If you want an escape to nature that is easy on the wallet, Banaue and Batad should be at the top of your list. Backpacking here on a 3 day 2 night journey is the perfect escape to those stuck in the concrete jungle of Manila. The Ifugao region’s rice terraces are a reminder of what happens when we combine human ingenuity with nature to produce something beautiful.
How to get to Banaue
If you’re coming from Manila there are quite a few buses with direct trips to Banaue leaving every day. I liked Ohayami (http://ohayamitrans.com/) bus liner the best. It leaves around 10PM and arrives in Banaue at 7AM. A total of ~9 hours but it has many stops along the way for just P490.
You can purchase tickets online, or at the terminal the day of, but get there early because when the seats are gone they will start selling the center row. On my second trip to Banaue we got there late (30 minutes prior to departure) and we ended up in the center row with the 6-inch back rests. We literally spent 9 hours bouncing off the shoulders of the passengers next. Never again!
Booking through 12Go is simple and easy below. Enter your dates and you’re all set!
Banaue is a well known tourist spot for viewing Rice Terraces but the activities here can be completed within 2-3 hours, so there really is no need to stay overnight here unless you’re tired or sore from the bus ride. Here are my top 4 things to do in Banaue in a quick stop-through:
- Banaue Museum has great Ifugao cultural artifacts like spears and baskets. This is a quick stop you can walk to while in the village.
- Shopping in town can be fun as the city center has so many stores to get souvenirs. This is also where you should get a quick bite to eat. I suggest eating at People’s Lodge & Restaurant. They have a balcony that you can eat on while overlooking the village.
- Banaue Rice Terraces can be viewed from what is called the “Banaue Viewpoint”. To get here you can either walk or take a tricycle up the hill from the city center. Once you arrive at the viewpoint you will pass by a few shops until you reach a large platform overlooking multiple terraces. This is a picture perfect spot to get your first beautiful shot of the tiered mountains.
- Ifugao Elders: There are always local Ifugao Elders sitting outside at the viewpoint who are always smiling and laughing. The elders, like many others in the region, spent most of their lives working in the terraces until they became too weak to continue the physical requirement needed. They now welcome tourist from around the world to the terraces and show off their beautiful Ifugao traditional garments.
After you’ve finished the activities in Banaue you can either stay the night in Banaue or head on to Batad. Batad is by far one of the most beautiful treasures in the Philippines and one to add to everyone’s Philippines bucket list!
If you end up staying in Banaue, a nice place to stay is at People’s Lodge.
How to get to Batad
From Banaue to Batad you can request a tricycle driver to take you to Batad. It takes about 20 minutes to get there and can cost you around P300-400 (since the driver typically doesn’t have a return passenger). Luckily Batad has a road going to it now so you no longer have to trek for 2 hours through the mountains to get there. If you have a large group, you can hire a jeepney (if you’re not familiar with a jeepney, see below photo). You will have to pay a bit for the jeepney to take you, but it’ll be cheaper with more people. If you’re lucky to find a group in town who’s going already and you can jump on the jeep with them and toss them a bit of cash for the help!
One suggestion given to me my first time to Batad was to pre-schedule a pickup for when I want to go back to Banaue. Since Batad is quite remote, not many public transportation vehicles go there so you may end up waiting hours before something comes along to get back. When I got a tricycle to Batad, I just asked the driver if he can also pick me up the next day at a certain time. He agreed on the place and time to pick us up and there he was waiting the next day. Batad also has no cellular reception so you are on your own when you get there! I considered this an amazing escape from the online digital world and tossed my phone in my bag for the day.
Batad Rice Terraces
Batad was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site which strives for protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage sites around the world. This title is well deserved as Batad has some of the most well preserved rice terraces in the country. “The Ifugao Rice Terraces are the priceless contribution of Philippine ancestors to humanity. Built 2000 years ago and passed on from generation to generation, the Ifugao Rice Terraces represent an enduring illustration of an ancient civilization that surpassed various challenges and setbacks posed by modernization.” -UNESCO Official List I was at first excited when I saw the Banaue rice terraces, but when I first looked out upon the landscape in Batad I was literally speechless. Photos do it no justice as to the enormous size and beauty. Although each tier of the terrace look like small stairs, they are each around 8-10 feet tall. If you’re looking to go when the rice is in its prime to get the bright green terrace photos you’ll want understand the rice planting and harvesting schedules. Planting season for rice typically happens between April to July. The best time to see lush greens is between August to November. Be careful not to go too late or you may come after harvest and be left with pools of brown mud.
Many people come to Batad and take photos of the terraces but are unaware that just a short trek away is a roaring waterfall ready for your camera. If you are staying overnight in Batad, you can ask your host for directions to get there. I do suggest to get a guide if it is your first time walking on the terraces as there can be tricky paths getting up and down each tier as shown above.
The hike to Tappia Falls can take about 1.5 hours each way so be sure not to do this too close to evening time as there are no lights in Batad to guide you back. Make sure to bring tennis shoes and water bottles for this as you will be doing a considerable amount of walking involved (Please remember as well to always keep any trash you bring with you for proper disposal. Batad is beautiful and in order to keep it that way, all of us nomads should the places they visit cleaner than when they arrived). The Tappia Falls has a 70 meter drop and is fresh cold water. Although it is perfectly safe to swim in it, I did not as my feet were cold enough from just touching the edge. There are typically not alot of people here so you’ll have very easy access to the place for photos shoots 🙂
Lodging in Batad
There are a couple Inns to stay in Batad, each are very small with only a few rooms in them. The locals also will also host you in their homes for a small fee but you will have to ask around to find out who will take you in. If you’re the outdoors type and come prepared, there are many spots for camping in Batad for free. If you camp on someone’s property they will just ask for a small fee around P100.
I suggest staying at Hillside Inn which is in the center of the mountain town. It has a restaurant on the main floor and a few rooms upstairs for P500 per room. There are private showers here but they are shared between all of the guests. The view of the rice terraces from the main floor restaurant is beautiful and a perfect picture spot. If you want a taste of the local brew, I suggest for you to buy a bottle of thee locally made Rice Wine. This is made in Batad and is what the locals drink too. I will warn you that it has a very strong taste like vinegar. We did not finish it but we enjoyed laughing about the taste.
Where to next?
If you’re looking to continue your journey after Batad, you can travel 2 hours north to Sagada. There are buses, vans, and jeepneys available in the city center of Banaue. I suggest you go in the morning since there aren’t many trips later in the day. If you end up going to Sagada, check out this blog on things to do there. Keep traveling and be happy always!