabisaura
Getting there & away
To get to the Ilocos Norte area, fly to Laoag from Manila in around 70mins. You can’t fly from Laoag to Batanes, however flights from Manila to Basco on main Batan Island take around 1hr 20mins, or it’s an hour’s flight from Tuguegarao City in Cagayan.
The usual mode of transportation around Batan Island is tricycles, jeepneys, hired private vans, bikes/ mountain bikes or motorbikes, while boats and ferries operate to the smaller islands.
There are currently no boats to Batanes.
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