Many travellers start their trip to the Philippines by flying into Manila. Most go either West to the stunning island of Palawan and the stunning backpacker hotspot of El Nido, or to the famous party hotspot and white sand beaches of Boracay.
Yet, what some may not realise is that whilst they are located in a northern part of the Philippines, on the main island of Luzon, one of the eighth wonders of the world as it’s called, lies only an overnight bus journey away!
Banaue, located in high Cordillera mountain territory, north of Luzon is home to two millennium-old Rice terraces, the Batad and Bangaan Rice Terraces, (part of Ifugao terraces) and is an official UNESCO World Heritage site.
For travellers who are looking to step right into the heart of nature and experience something a real local side to the Philippines, Banaue is the place to be.
Banaue itself is a cute mountain town, it feels cosy and personal and you can wander around the markets and experience the hustle and bustle of local trading.
Enjoy the tricycle and jeepney rides going up and down the windy roads of Banaue and back, or if you’re feeling more active, take in a full panoramic view of the rows and rows of spectacular rice terraces from hiking viewpoints via the mountain town of Bontoc.
Where to Stay in Banaue
There are only about 20 guesthouses in total in Banaue…
Peoples Lodge is a good choice as it’s central, cheap (ranging 400 pesos ($8) to 1500 peso ($33) depending on the number of beds and luxury you desire) and the restaurant downstairs is very tasty with good local food. There’s also an awesome backdrop of rice terraces behind the lodge.
Bogah Homestay is more luxurious and very popular, with excellent reviews on Trip Advisor. It also has a restaurant attached, along with an incredible view of the rice terraces from the terrace. Tours and treks can be arranged for a good price here.
Things to Do in Banaue
Hike the Rice Terraces:
The number one thing to do in Banaue! Hike the rice terraces through to Bontoc, returning back to your guesthouse in the evening. You’ll walk an undulating path, passing by waterfalls and locals going about their daily work cultivating the rice fields that seemingly rise high into the clouds.
The terraces date back more than 2000 years and were created by natives via the channelling of terrace streams and natural springs. Each rice field is owned by a local family for their own cultivation and distribution. There’s something about the smell of petrichor that makes you feel alive!
Also read: Top hikes in Southeast Asia.
Relax in Banaue Town:
Roam through this small, populated town which seems to have more jeepneys and tricycles than people! You can visit local shops, markets and enjoy the small but local hustle and bustle of Banaue.
Museum of Cordilleran Sculpture:
This museum holds over 1,100 pieces of local cultural objects of Ifugao from tribal masks, spiritual figures, and other local tools and is definitely worth a day visit.
Getting to Banaue
Flying isn’t really an option to Banaue directly. The only feasible way would be to fly to Cauayan which is another 6 hours ride from Banaue anyway. Cebu Pacific offers this option. Although, unless you have your own aircraft, there is a private airport in Bagabag which is 1 hour away from Banaue!
From Manila, you can go direct to Banaue by bus which takes around 12-15 hours. Firstly, head to University of St Thomas area which is known as Sampaloc. You can get buses with GV Florida (recommended) or Ohayami nearby. The trip normally takes 10 hours. The main bus company is called Ohayami Trans.
You can also do trips via Baguio and Bontoc also which you can arrange at Manila terminal.
If you are in Clark (Angeles), it’s further North than Manila so it’s slightly less of a trip. Whilst you cannot get night buses (as you have to go via Manila) if you leave the Daru Terminal via the Victory Liner Bus to Bagabag junction and then take a jeepney or buses that are available to Banaue.
Secret Tip! Ride a jeepney to and from Banaue throughout Ifugao, but don’t sit in the seats, ride on top with the luggage. The views are mesmerising, a quick thrill and a more enjoyable ride. No additional cost for the Jeepney!
Where to go next?
- Sagada: Take a 3.5-hour ride to Sagada. You can get Jeepneys direct from Banaue or via Bontoc with the latter being two jeepney rides in total
- Baguio: Ohayami Trans goes there from Banaue which can take up to 8 hours. Go see the strawberry fields, wander down Session Road, row in Burnham Lake Park or take in a breathtaking view at Mines View park.
- Manila: If you’re heading to the airport to fly elsewhere in the Philippines or home, head to Manila on an overnight bus, normally leaving at 8 pm each night.
By Tommy Walker