Travel Guide: Ilocos

Ilocos collectively refers to two provinces in the Philippines: Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte The former is located along the western coast of Northern Luzon and the latter is located at the northwest corner.

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Ilocos is known for its historic sites, beaches, vast sand dunes, and a well-preserved Spanish colonial city of Vigan. These two provinces can be explored in 2-3 days. Below is my detailed itinerary, approximate expenses, and other important travel tips.

From Manila, we started our 8-hour journey to Ilocos Sur. This was my first super long hour van ride, so I prepared myself for whatever body pain I will get from this trip.

How to get there?

Option 1: Laoag International airport is the only airport in Ilocos (located in Ilocos Norte). Major airlines like Cebu Pacific and PAL fly directly from Cebu-Laoag or Manila-Laoag. If you’re coming from Cebu, regular airfare may cost an arm and a leg. But if you’re lucky to find a seat sale, round-trip airfare usually costs 800-1000 pesos.

Option 2: Book a ticket to Manila and ride a bus to Ilocos Sur. Estimated travel time is 8 hours. Now, this may sound inconvenient for the non-travelers but trust me, land trips are not boring especially when you travel at daytime because you will have a lot of new beautiful views to see. Bus Fare: 600-700 pesos per way.  Bus Location and Schedule

Option 3: If you want hassle-free travel, book with a travel company. They will be your personal travel planner, so you don’t need to research places and all.

Now that you know already the different ways on how to get there, let’s talk about the must-see places and activities you should try in Ilocos Sur and Norte.

Ilocos Sur

Calle Crisologo in Vigan- was established in the 15th century that made it the oldest surviving Spanish colonial city in the Philippines. A UNESCO World Heritage Site and the capital of Ilocos Sur.

We arrived here around 4 or 5am from Manila.When I came out from the van, I was welcomed with a lovely laid-back city and a cold breeze. Do you still remember your Hekasi subjects way back elementary days or those DVDs that have been played hundreds of times at school? I myself only remember a few names and events. Juan Luna (The Greatest Filipino painter)- You can check his work of art at Juan Luna Museum in Badoc, Diego Silang, and even some of the Philippine Presidents like Elpedio Quirino and Ramon Magsaysay are the pride of Ilocos. You will also see statues of people you only read from books like Padre Borgus at the Plaza Salcedo. These prove that Ilocos is home to the famous and brave people.

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Calle Crisologo at dawn.

Though some of the houses and establishments already undergo minor renovations, there are still parts that are untouched. The horse-drawn carriage( Kalesa) and cobblestone streets are still present. It really feels like being brought back in time and I ‘m glad that I was able to experience a unique Hispanic colonial character that can only be found in Vigan.

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Hidden Garden- A restaurant with plants collection.

Have Ilocano food for breakfast. Because why not? Food is life when traveling. They are known for their longanisa, empanada, and Bagnet. After that, check out their plants collection. You might want to bring home a colorful cactus, or an orchid. Just make sure to come to the airport early because plants need to be quarantined.IMG_2427

Baluarte- a conservation area and a place to learn about animals indigenous to the Philippines and around the world.

Do you know Chavit Singson? If you’re from the Philippines, of course, you do. He is a businessman, a politician, and the owner of Baluarte. Some of the animals that are taken care of here are: Tigers, Lions, Camels, Deer, Parrots, Ostriches, Peacocks and more.IMG_2435.JPG

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Show me your true color. =D

If you ask why it has a safari gallery. It is because Singson’s hobby is hunting.

Is it just me who feels sad for these animals? I want to know your opinions on the comment box below.:)

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Mindoro Beach- a black sand beach.

Okay. So this is not your ideal beach peeps. I know you like white sand beaches that are common in the country but this beach is just so rare and unique not to be experienced. During our visit, I was a little surprised why such a beautiful beach doesn’t have a tourist or a local swimming? Is it because of the waves or more of because the sands are black? Whatever the reason is, I found this place a paradise.

I am curious to know why it’s black and based on my research, I learned that the sand is rich in magnetite, a precious mineral.

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Dancing Fountain Show at Plaza Salcedo- one of the events to check out for at night in Vigan is the daily dancing fountain show. It starts at 7pm, usually every 15 minutes interval. This is the time to see locals and tourists gathered in the plaza to witness the magical colorful lights and synchronized movements of the water with the music.

