For adventurous travelers who are getting weary of the heat from the mainland, the Philippines offers several destinations with fascinating cultures, cooler weather, aromatic coffee, fresh produce, scrumptious cuisines and remarkable scenery that won’t burn a hole in your pocket or require a plane ride.
Travelers who have seven days can stretch their trip to cover all four destinations in Northern Philippines: Baguio, Sagada, Banaue, and Batad.
The Northern Philippines has been one of the country’s most attractive destinations. It offers many unique destinations that are sure to inspire any traveler.
Backpackers in particular will find so many places to explore and so many adventures waiting to happen in what is one of the most mountainous areas in the country. From a rich cultural heritage to diverse food options and unchartered terrain, you will be amazed at what this area has in store for you.
It Starts in Baguio
A northern adventure is never complete without a trip to Baguio. Being located approximately 1,500 meters above sea level, there is no doubt about why Baguio is called the Summer Capital of the Philippines.
Baguio is famous for its cool climate, food, souvenirs, handicrafts, and key destinations. This bustling city serves as the source of some of the freshest flowers and vegetables in the country.
The city hosts the annual Panagbenga Festival in February, which attracts a horde of tourists wanting to join in the festivities. But Baguio is known to offer far more than the flower festival that it is famous for.
One of the most popular of Baguio’s destinations is Mines View Park, which is located just at the outskirts of the city. It overlooks the town of Itogon, which has several abandoned copper and gold mines.
Taking in the view from the park’s famed gazebo-like viewing platform, you can also have a glimpse of Amburayan Valley. After getting your fill of the view, you can browse novelty items and souvenirs, such as keychains, back scratchers, and the infamous barrel man, which are on sale around the area.
Make sure that you haggle! Street foods ranging from green mangoes with barbecue, and peanut brittle are also available for hungry tummies. Have a photo or two with the natives and other explorers, or even with a large St. Bernard or a horse wearing a fedora.
If you are game for something more exciting, the Tree Top Adventure just might give you the adrenaline rush that you’re craving for. Explore the jungle through a trail that includes suspension bridges and tree-top platforms, and take sightseeing to a whole new level by going on the unique motorized canopy tour—the first of its kind in the world.
If you have a penchant for flying, the Superman Ride is sure to give you the super experience. Other exciting activities include the Tree Drop and Silver Surfer. From beginner adventurers to hard-core ones, Tree Top Adventure has something memorable to offer.
Seeking Solace in Sagada
There was a time when Sagada was unknown among travel enthusiasts. We owe a lot to the first explorers who braved the 275-kilometer trip from Manila to share this gem of a destination for all the world to see.
This peaceful town in the Mountain Province opens its arms to guests who would like to have a truly unique experience.
Remaining virtually untouched by modernity, the people of Sagada are deeply immersed in their old traditions. The place completely lacks an urban feel, which makes it a great destination for those seeking solace from the big city.
Try spelunking in Lumiang or Sumaguing Cave, or stroll the cave connection from Sumaguing to Lumiang for several hours. The caves provide a one-of-a-kind experience, especially for those trying it for the first time.
Sagada is also known for the distinct hanging coffins in Echo Valley. Behind the American Church and beyond a more conventional graveyard, you would find these coffins hanging from a cliff. This site is full of history and is truly beautiful, in a morbid sort of way.
For adrenaline junkies, you can go mountain biking around Sagada or white water rafting in Chico River. For the shopaholics and foodies, you can purchase weaved products from the local shops or try the local delicacy called Pinikpikan. Sagada just has too much to offer.
Basking in the Beauty of Banaue
Banaue is another small municipality that you could reach through Baguio or Manila. The lush green scenery is seemingly endless, from the time you start traveling to when you finally reach this sleepy town. The place charms travelers for its majestic view of the rice terraces.
Considered as the eighth wonder of the world, the Banaue Rice Terraces are collectively considered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Even if this agricultural marvel has been around for over two-thousand years already, many of the rice terraces are still in use today, reflecting that this traditional farming method is still deeply entrenched in the culture of the people.
The outskirts of Banaue can offer beautiful panoramas of the terraces. If you are game for a hike while enjoying the scenery, it will take you about an hour or two to reach the main viewpoint. The scene that unfolds becomes increasingly beautiful the higher you go, so make sure that you’re wearing your most comfortable shoes.
After viewing the terraces, you can drop by the Museum of Cordilleran Sculpture, which has woodcarvings, masks, textiles, and other objects related to historic culture on display. Local food and locally produced wines are available around the area. The most popular wine varieties are rice wines and sugarcane wines.
While strolling about, make sure that you have a flashlight, especially if you think you’ll be out until nighttime because the town has poor lighting.
Braving the Trek to Batad
Here is an unchartered corner of the Cordilleras that remain unspoiled and hidden in the shadows of the rice terraces. Many visitors have their fill of lush greenery by visiting Banaue, and few are willing to traverse the 18-kilometer from Banaue to Batad.
And why is that you may ask? Well, for starters, there are no paved roads that lead to Batad.
To reach the village, you have to catch a jeepney from Banaue going to the saddle point. There are at least two trips throughout the day, in the morning and afternoon, and it would do you well to be alert and ask around to make sure that you get to board the right jeepney.
After alighting at the saddle, be prepared for a three-kilometer trek to reach the village of Batad—a brisk pace could get you there in about 40 minutes.
I know what you’re thinking. Is going there worth all the trouble? Let me put it this way, Batad is a small village that is completely surrounded by stone-walled rice terraces. In a word, the landscape and views are stunning.
As Batad is a mountain village with no paved roads, you have to explore this peaceful commune on foot. Transportation and mobile phone signals are limited, which is somewhat a good thing because it offers a complete respite away from the clockwork life that typically exists outside of this place. Simplicity is beauty, and that is Batad.
Batad offers perhaps the most breathtaking view of the rice terraces—not panoramic and expansive but rather up close and personal. After all the sightseeing among the mountains, you can make your way to Tappiya Falls if you’re up for a bit more walking.
Tappiya Falls is a must-visit destination whenever you will embark on an adventure in Batad. With a 70-foot drop, Tappiya Falls features a beautiful view, the thundering yet calming sound of splashing water, and a cool and clean pool of water that practically begs you to get in and take a dip.
Backpacking may not be everyone’s idea of fun, but the sights and offerings of the Cordilleras are sure to change even the most stubborn minds.
With everything that Northern Philippines has to offer, it’s time to pack that bag and simply go to where your feet take you. Who knows, you might just stumble upon the adventure of a lifetime.
Have you been to Northern Philippines?