The Philippines has become one of the tourism hubs of the world over the years of development and promotion of growing numbers of tourist destinations. It is mainly because of its geographical features, hospitable host communities, and the diverse culture of its people. Most travelers visit the Philippines because of its famous white sand beaches and majestic waterfalls. The country’s tropical rainforest weather makes it ideal for resorts activities, but there are various ways to enjoy the perfect heat of the sun. During peak seasons, you might encounter crowded beaches with fully-booked hotels which might ruin your holidays and vacation leaves. One of the ideal places to visit is the Ilocos. It used to be one province but now it consists of two provinces: Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte. An eight-hour road trip from Metro Manila (Philippines’ main city), prepare yourself for spontaneous adventures and spectacular experiences! Here are the main cities and towns that you shouldn’t miss when exploring Ilocos.
Vigan, Ilocos Sur
Every single step you take in this town is a privilege for it is the only city that preserved its authenticity and has survived the devastating effects of wars during the early 19th century. This historic city is well-known for its authentic Spanish Colonial town structures which is now conserved and protected and listed as one of the UNESCO World Heritage. You can enjoy walking around its grid street pattern and historic layouts of the town’s architectural designs. This town will give you a time-traveling experience to the Spanish Colonial times in the Philippines. Here are some of the activities you can surely enjoy in Vigan:
To make the time-traveling experience wholesome, you can ride a kalesa to wander around the historic town. “Kalesa” or the horse-drawn calash was one of the earliest modes of transportation used by Filipinos which are introduced by the Spanish colonizers. This preserved way of life makes the town popular for its visitors and helps the town generate more income for its preservation of culture and heritage. The horses are also taken care and trained to walk along the streets made of brick stones. The ride usually costs PHP 150 to PHP 200.
Traveling is never better without great places to eat good food. Ilocondia delights of Ilocos are popular for their authentic taste. These famous delights can mostly be found at Vigan City. With over 50 restaurants and hotels that offer great versions of Ilocondia cuisines, you surely would not run out of places to go when wandering around the historic town. Some of these “must-try” food are the Vigan “longganisa,” “empanada,” and “bagnet.”
Paoay, Ilocos Norte
There will never be a dull moment when you get to reach the town of Paoay. In approximately an hour and a half to two hours of drive from Vigan, a town will introduce you to some of the great experiences Ilocos could give you. Ilocos Norte is known to be the home of the late President Ferdinand Marcos and his family, one of the most influential family in the Philippines and there are significant places in Paoay where you can get the opportunity to learn about the brilliance of the former president and their influences in the country. Here are some of the destinations you should definitely check out on your road trip:
Malacañang of the North
A presidential museum that is known for its exceptional architectural designs and its location where it overlooks the Paoay lake. It was the former residential home of the Marcos family during the reign of the late president. You can only imagine the lives of the members of the Marcos family living in an astounding mansion like this. The museum is now owned by a government sector in Ilocos Norte. While exploring the house, there are tour guides who will give you insights about the projects of the late president and the lives of his family. To gain access to the mansion, there is an entrance fee of PHP 30 and you can give the tour guides reasonable tips for they are actually good hosts.
Witness another UNESCO World Heritage Site and a National Treasure: The Paoay Church
One of the oldest churches in the country, the St. Augustine Church or popularly known as the Paoay Church strongly stands for hundreds of years. The construction of this church started during the 16th century and finished during the 18th century. What is fascinating about the church is the way it was made of coral bricks and egg whites. It was constructed by hundreds of Filipino slaves during the reign of Spanish friars. This church is also remarkable as it was said to be created to withstand earthquakes which is why it is called the “Earthquake Baroque.” Aside from its historical backgrounds, the inside of the church is also filled with paintings and sculptures made by European artists.
4×4 Ride and Sand Boarding at Paoay Sand Dunes
This extreme, thrilling and unforgettable ride is probably one of the greatest memory you can bring from Ilocos. Break free from all your stress from your job and bring your friends and family to try this one-for-the-books ride. The 4×4 ride will take you to the famous Paoay Sand Dunes and you can enjoy an immense view of sand and sea. After the intense ride, you can enjoy sandboarding on a wooden platform and slide down through elevated sands and feel like a kid again under the sun. This package will cost your group of five persons at PHP 2,500 (PHP 500 each). In a couple of times, I’ve been to Paoay, there is not one person I have seen who was not smiling and laughing after this fun ride.
Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte
Make the best out of your Ilocandia trip by reaching the northern tip of Luzon, the town of Pagudpud. If you couldn’t get enough of the historical sites which I have mentioned earlier, Pagudpud has a lot of those attractions as well. Prepare your road trip kits because these destinations are a bit farther from each other. In roughly two-drive from Paoay, you can get to reach the Cape Bojeador Lighthouse, the Bangui Windmills, Kapurpurawan Rock Formations and the Patapat Viaduct. But the fun doesn’t stop there, Pagupud is also known for its white sand beaches and pristine blue waters. You can try to see them yourself by visiting the Blue Lagoon, Saud Beach, and the Maira-ira Beach. If you are looking to stay longer, Saud Beach has a lot of drive inns, beach resorts and commercial establishments for more convenient stays.