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Ilocos Norte

Paoay Church also known as Saint Augustine Church- was built in 1964 by Augustinian Fr. Antonio Estavillo and was completed in 1710. The church has a style of Earthquake Baroque as it is also one of the oldest churches that are resistant to earthquake and other natural calamities. The most interesting part of this structure is the fact that there’s no mechanical equipment used when this church was built three decades ago. Just like some of the well-known old churches, the builders used manual force to build a grand church like this.

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Culili Point Sand Dunes- an Ilocandian desert that has to be explored by a 4×4.

This is the last activity we had on our first day. Exciting, exhilarating, and perhaps life-threatening. Even with the scorching heat of the sun, I did not mind at all. I don’t even remember I put a sunblock or anything. That’s how excited I am. I was screaming, everyone is screaming the whole time but the screams were not because of fear. It was legit happiness. I continued gripping the handlebars as Kuya driver creates more sudden drops and bumpy turns. Definitely, this was the best part of my Ilocos adventure.

If you’re hesitant to try this out or you’re thinking about the budget, C’mon this is a once in a lifetime experience. Don’t Think. Just Go and Do it.

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Trying out sand boarding in the sand dunes of Ilocos with the boyfriend. Also, getting tan lines and eating sand. =D

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Malacañang of the North- a presidential museum and was the residence of the family of Ferdinand Marcos when he was the President of the Philippines. So basically, you will see here his works, family portraits, and other historical happenings.

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Cape Bojeador Lighthouse- a cultural heritage structure in Burgos.

History:  The Cape Bojeador lighthouse was part of the Spanish government’s master plan of illuminating the Philippine archipelago. The project commenced with the execution of the lighthouses in the northern and western part of the Philippines and those around Iloilo and Cebu. The Burgos lighthouse was first lit on March 30, 1892. More DetailsIMG_3013

 

 

Kapurpurawan Rock Formations- a grand white limestone perfectly crafted by Mother Nature. This is also the most visited sights in the Ilocandia Region.

My first impression was, ” Wow, it looks like we’re outside the country”. I can’t believe the Philippines has all these postcard-ready views of white limestone and the beach. Indeed, there’s no better architect than mother nature itself.

I wish every Filipino knows how beautiful this place is and that they will travel their own country first before anywhere else.

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Bangui Windmills- When National Renewable Energy Laboratory conducted a wind resource analysis and mapping study, they concluded that various areas in the country are ideal for wind installation. These include Bangui and Burgos town of Ilocos Norte, Batanes, Babuyan island and more. More Details

This is also one of the most photographed sights in Ilocos, so your visit would be incomplete without a photo of these huge windmills. By the way, the beach here is not swimmable. It’s super windy and the waves are not so calm.

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Patapat Viaduct- an elevated road- 31 meters above sea level and considered as the 4th longest bridge in the Philippines. Travelers drop by here to take their best buwis-buhay jump shots.IMG_3413

Hannah’s Beach Resort Official Website (Pagudpud Beach)- also called the Boracay of the North.  Known for its scenic views, long coastlines, and various water activities. The resort also offers a zip line that is reportedly the longest over the water in the world.

The beach is great for swimming but I was too lazy to change clothes and I also thought I had too much beach these past few weeks. So I just sit there and watch people enjoying their swim. Don’t be like me, you will regret your decision later. =D

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Just completed a tress passing adventure.=D

Bantay Abot Cave- a hill with a hole in the middle that makes it a place perfect for silhouette photos.IMG_3592

Bantay Church and Bell Tower- was built in 1951 and said to be the people’s watchtower, part of the city’s defense that helps in alerting against possible enemies.

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Sunset Watching at Pagudpud Beach

Last but definitely the best part to end the day. The first time I witnessed the sunset of Pagudpud was when I was inside the van. It was spectacular and so romantic that I forgot to take a photo of it as it slowly goes down.

The photo below was taken at Laoag airport. It was quick but still beautiful. If you stay overnight at Pagudpud beach, don’t forget to wait for the sunset.

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Approximate Breakdown of Expenses

The roundtrip ticket is excluded: If you want to travel with less hassle, book your tour with Aze Travel and Tours Check out their prices and the inclusions.

Aze Travel and Tours(3 days and 2 nights) 2900
Food Budget: (4days) 1200
Transient Home for 1-day extension(750 per night divided by 3) 250
Terminal Fee 200
Miscellaneous 500
4×4 Adventure(2500 for 5pax) 500
5,550

For DIY travel, please refer to above ways of getting there. Once you’re in Ilocos Sur, there are tricycles for hire that would take you to famous sights for a day. There are also buses that will take you to and from Ilocos Norte.

Let me know your thoughts, suggestions, and questions on the box below.:) Thank You and Happy Travels!

 

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