Top Banaue tourist spots to visit

First of two parts

LOCATED in the northern part of Luzon, the mountainous area of Banaue in Ifugao province is a popular destination for both local and international travelers.

And while it is quite a challenge to reach Banaue by driving car or motorbike as it is more than 380 kilometers away from Metro Manila, Banaue is a very good place to visit and is the entry point to the famed rice terraces of the Cordilleras. One needs to check out the local wonders of the Philippines on this side of the country to make the trip to this highland complete.

It is also because of Ifugao’s rich culture, cool weather, largely untouched mountain ranges and the warmth of the local Ifugao people that also attract travelers to the area.

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Banaue Rice Terraces

While it was not named a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) due to the presence of modern structures surrounding it, the Banaue Rice Terraces is still considered a National Cultural Treasure and commonly referred to by locals as the “Eighth Wonder of the World.”

The terraces is also famous for being in the current P1,000 bill.

An overnight trek of the Banaue Rice Terraces also makes the experience more unique, allowing tourists to stay in small villages and Ifugao homestays, and get firsthand experience of how the locals live.

Five rice terraces clusters have been recognized as Unesco World Heritage Sites. These are the Batad Rice Terraces, Nagacadan Rice Terraces, Hungduan (Hapao) Rice Terraces, Mayoyao Rice Terraces and Bangaan Rice Terraces.

Batad Rice Terraces

This amphitheater-like rice terraces is one of the world’s most known rice terraces and is about 18 kilometers away from Banaue. To get to Batad Rice Terraces, register at the tourism office located at the town proper of Banaue and pay an environmental fee.

Take a public jeep, private jeep or a tricycle to an area called Saddle, the endpoint of all public commuter vehicles going to Batad. The journey to Saddle takes about an hour and at least a 20-minute walk from there before reaching Batad.

Bangaan Rice Terraces

Another wondrous landscape to see is the Bangaan Rice Terraces. For those who are physically fit, it takes around 20 minutes to explore Bangaan Rice Terraces.

A more challenging hike traverses the Bangaan Rice Terraces to Batad and continues to the villages of Cambulo and Pula and ends in Banaue.

To get to Banggaan, take a jeepney from Banaue town proper or hire a tricycle for a half-day trip. It is 15 kilometers from the town proper via the town of Mayoyao and almost one kilometer after the Batad junction.

There are only basic accommodations available to tourists in Banggaan, which is surrounded by the sight of the valley, the fields, the mountains, and a couple of traditional Ifugao houses made from wood and have cogon roofing.

Hapao Rice Terraces

A trip to a neighboring municipality, Hungduan, will be your gateway to another Unesco World Heritage Site, the Hapao Rice Terraces, unique from the rest because it is the longest yet the easiest to trek due to its gentle slopes. However, getting to Hungduan is not easy due to bumpy mountain roads.

Made of solid stone walls with heights reaching up to 20 feet, the terraces’ view deck is also just beside the road. Hapao also offers relaxing views of mountain streams, a river in the middle of the trail, and the Bogyah Hot Springs.

The hike is a lot easier with a local guide who knows more about Hungduan, its people and culture, and some secret spots hidden in the hills, making the hike more memorable.

There is more to see in Banaue.

One can get a panoramic view of the Banaue Viewpoint that is considered to be the best spot where one can get the most magnificent view of the Banaue Rice Terraces and the best spot for taking selfies.

There are four different viewpoints that you can reach by hiring a tricycle. At these viewpoints, there are elderly Igorot and Bontoc women clad in their full tribal wear ready for taking snapshots and selfies.

On the way to the viewpoints, there are also souvenir shops for those shopping for mementos and local cafes for quick refreshment.

One can also explore the Banaue Museum located at the Banaue View Inn near the Banaue town proper. There are vintage photographs depicting the rich history and culture of the Igorots. There are also books written by anthropologist Otley Baeyer who moved to Banaue in the 1900s.

Also displayed at the museum are some treasured jewelry, weaponry, Igorot artifacts, and traditional clothing and mountain baskets.

(Part 2 will be published on Jan. 3, 2023)