Recommended stay: 3-4 days
|Ifugao Rice Terraces & Sagada||Activity||Sleep|
|Day 1||Overnight bus from Manila||Hike Batad and Tappia Waterfalls||Batad|
|Day 2||Return to Banaue||Hapao Rice Terraces & Hot Spring||Banaue|
|Day 3||Day trip to Sagada via Bontoc||Hanging Coffins & Sumaging Cave||Overnight bus to Manila|
The Ifugao Rice Terraces are located in the “Cordilleras”, the rugged mountainous regions of the Northern Philippines. Scattered across swaths of Ifugao and Mountain Provinces, 5 of these breathtaking terraced rice paddies are awarded World Heritage Status by UNESCO. These 5 are located in Batad, Bangaan, Hungduan, Kiangan, and Mayoyao. These terraces are an engineering feat as they were carved from the mountains using the most rudimentary of tools about 2 millennia ago.
The gateway to this itinerary is Banaue, which boasts its own rice terraces even though it did not make the cut in the Heritage list due to the high concentration of structures constructed close to the crops. There are nightly direct buses from Manila to Banaue offered by Ohayami. Booking online is quick and easy. Advanced booking is also recommended. The bus we took departed at around 10 in the evening and reached Banaue at around 7 in the morning. The bus was basic with recliner seats and incredibly strong air-conditioning. There were about 2-3 scheduled stops for guests who needed to utilize comfort rooms (restrooms) along the way.
Upon arriving in Banaue, we were greeted by throngs of representatives from different hostels and a few freelance tour companies. We were able to negotiate a very reasonable 3-day package that included transport and guides to the destinations illustrated in the table above. After eating breakfast, we were swiftly whisked away to Batad via jeepney where passengers were given the opportunity to do a “top ride” (seating on top of the jeep) for a once-in-a-lifetime adventure that is uniquely Filipino. I opted for the exhilarating “top ride” with other foreign tourists (two students from Kazakhstan and two guys from France) and our bravery was rewarded with stunningly picturesque landscapes.
After about an hour ride amidst pristinely lush scenery and dizzyingly winding roads, we arrived at the end of the road, which locals call the “Batad Saddle”. From here, it is a 15-30 minute trek to the center of Batad, depending on one’s fitness level.
After depositing our bags at our reserved accommodations, we proceeded onto trekking along the trails that wrap around the spectacular terraces. Our first stop was called the “viewpoint”. This strategically positioned spot afforded us with sweeping panoramic views of the entire Batad. We stayed here for about half an hour.
From that vantage point, we descended to the bottom of the valley to reach the trail that eventually took us to Tappia waterfalls. The entire hike was moderately strenuous primarily because of the oppressive heat and humidity, compounded by the fact that we did not have a comfortable sleep on the bus the night before. It is possible to swim in the river that is adjacent to the falls, but it is not recommended to swim directly under the falls itself. This is a magnificently scenic trek that was certainly worth all the iota of energy we had invested in it.
Using agoda.com, we booked an overnight stay at Ramon’s Homestay. Ramon’s was particularly popular because they offer guests an opportunity to stay in authentic Ifugao huts (sans electricity) that are rapidly being phased out because of modernization. They also have a stellar in-house restaurant that offers delicious and freshly cooked local dishes. We were extremely exhausted after dinner so we slept for 12 hours.
After breakfast, we started our ascent back up to the saddle to catch the public jeepney that only runs twice-a-day (1 in the morning and 1 in the afternoon).
After arriving back in Banaue, we were promptly picked up by our guide for our trip to the neighboring community of Hungduan for the Hapao hot springs tour. Little did we know that in order to get to the hot springs, we would have to hike about 45 minutes across gloriously marvelous rice terraces – the UNESCO-inscribed Hungduan / Hapao rice terraces. We were delightfully blown away.
The hot springs have fascinatingly sprouted right next to the Hapao – Baang River so guests can alternate dipping in the scalding hot waters and then plunging into the relatively chilly river to cool off after, or vice-versa.
On our third day, we were picked up early in the morning to join other tourists on our day trip to Sagada. We stopped at the Banaue Rice Terraces Viewpoint, which was on the way.
After a 2.5-hour drive along idyllic terrain with abundant views of more rice terraces, we arrived in Sagada. After settling our registration & guide fees, we comfortably toured the town on our rented vehicle.
The highlights here include the Sumaging Cave and the Hanging Coffins located in Echo Valley. After exploring these two sites, we were jetted back to Banaue just in time for dinner and our overnight bus ride back to Manila.
Have you ever been to the Ifugao Rice Terraces and Sagada?