They say broken hearts go to Sagada… Well, I have been 4 times and the only thing that is broken are my hip bones from the long bus rides to get here! Whether your heart is on the mend or soaring high, you will leave Sagada with fond memories of rice terraces, blue soil hills, waterfalls, caves, lemon pies, and so much more! The trip through the home of the Kalinga (native Filipino tribe) is one definitely worth taking.
This is my first of many blogs in which I will be documenting all of my travel experiences throughout Asia and the rest of the world. I will be blogging on both current and past experiences to share with others where I’ve gone and what to expect. Enjoy!
How to get there
While there are many tour groups going that take a van going there, I do not suggest it as you typically have to follow where the group goes. I prefer the nomad backpacker life (Unless you have a private van with your friends of course). I have gone 4 times now and my preferred route to Sagada from Manila is through Baguio. You can also take a trip through Banaue which I will cover in another post.
- Manila – Baguio: There are many buses going to Baguio but the best one is Cubao Victory Liner. They have both regular buses for P450 each and deluxe (first class with the big seats that recline) for P750 each. The buses leave every hour so no need for reservations unless on holidays.
- When in Baguio I usually stay overnight and have some strawberry taho and visit my favorite coffee shop called “Oh My Gulay“. If you do want to go non-stop then make sure to take an overnight bus from Manila so you don’t miss the morning bus to Sagada.
- Baguio – Sagada: From Baguio go to the Dangwa terminal just past session road and take the GL Trans bus to Sagada for P220 each. It leaves in the mornings and usually has about 3-4 different buses leaving between 6-11AM. Get there by 8AM so you don’t risk missing the bus. Just to note there’s not always air-conditioned buses so go early if you want a spot on the air conditioned bus.
For easy booking to Baguio, you can use the below 12Go Bus site which works in most of the major bus routes from Metro Manila.
Where to Stay
Sagada accommodations are relatively cheap compared to other Philippines destinations. Most hotels nightly rate ranges anywhere from 500-800 per day. My personal favorite place to stay is at Lodge Labanet. The room had two queen size beds, private bathroom, towels, and wifi (in the lobby) for just P500 a night. It is located in the middle of the city right near all of the restaurants and the tourist center.
There are plenty of other hotels within the P500-P1000 range just along the main road by the Tourist center as well:
- Kanip Aw Pines View Lodge
- Shamrock Tavern Inn
- Isabelo’s Inn and Cafe
- Rocky Valley Inn and Cafe
- Agape Log Cabin And Restaurant
For my traveling, I always book using Agoda in advance to avoid the risk of not finding a hotel available. Here’s an easy search box to bring you to all Sagada accommodations:
What to do
Touring Sagada is easy to set up and easy on the wallet! Most of the places locations will require you to have a guide which can be schedule in the Sagada Tourist Center in the heat of the town. There are no tricycles here so you have to add transportation as well at the tourist center. If you are alone this may get a bit pricey, but with small groups it’s no sweat! If you are alone, you can hangout at the tourist center and ask groups if you can join them for a share of the expense. I’ve done this and made some amazing new friends! Below are my favorite places to in Sagada, although there are many other places to see. I’ll include some pricing too in Philippine Peso.
- Blue Soil Hills: We rented a van for P400 from the town to the bottom of Kuman-Utek Hill along with our guide that was also P400. We followed our guide up the mountain for about 50 minutes until you start to notice the dark red sand and then a clash of blue and white hills that look like snow-capped mountains in the middle of a forest. When you first see it you don’t understand why it’s there, but our guide later explained that it’s due to the high copper content in the soil. He also said there was a gold mine nearby…. let’s get digging!
- Echo Valley: This tour package (Costs about P300 per group) will take you past the church of Saint Marie which is a beautiful church at the top of the city of Sagada. Just past the church is the famous Echo Valley where you are supposed to shout out everything your heart is feeling. This is from a movie “That Thing Called Tadhana”. The valley really does echo, so the name seems to fit well.You will then climb down the hill to the bottom of Echo Valley. You’ll be happy to know that they installed a walkway with a handrail, otherwise before we had to slide down the side of the hill and then struggle the whole way up!Once you’ve reached the bottom of Echo Valley you’ll be at the famous Hanging Coffins. As a bit of history, only those who died of natural causes can be hung using this method and they said the coffins were hung for many reasons, the first that the dead would be closer to the spirits the higher up they were. The second being that they feared burying bodies could lead to animals getting to it, or worse, enemy tribes taking the head of the dead as a trophy. Whatever each person’s reason was, it was very interesting to see and to listen to the history of it from our guide. This practice is still being used today but very rarely.From here you will have the choice to continue on to the underground river and a waterfall, or go back up to the top of the valley. I suggest you take the full package and continue on!
