Going up north in the Philippines is recommended during the holiday season. Aside from Baguio and Sagada, which can be quite cold during Christmas time, there is also Ilocos, the home of the Bangui Windmills.
Ilocos, while not as popular with foreign visitors as Sagada or Banaue, has its share of beautiful places to visit including the historic city of Vigan. Ilocos (both Norte and Sur) doesn’t lack of tourist accommodations, too. Just visit any online booking site and you will see hotels, hostels, and guesthouses in Ilocos at varying price ranges.
If you’re wondering what to do on your visit there, here is just a short list of activities to add to your itinerary:
Conquer the Paoay sand dunes in La Paz
Paoay provides adventure lovers different sand dune sports activities, which means you don’t need to travel to Dubai to go sand boarding or to ride a 4×4 on the sand.
See the Kapurpurawan Rock Formation
Formed over decades of weather erosion, the Kapurpurawan Rock Formation is a natural marvel of petrified coral that is a testament to the patient, albeit potent, power of nature. “Kapurpurawan” is the local term of the word “white” and the chalky rock formation provides a dramatic and impressive façade overlooking the South China Sea.
Stroll along Calle Crisologo
Perhaps the most recognizable image of the historic city of Vigan, Calle Crisologo is worth a relaxing stroll with a few stops to take mandatory snapshots of the interesting shops and other establishments in the area.
The streets are reminiscent of the time when the Philippines was still the colony of Spain as Spanish architecture is evident in the design of the houses as well as the cobblestone streets themselves. Immerse in the full experience of this era by donning traditional clothing and taking a leisurely walk while perusing the intricately crafted products sold along the avenues.
While you’re there, never miss a chance to eat the famous Vigan empanada!
Take a pottery lesson
Next to Calle Crisologo, the Pagburnayan Pottery Making is the most popular tourist attraction in Vigan as the locals continue to use a potter’s wheel, the authentic and age-old method of making jars in the region. “Burnay” is the local term for an earthenware jar and “anay” is the material that makes the jars hard and durable when heated in high temperatures.
Trek to Kabigan Falls
A lazy 30-40 minutes trek along the woods to Kabigan Falls may just be the break you need from touring Pagudpud. At the end of your journey, you will be greeted by lush verdant trees and ferns surrounding the concave basin that catches the cool waters from the falls.
Pray at the St. Augustine Church in Paoay
Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, the St. Augustine Church or Paoay Church is the most famous church in North Luzon. This “earthquake proof” structure was built with coral bricks and a mixture of limestone mortar and sugar cane juice. The combination of oriental, baroque, and gothic styles makes this church an impressive sight you shouldn’t miss.
Swim in beautiful beaches
Ilocos is where you’ll find some of the most beautiful beaches in the country and the most popular ones are Saud Beach and Blue Lagoon. Both feature white sandy shores that are perfect for swimming and relaxation.
Get the best view in the north via the Cape Bojeador Lighthouse
Cape Bojeador is considered the tallest lighthouse in the Philippines and is a must-see if you’re after some of the most panoramic views in Ilocos. Situated on top of a hill, this romantic or eerie lighthouse (depending on who you ask) provides an excellent vantage point from which to catch sight of the West Philippine Sea coastline.
Travel to the French Riviera…of the North
Short of traveling to Europe, the closest thing you can get to the French Riviera is by renting a scooter or a bike to the Patapat Viaduct. One of the most photographed sites in Ilocos, this elevated highway is the bridge that connects Ilocos Norte and the Cagayan Valley region. The Patapat Viaduct is a picturesque mix of breathtaking natural environment and twenty- first century infrastructure.
Marvel at the beauty of Pinsal Falls
Situated in the town of Santa Maria Ilocos Sur, Pinsal Falls or Twin Falls is a natural beauty that has been featured in several travel shows and movies. A hike to the area will prove rewarding as you behold the 85-feet waterfall and natural pools that are perfect for swimming. The surrounding area is also ideal for a picnic.
There are still a lot of places to explore and things to do in Ilocos so plan your next holiday to the north and get ready for some of the most stunning views you’ll see in your life!