The Philippines has all sorts of fascinating places to see and adventures to witness. From absolutely stunning beaches to beautiful mountains to adventurous scuba diving experiences to pulsing city explorations; it’s all there – right on the platter, ready for tourists to be taken.
One of the most incredible ones that I have experienced was a journey to Banaue, a small area in the north of Luzon, which is also the island where the capital Manila is located. Banaue is a small mountain area surrounded by deeply vegetated jungles. It’s quite remote, but it has a lot of highlights to see and cool things to do.
The main thing that people do when they visit Banaue is go on a trekking tour. You can decide between various options. Most visitors go for a 2 day/1 night tour, which is what I did, as well. Once you get dropped off from the bus (overnight bus from Manila to Banaue), you will be brought to a small hostel, where you can choose from the different options.
The most common tour takes hiking lovers to Batad (UNESCO World Heritage Sight), a small lost village; a huge waterfall in a narrow valley (Tappiya Falls); and some georgous rice terraces in Bangaan. During the 2-day tour, you stay at a small homestay in a tiny village. The local families who run these homestays are really friendly and they exceedingly good care of visitors. You will get your own private room, sometimes with your own shower (depending on which package you decided to book).
On the first day, you will be brought to Banaue by bus. It’s an interesting ride as you will stop at some special lookout points in between to get a look at the lovely arranged rice terraces. But that’s just the start. Once you reach the end of the road, you’ll have to walk for about 30 minutes to get to your accommodation. After dropping off your bags, you will immediately start the first proper hike, which goes on from 11am to about 5pm. And I can tell you this: It’s absolutely brilliant!
The first great view point is located right at the start of the track: Batad rice terraces. These rice terraces are a UNESCO World Heritage sight and they are truly amazing. I have seen some highly impressive rice terraces in Vietnam before, but these ones completely blew my mind. They’re older than 2,000 years and lie in the middle of a hidden valley surrounded by shrubby mountain chains. The size of them is just unbelievable.
The whole rice terraces go up to 150m, starting from the bottom of the valley. It looks sp surreal, especially when it’s foggy or when you catch it during the sunrise (next day) – definitely a view you’ll never forget!
After that, you’ll keep following your tour guide, who has some good knowledge about the area and a lot of exciting stories to tell. You make your way through the jungle on narrow paths along multiple waterfalls and rivers, as well as smaller rice fields, until you eventually get to a tiny village in the middle of nowhere. Before you reach it, you have to walk along the edges of walls of some holy rice terraces. Don’t step on the rice fields, though. This can actually be quite hard because the paths are slippery and some of the stones you walk on are pretty loose. However, if you step on them, you’ll get fined. So watch out!
The village itself was unbelievable to me. It only has about 10 houses with 30 people in total, maybe even less. I felt like being sent back in time. It was so backward in development and very basic. Still, it was also very interesting!
We stopped there for lunch. I had one of the best meals of my life! Rice with veggies and an egg. It’s all organic food. No additives at all. It was great to eat something like this, if you take the arguable Western food standards into consideration. After lunch, you walk all the way back to the homestay where you ended the first day and you can enjoy a couple of hours of relaxation there.
The 2nd day started with one of the most impressive sunrises I have ever seen in my life. And I can definitely say that I have seen some incomparable ones before, just like when I hiked up Mt. Rinjani. The light from the rising sun shines right onto the rice terraces of Batad, reflecting towards the sky and letting the whole area glow a goldish yellow colour – unbelievably pretty!
After breakfast, toast with egg and veggies, you’ll walk straight down the rice terraces of Batad to get to a river on the other side of the valley. It can get very steep and exhausting in-between, so make sure to bring some water. The walk along the river is very scenic and refreshing. When you reach the end, you will stand right in front of the Tappiya Falls, which are nothing but striking. This is a great spot to take some pictures for your Instagram account. ;) You can also go for a cool dip in the natural pool right next to the waterfall.
After walking all the way there and back, which will take around 4 hours, you will be brought straight to some other highly imposing rice terraces: the Bangann rice terraces. This is the last stop on the 2-day tour. The Bangaan rice terraces are constructed in a circle that spreads out widely; it looks so cool from a higher perspective. Once everyone finishes taking photos, you will be brought back to Banaue from where you will head off to the next destination of your Philippine journey.
Overall, the trip to Banaue is easily one of the best trips you can take in this country, which is why I highly recommend anyone to get there as quick as possible before it becomes a “big thing”.