Philippines: Luzon 1 Week Itinerary from Manila
For most visitors to the Philippines its all about sun, sea, sand, and island hopping in Palawan and Boracay. But, the north of Luzon - the archipelago’s main island - is home to some stunning treks traversing jaw-dropping rice terraces and unveiling a number of quaint high-altitude backpacker abodes.
If you are keen to experience a less touristy region of the Philippines then you really should consider travelling to Luzon which is fairly easily done from Manila.
In this article Tej Parikh shares his tips how to travel from Manila and see the places in Banaue, Batad and Sagada in just one week.
Day 1: Manila to Banaue
It’s a hefty 8-9 hour coach journey from Manila up to Cordillera. It’s best done overnight. Ohayami Trans runs a reliable service for around $10, departing at 9pm and 10pm, from Sampaloc bus terminal. Prepare for a bumpy ride, and wear layers - Filipino coach drivers seem to always keep the AC pumping, regardless of the time of day!
Day 2: Banaue
(Banaue Tour Map, Banaue Tourist Center, Image Credit: Tej Parikh)
You should arrive at Banaue bus terminal around 6/7am, where you’ll be greeted by representative from your hotel or hostel - if you booked in advanced - and will be ushered to pay the small registration fee.
Banaue Homestay is most visitor’s first choice for accommodation. It’s not hard to see why. Its homely, has amazing views, wholesome pre-trek breakfasts and Beatriz and her family are super helpful. Fill up on pancakes and coffee on the balcony; take a hot shower (and maybe a quick nap), before grabbing a tricycle up the hillside to Banaue Viewpoint.
(Banaue Viewpoint, Banaue, Image Credit: Tej Parikh)
Take in the incredible panorama, and then begin the 3-4 hour weaving trek back down toward Banaue. It starts from a staircase next to the gift shop and winds, rises, and dips throughout the rice terraces with breathtaking views. You’ll be following an old drainage canal - just ask the friendly local rice farmers and villagers en route for ‘Bocos Village’ if the paths diverge (See map below)
After the enduring hike, wander through Banaue town proper, rest up in People’s Lodge & Restaurant, over a hearty rice and fried chicken, and grab a Red Horse beer at 7th Heaven’s café balcony overlooking the terraces.
Day 3: Batad
(Batad Rice Terrace, Batad Image Credit: Tej Parikh)
If you thought Banaue’s views were stunning, wait till you’ve seen Batad’s. It’s just a 40-minute tricycle journey away to ‘Batad saddle’- the best place to start the hike. Be sure to book it—and a guide, if you want (for around $30) - the day before from Banaue’s tourist office, and set out early to make the most of the daylight.
It’s then a 45-minute hike into the heart of Batad’s amphitheater-esque rice terraces, through shacks, tall trees and clucking chickens. Take in the stunning views from all angles, looking down onto the village, before making the worthwhile 40-minute descent down to Tappiya waterfall. Chill out by the falls, regaining some energy for the arduous climb back.
On your return to Banaue, eat spicy pork curry with the locals in Banaue Eatery in the town centre before retiring early for a warm tea on the soothing Banaue Homestay terrace.
Day 4, 5: Sagada
There are plenty of buses departing for Sagada, try catching the early morning option for the 4-5hr winding journey through the Cordillera mountainside. Check into one of the many chilled lodges (Isabelo’s Inn and Café is a cheap and cheerful choice near the tourist office and bus station, with a wholesome breakfast).
Sagada is a relaxed backpacker haven, and is particularly popular with Filipino’s. There’s plenty to do. Go spelunking in one of the many cave complexes. Check out the Echo Valley Hanging coffins — a form of burial practiced by the Igorot tribe. It’s an easy 30-minute hike from the town center. And, go on one of the many spectacular mountain treks. The 4-5 hour Marlboro Hill to Blue soil trek takes you through a large pine forest, stunning hilltops, and down to the uniquely colored copper-rich soil hills.
(Echo Valley Hanging Coffins, Sagada Image Credit: Tej Parikh)
Luckily there are plenty of places in town to fill-up and energize. Try the delectably sweet yoghurts at Yoghurt House, the famous lemon pie at, well, Lemon Pie House and the award-winning coffee at Bana’s café. For less sweet bites, try the orange chicken at the popular Sagada brew. Above all, do not miss Moon House, a joyous rasta-themed bar where trekkers hang out for a few beverages before the local 10pm curfew.
(Blue Soil Hills, Sagada, Image Credit: Tej Parikh)
Day 6: Sagada to Manila
Coda Lines run a number of coaches out of Sagada. Try catching the 10am departure if you wanted to reach Manila before midnight. It’s a testing 12-hour journey, with plenty of stops—the perfect opportunity for you to organise your photos.
Luzon really is a special place to visit and a great alternative to overcrowded destinations like Boracay and Palawan. If you have ever been to Luzon and would like to share your experience or any tips leave feedback in the comments section below.
By Tej Parikh