Discover one of the few secrets left in South East Asia. The Philippines is made up of 7000 islands, with white sandy beaches, dormant volcanoes and terraced hillsides.
Nestled amongst the warm waters of the South China Sea it has everything a traveller desires, from adventure and colourful ethnic groups to a turbulent and dramatic history.
Meet The Locals Among Banaue’s Rice Terraces
The Rice Terraces Of Banaue
On arrival at Manila's Ninoy Aquino International Airport, you are met and transferred to our hotel in the downtown traveller's area of Malate. Our transfer guide will give you a Welcome Pack consisting of maps and some goodies that have been bought from local communities. No activities are planned for today. Please check the noticeboard in the hotel lobby, located on the ground floor, for a notice containing details of your tour including the time and location of an evening group meeting. Normally this meeting takes place around 6 pm. Until your meeting we encourage you to get out and get a feel for Manila. Perhaps you may wish to take a walk across to Manila Bay? Across from the Parade Ground is the historic Manila Hotel where Douglas MacArthur stayed during the Second World War. Make sure that you take a hotel business card so that you will be able to find your way back to the hotel.
After breakfast we enjoy a full day tour of the Filipino capital. The historic heart is based around the walled city of Intramuros – the original fortress that was built by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi when he took control of the city for the Spaniards in 1571. Most of Intramuros was destroyed by American bombing in the Battle of Manila at the end of World War II, but one structure that remained intact was San Augustin Church – the oldest in the country. Across the road is Casa Manila, a restored Spanish colonial house that gives us an idea of how people lived in the bygone days. At one corner of Intramuros and situated in front of the Pasi River is Fort Santiago – once the centre of power for the Spanish colonial military and today a shrine to many who fought for Filipino independence including Dr Jose Rizal, who was the main martyr for the cause. We do some further sightseeing before having the evening free to check out some of the city’s great dining options.
Mount Pinatubo - Banaue
Today is an early departure from Manila, so we take a packed breakfast from the hotel as we head north past Angeles City to Tarlac – a drive of about two hours. We then veer off towards Mount Pinatubo – a volcano that erupted on 15th June 1991, spewing lava and ashes 40 kilometres into the air. Coupled with a typhoon that struck at the same time, this was one of the most graphic natural disasters in recent history and the dramatic footage taken at the time lives on as a reminder of the power of nature. We take a 4WD trip across the rugged volcanic landscape created by the eruption and enjoy spectacular views from the cone of the volcano. We also do a two-hour trek around the volcano before continuing our journey by road for another seven hours to Banaue, where we spend the night preparing for our two-day trek.
Rice Terrace Trek: Banaue - Batad
From Banaue we get our first glimpse of the spectacular rice terraces that are some of the most spectacular in the world. These rice terraces are listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites. Chiselled from the mountainsides by the Ifugao people about 2000 years ago, they are an awe-inspiring sight, not least because of their sheer size. We travel by road on a local jeepney to the Viewpoint, where leave our vehicle and begin our full day trek by passing a waterfall and making our way to the small Ifugao settlement of Pula (4 hours). Our entire walk takes us through the rice terraces and only when we are dwarfed by the surroundings do we really get to appreciate how big these terraces are. The next stage involves a three-hour walk following the river to Cambulo, before a two-hour trek to Batad, where we stay the night in a simple local inn. Batad is certainly in a most impressive setting, nestled in a valley and surrounded by rice terraces that are set out like an amphitheatre.
Rice Terrace Trek: Batad - Bangaan - Banaue
In the morning after breakfast we get to walk around Batad and take in the spectacular surroundings before doing a short trek (2½ hours) to Bangaan. We start by walking down to a small river and crossing a bridge, then joining a path that takes us up to the top, where we again enjoy stunning views. We make our way through another rice terrace before reaching the main road and continuing along that on our way to the village of Bangaan. Here our trek ends as we are reunited with our vehicles and driven back to Banaue.
After breakfast we depart for a four-hour drive up into the Cordillera – a mountain chain that dominates most of North Luzon. At the small town of Sagada, we find the Sugong Coffins - wooden hanging coffins that are suspended on the side of the cliffs as part of a unique ancient funerary custom to inter the dead. Nearby is the Lumiang Burial Cave where we find over a hundred coffins – some dating back 500 years. An optional proper cave experience can be had in Sumaging Cave, where you will need to hire a guide to take you through the various chambers – be prepared to get wet! There are several walks that can be enjoyed to various surrounding areas including Echo Valley, where we get to see more hanging coffins.