- Underground River: The Underground river comes just after the hanging coffins and will require about an hour of hiking through the forest to get to. You will need a guide and it will be packaged with the hanging coffins for P500 per group. I will warn you that there is a considerable amount of trekking through the forest but it’s worth it! The small cave is not scary and does not require any climbing or spelunking. It’s about a 10 minute walk-through cave. You will be walking through knee-deep water so ensure you wear some sandals or water shoes since there’s some rocks (although not sharp). Do not wear your sneakers for this tour!
- Sagada Pottery: Each time I’ve gone to Sagada I always visit their pottery demo and throw a new pot on the wheel. They only ask for P100 for you to do it yourself. It always brings me back to my childhood days doing this in school. The lady working here is the same as it was 5 years ago and she’s really funny and nice. She will help you to make your own vase. Be prepared to get your hands dirty!
- Sagada Weaving: The weavers in Sagada always amaze me with how they make such intricate designs and move so quickly while using the giant wooden machines. It is free to go here and watch them, although if you don’t want to walk then you’ll have to rent transportation from the Tourist Center. I can often stand there watching the weavers thinking “What just happened?!”, the way they throw the wooden things through the strings and they flip the strings up and down. Unfortunately they do not allow you to take any photos or videos inside of the shop (and i’m a good boy and listened…), so i’ll just post the outside.
- Kapayaw Rice Terraces: The first few times i went to Sagada, i didn’t go to this Rice Terrace, but on my most recent trip the guide said that this was a less well-known one with a beautiful waterfall (Pongas Falls) at the end. I decided to take a chance and go here and I was surprised how beautiful the rice terraces were. I was here during a non-rice season in which they plant anything from Tomatoes, Beans, Corn, Cabbage, Lettuce, etc. It was so fun to see all of the different types of vegetables being grown. It cost P500 for the guide and P500 for the transportation to go here and the trek through the terraces to the falls took about 3 hours there and back.
- Pongas Falls: The Pongas Falls come at the end of the Kapayaw Rice Terraces and when you first get to them you will think it’s quite small until the guide takes you to the top of the hill and then BOOM! You see this……..This turned into one of my favorite photo spots all-time for Sagada…. We spent at least an hour here shamelessly taking a thousand photos 🙂 Many people will tell you to go to Bomod-ok Falls which is also really nice but the only downside is that Bomod-ok has alot of people. Pongas falls had no people when we went.
- Marlboro: Most people get up at 4 am to see the sunrise on Mt. Kiltipan, however, Kiltipan is always very crowded and it’s so difficult to get a good photo. I highly suggest instead to go to Marlboro as there are usually very few people there. You can set up a time-lapse without any disturbance. Now, they only catch is that there is a small hike. Marlboro does not have any roads leading to the top so you’ll trek for about 30 minutes. I suggest you get up by 4 am also meet your guide at 5 am. You will need to book your guide (For P300) the day before and have the guide meet you at your hotel to start the walk. I will warn you that mornings in Sagada are cold so be sure to have a sweatshirt!
Food in Sagada was made for foreigners, because the serving sizes are HUGE! There was always too much food on my plate for 1 person (which I loved)! Here are some of my favorite places:
- Yogurt House has some of the best food in town and is by far my favorite place to eat. The “must try” items for me was their chicken curry and for dessert the yogurt with honey/granola. There is seating upstairs and you can even sit outside on the 2nd floor balcony. If it’s raining, it’s the perfect place to enjoy some hot coco.
- Strawberry Cafe has really amazing breakfast both Pinoy or American style. The staff was really friendly too.
- Sagada Lemon Pie House has amazing Lemon or Egg pie, but also has really good dinner options. I will warn you though that if you order the chicken curry or adobo the serving size is huge… Just order one for two people.
Hopefully you get the chance to visit Sagada soon! Please comment if you have any questions on Sagada or if you have suggestions of other amazing places that you saw in Sagada.
Keep traveling always my Nomadic friends!