When you think of traveling the Philippines, the first things that come to mind (and to google) are amazing beaches, blue lagoons, and wide eyed miniature monkeys. While all of these are amazing for themselves, the north of the Philippines has one of the most amazing mountain views you’ll see. These mountains are the house of 2000 year old rice terraces, which are referred to as an eighth wonder of the world. Admittedly, there seems to be quite a few eighth wonders out there, but don’t hold it against Batad. It’s still a place you shouldn’t miss if you visit the Philippines.
The area itself is called Ifugao, and has a few villages that have become tourist attractions. To name a few, you have Banaue, Batad, Sagada, Hapao, Cambulo and more. If you’re into trekking, you can walk for a few days between these villages. You should ask locally though what are the recommended routes. In this post I’ll share experiences from the places I’ve visited – Banaue, Hapao, and Batad.
The way to Banaue and the Ifugao area is, like many other long rides, a price you need to pay to experience awesome places. The way from Manila to Banaue takes about 9 hours (give or take, traffic may add about 2 hours), and you can do it by bus. Other option is flying to Bagaue and taking a bus from there, but from looking at the times it seems it doesn’t save much. The buses are operated by a few companies, the most well know called Ohayami transit. They operate a daily night bus, which leaves their station (located at the Sampaloc area) every evening at about 9pm-10pm. Sometimes in the high season they will have a few buses leave together. You can buy the tickets online: it saves the ride back and forth to the station, which is pretty far away from the center. While the outside temperature may be boiling, the buses have chilling air-conditioning, to the level of needing a blanket, so bring some warm cloth. Any pleads to the driver are hopeless. They like it cold J . The bus makes three stops along the way for food and toilet.
When you arrive at the station in Banaue, there will most likely be local representatives of hotels, attempting to lure you to there place. It’s not necessarily bad, since some of them will have great places, but you should know that most of the hotels are pretty close to each other, and you can go and compare for yourself. Also if they tell you that you have to go with them for some reason or other (getting the return ticket, or they are the “official” ride), you don’t. They will most likely take you to their hotel and sell you lunch while you wait. I personally stayed at the Uyami Green View lodge, and it was good. Basic facilities with friendly service.
Hapao: While most of the guides mention Batad as *the* rice terraces, I think Hapao’s terraces are actually the most beautiful ones, and their picture is probably the one most recognized with the area. The best way to see them is to take an hour’s hike, which starts a short drive from Banaue. The hike goes above and through the flooded terraces, and leads to a hot water spring in which you can bath. The view of the water in the rice fields reflecting the sky is spectacular, and the spring is a great rest after the walk. As a spring, it’s not the best you’ve ever seen, but the way there is worth it.
Batad: Batad has the biggest rice terraces around, and most visitors will make this village their main attraction in the area. To get there you’ll need to catch a van or a bike for about an hour’s ride. The road goes almost all the way to the village (15 minutes’ walk away), but some drivers will tell you they can’t get all the way down – either because their bike is not strong enough, or because they want you to schedule a return pickup with them, and don’t want you to see that there are lots of other vehicles down the road. A Jeepney also goes to Batad from Banaue every morning – ask in the hotels for specific times.
You can stay the night in Batad, however, being a very distant village, the facilities and hotels there are not great. Let’s say that if clean linens and a private bathroom is a basic demand for you, you might want to return to Banaue on the same day. Having said that, there is nothing like sitting on your guesthouse’s porch, drinking a beer in front of this amazing view. We did that in the Hillside inn, which also had some nice food.
The most common hiking trail in Batad is to the Tappiyah falls. It’s a couple of hours hike, with a great view of the terraces on the way. The falls themselves are nice, but you do have a pretty steep climb on the way back. In general, the inclines in Batad are cruel – only walking from one guesthouse to another involves steep stairs that might leave you breathless.
One more thing to notice, is that there are lots of tour guides everywhere. These guys will either be certified guides, or some random person with a van. I’m not sure it matters. The point is however, that for most activities you don’t really need a guide. Sure, it’s easier to find the way with one, but you don’t have to. In most cases you can get along perfectly fine by just asking the locals where to walk.
To sum it up, all together I would plan 2-3 days for Banaue and Batad, depending if you want to sleep in Batad. Either way, don’t miss it.