Today we head south and drive for approximately six hours on a spectacular mountain road, passing vegetable terraces, on our way to the main city in the Cordillera – Baguio. Originally set up as a highland retreat for the US military in the early 1900s, it also became the summer capital of the Philippines in June 1903. Located at 1500 metres above sea level and surrounded by pine forests, its cooler climate offers a respite for Filipinos – the majority of whom live with year-round heat and humidity. A city tour takes us around this pleasant place to visit churches, a temple and Camp John Hay – the former US military facility which has now been turned into a mountain resort. Baguio is also a great place to shop for local handicrafts and the centrally-located city market is a great place to start.
Vigan - Laoag
Today we head north and drive for five hours over the mountains and up the coast to the historic Spanish colonial town of Vigan. We arrive around lunch time and enjoy a tour around the cobblestone streets of this UNESCO World Heritage-listed town, which began as a settlement for Hokkien traders from the Fujian province in China. The Spanish under the conquistador Juan de Salcedo arrived and took control in 1572, when the town took on its present name. We walk the narrow streets and visit St Paul Cathedral and the old mansions in the Mestizo District that evoke the notion of stepping back in time into a bygone era. From here we drive a further two hours to Laoag – a town that was a power base for the Marcos family. We tour around the city and check out St William’s Cathedral and its ‘sinking’ belltower before spending our night in a hotel in the middle of town.
Pagudpud - Manila
An early departure this morning as we head for the north Luzon beach paradise of Pagudpud, where there is time for lazing on the white sands or a quick dip in the warm waters. Lined by rows of coconut palms, this quiet area has also been called the ‘Boracay of the North. After our relaxing day here we return to Laoag and catch an early evening flight back to Manila, where we stay the night.
We make an early start and are transferred back to Ninoy Aquino International Airport, where we board a flight south to Kalibo on the island of Panay, part of the the central cluster of islands known as the Visayas. Here we are met and driven to Caticlan, where we board a shuttle boat out to Boracay. The journey between Kalibo Airport and this famous island takes about two hours. Boracay is justifiably one of the most famous beach stops in the world with its pristine white sand and clear, warm tropical waters. The whole island is only nine kilometres long and one kilometre wide, but in our time here it is easy to lose ourselves in this veritable paradise and forget about the rest of the world. There are many optional activities on offer such as diving, snorkelling, windsurfing and kayaking. The underwater world is equally as impressive with a wide array of colourful fish swimming amidst equally colourful corals. White Beach is the hub of the action and when the sun goes down, you can enjoy revelling in some of the lively bars and dining out in a variety of lovely restaurants, many of them specialising in delicious seafood.
Boracay - Manila
We spend a final morning in Boracay before transferring by boat back over to a small airport in Caticlan, where we board our flight back to Manila. You have a final night to do some last minute shopping in some of the many handicrafts stores and street markets in the city. Be careful with what you purchase, especially with various animal or plant products, as some of the things sold may contravene the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) and that may mean that you will not be able to take these things back with you into your home country. In the evening you can try another of Manila’s great dining spots. Suggested venues include the Harbor View Seafood Restaurant, Bistro Renedios and Café Juanita. In these local Filipino restaurants, dishes are usually served Asian-style, which means they are all put in the middle and shared by all the diners. Our tour finishes after breakfast on Day 13. It is possible to extend your stay and book post-tour accommodation in Manilla – please ask your agent for details.
Arrival transfer and Gecko's tour leader (there will be the services of local guides at some sites). All transportation, accommodation, sightseeing and meals as indicated.
11 nights Hotel,1 night Village hut
Single room supplement
Most of our travellers like the thought of travelling with a few like-minded souls. There are NO compulsory single supplements on most tours as we simply arrange twin shared accommodation for you and another tour member of the same sex. But don't worry if that doesn't appeal. We do understand there are times when you just want a bit of privacy and 'me' time so we are more than happy to arrange a private room upon request when you book.
Plane,Private bus,Public bus,Taxi
The itinerary and supplementary information has been compiled with care and provided in good faith. However it may be subject to change, and does not form part of a contract between the client and The Imaginative Traveller.
International flights, departure transfer, departure and airport taxes, visas, all other meals, all optional tours or activities during free time, transfers outside of tour program, travel insurance, tips and items of a personal nature.